18-pound radio-controlled cars can hit 70 mph

The Patriot Ledger

Stephen Feiner races his red pickup truck in parking lots at speeds up to 70 mph and sometimes manages to get it to jump into the air.
 But Feiner is no maniac. His prized truck weighs just 18 pounds and is 12 inches tall.
Feiner, 49, a Braintree contractor, assembles, races and repairs nitro-methane powered, radio-controlled cars. He founded the South Shore Racing Club about six months ago to share his passion with others.
‘‘I started getting these guys together, one at a time. I kept calling people, and they  would call another friend,’’ Feiner said. ‘‘People kept coming up, so we got together a little club. ...It’s a great hobby.’’
Feiner said he has always been mechanically inclined, but that a bad motorcycle accident two years ago forced him to find a new pastime. ‘‘I find so many people that are into (nitro-powered cars),’’ Feiner said. ‘‘They come over and hang out. So I built my basement out. Now we go down there and smoke cigarettes and tinker with the cars. We didn’t know each other six months ago. Now we’re together every week.’’
The club has about 15 participants, Feiner said. They get together every Sunday to race the cars at parking lots or on Wollaston Beach, weather permitting.

Mike Rosen, 29, of Braintree, a boat hauler, got involved for many of the same reasons as Feiner.
‘‘I’ve always been into anything with an engine,’’ Rosen said. ‘‘I used to be into cars. I had a hot-rod Mustang. But you get speeding tickets, and it cost a ton of money. This is something that keeps me out of trouble.’’
The cars that captivated Feiner and Rosen are not like childhood radio-controlled electric cars that run on batteries. These cars are powered by piston engines of up to 5 horsepower that run on a methane/gasoline mix. They can reach speeds of 50 to 70 mph. They can be modified and repaired like any customized street-rod.

The ‘‘nitro-cars’’ have a huge following in other parts of the country, Feiner said. Dirt tracks abound in places like California and Florida, and championship races in Las Vegas have purses as high as $35,000.
International races attract thousands of spectators in Japan and Italy, where the cars are most popular, Feiner said. 
Feiner and Rosen said a lack of quality tracks and knowledgeable technicians has hurt the hobby’s popularity in the Northeast.
‘‘A lot of people have these cars around here,’’ Feiner said. ‘‘But they might have a broken wheel or something, so they put it on their shelf and forget about it. But these are made to be repaired. ... That’s the whole fun of the hobby.’’
They said maintaining the exotic machines can be expensive and requires some mechanical knowledge, but they are more than willing to spend time helping people get started.
‘‘People might take it out and then break it, and then it will spend three weeks on a shelf somewhere waiting to be repaired,’’ Rosen said. ‘‘Then they may be reluctant to take it out again because it might break.
‘‘I want to see people out running them all the time. I’ll teach them how to fix it a little bit. I’d gladly fix things at my house, on my own time, to get things ready for anybody.’’

Feiner said he hopes one day to open a shop to service and sell the cars. He says the interest is out there. 
‘‘You wouldn’t believe how many people come up to us when we’re at the beach and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got one of those cars, but I never had anyone to fix them or race them with,’’’ he said. 

Rosen is happy to stop and chat if that means more people will turn on to his favorite hobby. 
‘‘Every Sunday at least 10 people will stop and talk, asking, ‘How do I get involved? How do I get into it?’ Stuff like that,’’ Rosen said. ‘‘I just give people some information, share what I’ve learned. It’s a lot of fun talking to people on the beach.’’

For more information on the South Shore Racing Club, contact Feiner at 617-633-0109.

Cory Hopkins may be reached at .

Copyright 2006 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Tuesday, December 26, 2006 (Originally published in Patriot Ledger City Edition, 12/27/2006)  

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