A BRIEF HISTORY OF SCALEXTRIC CARS

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF SCALEXTRIC CAR

Mr B Francis invented a metal-bodied model racing car containing a unique type of clockwork motor in 1952. The small company that introduced the cars onto the market was Minimodels Ltd and they were sold under the trademark SCALEX. Four years later the novelty of the cars began to flag and Francis started his quest to update the product. After watching a demonstration of electrically operated cars running on a track he immediately recognised the potential and modified his own cars to take an electric motor.

Soon to follow was the rubber track with two parallel groves which held metal rails containing the electric current. This new product was unveiled at the Harrogate toy fair in January 1957 under the product name SCALEXTRIC. Orders flooded in outstripping the company's production capacity so much that in November 1958 Francis sold out to Tri-ang group, a company with larger resources.

Tri-ang quickly introduced many improvements and additions; the variable speed hand throttle replacing the original 'dapper' type controller and the track was changed from rubber to polyethylene. This reduced manufacturing costs by enabling the track to be made in-house rather than being bought in from a specialist rubber supplier. Within a short space of time 18 cars and two motorcycle combinations were made available and the 1964 advertising slogan proclaimed Scalextric to be 'the most complete model motor racing system in the world'.

Soon after this, the Scalextric World championships were held in London, further increasing its appeal. The game was, by now, being manufactured in Australia, France, New Zealand, Spain and the USA. The company enjoyed substantial success until 1968, when inflation meant disaster for sales. A new product was launched but sales did not recover and production was transferred to Rovex, now known as Hornby Hobbies and the Minimodels Ltd factory was closed.

Rovex introduced three new models, the JPS Lotus, the Ferrari and the March which became popular and Scalextric was soon back on the road to recovery. The advent of the home computer in the early 80's once again began to undermine sales, although this phase did soon pass and Scalextric continued to grow and develop until now, over 45 years after its first foray onto the market, it boasts an unrivalled selection of models of great racing and sports cars.

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