Scalextric

In 1952 a small company called ‘Minimodels’ produced small metal bodied racing cars with small clockwork motors under the name ‘Scalex’. Later, electric motors replaced the clockwork models, and their inventor, Mr Francis, devised a rubber-based track with two parallel metal grooves in the centre to carry an electric current and the means to keep the cars on the track.
The company changed their name to ‘Scalextric’. With this new name Minimodels introduced the range of what would become Slot Car Racing sets to the world at the annual Harrogate Trade Toy Fair in 1957. Overnight Scalextric became a success and in no time the name Scalextric became the generic name used for Slot Car Racing.

Minimodels were unable to meet the demand and Mr Francis sold the company to  one of the major toy companies of the time, Lines Bros Ltd, whose subsidiary Tri-ang went on to develop the system by introducing plastic models, replacing the early tinplate,  and a moulded plastic track replacing the rubber version.  By this time, the range of models had been increased to around 20 cars and included a new addition of a number of motorcycle combinations.

Production of the system by Tri-ang continued in the original Minimodel’s factory in Havant, Hampshire until 1967 when it moved to the parent company’s factory at Margate.

As with the model railway system, Scalextric developed from just a simple round circuit to a complete Grand Prix circuit.  With extra pieces of track complete miniature copies of the world’s famous motor racing circuits could be made up with the addition of a whole range of accessories.  Some of these early ones were based on the full size versions at the Goodwood Grand Prix circuit, with many of them still being produced up to 2000.

An advertising slogan from the mid 60s ‘The most complete model racing system in the World’ was used and the company hired Jim Clarke, the then world champion, to promote the sets.  This led to Scalextric World Championships being staged in London and with the increased appeal of the sets very soon Scalextric was being manufactured in other parts of the world.

A Spanish company, Exin, first produced Scalextric models under licence in 1966 but later went on to produce a range of their own.  These were of a better quality than the British product due to the financial problems of the then owner of the Scalextric company Dunbee, Combex Marx.  The Spanish models from that period are now highly sought after by collectors and operators of the race circuits.

As with model railways, many Slot Car racing Clubs and Associations around the world have been formed who hold their own race nights an championships.  Over the years, as with the full motor racing scene, Salextric models and accessories have improved with faster and more detailed cars, motorbikes and accessories.

The 50th anniversary in 2007 coincided with the considerable publicity of the young and new British Formula One driver, Lewis Hamilton, which in turn created an upsurge in sales.

Among many of the special anniversary releases was a commemorative pack that contained important models from the past and the present, a classic tinplate model of one of the first models, the Ferrari 375, and a model of Michael Schumacher’s 2006 Formula One car.  The unique box set also included a complete history and events of the famous Scalextric brand.

With the recent success the parent company who now owns Scalextric, Hornby Hobbies, are planning a whole range of new and exciting models and sets that will see that the Scalextric and Slot Car Racing scene continue for many years to come.

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