Scalextric

Scalextric 1

My Dad really liked Hornby “00” gauge electric train sets. The level crossings, the stations complete with milk churns, uniformed Porters with trolleys and passengers in tweeds with brown suitcases. He bought me a Hornby “00” set as soon as he could assure himself that I was old enough not to be electrocuted myself. I played along as he enjoyed it so much mounting endless lengths of track onto a huge board and creating a village and hillside scenes.

What I really wanted was an iconic Scalextric set. Like all good parents they usually obliged the reasonable requests of their offspring and for my tenth birthday I got my first set.

As kids we lived in the village of Silverstone (Northamptonshire, UK) a home of the British Grand Prix. The circuit is owned the British Racing Drivers Club and is the home of the Jim Russell racing school.

My Dad’s gift was a Scalextric Grand Prix circuit and one of the many combinations of the track set up was a reproduction of the Silverstone circuit with Woodcote, Stowe and Copse Corners and Hangar Straight.

Scalextric 2

It was an era when club racing with Minis and Porsches was as much fun as the more serious and competitive Formula 1, so I decided to build the shorter Silverstone Club Circuit. I had four slot cars that I really liked to race, a green Mini, a Red Mini Mini – the best selling car in Britain and two Porsches in red and white Porsche 911 Targa and One Millionth Porsche 911.

I had two gun trigger controls in red and blue – as opposed to older palm held thumb plunger type of control – that gathered dust like a magnet and heated quickly filling the rooms over which I arranged my track with a electrical smell that I remember to this day.

Over the years my usual birthday and Christmas requests were for more track, cars, an automatic lap counter – that proved hazardous to some cars as the slot connection often derailed it if hit the lap counter too hard  – armco barriers, banking and track buildings – the pits etc. Pieces of track were ostensibly rather boring presents but straight and curved pieces with their interlocking electrical elements and black press studs could create a difficult chicane or a straight for breakneck speed.

Scalextric was first made in 1956 by British inventor, Fred Francis. He first made “Scalex” small model clockwork cars made of tin.

Facing a downturn in demand for his Scalex cars, Francis added a small motor to his cars and a slot with electric brushes that provided contact to the track’s power supply from concealed batteries. Scalextric was launched at the 1957 Harrogate Toy Fair “Scalextric” was a huge hit. “Scalextric” is now owned by Hornby Hobbies of England.

In 2009 Top Gear’s James May announced the re-creation of the original Brooklands track – in situ – using Scalextric. He broke the Guiness Book of Records record for the World’s longest Scalextric track – 2.95 miles/4.75 km. My late Dad was a Trustee of the Brooklands Trust – that owns the Circuit. He would have loved the very idea!

Images Courtesy of Scalextric/Hornby/Daily Telegraph and the Brooklands Trust

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