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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For some reason I never really noticed this ad until I recently bought it as a clipping on ebay. It's from the January 1963 issue of Rod & Custom and placed by Micro-Auto Raceways, one of the pioneering parts suppliers in the United States. Signed "Jack", so I think that's Jack Tate.

The car is called the Micro Car and it seems to have been sold on a sort of blister, using Micro-Auto wheels tires and chassis, plus a round Mabuchi 15R motor. A choice of 5 bodies, seemingly vac-formed, but no manufacturer's name - maybe Shark? Priced at $9.95, a bit high, but normal for this kind of car at the time - a few more like this were offered shortly afterwards, by Fred's and others, but they were powered by much more expensive Pittman motors.

Body choices were the M.A. Special, Porsche Roadster, B.C. Maserati, '32 Ford Victoria and coupe.

It would have been available in late 1962, but I don't think any of these have surfaced, especially not with the packaging.

Don

Wheel Car Tire Motor vehicle Font
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Ah, but in late 62, early 63 nobody knew the Revells were coming a year later, and none of this stuff was mass produced.

The Fred's car that was first mentioned in MCT, Mar/Apri 64 was $12.95 with a clear plastic body, or without the body for $8.95, but it had the Pittman DC705 motor... And the Unique D-Jag that had come out shortly before was about that price too, also with a Pittman motor.

The Pittman motors were already $4 to $6, which would be the price of the first Revell kits.

Don
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Hey, I bought an RP66 in 64 at Polk's on a vacation to New York. It cost $5, probably from birthday money - I doubt if I saved much out of allowance of 25 cents a week... Trouble is, it took me another year or so to buy the other parts needed for the car, and the first - and only - time I took it to the local racetrack, it didn't work! Don't remember what everntually happened to it.

I was definitely swayed by the snobbish writers in the magazines, who swore by Pittman motors and dissed the new cans... Don't know if the Revell cars were out by then, but I knew what I wanted!

Don
 

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Don,
we have been chasing one of these "Micro Auto" for years, but none or any part of one has surfaced so far in our neck of the woods. My guess is that it is like the Rannalli or IMC Lola T70s, as in "never mind"...
And yes, the "Jack" was the ubiquitous Jack Tate who had quite a reputation of being a "fast one" in the sense of leaving the various businesses he infiltrated with the cash box and no return address... :giggle:
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
P - since it was advertised in a magazine with large circulation, I would guess he sold at least a dozen or two of these, but they probably made them up as they were sold, and not too surprising that none survived, especially not on the original card.

Unlike the big manufacturers, he didn't have to tool up for a new car, just put in components that already existed.

If a partial car survived and came up on ebay or elsewhere, we may not have recognized it 20 or 30 years ago..

Don
 

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Don,
I still believe that the packaging shown is not even real, just a few bits on a card for the picture. Please note the funny color separation on the body, and there are no body fasteners on the "assembled" car shown. Also, right and left threads on the axles? Please give me a break! :p
 

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“Unlike the big manufacturers, he didn't have to tool up for a new car, just put in components that already existed.”

I wonder if someone could make a go at a similar slot car manufacturing/marketing biz in these days and times: Just buy all the components in bulk cheaply from China, put them in a zip lock bag or bubble vac card and sell them on Ebay/Etsy as a diy homage to vintage slot cars of “the Golden Era”.

Slot Car Heroes (RIP) did something like that more recently with RTR cars with very detailed custom hand-painted vac bodies mounted on hardware store sourced bussbar chassis, copper plumbing cap, wheels, etc. but I don’t know how many he eventually produced/sold before shutting down. They were not cheap in quality or price.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Interesting in theory, but in practice, the lack of distribution and/or recognition would be a major barrier.

About Slot Car Heroes, I beg to differ. Kind of a clever idea, but it screams "cheap" and "out of scale" (here next to a Cox Ferrari F1).

Not sure what you mean by a bussbar chassis, but to me it just looks like it was vac-formed out of the same material as the body. I keep asking myself: what market was he shooting for? It's too big for home sets, not detailed enough for collectors, clunky on a big commercial track, etc.

Other guys/small companies have tried the component route, and it doesn't seem to have been too successful. There were distributors like C&S in the 60s, building or ordering their own chassis and buying-in all other components from established companies - but it worked better at the time because the market was huge and there were lots of distribution channels. These days, those conditions don't apply!

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Tire Wheel Automotive tire Vehicle Bicycle wheel

Tire Wheel Vehicle Automotive tire Car
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Just thought of something: if the "M.A. Special" refers to a Micro Auto Special - and looks like the body pictured is a "special" - then it's the first Thingie!

Still trying to figure out the body manufacturer too. Looking back at the first issue of Model Car & Track (Winter 63), only one vac-form maker is listed under bodies and that's Stormer - and they only made the Birdcage Maserati.

According to the Car Model Handbook from 1967 (not always reliable) DuBro made a Porsche RS-60 and a 3-window coupe, but were they active in late 62?

Shark made a 32 Ford Victoria and a Maserati Birdcage and a Ford 5-window coupe...

Don
 

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Interesting in theory, but in practice, the lack of distribution and/or recognition would be a major barrier.

About Slot Car Heroes, I beg to differ. Kind of a clever idea, but it screams "cheap" and "out of scale" (here next to a Cox Ferrari F1).

Not sure what you mean by a bussbar chassis, but to me it just looks like it was vac-formed out of the same material as the body. I keep asking myself: what market was he shooting for? It's too big for home sets, not detailed enough for collectors, clunky on a big commercial track, etc.

Other guys/small companies have tried the component route, and it doesn't seem to have been too successful. There were distributors like C&S in the 60s, building or ordering their own chassis and buying-in all other components from established companies - but it worked better at the time because the market was huge and there were lots of distribution channels. These days, those conditions don't apply!

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Yes that Ferrari is indeed out of scale, but even some current quality high end OEM’s cars are out of scale to some degree. Many of his creations were not. “Cheap” perhaps, but still rather interesting.

An interesting article on Slot Car Heroes and It’s owner:


Bussbar chassis.

Light Product Circuit component Audio equipment Gas

Vehicle Tire Hood Automotive tire Car
 

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M.A. rang a bell, and I remember seeing a few vac bodies under that name in one of the old handbooks or such. Not an ad, rather a listing of "what's available" from various mfs. What caught my eye was a 1/32 ATS grand prix car, since I'm a Phil Hill fan. I'd have to dig to find that magazine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Right you are Steve!

It's in the body listing in the original Car Model Racing Handbook, from 1963.

Not much help for the type, because both hard and soft plastic are just identified as "Plastic" - as opposed to fiberglass.

It lists 12 bodies under the Micro-Auto brand, all 1/25:
Special
Vanwall
Ferrari RE
Special GT
D Jag
Lotus
Maserati
Porsche RSK
32 Ford Coupe
32 Ford Vic
34 Ford Coupe
VW

So, that jibes with the ad, and Micro-Auto did make their own bodies, seemingly. Under this listing, they're marked as having little detail (1 on a scale of 4) and desgnated as "designed for racing".

On a side note, in this listing under Knight, there's a car called a "Dingo" - any ideas?

Don
 

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Don,
since we have never seen any of these "Micro Auto" bodies in any form, I have to believe that a very honest businessman by the name of Jim Russell once told me: "anything in which Jack Tate is involved is likely a fraud".
It was not uncommon for distributors to lists slot car parts and kits in their dealer brochures, that never saw the light of day. I believe it to be the case for thse "Micro Auto" products, especially considering that Mr. Tate was immediately involved in another venture called "Model Rama" that he quickly sold to K&B for what I am told was a nice profit since before K&B developed the line, there was little of actual substance to be marketed.

As far as Knight bodies and that mysterious "Dingo", we will likely never know, since Knight bodies are also a very rare commodity and we were very lucky to, after years of research, found a small collection of them.
Still to this day the only examples we have ever seen.
Product Font Wood Material property Rectangle


Font Rectangle Parallel Pattern Number


Packing materials Font Artifact Plastic Personal protective equipment
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks P.

I'm afraid you might be right! With all the odd bodies that have popped up over the years, surely an M.A. would have appeared somewhere by now.

Always assumed Knight bodies weren't all that rare, since I've always read about them, but now that you mention it, I don't have any, and don't really remember seeing any come up for sale! Is that a Testa Rossa? Not bad looking... or is it formed over the Strombecker model?

Don
 

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Don, yes, it is a '57 Testa Rossa, as the paperwork shows. But it is not modeled from the Strombecker model, it is an original tool and was created 3 years before the Strombecker model came to be. I told the Knight story in detail in "Slot Car Dreams" from an interview with Ron "von" Klein's former partner in the Knight venture. After the company folded, Klein founded "Shark" bodies and also made tools for Auto Hobbies.
Until we discovered this small lot of Knight bodies, not a single example had surfaced either at online auctions or swap meets. However it is highly possible that several hand built cars now in people's display cases have one of these, because as far as we know, Knight was the first company that produced vacuum formed bodies for slot cars in the United States, beginning according to Klein's partner George Albiez, in 1958.

"The Knight Plastics Factory Slot Car Racing Team

By George Albiez


“Ron Klein and I were the original members of the team. Bob (Coogan) joined in early 1958. We raced through April, and then Bob decided to select a place for product distribution and slot car track placement. He worked on and built the Grand Prix Hobbies shop through the summer".

Of course, Grand Prix Hobbies was one of the very first commercial raceways in the United States.
Albiez left to join the J.F. Kennedy group of volunteers and lived in France for a while, returning in the USA in 1965 or so.
 
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