Technical developments of Scalextric

Inventor: Fred Francis of Minimodels Ltd.

1957       Introduced as Scalextric at the Harrogate International Toy Fair between the 12th and 19th January. The track was made of rubber with an inset twin-rail for each lane into which the car’s gimbal wheel rested. Electricity passed through the twin rails, through the two-piece insulated gimbal wheel and onward to the electric motor. Initially, an On/Off button was the only means of controlling the amount of electricity sent to the motor – and therefore, the speed of the car.

1960       Introduction of the plastic range of cars; production of the tinplate cars ceased.

In the 1960s the first plastic track system was introduced, called ‘flexi-track’ then it is now known as the ‘classic’ track system. Around the turn of the century the ‘Sport’ track system was introduced. The race track surface was smoother in texture and offered less grip than classic track. However, although not perfect, it was flatter due to additional support walls on the underside and doesn’t suffer from the warping that affected classic track. The track connections were changed to make it easier to assemble and the rail electricity connectors were changed to improve electrical continuity. The whole system is nicer to look at and easier to assemble. Alas, the nett result is that the grip is less (arguably the most important element), track connections are less positive leading to electrical breaks, the rail connections are not an improvement and still lead to electrical discontinuity – power loss or complete power failure! On top of this many iconic track pieces were not converted from classic to Sport resulting in a track system which is a shadow of its former self.
In the 2000s, a new track system called ‘Start’ was introduced. It was innovative in that its geometry was designed in such a way that only 8 pieces were required to make a figure of ‘8’ layout where the normal Scalextric system needed 15 pieces in Sport track and 17 in the Classic system. However, one huge flaw existed – it was designed with a completely different geometric system where by it was not compatible with the current Sport system! It only had a 90 degree standard curve (R2) and this was of a radius somewhere between an Inner Curve (R1) and a Standard Curve (R2) and the straights were not standard. Consequuently, it was withdrawn from the range after three years.

1960       The first Lap Counter was announced in catalogue 1, 1960, although it was probably not available until 1961 when it was advertised for either electrical or manual operation. Since then there has been a variety of lap counters marketed both mechanical and electrical, some more successful than others, all relying on the car operating a mechanical switch in the slot. However, it was not really until the ‘Sport’ track was announced that the system worked really well when not only did it count the number of laps but could also record fastest lap, including various race and practice modes. By 2014, technology had moved forward a pace and a Scalextric APP for use with smart media such as mobile phones and tablets enabled a much better and more reliable way to count laps and display lap times and other in-race data.

1970s     Autostart, Think Tank, Sound Track, Fuel Load Gauge, a working Public Address system, Supersound and Hazard (track pieces with rows of flashing LED lights) were all electronic analogue devices to provide, for their time, exciting real world-like.

1991 saw the release of Permalite Control, an accessory designed to keep cars’ lights full on when racing instead of varying intensity when the throttle was released, including when they were standing still on the track.

1992       A major improvement in 1992 was the availability of Power Base, a simpler and more efficient method of fixing the current supply to the track, transformer and hand controllers.

1993       Following on from this in 1993 was Supersound which featured in many of the sets that year; three different racing sounds came from a separate unit. The same year Megasound was to be found in the more expensive sets, this had a sound unit built into the controller itself so that an engine sound actually worked in conjunction with the speed of the model. This system lasted for some four years when Pole Position Sound was announced.

2002       New CD-driven RMS Race Management System programme for use on a personal computer. This features race times, fastest laps, lap counting, start lights, pit stops, a track design facility and much more. It will accommodate up to six lanes.

2004      ‘Digital Scalextric’ introduced– the invention to take Scalextric into the future.

Sport Digital:  A separate lap counter/race position unit C7039 was added to the range as an accessory, this unit counts up to 999 laps, pre-set as required and will show the lead car on each lap finally displaying the winner at the finish, it can handle up to 6 cars.  Catalogue 49 (2008) illustrated the new Pit Lane game (C7041) adding more play value. 6 cars can be accommodated with up to 3 random pit stops and penalties if a pit stop was missed or entered at the wrong time. This new unit was accompanied by a new 6 car (digital or analogue) Powerbase (C7042), including 5 skill settings, various game modes and even individual hand controller calibration.

2007       The Sport World System allowed Scalextric racers worldwide to race against each other by connecting their layouts to the internet via a PC or laptop. The hardware comprised a control unit incorporating a LCD screen connected to the circuit through a half straight. 9 different race modes were available and the software also included 3D circuit design with buildings and landscapes, pit stops and even weather strategy.

2008       The Gadget Show set a Guiness Book of Rcords record for the fastest Scalextric car.

2008       Whilst earlier games generally were independent of the track the advent of the digital system now allows far greater scope. With C7041 ‘Digital Pit Lane’, introduced in 2008, the game play is actually attached to the circuit layout itself.  Up to six cars can be accommodated and the object of the game is to select and complete up to three pit stops throughout the race. Enter the pit lane when the randomly applied ‘open’ light shows; leaving the pit lane extinguishes the ‘pit’ light for that particular car, enter the pit lane at other times and a pit lane penalty is imposed. The winner is the first to complete all the selected number of pit stops, adds more play value. Additional to this game play device is the C7042 6-car Advanced Power Base which allows full race parameter set-up, race time variable such as Yellow Flag and Penalties. Full power can be lowered for individual cars to either better balance cars against each other or balance the driver abilities.

An important policy decision was taken by Hornby that it would encourage the slot car community to develop its own independent firmware and software options for enhanced race control. C7042 was, therefore, developed and built with a output port for such Open-Source activities. Indeed this led to the active participation of experts from the community to give substantial input in to the systems development. The decision to make the 6-car powerbase compatible with a computer was a sensible idea and has proved to be so with enthusiasts and slot racing clubs taking up Scalextric Digital software systems.

2011       Apps: The advent of digital ‘Smart’ media devices such as iPhone, iPad and similar tablets created more possibilities with Scalextric to create tracks and race cars by oneself.  An ‘App’ (application) software program could be downloaded from the iTunes App store (59p in 2011) called simply SCALEXTRIC.

2013       A new APP called SCALEXTRIC DIGITAL was launched.

2014       A new product was announced in the catalogue – ‘RCS’ –  Race Control System! During 2014, before it was released, the product was renamed ‘ARC’ – APP Race Control to reflect the important point that it used blue-tooth technology that required smart devices such as an I-Pad or similar notepads and smart phones and from which an APP could be downloaded. The APP, called ‘ARC’ allowed the owner to set up races, penalties, driver names, number of laps, etc., etc., from the smart device. When the race was in progress all the race time information would be displayed on the smart device. This enabled a huge step forward in that the need for electronic lap counters, hand controllers with wires and plugs and such ‘cumbersome’ devices such as computers would be a thing of the past. How quickly technology becomes redundant!

2017 saw the introduction of the high-end ARC-PRO system. Essentially a digital version of ARC-AIR featuring many more game play scenarios, wireless hand-controllers and the ARC-PRO APP.

Scalextric Figures: Girls in Scalextric.

Meet the fairer sex in the Scalextric family – or do I mean the female gender or feminine genre?
QX04b
No, wait! No need to be overly politically sensitive here. We’re only reviewing plastic toys.

An entire ‘family’ have existed in the Scalextric range snce 1961. Unfortunately, the individuals concerned didn’t age a day for over forty years or changed their dress sense. So, let’s look at how the fairer sex was represented in the Scalextric range since the Scalextric-man first set foot in this World.

The Ascent of Scalextric Wo-Man: In 1961, two ladies appeared in the first Scalextric figure Set F301 Spectators & Press Photographers which contained six figures. One lady is sitting and often painted in blue and green. The other lady stands holding aloft a white pamphlet. Let’s christen them ‘Sita’ and ‘Pammie’! The figures were moulded in pink plastic and remained in the official range throughout the 60s until 1971.

A second Set of figures, F305 Press & Vendors (6 figures) was also released in 1961 that only contained one standing female figure decorated in a green outfit and green hat. I’ll call her ‘Hattie’. She appears to be selling programmes or similar.  This accessory set is harder to find. The boxes for F300-301-302-303-304-305 came with blue or yellow inner cards. The ‘F’ series figures were produced in pink plastic and pre-painted at the factory. Be careful today, though, as the paint is prone to flake off very easily.

In 1963, F306A Grandstand figures kit (5 figures as one piece and unpainted) and F306B Grandstand figures kit (5 figures as one piece and unpainted) entered the range. These pair of Scalextric ‘Famous Fives’ figures were intended for the grandstands, you would imagine, and offered in the range as plain unpainted pink plastic figures for the enthusiast to decorate in whatever colours the enthusiast preferred. Unfortunately, they do not ‘sit’ well on a grandstand bench and would fall forward as a group. They could of course be used anywhere on a circuit that seemed appropriate but ‘empty Grandstands’, as is the case to this very day, was the eventual outcome.

F306A’s group of seated figures had a lady resting her head on the shoulder of the man to her right. Let’s refer to her as the ‘Lena. F306B’s group has a lady at the end of the group sitting next to, perhaps, her son and husband. I’ll name her ‘Endora’.

In 1971, Scalextric figures appeared to have been made extinct, none were in the catalogue! Further releases of F301 and F306A & B in rebranded packaging appeared during the next 25 years to ‘top up’ thinning retail stocks. Easily confused with the earlier soft pink plastic characters the later range was produced in a harder cream-coloured plastic but painted in the same colours! The seated grandstand figures appeared in both painted and unpainted forms in white, cream and brown base colours – as did the standing spectators.

On the top row sits ‘Lena’, leaning on her boyfriend and at the end of the lower row is ‘Endora. Second picture: ‘Pammie’ holds a programme aloft and ‘Sita’ sitting pretty, both with full ‘make-up’ – being pre-painted. On the right, the unpainted grey/brown versions sold in accessory packs.

Figures mass1
Here’s a family album photograph of part of the 20th Century extended Scalextric family!

By the 21st century demand for figures to adorn a scenic Scalextric layout was growing with the recent introduction of modern trackside buildings and in 2004 the next evolution of Scalextric man appeared modelled as pit crews were introduced and dressed in the style of modern F1 overalls and helmets in silver, blue and, for only two years, red crew liveries – but no female crew.

As far as figures of the fairer sex were concerned the tooling from the 20th Century was stuck in time…but then came Woman from Tokyo! “Talk about her like a Queen, Dancing in an Eastern Dream.” (Deep Purple lyric) Despite the need for modern figures for track layouts or dioramas this, all too brief, appearance from the Far East would be the last manifestation of female figures in the Scalextric range.

QX06
The grid girls were only produced, under license by Takara, in Japan along with their Japanese GT C car range and branded ‘Quattrox’. The ‘Scalextric Digital – ready’ cars were produced under license from Scalextric and sold principally in Japan in their TAKARA-Quattrox packaging. Each car came complete with a grid girl clipped in to the plastic base next to the race car. The SCALEXTRIC branded equivalents, sold in the UK and around the world, came WITHOUT a grid girl posing next to the car in its presentation case.
QX05

“Fly into the rising sun, Faces, smiling everyone. Yeah, she is a whole new tradition…” In the 1970s, Deep Purple seemed to have predicted what should happen in the next century – but ‘No’, Hornby decided that the girl figures weren’t politically correct! Imported by Scalextric to the UK market, the race car models didn’t have the grid girl figurines on the plinth.

Quattrox Grid Girls a
From left-to-right:
Roku is the grid girl for the QX06 Toyota Supra GTC au Cerumo 38 car,
Shi is the grid girl for the QX04  Honda NSX GTC Takata 18 car,

Go is the grid girl for the QX05 Toyota Supra GTC Esso 6 car,

Ichi is the grid girl for the QX01 Nissan 350Z GTC Xanavi 1 car,

Ni is the grid girl for the QX02 Nissan 350Z GTC Calsonic 12 car,

San is the grid girl for the QX03 Honda NSX GTC Raybrig 100 car.
Whites, blues and greys are the principal decoration colours of these women from Tokyo though none were dressed in Deep Purple!

So, the female family tree is as follows:

1962 Pammie, Hattie and Sita

1963 Lena and Endora

2006 The six Japanese grid-girls: Ichi, Ni, San, Shi, Go and Roku.

Please refer to the Scalextric Ultimate Guide Edition 8 book, available from Pendle Slot racing and Scale Models, and the accompanying website slotcarportal.com for more information.