SCALEXTRIC – a tempestuous ‘C’ of numbers.
To B2 or not to B2!
Motorbikes, in 1962/63 were labelled as B1 and B2. Cars were similarly referenced with a ‘C’ prefix. This sounds logical and I can see a pattern forming already.
Collecting Scalextric and understanding the ‘C’ reference system, might at first, seem simply a case of starting at C1 and working up through C2, C3, etc., as far as you want to go. Well, no! C1 was introduced in 1968, eleven years after the first Scalextric cars were released. There are many more peculiarities. Let’s go back to the basics to understand what a ‘C’ number is used for in the world of Scalextric.
B2 Motorbike and Sidecar in yellow: OK, I got it! All bikes will have a ‘B’ prefix.
Why have a ‘C’ number?
Almost every Scalextric item has a reference number. In the late 50s through to the 70s each item for sale had a catalogue number for sales and accounting purposes. This reference was repeated on the tooling for the item by being engraved upon it to ensure that the correct item was moulded and the orders fulfilled. That was all fine until 1966 saw the release of C87 Vanwall, a ‘Race Tuned’ version of the C55 Vanwall first released in 1960! – another example being the C66 Cooper (1963) which was re-released in 1968 as C81 – now the system is broken! Oh no, the James Bond Aston Martin under-pan is marked C97 and C68! So, what happens next?
C0097C0068 Aston Martin : James Bond – Licensed to confuse!
Mould Tools – a block of high quality steel with a machined cavity, usually of two parts or more, that when molten plastic is injected, produces a plastic component such as a car body, underpan, window ‘glass’, grills, wheels, bumpers, mirrors, etc. etc.
The mould tool of under-pans, or the underside of the body, were stamped with the assigned reference to identify the chunk of steel. In the 60’s and 70’s decades it was only necessary to have the ‘C’ number and name of the car engraved in to the steel moulding tool of the under-pan. Where there was also a body top then that steel mould would usually be marked physically on the exterior of the mould for identification purposes by the mould-shop staff. However, when the same car or accessory was modified or released in a different specification, such as ‘Race Tuned’ versions, then a new ‘C’ number would often be assigned. To account for this eventuality, the engraving within the tool was often amended, added to, completely removed or a plate known as an ‘INSERT’ would be used. The insert plates, a separate steel plate in-set over the original engraving by the mould-shop engineer, would have the appropriate new identification engraved on them. The C72 BRM model had C85 added to the engraving whereas some of the other Formula Junior models of the 60s used INSERT plates so that only the correct ‘C’ identification number was displayed on the resulting extruded plastic, brand new, hot, shiny underpan or body.
C0085 BRM : C72 ‘upgraded’ to C85!
How does the wrong ‘C’ number appear on some cars?
Most collectors soon find out that the Javelin has ‘C3-10’ and ‘C4-10’ as well as no ‘C’ reference at all! C4 Electra also has the options of ‘C4-11’, ‘C3-11’ and also no reference on the underside. C13 Electra has ‘C4-11’ on underside. These incorrect markings are just down to a lack of discipline in a toy factory production processes.
Also C1 Alpine Renault, made in the French factory at Calais, is stamped ‘C1 / C13’! There are many more which are listed in the 8th Edition of the Ultimate Guide book.
C3 (type 2) : It’s a C3 Javelin marked as C4 – an Electra!
Why did Scalextric start in 1957 at reference C51/C52/C53 and not C1 ?
The first three Scalextric cars to be released were made of tinplate. C52 Ferrari 375 was released in 1957, then in the following year, C51 Maserati 250F and the very rare and highly sort-after C53 Austin Healey 100/6. The cars were adapted from the Scalex range of push-along toy cars with the revolutionary gimbal-wheel, electric motor-driven chassis.
The Scalex tinplate car catalogue references reached C50 in 1957.
C52 Ferrari in green : The first Scalextric release was C52, the Ferrari 375 but a year later C51, the Maserati 250F was introduced, of course!
The development of the Scalextric versions of the already existing Scalex model cars saw the ‘C’ references carried forward to the Scalextric range. Numbers below C51 had already been allocated in the Scalex range so it wouldn’t be logical for the factory to allocate those numbers to Scalextric products. In 1960 Scalextric released the Lotus 16 under reference C54 and the Vanwall under C55.
Blank origin plates!
INSERT plates were used a lot in the 60s and 70s when the Scalextric factories at Calais, France and Madrid, Spain were opened to absorb the world hunger for slot racing products. Not only were mould tooling reference numbers replaced with INSERTS but also the origin markings had to be changed. This is required for Customs purposes when trading on a world-wide basis. For instance, C68 Aston Martin DB4GT and C69 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta models can, today, be seen with markings on the under-pan that show which country the item was made in. ‘Made in England’, ‘Made in France’, ‘Made in Spain’ as well as ‘Hecho en Mexico’, ‘Made in Australia’ and ‘Made in USSR’ and many more derivatives including, bizarrely, blank plates showing no ‘origin’ mark at all!
C68 Type1. Made in England : Variations in underpan markings.
The use of origin plates also made it easier for the factory to move the mould tools from country to country to avoid the expensive and time consuming process of creating new mould for each factory, in each country. The INSERTS are witnessed, in shape, as a lozenge, a rectangle and circular impression marks. Blank INSERT plates were mounted in to the receiving cavity in the mould when not in use. Many of the products made in the French factory at Calais used the moulding tools from the UK. This is when the blank origin INSERTS were still in the moulds. The reasons why this might have happened may have been due to machine operatives being unclear on the use of the tooling or, since the Calais products were essentially sold in the European mainland (Yes, before the UK was part of the EU!), there were financial or EU regulations that made sense to have a blank INSERT plate.
When did C numbering marks cease on cars?
1979 appears to be the general date when Scalextric ceased engraving the ‘C’ reference in to the tooling to imprint the number on the underpan. This was probably due to the realisation that the days of single coloured car bodies, released usually in red, green, blue and yellow, under the same ‘C’ reference were over. In the real world Colin Chapman of Lotus pioneered sponsorship the result being that racing cars were now decorated with a leaning toward the sponsor or teams colours and not the traditional national colours. The discerning customer now wanted similarly decorated colourful liveries on the car models. This meant that the under-pans could be generic whilst the bodies could be decorated differently and issued under a unique ‘C’ reference number.
C126 Type : ‘C’ numbers on the under-pan come to end thanks to Colin Chapman!
C126 Lotus 77, C127 McLaren M23 and C128 BMW 3.0 CSL appear to be the cars at the change-over point in 1979/1980.
Today’s products now have a part number engraved in to the tooling. The number can be seen usually on the inner surface of the plastic component. On a car body, for example, the part number will usually be under the bonnet. However, on a small components such as the clear glass items the parts number will be engraved in to a plate on the sprue that such small parts are produced on. The Service Sheet is normally available from Scalextric from the launch date and for a further seven years – being the usual duration that spares are kept in stock before being deleted.
Why are C numbers duplicated and why are low C numbers suddenly used when the current year numbers are much higher?
Initially, in the early 1960s, the French and Spanish factories used the UK tooling for reproducing models in the current range (C54 upwards) or had the bodies and parts produced in the UK and sent to them for assembly locally. Demand was such that it necessary to start manufacturing Scalextric in France and Spain and modelling cars more attuned to European tastes than the, thus far, British racing cars in the Scalextric range. Working under the guidance of the UK administrative headquarters, ‘C’ numbers were assigned in the UK and instructions given to the Scalextric factories in France and Spain.
In 1968 the French factory started their own mould tooling with the Renault Alpine and Matra Djet, C1 and C2 respectively, and appear to have been given the range C1 to C29 whilst the Spanish factory were assigned the range C30 to C49 and started to produce their own mould tools with the Fiat 600 and the Mercedes 250SL, C31 and C32 for these models. The UK administration perhaps decided that with the UK range starting from C51 with the tinplate range, then C54 and upwards for the plastic cars, then it would be reasonable to assign the unused number range C1 to C49 for the new factories in Europe. I mean, how long would slot racing last anyway! We can see from this decision that, inevitably, duplication of model numbers was going to occur. So, in the very ‘DNA’ (Duplicate Number Assigning!) of Scalextric a logical progression of unique ‘C’ numbers was doomed.
C1 Alpine Renault and C31 Fiat
Aside from the ‘DNA’, there has also been a catalogue of man-made decisions in model reference numbering leading to duplication. The Spanish distributor, Hisinsa, made orders for existing models and the UK office assigned low numbers to the products. C408 Ford Sierra Cosworth was released as H001, C411 Lamborghini Diablo released as H002. At least they had an ‘H’ prefix! Some ‘C’ references have been assigned three distinct models. Where a lower number than the current range has been used there seems to be no logic. For instance, the famous JPS Lotus 77, released in multiple livery variations as C126 over a period of five years from 1977, had the reference ‘C126’ released again as a Ford Escort XR3i in 1991. There doesn’t appear to be any logic this ‘C’ number assignment. This kind of duplicate assignment has occurred randomly throughout the 20th century but seems to have settled in to a more orderly ascending order in the 21st century.
The ‘X’ factor!
Many products have prefixes and suffixes and almost all of the alphabet has been used by Scalextric to describe its product categories and markets. It should be noted that ALL products have a ‘W’ suffix (e.g. C2345W) whilst they are being produced in the factory as a job of work. ‘W’ is the factory code letter for WIP (work in progress) and remains with the model forever. For instance, cars in a ready-to-race Set or a presentation pack with two or more cars retain their ‘W’ numbers away from the public eye.
C2529A with three cars C2463/4/5W.
As an example, the C2529A Goodwood Ford GT40 pack of three Ford GT40 cars has a retail code of C2529A, the three cars have WIP codes of C2463AW, C2464AW and C2465AW. Unless one refers to the Service Sheet then the ‘W’ suffix is never seen or needed – unless you are a collector! If a Set car is also assigned to be a solo retail car then the ‘W’ is not used on the retail product code labelling. Therefore, it is only the retail packaging for race Sets, car presentation packs and solo car boxes that have a plain ‘C’ reference – such as ‘C2529A’ for the Ford GT40 triple pack. Oh! And in this example the ‘A’ suffix means that the cars have uprated components, ‘RACE TUNED’ if you like. There are many more suffixes and prefixes. See the ‘Ultimate Guide’ book for more details.
To B2 or not to B2! (That’s illogical, Captain!’)
Well, yes! Pretty much, the entire range of numbering from the very first Scalextric cars of the 1950s to the current day is strewn with illogically assigned reference numbers. The first bikes were referenced as B1 and B2. Logical enough. So, why were the various Motorbikes/Sidecar combos from the 70s and 80s not assigned to a ‘B’ product range? Why were the MotoGP bikes assigned to the C6000 range? What will happen when the Scalextric car model range reaches C5999? Who knows! The answers to these questions keep us guessing and makes our hobby just a little more frustrating but equally compelling.
It’ll have a ‘B’ prefix, right? C6000! Oh no, call the Doctor!
For a complete listing of all the ‘C’ number issued by SCALEXTRIC please refer to the Scalextric Ultimate Guide, 8th Edition.
Reference: Scalextric 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!