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Andy Player
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I'm attempting to nail down the Micro Scalextric timeline, partly because I think we might be having a 20 year anniversary coming up soon - and I am always one for a party


I have searched the internet and conferred with diesel, but if others have memories, facts and figures - please jot them down below...

Specifically:

1. When exactly was the brand was launched by Scalextric? Some say 1992, others 1994. The first appearance in the Scalextric catalogue was #37 for 1996 - but there was an earlier Micro Scalextric MR-1 catalogue produced, dated 1994. One Scalextric history book (Rod Green's) claims MR-1 was sold by Scalextric in 1995 and 'new' Micro Scalextric from 1996.

2. Did Scalextric buy out Marchon and simply rebrand all the MR-1 stuff "Scalextric Micro MR-1"?

3. The MR-1 F1 'narrow' chassis was a Marchon chassis that was produced pre-Micro wasn't it? There is a Indy 500 Marchon set listed that was never produced - so are those old F1 bodies a Marchon design too?

4. When exactly did the MR-1 get phased out and the 'new' chassis (the one with braids) get phased in? We're pretty sure the answer to this one is 1996. But, who knows, that might be wrong?

Along the way I've found some very nice resources, including diesel's sequence of Micro sets (no dates on the boxes, sadly) and TrackHobbies catalogue of Micro F1 cars.
 

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Andy,

I dug out some old HOSRA (HO Slot Racing Association) mags.

There is an article from the 1994 British Toy and hobby Fair where Hornby showed off their new 'Scalextric Micro MR1' range. They had aquired the rights to Marchon. Four sets were shown, being G012-World Championship (F1), G010- Turbo Power (911's), G013-USA Speedway (indycars) and G011-Endurance 7000 (sauber mercs). Twelve cars were shown to be sold individually, all with the Marchon MR1 chassis underneath. Track was also shown in seperate pieces. At that time, no release date was given.

A quick look through other mags showed a rule change for racing during June / August to allow the MR1 race, although the cars were not released to the public in the May/June. Some members at CHORC had tried out some early, most probably pre-release cars, and finding them faster than the Tyco 440's.

In the July/August of 1994, Marchon took 222 (yes 222) sets to the New York toy fair after picking up rights from Carrera.

The sets had hit the shops late summer, as reviews are being made in the September/October 1994 mags. Four sets were released, but some of the cars within the sets had been changed since the toy fair. £25 was the fee for the entry level World Championship set. The indivdual cars were not available at the same time due to import restrictions.

At the 1995 Toy fair (May/June), Scalextric had some new cars for release, these being a Alfa 155 and Mercedes C class. No chassis was mentioned, but i do not recall seeing these on the Marchon chassis. Poor pictures mean i cannot make out the particular chassis.

August 1995, and Scalextric had released sets with the red F40 and XJ220, but this was a mail order only, with no mention of the MR1 on the box art. Known as Micro Scalextric (most probably with the braided chassis?)

A gap now, and HOSRA becomes HO:RACE. I have a gap to January 1997, where reference to buying MR1's in Beatties is made. Some new releases had been made under the Scalextric MR1 banner, mostly colour schemes.

Andy W

Pictures in the April 2007 issue clearly show the cars with the newer braided chassis.
 

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Interesting stuff Andy.

Intrigued by the fact there were four MR1 sets on show at the toy fair. A certain Scalextric reference site shows 5 sets under the MS MR1 banner. The fifth was Rescue 911 but I've never seen it for sale so have always been a bit skeptical as to whether this was every really released in the UK. I've seen pictures of the cars, but these could come from a Marchon release.
 

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Andy Player
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Wow, that's really useful. We sometimes forget there is a wealth of written info from before the internet age.

I got some messages this afternoon that also went over the Scalextric Micro MR-1 launch at the Toy Fair at the start of 1994 and claims that some sets were around by September '94, with more on the shelves by Christmas.

However, it does seem a real mess, with the last of the Marchon-branded sets being imported to the UK at the same time, independent of Scalextric. So Marchon had contracts with both their distributors and Scalextric during 1994.

We're still not 100% sure where the MR-1 F1 chassis came from. I presumed that at least the tooling existed prior to the Scalextric deal - but a couple of people have suggested otherwise and the F1 chassis was exclusive to Scalextric.

It also seems the individually-packaged MR-1 F1 cars could have been around a lot longer than the MR-1 sets were. Did the MR-1 cars ever feature in Scalextric catalogues? Or just the MR-1 brochure(s)?

 

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With a bit more purusing, seems as if the track had changed around the Jan-Feb of 1995, with the set 'Euro saloons' available containing 'new track and wire pickup assembly' in March/April. Adaptor tracks were also available. The Fronteras were also released about this time.

The initial cars shown at the 1994 toy show did have a Police and a Fire car, but no rescue set. These cars may have never been released, but may have been available as older/relivered Marchons.
 

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Andy Player
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
We seem to have a consensus of the Scalextric Micro MR-1 launch at the 1994 Toy Fair, followed by the roll-out of the new Micro Scalextric track and chassis just over a year later.

Announcements and actual release dates are always a bit of a mess, but that timeline is looking good
 

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I do recall buying a Micro Set with braids, and being able to buy the MR1 car in Beatties.

During 1994, Power Rangers took off. The Power Rangers toys were made for Marchon in China, and UK import quotas meant that Marchon could only import so many items into the UK from China. Power Rangers would obviously make more money, so you can guess what got left behind. The major release of individual cars never really happened, and so they probably tricked through after. Hornby were just caught in the middle.

andy w
 

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The micro range never appeared in the Scalextric main catalogue until 1996 (37) but when it did it included older MR-1 cars and track as well as the new braided versions.

This is an MR1 page:



All F1 cars bar the Renault were still in the 1997 catalogue. No idea if the chassis had changed underneath.
 

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Andy Player
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That's the MR-1 page from the Scalextric catalogue, not the MR-1 brochure?

I've only seen those cars on a MR-1 branded card, but I might have missed new Micro versions.



Anyway, 18-year-old slot cars still in their packets should not be allowed


Power Rangers were indeed everywhere in 94 - but I didn't realise all the toys were made by Marchon. I understand Scalextric got the rights from Marchon for an MR-1 Star Trek set and a prototype appeared at the 1995 Toy Fair, but it never went into production
 

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Those cars are from the main Scalextric catalogue in the MR1 section. I've never seen any of those cars on braided chassis. Thinking about it I have both the jeeps on MR1 chassis and wide MR1 bodies will not fit on wide MS chassis. So they must still have been selling the MR1 chassis in 96 at least.
 

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Andy Player
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With the Power Rangers & import restrictions clogging up the supply of single cars, I am guessing they were on the shelves at Beatties for some years after the introduction of the new chassis and track system.

Another message suggests that the braided cars were only available in sets to begin with - certainly through 1996. So you had no choice but to add the older MR-1 cars to 'expand' the new sets - or buy another set. I am guessing the supply problems might have meant the extra track pieces were still MR-1?

Also in 1996, Tomy announced the withdrawal of AFX from the UK and European market. And the Spice Girls were number one in the charts
 

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I can confirm that I was first using the MR1 in August of 1994. I had a 'loft series' with a mate, unaware there was an actual UK scene for racing HO, and we were lucky enough that his local shop was splitting sets very early on. They had twin packs way before I saw them anywhere else too.

This led to the infamous incident somewhat later where Don Stanley walked out of a SHORC meeting mid-way through it because of the speed of the MR1s. The bit that really got his goat was that I had built my car from 6 donor cars. The QC was such that you had to, and the resultant car ate up the simple and small tracks of the time. The supplied blue motor was the key, since it was slow you were taking almost all the corners flat. The lack of mistakes of the SG+ runners put you in the pound seats.

The MR1 always has a patchy time of it at the Saturday races. Sometimes it was legal, sometimes it was not, there was 'local variations' allowed at some meetings. A chap called Gordon Fowell would declare the races 'wet' at 0958 and you all had to scramble around fitting stock tyres, which really hampered the MR1 until I realised that the rules (which tended to be verbal) did not prevent sanding them down ready for the Fowell call. This was also the time of what I came to call the 'bag of doom', where the person on pole would pick from four balls in a black bag as his 'reward'. Many time Tony Baldock would pick the worst lane. And still win.

Eventually the existance of the MR1 led to a cival war, and it was emphatically banned in one camp. I think by then we were putting red Tomy motors in them and the track were bigger. At this stage the braided chassis had come out. I remember buying a twin pack with the F40 and XJ220 in, with darker packaging and the word Micro very prominant, and being horrified at the new chassis. On the loft tracks and Saturday tracks it was slower than a Tyco! We eventually got them sorted and Jim Kelly had one that was (for the time) a rocket. By then the rumour was being spread around that the Micro chassis did not trip the Tomy Timers, and so it never became legal. The cynics suggested this was due to lessons learned from the MR1 wars.

I'm sure Doug (Top Down) can fill in some gaps.
 

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I don't recall seeing the braided chassis under an Open Wheel car until I went with Baldock racing to the 1996 Bristish Toy Fair in the January. We did not really have very high expectations, having been burnt by Tyco previously. They had a 'real' 440X3 on show, with Neo Magnets. There had been rumours about this, and had it come to pass it may have prevented the civil war from happening. Tony B was allowed to have a quick go with this 'real' X3 and it was clear even on the silly demo track they had installed it was much quicker than the X2, even though the car was covered in gunk from lots of running by a Bimbo in a faked-up race suit (I kid you not).

Anyway, the X3 when released was no such thing, just a change of packaging and a capacitor fitted, so by 1996 we were expecting to be underwhelmed at Olympia. Plonked on the Horny stand surrounded by 1/32nd cars and older Micro stuff was their first ever F1 with the raised nose, a ''Marlboro'' Mclaren. It was ugly, but it was new and it showed that Hornby were still interested in the brand, by no means certain back then. The chassis was a braided one, and the older F1s on show had this chassis fitted too.

I believe that the very first open wheel cars, the 1993 Benetton and Ferrari (with the red/white airbox), and the two Champcars, never had the braided chassis retro-fitted. The subsequent cars, the all-red Ferrari and the Flymo Bennetton, did. Not sure about the Minardi etc.

As for the Marchon situation I was told by Hornby that they bought the company, not just the rights. That would suggest they had outright ownership of the moulds and all their IP, rather than just the rights to re-brand certain cars for the EU. I would love to get that confirmed, and it if was the case discover why they changed the chassis after only a couple of years. Some of the wide chassis, the coloured ones, were probably taken straight from what Marchon had in stock. The narrow chassis, which Hornby used for the Open Wheel cars, came under those weird Marchon jets.
 

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Andy Player
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Thanks Deane. I presume the 1993 Ferrari / Benetton reference is to the 1993 1:1 cars and that the 1994 launch date of the Scalextric Micro MR-1 models still holds?

So the raised-nose F1 body was at the 1996 Toy Fair? Reading the oldest catalogue I have (2000 - my return to slots) suggests the new design is so the F1 cars can use the loop-the-loop track. Ah well


I thought, like you, that Scalextric had bought out Marchon - but that makes the rapid changes difficult to understand, even though the new range had cost-cutting at the heart of the designs. The convoluted licensing mess does make more sense, once you get your head round the alleged contracts and important restrictions.

Good that you pinpoint where Marchon actually used the narrow chassis. Tooling for 12 months production - and when the new chassis was on the drawing board - just doesn't make sense. But then there is a lot of stuff in industry that doesn't add up
 

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Happy Birthday Andy.

Here is the Benetton and Ferrari that ran in F1 in 1993:





The Micro cars were very crude, green bleeding through onto the yellow on the Benetton for example, but from the off it was obvious they would smash the Tyco. Quite why they were allowed to run against it in a straight fight I don't know, but the consequences will still be felt when the 20th anniversary rolls around....





Here is that first raised-nose MS car:

 

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Andy Player
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
My Benetton is much crisper than that


Another theory is that Scalextric did buy Marchon - in a very convoluted way - but not primarily to branch into 1/64 slot cars. What the take-over gave Scalextric was a base and distribution network in the USA, a territory that was difficult for an overseas company to break into, especially if manufacturing took place outside the US.

This is an intriguing theory, leaving Scalextric Micro MR-1 / Micro Scalextric as merely a by-product - but one which Scalextric has successfully used as a stepping stone to 'Scalextric-proper ' and a cheap platform for all the novelty tie-ins from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles through to the latest Batman film.

It's getting quite a story the deeper we dig
 

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Andy Player
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Not just crisper, also a little crispy - a bit fragile for WHO racing. But I do have a couple of the My First Scalextric F1 cars to re-livery and race as 1980s Renaults.

It would be good to see more Micros on the F1 grid. There are a few racers - juniors and grown-ups - who might be more at ease with them.

Any sightings of the new Lotus Renault yet?

 
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