Slot Car History
By 1956 the novelty of such cars was flagging and so Francis began to seek new ways to update the product. Whilst witnessing a demonstration of electrically operated cars running on a track Francis instantly recognised the potential for his own products and modified his cars to take an electric motor. He also devisied a rubber based track system with two parallel grooves in which metal rails carried electric current thus guiding the cars by means of a "gimbal" wheel suspended beneath them.
Minimodels Limited was sold to the Tri-ang Group in November 1958 who set about a wide range of improvements and additions and in 1963 four new cars were launched, complete with Tri-ang's RX motor and accurately moulded plastic bodies. The variable speed hand throttle replaced the original 'dapper' type controller and the construction of new track sections and buildings enabled authentic reproductions of actual race tracks to be launched.
Significant change in 1963 from rubber to polyethylene track, allowing it to be moulded in the factory rather than buying it from a contract rubber supplier and reducing production costs considerably. By this time there were 18 different cars, two motorcycle combinations, and a new purpose built factory designed to accommodate the rapid developments taking place.
Rovex was familiar with the type of production necessary for Scalextric and after studying the product carefully introduced three new models: the Ferrari, and JPS Lotus and the March. The cars were met with popular approval and Scalextric was swiftly back on the road to recovery.
Progress continued steadily and deliberately throughout the 1970's until the instant appeal of the home computer in the early 1980's began to undermine sales. This phase soon passed however and by the time Scalextric reached its 30th birthday in 1987 the variety and quality of the models was surpassed.
Now 40 years on, Scalextric continues to model an unrivalled selection of the worlds greatest racing and sports cars. The success and continued appeal of Scalextric is undoubtedly a tribute to the foresight of its originator.
The new product was called SCALEXTRIC (Scalex - electric) and was unveiled at the annual Harrogate Toy Fair in January 1957. An overnight sensation, the orders flowed in, exhausting the company's production capacity to such an extent that in 1958 Francis chose to sell Minimodels to a company with greater resources.
Such developments led to the 1964 advertising slogan "the most complete model motor racing system in the world" Champion driver Jim Clark was retained to maintain the Scalextric momentum. The Scalextric World Championship which was staged in London soon after, increased the appeal of the game even further and very soon Scalextric was being manufactured in France, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and the USA.
The introduction of new gimmicks and themed sets, including the 1967 007 James Bond Aston Martin set, enjoyed substantial success until 1968 inflation impacted on demand. In 1970 a new product designed to increase steering flexibility was launched known as "You Steer". "You Steer" did not revive flagging sales as was hoped and a decision was taken to close the Minimodels Limited factory and transfer production to an assocaited company Rovex, now known as Hornby Hobbies.