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· Brian Ferguson
4,318 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Russell mentioned the idea for this thread, so I thought I'd kick it off. I know there are many of you who were far more active and/or successful in slot racing's boom years (circa 1967 - 1973 or so) than I was. So let's hear your story!

My local raceway opened around mid-1965, and I was instantly hooked on slots. I lived and breathed slot racing for the next 8 years. Most of that time was a blur, and some references below could be out by as much as a year, but I think the numbers are close - I'm surprised I remember as much as I do...

I don't remember all the cars I had in the early days - I bought anything I could afford with two part-time jobs, one at a smoke shop and one at... yup, the raceway! I had AMTs, Russkits, Cox, cars made from Dynamic's modular chassis parts, etc. Seemed like I had something new every other week.

My first serious attempt to break into racing with the big boys involved a car I had built myself - a pan car with Dynamic center section and a 36D inline motor. I couldn't win with it, but I never embarassed myself, and I almost always went to the main. Without enough money to buy the best stuff, I persevered for several months, scratchbuilding my own chassis (from necessity) and running motors and tires that were past their prime. It never bothered me though - I was just happy to be racing in the top classes - in fact, I was having a ball!

A couple of the top guys had started getting serious - marketing their own products, fielding "team" entries, and travelling to places like Parma for the really big pro events. One of them talked to me after a race (he had beaten me, but not by much) and asked me to try his car. I had never driven a state-of-the-art sidewinder before! Well, I managed to beat his fastest lap by a fair bit, enough that I thought he might be a bit miffed, but instead he offered to field a car for me at the next race. Although in shock, I retained enough sanity to say yes! I was still only 14 and I had a "factory ride"! I won my first slot car race the next week, driving a car that I had never even tightened a wheel on - it was a very, very strange feeling... and one that would eventually take me away from sponsored rides.

I drove Ron's cars for the end of '67 and part of '68. I racked up several wins, never finished off the podium, and took a series title. I even won two races with the Globe Screamer motor (SS-91?) before they were banned.

My first taste of politics hit in '68. The track owner, for whom I worked part-time, was also fielding team cars to promote his own line of products. You can probably see the direction this went! One of his own employees was winning races with a competing manufacturer's cars! At 15, I lacked the business smarts to cut a paid deal, and was only concerned about keeping my part-time job, so I reluctantly switched teams without realizing any gain at all. Ron was good about it, and we remained on friendly terms.

Through '68 and '69, I drove for the "house team", taking one of two local championships. I also travelled to Parma, Grell's, and Brighton in the US, running in pro and semi-pro events there. Unfortunately, the cars were not up to the task, and I only made an A main on a few occasions, finishing with a best of 8th at Parma (my best pro finish) and 2nd at Grell's (regional). In the back of my mind, I knew that Ron would have given me better equipment. Don't get me wrong - I knew I wasn't a Cukras or someone - but I also knew that the cars I had weren't nearly good enough to run with those guys.

For '70, I abandoned sponsorship. I was building chassis and motors that were faster than the ones being prepped for me. For the first time since '67, I was paying my own way and I was loving it! I enjoyed building the cars again. It meant so much more to take a win when you had done everything yourself. Right up to '73, when the entire commercial scene collapsed, I just raced for the fun of it.

So... no, I was never a big name... no, I am not a star... no, I never got big money (though I raced for free for quite a while!)... and yes, I got swept up with the "fad" like so many others!

Now... let's hear from the rest of you Golden Era dudes! Some of you have much better stories!

· Registered
778 Posts
..I've to follow Jon's comment - I got my first slotcar-set in 1966 - when I've been 5

And there have never been any commercial race-tracks in my area.

For more than 30 years I "played" more or less witht he old stuff - and some added pieces over the time - and with the internet I discovered the possibility to come in contact with other slotters all over the world - and met lot's of them all over the world. So for me NOW is the golden era of slotracing!

· Russell Sheldon
2,846 Posts
Thanks, Fergy! I really enjoyed reading that! Ah, what wonderful days…

As for myself, my professional career has led to a number of overseas assignments, which has unfortunately not always allowed me to race slot cars as much as I would have liked. In fact, I haven't raced slot cars regularly since 1984! "Home" over the past twenty years has been South Africa (three times), France, Belgium, England, and is presently Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. I love the hobby and have never lost interest, managing to keep myself more or less abreast of the latest developments, thanks mainly to the wonders of the Internet and forums such as this!

For me it all started in 1965. My parents didn't have a lot of money and I was very fortunate indeed to receive a small oval Scalextric set for Christmas. Scalextric was the craze at the time, and together with my friends, I "played Scalextric" practically every day after school. At least once a month we would organize a "championship" event, combine our tracks, and build a large layout on the garage floor. We lived in Milnerton, near Cape Town, South Africa, and our opposite neighbour was a very enthusiastic spectator and he often sponsored prizes for our big races.

With the Killarney motor racing circuit within cycling distance from Milnerton, we were also motor racing enthusiasts. We used to arrange our "championship" races to coincide with the big motor races at Killarney and you can imagine our surprise and delight one afternoon, when towards the end of our race a huge Team Gunston transporter pulled up in front of the garage, complete with a Brabham BT20-Repco in the back, and out stepped multiple South African Champion racing driver John Love! Our neighbour had arranged for him to stop by and hand out the prizes - we were overwhelmed!

The hobby really took off and the first commercial raceway centre in Cape Town opened in 1966. "Miniways" had three huge eight lane tracks for racing 1/24th scale cars; a 155' Blue King, a 110' Orange Monarch and a 90' Black Prince. The raceway also had a vast inventory of spare parts and I became interested in building my own cars. 1/24th scale didn't really appeal to me though, because the cars were too big for my Scalextric track, so I raced my home-built 1/32nd scale cars at the raceway, often beating the older boys and adults who were racing 1/24th scale cars.

Late in 1969, by which time the world-wide slot racing boom was already over, the raceway closed down. A group of adult enthusiasts decided to start their own club, the Cambridge Model Car Club, which is still active today, and I joined up. They raced mainly 1/24th scale cars, so I finally converted to the larger scale. Since the early 1960s however, 1/32nd scale club racing has been the mainstay of slot racing in South Africa. The South African Model Car Association (SAMCA) was formed in the early 1960s and is responsible for standards and national championship racing. With Cambridge practically the only club still racing 1/24th scale cars, in early 1970 we decided to convert to 1/32nd scale. A new 6-lane track was built and the club joined SAMCA.

This enabled me to compete in a couple of South African National Championship races, held in Kroonstad in the mid 1970's, which attracted upwards of a 100 or so entries. Along with other club members willing to embark on the 1,000 or so kilometre drive from Cape Town, I really enjoyed competing in these events. It was a great experience and learning ground, although it was only in 1978, after getting married and moving to Durban, that I became really serious about racing at national championship level. In Durban I joined the Ecurie Elite Model Racing Car Club (EEMRCC), founded in 1963 and still active today. It is possibly the oldest surviving slot car racing club in the world.

At that time, the South African National Championship was contested over four rounds, at four different tracks each year, with your best three results counting towards the championship. Slot racing at national level in South Africa has always been extremely competitive and to equal things out, drivers were graded into three classes - A, B and C - depending upon ability and experience, with a national title bestowed upon the winner of each of the classes. The SA National Champion title was awarded to the overall winner in Open Class, regardless of driver grading.

After winning two national races and the C Class title in 1978, I finished third in the championship in 1979, although my only win was at the Pretoria Grand Prix, after an epic duel with fellow SlotForum member and now a US resident, Dennis Samson (Gascarnut). 1980 was my most successful year, winning both the A Class and the South African National Championship titles, despite having to miss the last round of the series due to a military call-up.

I won two of the four Grand's Prix in 1981, but poor results in the other two races left me in third place overall in the championship, although I won the A Class title. I won the A Class title again in 1982, and with another two Grand Prix wins, came second overall in the championship. 1983 brought no national wins, just two second places and a third place, giving me second place in A Class and second in the championship. All in all, between 1978 and 1983, I managed to win 11 races out of 23 that I competed in.

In 1984 we were transferred to France and I stopped all slot racing activity until we moved to Belgium in 1986. After living in Brussels for about two years, I heard about a club in Wesembeek Oppem, which was only about fifteen minutes from where we lived! I joined the club and raced in a few Belgian Open Meetings, but pressure of work did not allow me to become a very good club member.

When we moved to London, I joined the North London Club, but rarely managed to get any regular club nights into my schedule. I did however manage to travel to the national in Cape Town in 1994, taking top British racer Geoff Mitchell with me. It was a great event, which also attracted top Brazilian racer "Gugu" Bernardino. Geoff pulverised the field, with me taking second place.

Being enthused by his experience (besides, Cape Town really is the most beautiful city in the world), Geoff and two other top class British racers, Charlie Gooding and Mark Harrison, went to compete in the race the following year, but by now the South African racers had sussed them out and they were soundly beaten.

I have been fortunate in having raced in a few ESROC/ISRA World Championships; in Ceska Lipa in the former Czechoslovakia, Gateshead in England and Dordrecht in the Netherlands and although "retired", I was invited to compete in the ISRA World's in 2002. Racing in these events gave me the opportunity to meet and befriend some of the best slot car racers and builders in the world, something that I will always treasure.

I enjoy building cars for the proxy races that I enter these days. Proxy racing has also brought about new friendships, even though I haven't actually physically met many of the personalities (proxy friends?). I have however been fortunate to meet Chris Briggs and to race on his track in upstate New York, and SlotForum has enabled me to meet Beppe (Xlot) and Gareth (Jexy).

Beppe, it's your turn next!

With kind regards


· Beppe Giannini
1,698 Posts
As you say, Russell !

My father was posted in London in '59, and that's where I got my first - and, come to think of it - only Scalextric set - I remember buying the first type of track at a sale in Hamleys

Back in Italy, a few years later Scalextric took off big : there was an European Championship, and my younger (and much abler) brother first won the Rome event, got a paid trip to Milan for two, won there as well and got a trip to London for the finals ! Except that I was tied up with exams, so my sister went along to my great rage. And they met Jim Clark and went to a West End theater.
BTW, like Old Enzo, I saw the writing on the wall and I've never competitively driven a slot car since

A few years more ('66 ?), and commercial tracks made their appearance : it was a huge thing, there were no less than 5 really big establishments in Rome alone.
At the time, I was building model rockets and had met an absolute genius for electronics - I convinced him, and very soon we were rewinding our first motors.
He built a rev meter, and my English helped in being the first in Italy to get Champion magnets.
A few months ago, I was reminded of our debut : we were too unknown to attract top drivers, our rookie raced in the afternoon for the amateur event, won it thus becoming a pro, raced in the evening and won the main race too !

For our works cars we developed a 104,000 rpm D 16, with high speed ball bearings from dentist drills - and we paid for that with rewound D 26s that sold quite well - our Prancing Rat sticker is now my avatar, and I've found out it's a collectible !

We added dynamic balancing (with record player pick-ups driving the stroboscope) and quickly took over the Rome scene - Milan was another story, because they did not race on Blue Kings, and anyway most races ended in brawls !

At that time, Autosprint - which still is Italy's top autosport magazine - devoted two full tabloid pages to slots, written by their Rome correspondent - and I became his ghost writer (if you are vaguely acquainted with Italian politics, you can see that conflict of interest is a well established tradition here !)

But that's when things started to diverge, my priorities becoming :
- vainly trying to be noticed by the correspondent's gorgeous sister/secretary (this was ages before technogeeks became interesting)
- designing a Formula Junior - which ended suddenly when the car, running fourth to the Tecnos, sheared a driveshaft donut on a fast turn at Vallelunga and flew all the way across the track (Autosprint's header : Maglione lives to tell it) - this was the year Ford-Novamotors had a huge increase in power thanks to the vertical half-Webers, I had said that they should be changed, but of course the money wasn't there
- glancing at the last exams before graduating as an engineer

Also, Rome's weather meant that Ferrari and Abarth would come to Vallelunga for the spring tests - that's how I got to know Mauro Forghieri and had what my memory has concocted into half a job offer from Ferrari - well, he did tell me (to fend me off, in retrospect) that they were paying young engineers 80 $ a month !

Not unsurprisingly, my parents passed up the opportunity of supporting me indefinitely in exchange for perpetual fame, so I went to work for Procter & Gamble in Brussels - I did two (terminally underfunded) Formula Fords, and was in charge of suspension tuning for Alfa Romeo Benelux's GTA Juniors - the tuning mainly consisting in two wood wedges inserted into the front coil springs, so that the car would pass ground clearance, and then ejected in the first curve

Although I kept visiting the Ferrari team when they came to Zandvoort and Spa, the death of Ignazio Giunti (whom I had known well) at Buenos Aires turned me off - besides, this was the time of the Sexual Revolution, and Brussels was teeming with thousands of independent girls I could work my latin charm on...

That is how I hardly noticed the end of commercial slot racing - and how things remained until two years ago, when I had my Xlot revelation

And - you had to know I would fall into my usual spiel - Thomas is right : the best is yet to come !!


· Registered
386 Posts

In 1959 or so, I was living in the rural southwest of the US. Dad was a career military guy which will explain a lot of my experiences. I was always working on things. Dad would build hot rods for people after dinner and Igrew up "wrenching" on flatheads. He had raced "modifieds" as a younger man and discovered that he like the machinery too much to abuse it. Anyway, I purchased a couple race car kits from Strombecker in 1/24, a Merc and aScarab which I found beautiful. The Merc had a "motorizing" kit and the papers indicated racing around a pylon, or using a rail. I aquired the Rail kit. I "borrowed" the pittman from my dad's locomotive and some of the Rail..he hadn't used it for years AND he did say it was mine! It was an interesting discussion when he came home one day to see me driving the Merc around a rail on a panel of plywood.
In 61, I had build up several cars, the Merc, the Scarab, the Lancia and a Aston Martin which I think was Revell. All with no one to talk to! We were transferred to the Philippines. On the way, I read about SLOT CARS in a magazine(Mechanix Illustrated), a club in New York. So, when we were settled in, I did a slot track, tired of tripping over the rail A single lane, I still didn't know anyone who did this.
In 63, transferred toNorth Carolina. When we landed in California, the first thing I did was hit a hobby shop and buy some slot cars! And the August 63 issue of Car Model, the first slot mag I ever saw. In North Carolina, I met other airforce "brats" who had been to england and had slot cars! YAAA, a club on base, I, unfortunately, lived off base and was still too young to make trips on my own. About once a month, I would get to visit. When my dad, an electronics expert(ELINT) realized I would be running with his peers, he insisted I LEARN the manuals. So I would not embarass him. And he bought me a strombecker track so I would have something to practice on. And a hand router.
In the spring of 64 a local guy opened a slot car track with 4 custom tracks in a tobacco wharehouse. I would go by after school and run on BIG tracks. This is when I turned "Pro". Simply, I was building my own stuff, a number of adults could not figure out the kits they bought and would pay me to build them up. When bagging groceries paid 10cents an hour plus tips, a guy paying me 5 bucks to build his $6 Revell was BIG. Paying me $30 for a copy of the car I owned the track record with was REALLY BIG.
This is when I discovered I was not a driver. Everyone I built for, went faster than I did. But all through this time, I also flew model airplanes, something else I am not good at. But I LOVE the machines.
In 65, My dad retired and we spent several weeks driving across the country. For the first time in our lives, we did not just GO, but visited. Went to Pennsylvania so my dad could drive on the Penn Turnpike, for instance. In 65, every town, big or small that we drove through had at least ONE slot car track. I got a real "snapshot" of the state of the art, it struck me that the magazines did not show ANY of what was really going on. I had been in correspondence with Midwest guys since 63 and built that style of car...and THEY wernt in the mags either.
Dad retired to Salt Lake City, UT. When I got there, it was a "target rich environment". SLC had 250,000 people and 8 racing centers. ALL of them were racing Pittmans and Kemtrons. For a glorious 2 months, My well dialed in 36d powered cars MOPPED UP! Until the locals figured it out. Sigh. I also won the "Strombecker 1/32 Nationals", well, the I was the regional winner, but my dad would not let me go to Las Vegas for the Finals! My brief approach to "glory".
I started working part time with a SCCA A-Prod. sponsored Vette. Working in a garage, I built my own "hot rod" during down times(a 57 plymouth with a Hemi). And raced when I could. Mostly I built slot cars for people. I was still in High School, but it came easy to get the grades so I could do the thing I love, which is machinery. I did some 1:1 racing for the next several years, but quickly discovered that I enjoyed Bench Time most of all. Helped a guy build a 57Vette for C prod out of Junkyards. Built my own TR4A for D. And went to school a lot.
In the late 60s it got tougher with Girls and College and all. But slots still paid better than any job I had. Still not showing driving talent.
Picked up the nickname "Prof.Fate" after the Movie "The Great Race" came out. The short version was I was at a track people were gushing about the movie and "the Great Leslie". I went on a rant about "pretty boys get the girls and guys who lose the girls still love them: what is so wonderful about Leslie besides his smile, at Least Prof.Fate built his own CAR". From then on, the racers would see me walk in, chuckle and say "Hi Professor".
Because it was a job, I would NEVER hit the big races. There was no Pay Out. I would visit small towns holding promotional races. In 1971, for instance, I hit one race where I built the 4 cars that beat me for $150ea, finished 5th which earned $350 and a color TV. That 350 paid my rent for 7 months. The summer of 71, visiting a track inOgden, I won a total of $3500 poaching on the "rubes".
By 74, all the tracks Within 600 miles were GONE. Luckily, there was a local 1/32 club that had started up in 66 and I had someone to race with.
Coincidence? 74 is when I got married.
77 moved to Denver, pro raced there. 81 moved to So.Texas and pro-raced there. Started writing for John Ford at SARN. 83, moved to Utah(again) where there was NO pro racing. But the club was still there.
Havent stopped racing since, race at commercial tracks when they are around, sometimes driving hundreds of miles to do it. No big deal. Still fly model airplanes. Still wargame(and write rules).

Prof.Fate....who still builds

Now I have really enjoyed reading this (Russell I have enough to write your personality article but it's too late).

I started slot racing in the early 1960's and had one of the first Scalextric sets with the hard rubber track. I have slot raced ever since without much of a break. I collected quite a collection of slot cars with my younger brother in my youth.

I can remember on one occasion fighting my brother and throwing each others Scalextric cars out of the window to smash on the path below. I never had any other makes of car as a child, as in Wales there was not a great deal of choice.

Their were no commercial raceways as far as I know in South Wales I think there has never been one in my area. So it was race in each others homes my best friend had a Airfix slot set which was rubbish.

At 16 I became apprentice motor engineer with a British Leyland garage. By 19 I used to road test some of the customers car and at the end of the day would park all the cars in the workshop, which was a great way to get to drive many different makes of cars.

I than went to an engineering college full time. and at 21 become a road tester for a British Leyland garage for which I had to take a works driving test, now thoughout all this period I still slot raced buying a Scalextric set with one of my first pay packets.

I bought my first real car at 16 and had to wait to drive it. I competed in my first rally at 17 in a Howells Motor Club event in which I came 6th.

My most active period for slot racing was the 1980's were I raced a lot of HO, running the National HO Championship. I appeared on a live 3 hour Saturday morning show telling the story of slot racing and winning the Number 7T3 GP. with John Watson a very keen slot racer. I have been involved with quite a few other slot programmes including the Channel 4 effort and even a programme on rail racing which is in the book.

In 2000 I built the rail track. The best slot racing time for me is now. As I enjoy it as much as ever and am looking forward to racing on the 28th.


· Registered
2,472 Posts
My golden era hasn't even started yet
Being born 25 years too late is one of the things that winds me up most. I'm sure I would have loved the 60's, because I love building and refining stuff. Anyway, I'll start from when I know...

My dad took my 7th birthday as an oppertunity to buy himself a Scalextric set. Luckily after beating him soundly too many times, I got to keep my birthday present.
I collected loads of cars up until just before my 13th birthday when I saw an advert in my local hobby shop for a club near me. I joined the following week and (apart from Christmas and New Year) have missed only 2 club nights since!
It was about 2 years ago when I really started to improve. An I joined another local club. I competed in my first European Grand Prix at 14, I think, and finished second to last. Competed in almost every Grand Prix since and last year achieved my best finish of 6th in Europe making two finals (6th in both). This year the European Series seems to have gone a bit crazy (Hornby cars and provided cars...) and so I didn't go to the first round in France. I will probably go to the British and Belgian rounds, but I'm not as interested as I used to be. My main non-club racing is done in 250GTO's London GT Championship where I finished 7th overall.
Though I have won many a team endurance race, I have never won an interclub event (had the misfortune of living 5mins away from probably two of the best drivers in the country), and only started winning club nights this year, when I finally got my car situation sorted out, and learned to be more consistant. Things are getting better all the time and hopefully someone will come up with a new national or international championship that I can get interested in.


PS. All above information relates to stock 'out-of-the-box' cars on plexi track racing. So when I mention championships and drivers that you have never heard of, that's why.

· Registered
2,611 Posts
We`ll have to have a talk between us all at the meeting. There is a move or two afoot on a series and I believe more or less everyone interested in organising/running it is here on SF. That is one aspect that I can honestly see developing on this Forum,co-operation at National and International level. If we stick together and support each other then a new `golden era` is right here and right now. Above all else it`s about communication:thumbsup:

· Registered
4,591 Posts
Sorry, Mr Russell. Howmet isn't at home. Actually, I'm getting a little worried. He's not usually out after 7.30 of an evening. He said he had to go see Shelsey Walsh about a book a couple of days ago, and I haven't seen him since. And I'm running out of wool. Have any of you nice fellows seen him?
By the way, make sure you give your pullover- whatever it is you do pull it over- a good hand wash in tepid water. Don't forget to rinse. Otherwise it will shrink, and I hate to think what that would do to your sensitive parts, Russell dear.

Best wishes, Mrs Howmet (you may call me Eunice, Russell)

· Registered
2,065 Posts
QUOTE (Russell Sheldon @ 12 Mar 2004, 07:02 AM)Howmet, JohnP?

The first slot car magazine I ever bought was the October 1963 Model Roads and Racing. Still have it. "For the average enthusiast 2/6" it said at the foot of the cover page. And that was me really an "average enthusiast" (not 2/6).

But in fact my introduction to slot racing was a little earlier than that - in 1961. As part of our run up to the Christmas festivities my Mum would take me to Gamages, a large London department store - gone now sadly. Each year they would have a large model railway display EXCEPT that this one time it had a scenic Scalextric layout in with it too. Even at that tender age I loved motor racing and seeing this display was a complete WOW! Yes please Santa! Christmas morning arrived - yes a big box. Just as I had hoped. Ripped off the paper... - %$£"!"^ Triang train set! Ah well, that was a blast anyway.

So it was a year later, Christmas '62, that I got my first Scalextric: a GP3 set with red and green Coopers and figure of eight rubber track. Great! Played with it non-stop until my Dad gave me an ultimatum that evening. He wanted to watch the Morcambe and Wise Christmas Special and the cars were interfering with the telly!

I never did anything serious competition wise, or wanted too. It was just great fun building the cars and racing with my mates - mainly on each other's layouts but also with trips to commercial set-ups like my "local" Beatties in Southgate.

Well I'm even boring myself now. So, to cut a long story short, other interests took precedence as slot racing was forgotten to the joys of S&D&R&R (as Ian Dury once sang). Now I'm sure you'd rather hear about that

Oh and Mrs h. Our thoughts are with you... and Russell's knitwear. I'm sure howmet will be in a safe and secure environment very soon now.

· Al Schwartz
3,417 Posts
"And now for something completely different" (yes, my cell phone rings to the tune of "Liberty") or - how to comment while adding no information:

For me, the "golden era" of slots was a period of hibernation. I started with Scalextric (rubber track and metal cars) in 1958, was scratch building by 1959 and literally closed up shop and packed away my cars in 1965 when funny things with odd shapes and fluorescent orange tires showed up at my local track in Southern California.

There was a brief re-awakening in 1982, the chief benefit of which was finding a local, small town Indiana hobby shop that was selling off all sorts of 1/24 cars by people like Cox, Monogram, Atlas, K&B etc. I bought a trunkful, the sale of which, over time, has gone a long way to financing -

My return to slots in 1995 when I made contact with the local group that I still race with via a notice in Greg Holland's VSRN. (Vintage Slot Racing Newsletter)

So - the period of anglewinders, rewound motors, plumber chassis, drop arms, rattle pans etc. etc. all passed me by.

On the other hand, imagine my reaction when, as someone awakened after many years in suspended animation, I saw a Fly Viper for the first time!


· Russell Sheldon
2,846 Posts
This is most disturbing news, Eunice...

I was so looking forward to reading about Howmet's exploits at Tottenham Raceway....

Hmmm... I snapped this photo while visiting the souk this morning...

Does the gentleman holding this copy of your wonderful winter woolie warmer -- upside down, mind -- look familiar?

As soon as I snapped the photo, he dashed out and raced off in this car...

... with an enraged Welshman chasing after him screaming "Haws twyllo maban na gwrachan!" ...

Hope he shows up soon!

Kind regards


· Alan Tadd
4,044 Posts
I really wasn't going to contribute to this topic as my "Golden era" was pretty ordinary compared to the amazing exploits of some of the great racers on here, but Russell did ask…….

I first got involved in Scalextric at about ten years of age with a basic figure of eight track, I do remember among my cars I had a Vanwall, Ferrari "sharknose", D Type Jag and a Porsche. I really wish I had kept those cars.

Like all boys I lost interest and other hobbies took over and then girls and football came along, (come to think of it they still do!). I guess it was round about 68 that I was looking in the local Hobby shop window when I saw a small advert for a Slot racing club, so I told a friend of mine about it and we both went along to one of their Wednesday night sessions. I couldn't believe the cars these guys were running, so different from what I was used to.

We both joined the Club after a while, (can you believe there was a waiting list!), and we were introduced to Club Racing. To cut a long story short we joined the ECRA, slowly learnt to build our own cars and got into racing. Our Club ran an annual championship in four classes with each race night dedicated to one particular class so you had twelve rounds per class each season. These classes were 1/32 F1, 1/32 Sports/GT, 1/32 Saloon and 1/24 Sports GT. All chassis were homebuilt apart from the 1/24ths and motors generally Group 20's with Group 7's or other exotica in the 1/24ths.

I think my greatest result in racing was to win an ECRA open meeting, on our track and I once won a 4-hour endurance race with my friend. Not a lot really.

We had a great time and meet some nice people, but this all came to an end in the seventies, when things got so expensive that people started dropping out of the hobby. I gave up at this stage and got involved in the 1:1 Classic car restoration scene ( which is even more expensive), and after brief dabbles with HO and a Home set in the 80's didn't really start getting interested until 3 years ago.

Mostly now I just collect and build my own cars, I don't race, mainly because where I live there are no Clubs, but I am going to build my own layout this year.

I'm looking forward to Pheonix and I really enjoy this Forum.

A pretty ordinary story of a very average driver, which I'm sure, is shared by many of you.



· Registered
4,591 Posts
The Golden years??
I don't know how many club racers up and down the country will remember me from the days I turned up to race in that hat, and the old trout mask- I always relished anonymity.
Actually it was a long curtain of lank greasy hair, an RAF greatcoat with the collar turned up high in all weathers, and purple loon pants.
But it started long before that...
There was a whole bunch of us loosely based around the local church choir (please-it would take too long to explain) that used to meet up and race rubber-band powered cardboard GP cars on actual Grand Prix race days, with Raymond Baxter on the radio providing commentary to the real life event. I was Denny Hulme-'62?
Then at Christmas Mum and Dad pulled out the stops and got me a second-hand Scalex set. I remember vividly the box under the tree, tied up with string and brown paper, with another, smaller brown paper parcel tied to it. I spent all of Christmas Eve trying to figure out what it was. They'd wrapped up the transformer and tied it to the set box to save writing another gift tag.
Anyway- it was a rubber track figure of eight with two D type Jags. I never got the green one to work- probably why the previous owners had sold the set. But the yellow one ran fine. I was a bit miffed cos even then I thought Jags should be green. Anyway. I used to spend hours with one cheek pressed to the floor watching that yellow Jag with it's little nylon clip in the radiator sticking out like a baby's tooth, rush towards me, breeze past the tip of my nose and shoot off under the flyover. Magical! The track had to be threaded round the legs of the dining table, so I had to dismantle it all the time. Those little metal clips played havoc with the fingernails. And one by one got squashed flat by passing feet. The dining room also happened to be Dad's workplace at the time, so 'race' time was sadly limited.
With income limited to 1 shilling a week, I decided to downsize. I couldn't afford another Jag, so I swapped the yellow one for two working Scalex formula juniors at school. Then I swapped (foolish boy- don't!) the track for an Airfix set. So I had a small oval of grey Airfix track permanently set up in my bedroom, two cars, and extreme sleep deprivation. Racing by torchlight.
Anyway- there were deals struck every day at school, and soon I was running every Airfix model available on scratchbuilt (plastic) chassis, repairing cars for mates in exchange for healthy usable parts, and the Airfix track, with it's copper strips, was getting landscaped. Even scraped together enough money to buy an MRRC Porsche Carrera 6 one Christmas- thanks Auntie Mary, wherever you are.
A grocery delivery round (heavy black iron frame bike with big basket mounted over tiny front wheel. I earned my money. Bloody spuds! And don't talk to me about melons. Only ordered by the posh houses. Start of social class awareness.) funded more cars- a 4wd Indy Novi-Ferguson built up week by week from parts. Then- I thought I'd finally reached Nirvana- a Monogram Ferrari 275 with a 16D. My first Mabuchi. I took that to the brand new Hammersmith Raceway, but in my excitement forgot to take my hand controller, so had to suffer the embarrassment of having to guide it round the track with one of those monstrous steery-wheel things they used to have for kids to use. An older friend was by then collecting Revell kits- the Aston, Merc, Stingray- they became the unattainable ideals..
Then one of the ex-choirboys discovered GT models. We sent off a joint order to save postage, and I got a Lamborghini Miura. 5s6d. That's 53p. Unbelieveably exciting day when that arrived in the post. And I commandeered Dad's 80 watt soldering iron (which I still have and use) for my first experiments with soldered brass frames. GT bodies became an obsession- reading through the small print of their ad every month to check on the latest release. Then getting that little brown cardboard box through the post, the little shiny jewel of crystal clear plastic nestled in tissue paper.....I could use some tissue paper now as it happens.
From then on, regular bike rides from Teddington Model shop with vast bundles of brass rod, tube and piano wire sellotaped to the crossbar, and a curious bandy-legged cowboy riding style that I still exhibit today. In the school barter system I was making chassis, swapping them for motors, wheels etc, racing at friends houses and always loosing. I was, and am, a terrible driver. The next step up was Richmond Model Shop, which installed a small but high banked commercial track and held race nights on Fridays. That was the end of choir practice. Something funny was happening to my voice anyway...Then I got in with a bunch of older lads at school, who had routed wood tracks installed in garages, lofts, and conservatories.
Racing with them was far more intense, and chassis development went into warp drive. It was all 1/32, for reasons of space and money, but the Richmond track was 1/24, and soon that was the dominant class. They also sold THE most beautiful chassis I EVER saw- an exclusive line of exquisite brass rod creations, built by Yoshuiro Watanabe, a Japanese mechanic with the Honda F1 team who was living locally at the time. They certainly raised everyone's game. We couldn't afford them, but we could copy them while they sat in a display case at the shop.
Shortly thereafter the Vineyard Club opened up, just round the corner from the shop, in the basement of a church. It became my second home. Somehow the club developed particularly close relations with Tottenham, and I particularly remember a fantastic night when all the Tottenham guys came over, including Mark Moser, the US team Mura man, and the racing was great. Characters who were bigger, older, wiser than me and therefore totally heroic; The Ronnie Spencers jr and snr, Steve Czereneeoouudcdgjc (still can't spell it), Barry and Sean Magee.... My pals and I alternated Tottenham race nights with Vineyard meetings, according to the availability of transport, with side forays to Nordic and various ECRA clubs for 1/32 meetings. We helped with a big installation and race series at the Model Engineering Exhibition one year. It was wonderfully intense, even though I never won a thing. I often saw cars I'd built breeze through the traps, but he only time I got anywhere in the driver's standings was when I had a new chassis development that hadn't permeated through to the others yet! And I never could afford the hottest motors. I finally saved up for a Champion Orange Picker after years of home rewinds, shimmed magnets, and parts-bin motors in the year that Mura motors seemed to achieve global superiority. I stuffed the Orange Picker in a 1/32 Chaparral 2H (GT's handling body!) although we generally had one good motor each which we swapped from car to car as required. Finally swapped the complete motor for a Mura B can and magnets, which left me an armature and endbell down.... And I also remember finding out to my horror that the £7 which the Orange Picker cost from Eltham Models was the same as the average weekly working wage at the time. Dawn of social conscience. Discovery of Bob Dylan. Unrefusable offer for complete slot box, spares, complete and incomplete chassis = first H.P. downpayment on Boosey and Hawkes alto saxophone. Cue Ian Dury theme song.
Golden years.
Part 2
Christmas shopping for second generation of Howmets, discovers Fly Marcos in Hamleys. Little Howmets taken to Model Engineer Exhibition on New Year's Day- a huge success for all concerned- Mrs H. finds Doll's House kits, littlest Howmet rides round on miniature railway all day, older one securely anchored to model boating pool, Big Howmet deep in discussion with excellent gentlemen (still don't know who they were) running a huge Ninco track. The parting exchange, as I remember it, went something along the lines of;
Howmet; 'Do you just run rtr's then?
Slot Club man; 'Absolutely. They're great these days. Much better than Scalextric'
H; 'But when I used to do it, we built everything ourselves.'
S.C.M. 'Yes. I'd heard about that. But there's no point now- these cars are so good I bet you couldn't build a faster one.'
Howmet scratches imaginary beard, mentally transports himself back to Vineyard club, childhood bedroom and worktable balanced precariously on end of bed, smell of baker's fluid, tyre goop and Tiger Milk, wanders off absent mindedly to bar. And a whole new era unfolds.

· Registered
1,889 Posts
QUOTE (howmet tx @ 16 Mar 2004, 10:41)S.C.M. 'Yes. I'd heard about that. But there's no point now- these cars are so good I bet you couldn't build a faster one.'
He's having a laugh, Howmet!
Oh well, a fool and his money are soon parted as they say

Thanks for sharing.


· Russell Sheldon
2,846 Posts
"I used to spend hours with one cheek pressed to the floor watching that yellow Jag with it's little nylon clip in the radiator sticking out like a baby's tooth, rush towards me, breeze past the tip of my nose and shoot off under the flyover. Magical!"

"A grocery delivery round (heavy black iron frame bike with big basket mounted over tiny front wheel. I earned my money. Bloody spuds! And don't talk to me about melons. Only ordered by the posh houses."

"From then on, regular bike rides from Teddington Model shop with vast bundles of brass rod, tube and piano wire sellotaped to the crossbar, and a curious bandy-legged cowboy riding style that I still exhibit today."

Howmet, absolutely brilliant writing! Have you ever had any of your work published? The other day I heard about this chap, a store supervisor at a Waitrose branch I think, who had been writing bedtime stories for his kids. He had a book published and has been offered a million dollars by Disney for the movie rights! I have a son at university in Southampton studying journalism. I should have sent him to you instead! I could have given you melons in exchange for tuition, although having moved on from a £7.00 a week wage to shopping at Hamley's for the kids probably means that you could command the entire BBW.

I remember scanning those GT Models ads only too well myself. I had an obsession for slot car bodies like Esmeralda Marcos had for shoes!

"chassis development went into warp drive"

More than anything else, this is what I miss! In my view, laser and EDM cut chassis has killed off the art of scratchbuilding. There is just no way that you can achieve the level of sophistication and the tiny cuts and slits the thickness of a hair with a hand-built chassis. And there is nothing more gratifying than winning races with cars that you have built yourself. This is what I applaud about the World Proxy Race Series that Phil, Chris and Graham have organised -- no laser or EDM cut chassis allowed! I just wish that they would open up the rule on motors a bit more...

Thanks for a wonderful read! Are there pictures of any of the cars you built in any of the old Model Cars magazines?

Kind regards

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