SCALEXTRIC From Russia … probably!

It is often impossible to ascertain what Russia has been responsible for despite ‘evidence’ or conjecture. So it is with the story of Scalextric produced in Russia! Did they or didn’t they?
Many Scalextric enthusiasts are aware of the NOVO branded Scalextric sets. BUT! Were the Sets made and sold in the UK, Russia or somewhere else?

In 1975, a British company called Novo Toys Limited was founded and were based at Maxey, near Peterborough, England. Novo Toys was part of the Dunbee-Combex-Marx Group of companies which owned Scalextric. An announcement of that year from DCM explained:

 

“Novo Toys enjoys and exclusive agreement with the Soviet Union to supply moulds and tooling to enable them to help satisfy a growing internal market of some 70 million children. Payment for these moulds is made in products moulded from them and this form of compensation trading is unique in the Britih Toy Industry. Novo personnel are constantly travelling within the Soviet Union and our engineers ensure that high quality standards are maintained. Our range this year covers pre-school items and construction kits and features the successful Big Big Train. New to Novo is our G.T. Racing set together with twelve new additions to the kit range. Shipments from Russia arrive by road trailer from six different locations situated from Moscow to Tashkent and all merchandise is received and inspected in our warehouse in Maxey before being shipped throughout the UK and around the world. Novo Toys is a part of the Dunbee-Combex-Marx Group of companies and is therefore able to draw from an ever increasing supply of moulds and tools which in turn should ensure that a continuing range of attractive products at competitive prices wll be added to the Novo range in the years to come.”

Another Novo leaflet, printed in 1978, in English with Spanish translation, announced:

“New for 1978 Novo introduces “G.T. Racing”, a super value slot racing set. Over 4 metres (420cms) of dual lane flexible track with high speed curved banking ensure record breaking speeds from the Lamborghini and Mirage Ford which are included in the set. Variable banking supports and crash barriers help keep the cars on the track and speed is controlled by the pistol grip hand controllers.” G.T. Racing set was catalogue item 78001.

The Novo set was NOVO, of course, but all tooling still had the Scalextric logo and patent information engraved in to the steel so the resulting plastic products had the well known Scalextric logo and information moulded in to the plastic. The Sets were made with the very tooling that DCM owned and used at the Margate factory so the Sets were genuine Scalextric products made in the USSR under license. Paperwork in the Set was in Engish entitled “Auto racing”, “Test-experimental (proof) Office of Moscow”, ”220 volts”, “The toy”. “Electronic toy assembly. “The training path”, “Guarantee education” and also a note showing a production run of 15,000. The set had two cars; C15 Ford Mirage and C17 Lamborghini plus various track sections. This was made in St. Petersberg and had ‘Made in USSR’ stamped underneath. The Ford Mirage was made in a drab green colour and the Lamborghini in a pale yellow.

In addition it is possible that a Ferrari P4 was made but in a dull red colour. The C13 Tiger Special was also produced, with ‘Made in USSR’ on the underside, and sold in bright green and yellow versions – two very rare colour variations to collect. All cars appear to have been fitted with yellow wheel hubs.

The second version of the Set was manufactured in Moscow, and possibly at several other Russian locations, for the Russian market. The Set card box is made of a heavier card with the set artwork very similar but the text and titles were all in Russian. The cars and track also varied considerably from the St. Petersberg made items. The engine and axle carrier/chassis used a different moulding without the ‘U’ shaped aluminium bracket, the guide blade is larger. The driver pan is different because of the new rear axle/motor assembly but the motor is the same as the Novo motor. The track and barriers were also a new tooling. The track had a sleeved slot, metal rail pins to connect one track piece to the next and a yellow plastic links which hooked on to the track edge corners to physically hold the track pieces together. The barriers had a ballastraded design and the controllers no longer featured the name Novo. The car bodies of the Lamborghini Miura and a Ford Mirage were moulded in red and blue colours respectively. From the descriptions it can be seen that the Set wasn’t a copy of the Novo Set but a re-engineered product to suit production methods or requirements of the Socialist countries.

So, at first glance, the Soviets did make Scalextric sets in Moscow for Russian and the Eastern Bloc countries which, whilst NOVO exported Sets made in St. Petersberg, Russia to the UK. The statement from DCM infers that there was an agreement with the Russian State to make slot racing Sets using tooling and intellectual property (IP) supplied by DCM. It would appear that NOVO, having the tooling for the car bodies and wheel hubs and a supply of motors, produced a quantity for the Russian producer(s). However, as all components (with the exception of the car bodies, motor and wheel hubs) have been re-engineered the resulting slot-racing product can’t be called Scalextric at all, although it is a distant comrade.

C0017 Lamborghini - Blue (12b)

Other products involved in this international arrangement with NOVO included FROG plastic kits and BIG BIG TRAIN – also produced in the Scalextric factory at Margate.

In 1977, Novo Toys applied to Peterborough council for approval for factory and office extensions and for retention of temporary office buildings but both were not approved by the council. Novo ceased trading in 1980 and liquidation was completed in 1985.

GT racing set box 21b

So, ‘No!’, Russia didn’t make Scalextric products… technically! …probably!

Lamborghini Diablo

Lamborghini Diablo
One of Lamborghini’s most intimidating supercars, the Diablo had an 11-year production run (1990-2001) including six generation revisions. It was named after one particularly infamous fighting bull. Scalextric released the Diablo in 1990 and added a rear wing (an optional addition for the full-size car) in 1991 with the final release in 1999 being the only tooling amendment to the Scalextric car body despite many real world car revisions. This is normal in the world of toy and model cars – no need to make expensive tooling amendments if demands don’t dictate. It is very unlikely that the tooling will be used again so that fact makes the Diablo a good candidate for a concise and achievable collectable Scalextric range with a few ‘specials’ as tantalising options.
The full size cars were raced in GT1, GT2, Lamborghini Supertrophy and JGTC series essentially as factory backed teams.
C0360
Scalextric models:
In 1990, the Diablo was first introduced as a business-to-business incentive to boost sales in the Spanish market via Spanish wholesaler Hisinsa under Hornby’s ‘SUPERSLOT’ brand. SUPERSLOT is the name under which Scalextric was sold in Spain due to ‘SCALEXTRIC’ already being a separately owned brand name in Spain. The C360 & C361 brown and white liveries bearing the ‘Palau’ slot shop’s name, a major Spanish retailer in Barcelona, were released in Spain via the retailer and are now quite hard to find. They would from the basis of a collection quite nicely as being the only single-colour livery Diablo cars in these colours together with their standard black windowed card box with red pin-striping with individually numbered limited edition certificate inside!
C0127
The first general release Scalextric Lamborghini Diablo arrived in 1991 and, confusingly, carried the reference C127 which had already been used for the McLaren M23 in 1978. (Note: C360 was also a reused number!) The 1992 release, the black Diablo, also doubled-up on the reference of C283 which had previously been used on a Rover 3500 in 1981. Why reference numbers were duplicated, a practice that still occurs to this day, is a mystery. Human error, probably! In 1991 the black C283 road car was released in Set C770 Road Racing and as a solo car and without a rear wing and then quickly followed up by another black solo version with a rear wing fitted – but still sold as C283. So, C283 has Type 1 – no wing, Type 2 rear wing versions. The winged version was thought to be a limited release at the time but has since been found to be just as common with or without a rear wing. Plain red (C411, no wing) and green (C452 with wing) versions followed.

The annual Scalextric Range Presentation of 1998 saw the Diablo (C2069) used as the representation model for the year despite having been in the range for eight years. This limited availability car, only given to Hornby business account holders, was sprayed gold but due to a paint or body preparation error the paint finished soon ‘crazed’ on most examples to a lesser or greater extent.
C2069
The Diablo was also produced as a clear plastic model to be part of a ‘Crystal Classics’ range which was abandoned due to lack of retail interest. This interesting model allowed all internal parts of the car to be seen. Having the appearance of glass crystal the intention was that it would be more of a decorative retail item aimed at high-street stores selling presents and cards, etc. There were also clear cars for the Brooklands slot-car swap meets and Barry Potter Auctions. They were available with or without lights but as they were not released in commercial quantities they were not assigned official ‘C’ references – though I have assigned references in the Scalextric Ultimate Guide book to help in recording these and similar such releases.
CC001C

Due to the lack of real world Diablo race cars most of the Scalextric range is dedicated to road liveries and ‘event’ cars and just three pseudo-race liveries.
Part of the licensing requirements from companies such as Lamborghini is that they do their utmost to protect their brand image. A privately owned Lamborghini race car is of little importance to Lamborghini’s branding department so their main focus is on encouraging a model/toy manufacturer to make a car that represents their official factory cars. That is why most Lamborghini Scalextric models simply reflect their standard house colours of orange, green and yellow. Other colours take a distinct back seat. Liveries bearing the raging bull outline or the letters ‘SV’ (one of their models) make regular appearances throughout the range of Lamborghini in addition to the Diablo model.
C2193

Special one-off liveries have appeared over the years such as a Police car with working flashing roof light but was never released. Brand tie-ups with Premier League football were launched with a range of Ferrari F40 ‘football’ cars. In the initial stages a range of test liveries were created and offered to the respective licence holders. Some were supplanted on to the Diablo and a Manchester United and an Aston Villa decorated car have been recorded. Neither were released as part of the football range and therefore are rather collectable. Another football connection may have been considered with a Brazilian CBF decorated football liveried Diablo. It’s only one more step to another Brazilian connection with a range of cars, not just Lamborghini, celebrating F1 World Champion Senna. Chromed cars used as official competition road show prizes exist as do various coloured body shells. These are always very rare with only a handful or single examples known to exist. Examples of the engineering process in adding the rear wing to the car also exist. Some body samples, usually in different shades of green, exist that show round pin holes for the planned rear wing. However, the design was changed at some stage before production so that the rear wing slotted in to larger, stronger rectangular slots.

The ‘Senna’ collection range included Audi A4 touring car, Williams F1 car, Subaru Impreza rally car and the Lamborghini Diablo. This brand tie-up worked well and saw two Diablo cars in blue/white (F2223) and yellow/green (F2224) liveries as solo cars and a Set F1037 GT Championship. This range of Senna items were all prefixed with ‘F’ rather than ‘C’. I believe the ‘F’ should have been a suffix, not a prefix, and so should have been C2223F, etc. These solo Diablo cars are packaged in a plastic base, crystal box lid and card sleeve fully branded with SENNA graphics.

Variety; plain road livery, race livery, chrome, with and without lights, football, police, clear, licensed, dual-branded solo cars and Sets. Something for everyone!

Lamborghini has a tradition of naming its cars after breeds of fighting bulls. The Diablo was named after a ferocious bull raised by the Duke of Veragua in the 19th century, famous for fighting an epic battle with ‘El Chicorro’ in Madrid on 11 July 1869. In this day and age it is not necessary to go to such lengths in achieving such a collection but to be the conquistador of this herd of bulls would still be quite a challenge but a devil of a collection.

References: Ultimate Guide, 8th Edition,
If you believe you have a yet unrecorded variant and seek confirmation of its authenticity, please contact me at slotcarportal.com.
“Scalextric – The Ultimate Guide 8th Edition” book, with over 700 pages, is available from the Internet. Search online! Also see http://www.slotcarportal.com

Collecting Sets: C861 Daytona 24hrs

1988 C861 Daytona 24hr
Throughout the history of Scalextric, occassionally, a ready-to-race (RTR) Set is released exclusively to a targeted market. This Daytona rtr set was released in the USA in 1988 and exclusively sold through the ‘Children’s World’ toy chain. The basic track shape is of the Daytona tri-oval race circuit’s in-field road course and itself is unique to this Set. It is unclear how the Set format was decided upon, or who decided upon it. It is possible that this was a specifically commissioned Set from a US source and sold through ‘Children’s World’ in the USA.

Collecting cars from rtr Sets is a common theme since quite often the cars in Sets are unique to the Set and not released as solo cars. Sometimes, solo versions of Set cars only differ with some extra decoration but every now and then a Set may have completely unique livery. Alas the artwork on some rtr Sets can be deceiving. Usually, the car liveries on the Set box lid will be replicated on the models within – not so with Set!
C0382 (2)
The box lid artwork shows the Jaguar XJ8 bearing race number “88” on the car but the car within the Set bears the regular number “60” as issued on regular release solo cars.
In the 1988 Daytona 24hr, Jaguar ran race numbers 66 and 67 (and generally in the US always 60,61,66,67). The No. 88 livery was the Jaguar Castrol presentation car shown in advance of the 1988 IMSA season. It is likely that the Scalextric art department only had images supplied to them by the sponsors Castrol and Jaguar or that they sourced imagery from the media and press not realising that the eventual racing livery would bear a different race entry number.
The model cars photographed on the Set lid are not production Scalextric models.Bth the jaguar and the Porsche are either ‘borrowed’ from another manufacturer or are early plasticard models from the Scalextric engineering department.
C0436

An interesting rtr Set only sold in the USA.