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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
MRRC must be one of the oldest Slot Car firms around, and it seems to have had a great revival lately, too. How have they managed to hang in there all this time? And how much has the present company got to do with the original Alban Adams firm? Anyone know the story (or parts thereof), their connections with Airfix and now Monogram, and who's behind it all? He or she deserves a pat on the back in my opinion.
 

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Russell Sheldon
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I too would love to know the history of MRRC, particularly the latter day history.

I believe that it all began back in 1953, when Alban Adams, founder of Model Road Racing Cars Limited (MRRC), ran a diesel rail car racing track in Blackpool. In 1954 he opened an indoor circuit at Boscombe and, according to Jeff Davies' book "Built with Passion", the opening was a very grand affair, for which MRRC built 40 rail cars, representing just about every full-size racing car built.

Model Road Racing Cars Limited was acquired by Airfix in 1962. In 1981 Airfix went bankrupt, although their plastic model kit range was very profitable, Meccano and Dinky were in deep trouble. Airfix was bought by Palitoy, a part of the American General Mills toy group, and kit production was moved to France. General Mills also owned MPC and many MPC kits were marketed under the Airfix logo (especially the MPC range of US car kits).

I'm not sure, but I believe that Mr Adams bought back MRRC from the Airfix receivers in January 1981. I'm guessing that it is after this that Mr John Robinson acquired MRRC from Mr Adams. Today the company operates as MRRC International Hobbies Ltd., based in St. Helier, Jersey. Up until last year, the MRRC cars were produced in Jersey but production has subsequently been moved to China.

MRRC introduced the first commercially available 1/32nd scale four-wheel-drive slot car with steering, a Mercedes-Benz W154, fitted with a 6-pole ball race motor. In 1966 they added a Novi Ferguson, followed by a Felday 4, to the range.

When I started slot racing back in the late 1960s, THE hand controller to have was an MRRC. They were thumb-operated; the first version was a 'barrel' type design and they later introduced a far more comfortable version with a contoured handle. I seem to recall that they even produced a micro-switch version. I definitely remember how the handle used to melt when the resistor got hot, but it was only after Russkit and then Parma introduced their trigger-operated controllers, that the MRRC controllers became less popular.

Can anyone else fill in the missing details?

Kind regards

Russell
 
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In My book it tell Alban Adam's story how he started diesel rail racing in this country commercially in the early 1950's.
In 1982 I spent a day in at the factory in Boscombe talking to him. I wish I had asked him more about the 1950s. He was a very pleasent man who loved cars

The company has only change hands once from Alban and his son Barry to the currant owner's. The factory was demolished in the 1980's to make way for a new ring road and MRRC was sold for a very small amount of money I have been told it was as little as £5000 but I am not sure if this is true. It was then moved to Jersey and became MRRC Jersey in the mid 80's. It is still run by the same people today.

RR.
 
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Russell, I am fairly sure that production stayed in Boscombe the whole time until it moved to Jersey. MRRC was started by a partnership of three people but Alban later bought them out. It was also sold to another partnership of three people when it went to Jersey. I spoke to them not long after they had bought the company and moved it to Jersey.

RR.


MRRC were the only British company to build and sell complete rail racing sets with a wooden track.
 

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Russell Sheldon
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Hi Jeff,

MRRC was definitely bought by Airfix in 1962, until they went insolvent in late 1980. Production probably moved back to Boscombe from wherever the Airfix factory was, when Mr Adams reacquired MRRC in January 1981.

Kind regards,

Russell
 

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Courtesy of the John P museum of slot memorabilia, here are a few of the classic '60s MRRC controllers referred to by Russell.



The barrel types are red: 40ohm, blue: 15ohm while the hand contoured type came in a whole range of resistor values (and I can confirm they melted quite often too
)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I'm sort of interested that someone thought such a company was worth buying and persevering with in the 80's- surely an all time low point for slot racing. I'm certainly glad they did. Any more pics of old MRRC product? And how did they get hold of those old Monogram moulds? Anyway, a big up (as my kids say) to Alban Adams.
 
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Hi Russell,
Production stayed in Boscombe, when I visted in 1982 they still had all the 1960's part bins at the factory and Alban when around them and give me the parts to build a unique MRRC car from them, which I still have.

RR
 

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This is, to me, one of the most interesting topics on the go.
I still have a blue 'barrel' controller somewhere but can't find it.
They were best of the lot imho and I preferred them to any trigger unit, finding them faster to operate and easier to hit exactly the right position - but that's personal, I guess. Most of us actually used them upside down, enabling the use of index or middle finger rather than the thumb. This also kept them a little cooler than a full fisted grip and, when they did get hot, they were less likely to be crushed to death or blister your palm in the heat of the moment!
I wish they were still made.
 
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Hi Tropi,
I have a new MRRC Blue one, I picked up when I visted the factory in 82, I don't think I have ever used it so it should still work email me your address and I will post it to you.

RR
 
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Alban Adams Rail Racing Pioneer written by Don as a chapter in Built With Passion

"For everything in rail racing, both diesel and electric"

If any one person could be said to have launched the hobby of electric model car racing on a commercial basis, it is Alban Adams, founder of Model Road Racing Cars Ltd., better known as MRRC.

Alban Adams and MRRC have an impressive list of firsts to their credit: the first complete racing set, guide rails and pegs for rail racing tracks, variable-speed controller, rail car kit, motor with integral axle bracket, bevel gears, vacuum-formed bodies, real rubber tires, and much more. While Scalextric, VIP, Aurora and other early competitors were aiming for the retail toy market, MRRC was above all an enthusiasts' brand.

Alban Adams got his start back in the late 1940s as a builder of 1/12 scale diesel powered cars for round-the-pole (RTP) racing. But as the initial fascination waned, with speeds increasing and the cars becoming less realistic, British enthusiasts began to look to rail tracks pitting four or more cars against each other. This is where Alban Adams and MRRC came in.

Model Road Racing Cars Ltd. was founded in August 1951 by Alban Adams in association with two well-known model engineers, Henri Baigent and Bert Walshaw. However, within a year or two, Alban Adams was in sole charge of the company.

They made more than a splash in the field, since as early as 1950 the founders had applied for a patent for the guide rail and the "zonker" type car attachment and guidance system. This led to quite a bit of controversy, as MRRC wanted the clubs using their system to pay a fee. But lawyers representing the clubs and MRRC stepped in, and by 1954 they had reached an amicable agreement. MRRC of course denied they were trying to monopolise the situation and were just trying to "receive a reasonable return for their considerable outlay…".

MRRC was not just one of the early manufacturers in the diesel car market, but also a pioneer in promotion and marketing. Alban Adams put together a portable rail track for diesel-powered cars and took it to car shows and other venues throughout Britain and even abroad the Stockholm Motor Show in 1957, for instance to demonstrate the sport to the public. He would use the same approach few years later to promote electric rail racing as well. Adams was already positioning MRRC as supplier of a system: complete cars, or parts for the enthusiast to build himself, and a 150-ft track which "can be supplied for about £100, but we usually find Clubs like to build their own."

By 1954-55, the limits of diesel cars were becoming more obvious. As Alban Adams himself recounts (in an October 1964 interview in the American magazine Model Car & Track): "The difficulty with diesel car racing was the noise, the mess and the expense, so I switched from diesel racing to the electric car racing." He started by buying the little tinplate Scalex models from Minimodels, and mounting the bodies on his own electrified chassis. He even went to see his friend Fred Francis at Minimodels to buy these bodies in quantity, but Mr. Francis's Scalextric slot racing system was already on the drawing board.

As electric rail racing began to gather steam, with the first Southport Grand Prix, and more and more clubs around Britain, Alban Adams plunged into this new field. Neither type of rail racing was a full-time business yet, however. Alban Adams made his living as a building contractor, and by running a joinery shop which would of course come in very handy when he began building rail-racing tracks! By 1964, as slot racing exploded around the world, all of these businesses had been sold or placed under managership and Alban Adams took care of MRRC full time.

MRRC probably started to provide components for electric rail racing in 1956. In January 1957 the company was already advertising that it "can supply everything for this popular sport, in component form or complete tracks and cars, to Southport Standards." The ad in Model Maker showed a complete figure-8 track of wood, with a transformer, push-button controls and rolling chassis designed for Scalex bodies. Whether these ever really entered any type of volume production is still debatable.

A short six months later, Alban Adams was already announcing an improved version of his patented nylon pegs, used by almost all clubs of the time to build their rail tracks. Nylon contrate gears were also announced. In 1958, Alban Adams began touring his "magnificent ELECTRIC RAIL RACING TRACK," with its 20-foot straight, s-bends, banked curves and more. He also brought out the first vacuum-formed bodies for model car racing, in both 1/32 and 1/27 scale, featuring contemporary GP models such as Vanwall, BRM, Maserati, Ferrari and Gordini. Another new product was a nylon guide shoe/contact, with "specially made" spring contacts.

A photo in the November 1958 issue of Model Maker shows a complete MRRC 1/32 GP car in a bubble pack, including the TV suppressors! It was to retail for around £2. There was also an MRRC slot guide fitted to a 1/24 Merit Lancia-Ferrari, for use on Scalextric track. Alban Adams may have been a pioneer in rail racing, but he wasn't nostalgic about it!

This would be proved forcefully a year later, as MRRC introduced its "wide-slide" slot racing sets, implicitly addressing one of the major drawbacks of Scalextric and all other plastic tracks the narrow width that prevented cars from drifting naturally. As befitting the proprietor of a woodworking shop, the new track was made of wood. The track was hot-metal sprayed as well, to eliminate the troublesome contact strips! Along with the slot-racing set, MRRC announced a variable speed controller, an ackermann steering unit and a motor with rear bracket, back axle and gearing (an improved Tri-Ang unit). This was all in December 1959 some four years before Pittman revolutionised U.S. slot racing with its own DC-196 with the rear axle bracket! The "pistol grip" controller announced by MRRC would never go into production, but within a year or so, the company rolled out its famous barrel-shaped, thumb-operated "blue" controller that would become the de facto standard around the world for many years to come.

The box for the wide-slide set claimed, in capital letters, "The Real Thing in Miniature". This was already the MRRC slogan for diesel cars and tracks, and would continue to describe MRRC's philosophy. In 1964, during his tour of the USA, after seeing a number of American figure-8 commercial tracks with their 60 degree banked turns, Adams commented: "Myself, I would far sooner see a car go around slightly slower with somebody behind it who's got to use a bit of skill to make it corner properly and to drive it properly (…). If you took a photo so that you couldn't see the full sized people standing around that track, you couldn't tell it from the real thing, and that's what we try to aim at in England. (…) I think if they [US racers] would cut down the speed and get down to the real scale models they would be more thrilled with the actual competitive race than they would be just the speeding."

By 1964 MRRC was a large concern with its own factory in Bournemouth, nearly 30 full-time employees, and a help-wanted sign on the door. Alban's son Barry was already an important part of the business and even lived on the premises. "Business is booming" according to the premier issue of Model Cars magazine in April 1964. The United States was the largest market for the company, accounting for slightly over one-third of total sales. England generated slightly under one-third, and other English-speaking countries (South Africa, Australia, Canada, etc.) most of the balance, with a small portion for France and Germany.

One of the most exciting announcements in the slot world that year was MRRC's introduction of their legendary 1/32 cars with four-wheel drive and front wheel steering, plus a brand-new, hot motor! They said it couldn't be done at all, but MRRC did it and in a kit for less than £3! Everybody predicted these cars would dominate the market but how were the journalists to know that the rewound Mabuchi "can" was just around the corner?

However, 1964 also saw a major turning point, as MRRC became a subsidiary of Airfix, the giant British model firm. Although we don't know the exact reasons, it was undoubtedly the same thing that prompted many other big manufacturers to take holdings in dynamic little companies: access to a new market. The little company in turn got the funds needed to expand, and perhaps a worldwide distribution network although MRRC was already doing pretty well on that score, at least among the enthusiasts!

In the event, MRRC maintained its independent identity as the enthusiasts' brand, while Airfix continued to turn out sets for the toy market. MRRC motors would win big club races for some time to come, while its gears, steering units and other accessories were widely used. The firm even released a line of 1/24 slot racing cars to compete in the fiercely competitive commercial racing market.

MRRC soldiered on as a subsidiary of Airfix for 17 years, through thick and (mostly) thin times, in the desert of the 1970s, as slot racing hit its all-time low. The company continued to turn out 1/32 slot cars, although innovations were few and far between. They gamely retained ackermann steering on all cars just about the only modern manufacturer to remain faithful to this largely English model car tradition.

Towards the end of the 1970s, the British toy industry began to self-destruct as well, and Airfix was one of the victims, going into receivership in 1980. In 1981 it was sold back to the founders, Alban and Barry Adams, still in Bournemouth. However, in August 1988, "Black Monday', Barry sent out a letter announcing that MRRC was closing. This time, it was three enthusiasts from the Channel island of Jersey who, rather to their own surprise, wound up buying the company, and all of its inventory and tooling. Some 15 years later, the company is still around, has adapted to the new world of slot racing (most production now in China), and is an established part of this little world. Even the famous MRRC Clubman kits are back on the market, although not always easy to find…

Alban Adams was undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the early days of model car racing, often setting the pace in technical innovations that we now take for granted. He was also a true enthusiast in every sense of the word, looking to help his fellow hobbyists duplicate "The Real Thing in Miniature".
 

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Hi All
Re: Barry's [Bournemouth] "The mail order house"
I visited MRRC in 1986, Barry Adams was running the company then and at the time of my visit had two ladies working there collating parts for the Slimline kits that had been re-issued. I spent a facinating afternoon wondering around the various rooms still stocked with parts going back years! Went home a happy man with loads of bits that kept me going for ages in the NLondon retro races that were so popular in the late 80's
Several years after my visit i received a letter [dated July 1988] informing me that they had lost a 6 year battle against a Compulsory Purchase order to make way for a shopping precinct and car park.
I am glad that the company has survived in some form but am amazed that with all the tooling that must have come with the purchase and with the general interest and good health that slot racing is enjoying, that production of some of their more popular and famous models has not yet materialised! The 4WD kits come to mind, never really much good on the track but a fantastically engineered kit which would sell like hot cakes!
[oneofwos]
 
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I have been told that a lot of the tooling was missing or damaged when MRRC was sold to the present owners.

I can see Alban Adams talking up stairs in his office with a tray of green wound 111 can motor's on his desk as if it was yesterday.

A great man in the slot car world.

RR
 
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Let not forget one thing the first Scalextric system designed was a rail system and if this is what Scalextric had gone with I am sure we would all be rail racing now!!!!

RR.
 

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QUOTE the first Scalextric system designed was a rail system
I've not seen that before RR - any more details?

QUOTE if this is what Scalextric had gone with I am sure we would all be rail racing now!!!!
Interesting thought: we could all be rail racing and perhaps with 1/29 scale cars again too


Best not let howmet get his razor saw too near this 1/29 though


 
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Hi John,
I thought this was a well know fact, it's mentioned in a couple of articles how the first design for a Scalextric system was a rail track it was only dropped (as it was wrongly I believe) thought not to be strong enough for a mass produced product.

Alban Adams was using Fred Francis's Scalex bodies for MRRC rail cars and the first commercail available rail racing system with track and cars was featured in Model Maker Jan 1957.

RR
 
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