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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
hi,here we have 1 of several kennedy bugattis i own.the first cars were made in 1930 & raced in mr kennedys home on a 6 lane rail track.around 1932 he modified the cars added a wall,& a paybox.he then moved his track to the leicester square amusement park & created the very first commercial electric race car track.the people put their money in the paybox & then operated their push button controllers as they raced each other.it was used for several years.the guides had little clips sodered to them so they could drift in the corners but not come off the rails.the cars are around 1/32 scale.the bodies were handmade metal.i have 1 1930 buggati which is a little different from the commercial ones.the one here is the 1932 commercial car used on the pay track.you can see the rest of the cars & the magazine articles,& some patent information on my website, thanks.(bernardsslotcarmuseum)]
 

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One petunia in a field of onions
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Absolutely amazing Bernard. Quite a staggering collection you have.

Thank you so much for preserving these little bits of history, and for sharing them with us.

Embs
 

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I still can't get over the fact that you actually found these cars Bernard! Just amazing little items. This is also the system that "Bentley Boys' driver Sir Henry Birkin invested in, thinking he would get rich. "Plus ça change..." eh?

Don

Here's the photo from one of the original The Autocar articles, which has been reprinted several times since...

 

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Bernard,
Actually, the Kennedy cars were not quite the first "pay cars", as you will read this passage in my new book:

(regarding the Lionel cars, which by the way as recently discovered, were NOT the "first" production, guided electric racing cars in the world):

QUOTE ...The first world war put an end to further experimentation and Lionel discontinued the toy in 1916. Another advanced motivation for discontinuing the toy is that J. Lionel Cowen had been horrified to find out that his automobile racing sets were used in some seacoast resorts as gambling devices...

Turns our that some casinos in Atlantic City had Lionel sets rigged so that gamblers were not only paying a fee to race the cars (as on the Kennedy track) but placing bets multiplying their investment!


Kennedy was first to do it for amusement purposes only.
 

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Philippe,

That's an old rumor from the Louis Hertz book - have you actually found something to back it up? I still think slow sales were a lot more likely reason for discontinuing the Lionel set... Cowen may have been a bit puritanical like some Americans, but he was above all a businessman!

Bernard, any chance of showing one of these next to the original 1930 model to show the difference?

Don
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
hi don & phillipe,this all such early history,its difficut to determine sometimes what really happened.if the lionel cars were raced for gambling then the driver probably didnt pay an entry fee.the profit came from gambling or betting just like today.where as the kennedy cars were paid by the actual customers who raced them just like the public tracks in the 1960s or today.but who knows,phillipe could be right,we may never know until actual documents are found.don ,tonight when i get home from work(im a finance manager @ a harley-davidson store)i will post a picture of one of the 1930 bugattis & you can see the differences.so we are waiting for your book phillipe to come out so we can solve the mystery of who made the first production electric race car sets.cant wait !oh,i also have the wooden box the cars were carried in.thanks,bernard
 

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Hi Don
here are some pictures of what we belive to be the earliest of the 7 Kennedy cars ( the one I kept ) the body has little difference except the Radiator is a mesh grill, there are quite a few differences on the chassis. To start with all four wheels are plastic not turned aluminium, the motor is mounted through the side plates of the chassis and not the base, the front itself is not stepped up like the later cars and the pickups rely on the springiness of the pickup material rather than a seperate coil spring. with a bit more forethought I should have made a list of the differences when I had 5 of the cars together.









I hope that is some help
john
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
hi,john,yours is much better looking than mine,which has the green paint flaking off.mine has back metal wheels ,plastic front.mine has what looks like a supercharger mounted to the front bottom grill,& a tiny light bulb which is the drivers head soldered on a wire.the bulb would have been painted.you can see how & why the cars had to be modified for a commercial track.the earlier cars would not have fit the bill.the last photos are of the box which held 6 cars,the patent drawing of the track layout with its paybox,& patent pictures of the cars.your photos are very nice john.thanks,bernard
 

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This is great stuff - thank you John and Bernard. Interesting to see the slight differences in the first series cars and I love that light-bulb driver! Actually, that might have been a good idea for the commercial track, with six different color lights, but guess he didn't do that...

Don
 

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Tony Condon
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Hi guys
as mentioned in my book,,with photo supplied courtesy of bernard. therecould possibly have been as many as 4 of these systems built as apparently they appeared in fairgrounds in england in leicester square and the haymarket in london and liverpool and manchester
bearing in mind that the track was six laned there could have been as many as 32 cars built
my gut feeling is that there may only have been one possibly two tracks and they were carted round the country by the fairground carneys and set up inthe different locations
interesting enough was the fact that gambling as such seemed to have been banned in britain at this time so the carneys would have charged the competitors for taking part and the winner was given 5 players weights cigarettes.
the problem fro tim birkin and the "miniature speedway ltd " company was that the accounting system of the carneys meant that the money owing to the company was not always paid in suffiicient amounts to be profitable
this coupled with the untimely death of tim birkin as a result of burns received in the 1933 tripoli gp saw the demise of the venture .
although I believe some of the patents patrick kennedy took out post dated bitkins death.
However what puzzled me was the fate of the cars ,berneard told me his collection came from France (how did they get there?
Where did yours come from john ?

Cheers tony
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
hi tony,i got 2 cars from a collector who is a pilot,he told me they came from a person in france.the other 4 i got from a friend in england who got them off ebay.the drawings came from usa patent paperwork from 1935.thanks,bernard
 

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Hi Tony
I brought 5 cars in their box off of ebay about 2 years ago now, I had previously seen the 2 cars Bernard ended up with and Bernard had told me of his research into them so when they appeared on ebay being sold by a West Country toy dealer I bid on and was lucky enough to win them and passed 4 of them and the box on to Bernard. My feeling is that even is there was only one track there was probably 18 or so cars 6 for the original home set use and 6 for the pay track plus running spares for the pay track which if it was me I would have 1 of each colour spare to save time when swapping cars over. I hope that makes the waters a little less cloudy

john
 

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Tony Condon
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Hi John
well at least you managed to get yours from the country of thier birth ,unlike bernard who found some of his in france
I agree with you on numbers ,If I was running a 6 lane track for money ,I would have at least 2 cars for each lane ,possibly 3 each ,painted with one of the 6 lane colours
so it could be that there are another 12 out there somewhere!!
If only these old slot cars could speak

Cheers tony
 

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QUOTE hi don & phillipe,this all such early history,its difficut to determine sometimes what really happened.if the lionel cars were raced for gambling then the driver probably didnt pay an entry fee.the profit came from gambling or betting just like today.
From what I gathered from the Hertz book (and W. Hertz did his research quite well), an older article in the New Yorker about the beginnings of the Atlantic City casinos and gambling houses talks of "electric cars being raced for money", which of course could mean anything, but apparently the racers themselves DID pay, while others were gambling on the races results, and this is what infuriated the rather puritan Lionel Cowen.
Now, of course, who knows... ???
Regardless, the very fact that several of the Kennedy cars not only have survived, but are now in the hands of collecting enthusiasts is simply fantastic, astounding, amazing, and, did I say fantastic?
Yes. Worth repeating.
 
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