ON THE RIGHT TRACK
By Ann Evans
Photos by Rob Tysall, Tysall’s Photography
I wonder how many people bought Scalextric sets for the kids – or for themselves, this Christmas. Slot car racing has been popular ever since Scalextrix brought out their first set in 1957 and these days slot car racing is hugely popular amongst youngsters and adults alike.
There’s official clubs all over the world, books have been written about the hobby, competitions are held, there are slot car festivals, and numerous international slot car companies producing the cars, tracks and all the accessories to entertain and please the multitude of enthusiasts worldwide. Naming just a few of the companies, there’s Carrera, SCX, Slot it, NSR, Ninco, Slotting Plus, Scakeauto, Slotting Plus, Avant Slot, Scalextric of course, and many more.
Should you go along to a slot car festival, you’ll find trade stalls, lots of different tracks with all the dioramas and accessories to provide the atmosphere of racing anywhere in the world. You’ll find slot car dragster tracks where people can try out their own cars, or newly bought vehicles to see how fast they will go. Often they do bursts of speed reaching 40 or 50 mph along a straight stretch.
Other activities might included a slot car auction, manufacturer’s road shows, tune up workshops and lots of advice on hand from the experts.
At a slot car festival held at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon last year one of the major events was a four-hour slot car race on a mammoth indoor track, with top slot car manufacturers competing against each other. Lap times were rigorously monitored and those working the controls were taking the whole thing extremely seriously as manufacturers’ reputations were on the line.
While the older enthusiasts take the hobby seriously, slots cars were made primarily as children’s toys, and there was plenty of opportunity for the youngsters to try their hand at the skill. I spoke to Julie Scale who is experienced in organising slot car festivals, and takes great pride in making sure there’s lots for the kids to do. Julie said: “This is such a great hobby for kids, it teaches them such a lot. As well as learning about the hobby it gets them to know about cars, about design, about circuits, about engineering and even hand to eye co-ordination, and they have lots of fun.”
Readers may well remember the early Scalextric back in 1957 when they were first manufactured with the Maserati 250 racing cars and the bendy rubber track. Then a set would have cost the grand sum of £5.17s 6d, the equivalent of £120 in today’s money. And if you were one of those fortunate youngsters and you’d taken care of your Scalextric track and cars – and the box, it would be worth about £1,500 should you want to sell it.
The history of Scalextric originates from the Scalex brand, owned by Minimodels Ltd. Originally it was a clockwork powered race car system that first appeared in 1952. The inventor was Mr B “Freddie” Francis who unveiled his new Scalextrix cars and track at the Harrowgate Toy Fair in 1957. The name was derived from ‘Scalex’ plus ‘electric’ and was a huge success. Because of the huge demand for these sets, Lines Brothers Ltd who were trading under the the name ‘Triang’ took over control of this range of toys – and the rest is history.
Clearly they were on the right track creating a toy and hobby that has moved with the times and brought enjoyment to the young and the not so young over the generations.
If you’d like to know more contact The National Scalextric Collectors’ Club (www.nscc.co.uk).