The Scalextric Story

The company that created Scalextric was Minimodels
Ltd, founded by Fred Francis in 1947. The company was based in London and made tinplate
toys and models such as the Minitype typewriter and simple cars and lorries. In 1952 Minimodels moved from London to a
larger factory in Hampshire to meet the growing demand for the toy cars. In 1952 Minimodels introduced the Scalex range. This was a range of toy racing cars with clockwork
motors which were activated by pulling out the steering wheel. The first model introduced was the Jaguar
XK120 in 1952. These 1:32 scale models had some unique features
including a clockwork motor which wasn’t wound by a key but by a ‘fifth wheel’ device. This wheel is found under the chassis behind
the front axle and works by pressing the car down on a hard surface and being pulled backwards. This wound the clockwork motor and when the
car was released it shot forward at speed. The Scalex range expanded to include six cars. Later cars also featured a steerable front
axle which could be set at an angle and the cars would then run in an arc. At the peak of its popularity, over 7,000
Scalex models were being produced every week. The cars were improved in 1955 with the Startex
range. These were essentially the same Scalex cars,
but used a cord winding system. The first and most popular was the Sunbeam
Alpine. But by 1956 the novelty of clockwork racing
cars had worn off and sales began to fall. The future of the company and its one hundred
employees was under threat. In an attempt to revive his company’s flagging
fortunes, Fred Francis began to look at alternatives. He was inspired by seeing model car racing
tracks, but wanted to develop the player’s control of the car so as to increase the sense
of competition. He experimented by putting small electric
motors into Scalex cars and running them on model railway track. Next he introduced rubber slotted track and
gave the cars a ‘gimbal’ wheel to pick up the electric current in the groove of the
track. Original tin-plate cars had one hard plastic
rear wheel and one rubber-tired wheel, with gave different handling characteristics for
left and right corners. Power was supplied by batteries hidden in
a little cardboard hut, with players having their own on-off button to control their cars. With the tiny Scalex cars becoming electrified,
the name was combined to become Scalextric. The new electric toy was unveiled at the Harrogate
Toy Fair in 1957 to immediate acclaim. It appealed to both adults and children, combining
speed, competition and the glamour of Formula One motor racing. Demand for the toy was immense and the Minimodels
factory struggled to keep up with the orders. The original version of the track was made
from rubber with thin, vertical electrical connectors, and held together with separate
metal clips. This track had white lines between the lanes. Track produced during the ‘Minimodels era’
was slightly glossy and curved sections had side protrusions to allow for the attachment
of the supplied crash barrier. The earliest track had a dedicated ‘power
straight’ for the connections to each lane. Scalextric was sold as a set containing enough
track to make a circuit, the necessary power supply and throttles and two cars. The cars were based on real vehicles from
Formula 1 and other motorsport. In 1958 Minimodels Ltd was sold to Lines Brothers
(who operated as “Tri-ang”). Under new management the popularity of Scalextric
only grew. In 1960 plastic bodies replaced the original
tinplate and in 1961 production moved to a new factory. The track was updated, now being made of plastic. Electrical connections were through wider,
horizontal pins, and the track was held together by two integrated circular, spoon-shaped pins
and sockets moulded into each end. It is now known as Classic track, and it’s
compatible with another leading brand – SCX, and in fact several companies now make track
that’s compatible with Scalextric track. By 1964 Scalextric was being advertised as
‘the most complete model motor racing system in the world’. Owners Tri-ang were in financial difficulties
by the early 1970s and in 1971 declared bankruptcy. Many of the assets, including Scalextric were
purchased by Hornby, the famous makers of models trains, who still own it today. A number of novelty sets were produced over
the years; for example, horse racing sets and 360 degree sets. The latter, produced sporadically since the
1960s, have a specially made guide that enables the car to run back the way it has come by
spinning through 180 degrees. Since the 1960s, Scalextric have offered TV
and film tie-ins, beginning with the now rare and valuable James Bond 007 set featuring
an Aston Martin with action features as shown in the film Goldfinger. Even the ‘baddie’ car in this set, a Mercedes,
had action features of its own whilst the set also sported many other unique action
points and props. It was some time before Scalextric returned
to licensing in the 1970s, with The Amazing Spider-Man cartoon series, which had specially
liveried TR7 cars and white track. Then, in the 1980s, came tracks based on the
TV shows Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, Knight Rider and Tim Burton’s Batman
film. Since then the franchises have grown to include
The Dukes of Hazzard, Batman Begins, The Simpsons, The Transformers movie, James Bond 007 films
Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, GoldenEye and Spectre, Starsky and Hutch, The Fast and the
Furious, The Italian Job (both the original and the re-make), Top Gear, Star Wars and
the Pixar/Disney Movie ‘Toy Story. Scalextric has also recently licensed the
Need for Speed brand from Electronic Arts and has produced a set based on the popular
video game series. Micro Scalextric was launched in 1994 at the
Olympia toy fair. It became available to the public in October
of that year and used a much smaller track geometry to the standard Scalextric product. Many of the Micro MR-1 models were re-badged
products manufactured by the Marchon company. In 1995, again at the Olympia toy fair, a
new track system was introduced along with new vehicles. At the same time Scalextric Micro MR-1 was
re-branded as Micro Scalextric. The Micro Scalextric range is aimed at children
four years of age or older and has a scale of 1:64, half that of Scalextric. There is also a ‘My first Scalextric’ range,
aimed at 3 year olds. There have been tie-ins to brands such as
Looney Tunes over the years. In 2001 Scalextric track underwent a major
redesign to make it easier to assemble. The new design is known as Scalextric Sport
and can be connected to the original track using special adaptor pieces. This new track was designed to be compatible
with all earlier 1:32 cars. In 2004 Scalextric Sport Digital (SSD) was
introduced, with which up to four digital cars can be raced in a single slot. The cars can change from one slot to another
using special slot-lane change tracks, the lane change or otherwise being controlled
by a button on the throttle. Sport Digital cars will run on analogue layouts
without modification, but analogue cars require a digital decoder to be installed before they
can run on a digital layout. Many of the original Scalextric cars can be
fitted with a digital decoder depending on available space within the body shell. Performance of converted cars on a digital
system can vary, but enthusiasts have been able to successfully convert a wide range
of cars, both from Scalextric and other brands. As use of Scalextric Digital has increased,
a community has established itself where users have developed enhanced powerbase functionality,
fuel management and timing systems for increased realism. In 2009, BBC Top Gear presenter James May
announced plans to recreate the full length Brooklands racing track using Scalextric track
and cars. This was undertaken with a team of 350 volunteers
building the track, navigating ponds, roads and a business park, closely following the
route of the old Brooklands track. This event broke the Guinness World Record
for the longest ever Scalextric track in the world, intended to measure the original 2.75
miles (4.43 km) of the original Brooklands circuit but in reality recording 2.95 miles
(4.75 km) in length, because of the need to navigate modern features that block the original
course. In late 2010, Scalextric released a revised
six-car digital powerbase that includes a separate screen which aids set up and also
displays race information such as lap times. The company worked closely with customers
when developing the new system. The result includes features such as yellow
flag options for dealing with crashed cars, ghost cars to race against which can run and
change lanes automatically, and the ability to race in analogue mode for older models
that haven’t been converted to digital. Scalextric Start was also released in 2010,
and was intended to be a basic track for children. It has only one type of straight and corner,
and each set can be made up into various layouts; the cars included in the sets are fantasy
models, which reduce manufacturers’ licensing costs, and a converter track piece is available to allow
cars to cross from Start track to Sport and back again.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. You clearly put a lot of work into these and it really shows. They are really informative , thanks a lot , I've watched all of your vids

  2. hey little car, make a history of Siku or Majorette, france and German. Same as matchbox cars and corgi cars…. πŸ˜€

  3. Great episode! This seems to be a difficult one for everyone, in this episode I've heard them all. "Scalextric," "Scalectric," and the famous (and what everyone thinks,) "Scalectrix." Still gets everyone, but regardless they know what you mean lol.

  4. When I was a kid, my parents split up and I played them like fk. I also had a lot of uncles and cousins whoes mothers did what mine did and gave all their Scalextric away, i had everything. I could make any course on the GP calender of the day, I had every angle you could get. I got an old Mexico and put another engine in it and made it 4 wheel drive. It didn't turn well so me and my mate invented, indoor Scalextric hill climbing. We would cover the stairs in black bags and squirt fairy liquid down the track, it was fkg mint. I even knew of the dangers, i could solder and my dad was an electrician in the RAF, but being 11, didn't give a sht, thank god the house didn't catch fire. I didn't play with it in 6 months and my mum gave it all, away to some lucky bstrd, i had every car.

  5. my mum and dad got a scalextric brand new when they got married, still have the track today, along with a Sierra and an Escort. Yes its in slightly tatty condition but the set is nearly 30 years old.

  6. Wow! never realized Scalextric had come such a long way, a bit more complex than my Mighty MG Metro set!
    Nice one , Thank You.

  7. I had scaletrix clone and it was really boring to play. Cars were too slow to slip out the track so the winner was always the one with better motor. However I used the track as road system for my diecast cars

  8. Yet another great video. Makes me miss the set I had in the 80's.
    Two of my favorite vehicles I owned was a Rover police car, complete with flashing light-bar & siren, and a truck and trailor (slower but with more grunt, enabling it to carry other cars and often much heavier items).
    Also, I remember several fantastic layouts in a sea-front building at Clacton-on-Sea, some of which were 4-lane set-ups with bridges and great scenery. Happy days…

  9. I was wondering (and yes, hoping) you'd do this one.
    I've had many MANY fun hours racing and tuning Scalextric cars over the years.
    Was lucky enough to know of a few good clubs that really had some great racing.
    Did you ever move past the playing with them as a kid phase??
    If not, then you should investigate the club scene, it's mostly a bunch of car fans who probably would race full sized cars if they could afford it πŸ™‚
    Mind you, that's the same as RC car fans too (of which I also count myself as one)
    In fact, Tamiya RC Cars for the next Little Car ??
    Thanks !

  10. Really interesting. I have about 12 sets I think, 1 is my sons though. I once tried micro scalextric and found it significantly harder than normal size – it seems the motors are just as powerful but the cars are 1/8 the size so go way too fast and fly off! The best type, especially for kids, is the 360, kids who struggle with controlling the speed soon get bored of picking the car up every 30 seconds, so they can just floor it and have fun, and as an adult you can see how much you can drift it without going too far. I did not know that digital cars ran on analogue track, I have 6 digital cars (all Boxsters as I got 3 identical sets from a woolworths sale, back when they first came out and you could have 6 cars on a track!) and have a converter chip but never converted any because I have far more analogue cars so rarely use digital, knowing this I might look into converting some. You did miss the MotoGP series, I recently got one of those (oh, thats 13 sets then), havent used it yet but I had bought a motorbike previously which it took my son less than a day to break as the guide attachment to the bike is so fragile and irreparable.

  11. Why don't you do video on what was once scalextric biggest competitor (atleast in the UK), TCR (Total Control Racing)?
    I always liked it better because the cars could switch lanes at any time and was faster. Infact I still have 2 sets (but it needs new pickups and tyres which are almost impossible to find).

  12. Great video. Both me and my brother still have a load of scalextric cars including one of the original 1960's front wheel drive Mini Cooper's

  13. I had a Micro Scalextric set in the 90's. The cars had magnets which stuck them to the track so well there was no fun in the driving at all. Just full power and ridiculous vertical surfaces. I soon fixed that by removing the magnets to make them drift and creating more realistic circuits.

  14. I had the Le Mans 24hr set. One the largest sets in the 1980s range. Trouble was, I didn't have anyone to race against and play with back then. There was a Rothmans Porsche and a Jaguar in the set with front lights on both cars and brake lights that flashed on when the cars stopped. It had a hump back bridge too. The set came with a cassette tape (remember those?) And Noel Edmonds and I think Howard
    Goodall from the BBC show "Thats Life" talked about how to build the track, race the cars properly and discuss building layouts, accessories and repairs etc. On the other side there where authentic racing car sounds to create atmosphere when playing. My Jaguars diff gear broke as the teeth wore out so I sent it back to Hornby in Margate and they repaired it for free and sent her back to me. Those were the days. The set subsequently languished in my parents attic for years, the track tarnished and eventually I sold it for a meagre Β£20 still boxed and practically complete with fly overs, barriers, bollards etc on eBay…
    I did have a Micro Scalextric set and 3 or 4 cars but sold that off too. I love looking at old Scalextric but doubt I'd ever get back into it now. My Girlfriends small Nephew had a few slot car sets – and wrecked them quite quickly….
    Great video.

  15. Sweet baby jebus – we're only 8 seconds in and you already fucked it up. Say after me:
    Scale – X – Trick!
    Scale – X – Trick!!
    Scale – X – Trick!!!
    How the hell could you mess that up?

  16. @4:18 was that a deliberate use of the common mispronunciation of Scalectrix? :0) :0)
    Not just then, you never seem to say Scalextric the same way two times in a row – really does sound like a conversation about it, as I don't recall ever being able to correctly pronounce it more than once or twice myself lol

    Great video Andy, brought back some great memories

  17. It never ceases to amaze me that the graphic designers of the packaging never have a clue as to the relative scales of the drivers and the vehicles. It's like they have never seen any of these things.

  18. You didn't mention that Scalextric was made in countries like France, Australia and New Zealand from 1960 while being owned Lines brothers

  19. When I was growing up only kids with rich parents would own a Scalextric cars and track. So I never owned one. I had to make do with Dinky cars.

  20. when i lived in Australia in the 1960's i used to play on a public 6-lane track, used to buy really soft wide tyre's for more grip, only thing was they used to wear out during one race, good time's,
    thank's for uploading,

  21. That was amazing! My several years of Scalextric ownership took up about five Second of your report… Have you done Minic Motorways yet?

  22. senslessly disappointing toy when i was a child in the late 60's, my kids got one off their older brother a couple of years ago, brought it all back, i can't stand it to this day, a train set was much better to play with, or a spud gun

  23. Amazing how things come back around .Dont know how popular it is today ,but by the 1980s it was loosing out to the home pc revolution

  24. I remember getting a Scalextric set for Christmas 1960, it ran from mains transformer and even had lights on the saloon cars, many hours of fun.

  25. Wow! This was all new to me. Thanks for this. If you end u doing HotWheels please mention the HotBird series as being an aviation buff I had many of them.

  26. When I was a kid in the early 60s it seemed like I did everything short of crawling over broken glass to get my parents to buy me the American equivalent of these racetracks. Being a child, I didn't think the $25 price tag (I am guessing the equivalent of Β£50 ?) was all that much.
    2-3 years ago I started thinking about getting a modern set of these for my 10 year old nephew but the now $100 price (about Β£150?) was a real shock.
    And yet, I see what these newer Scalextric tracks are capable of, and I am impressed and less skeptical of the value versus price.

    BTW, my set, manufactured in the US by AURORA, had a 63 Ford Galaxie convertible and a 63 Ford Falcon hardtop. And what am I driving as a "grown-up"? A 2009 Ford Crown Victoria. These racing sets really made an impression on some young boys.

  27. A correction to a widespread misunderstanding of events. Hornby Trains did not take over Triang or Scalextric. Hornby Dublo and Hornby tinplate clockwork trains arm of Meccano in Liverpool collapsed in 1964 although production may have largely ceased in the previous year.
    The Hornby Scalextric rival Circuit 24 collapse just added to losses even in a boom time for slot cars. The Board of Meccano approached Lines Brothers to buyout Hornby Dublo and possibly Meccano and Dinky. Lines Brothers the parent company of Margate based Triang Trains and Scalextric did this for a knock down price but did not find much of use in the trains part of the purchase. After this the trains were called Triang-Hornby from mid 1965 until around 1971.
    This was to encourage users of Hornby Dublo to convert to Triang users.
    In 1971 Lines brothers went into receivership.
    The trains and Scalextric were one the most useful parts of Lines Brothers and so found new owners. However they could no longer use the name Triang so were renamed Hornby,
    The change of name to Hornby was very useful due to badge snobbery being rampant in the UK. The current Hornby owners cultivate the badge snobbery of 100 years of Hornby as it sells to less knowledgeable buyers. This is even though current Hornby share no components with the always expensive Hornby Dublo range but many tools from the Rovex-Triang era of the 1950s and 60s are still in use. The commercial savviness of Rovex still survives to an extent.
    So just a rename by Rovex at Margate but you will get many arguments from those dazzled by the Hornby name and the history of the name.

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