Scalextric in the 1960s

Photographing Hatton’s on Smithdown Road here in Liverpool for yesterday’s post reminded me that they’re not just about model railways, they also do model cars.

This and the fact that the annual greedfest is on the horizon reminded me of the sharp pangs of wanting I’d start to feel at this time of the year, in the early 1960s, for a Scalextric set. To me then the most modern and desirable of all possible Christmas presents.

The glory of a 1960s Scalextric set.

The glory that was a 1960s Scalextric set.

I was very familiar with real racing cars in those days. The Aintree circuit was less than 3 miles away from where we lived and it was still sharing the British Formula One Grand Prix with Silverstone on alternate years. Me and my Dad and brother would go, and we’d also go to the regular club and lower formula races held there. So I was well familiar with the smell and the sound and the excitement of racing cars and longed to re-create it, in our own house, with a Scalextric set.

It would hold us enthralled for hours.

It would hold us enthralled for hours.

World Champion driver Graham Hill would come round for a go with our cars. With an enthusiastic friend, if he liked.

World Champion driver Graham Hill would come round for a go with our cars. With an enthusiastic friend, if he liked.

Our set up would be a marvel to behold.

Our set up would be a marvel to behold.

Encouraged in the run up to Christmas every year by scenes like this at the Lewis's Toy Fair in town.

Encouraged in the run up to Christmas every year by scenes like this at the Lewis’s Toy Fair in town.

Never discouraged by the fact that such a set up would never have fitted in our house, we’d imagine having four lanes, or even eight of whining, roaring Lotus, BRMs and Ferraris on the starting grid at our very own Grand Prix.

It never happened.

Because Scalextric had a competitor in Britain in those days. And this is what we got one Christmas morning.

A Tri-ang Minic Motorway set.

A Tri-ang Minic Motorways set.

Except our cars didn’t look like that. They looked like this.

A Jaguar and a Rolls Royce.

A Jaguar and a Rolls Royce.

And hey, we were small boys, with big imaginations and we’d play with them for hours pretending they were Ferraris (as long as the temperamental transformer didn’t over-heat and blow). And we were grateful, really we were.

But it was never a Scalextric set and each following Christmas we’d be back in Lewis’s, gazing with sharp pangs of wanting at the model racing cars that never came our way.

Years passed. And when my own daughter had grown beyond baby toys and was showing the beginnings of an interest in Formula One, I finally found my excuse to go and buy a Scalextric set. For her? Of course. But as you can now see, it was at least as much for me.

And we played with it. Not all that much, but at least enough to wear out the little wire-brush bits under the cars that help to keep them on the tracks. So I  remember going to Hatton’s in the 1990s, when it was further along Smithdown than it is now, to replace them.

This morning I was back at Hutton's.

This morning I was back at Hatton’s current shop.

Because it's not just for trains you know?

Because it’s not just for trains you know?

And there in the window, a Scalextric Set.

And there in the window, a Scalextric Set? Effectively.

A ‘digital’ one at that. Yes, you can now run several cars on a track and they can overtake each other by changing lanes at some parts of the track. Just like real racing cars! Pretty impressive, heh?

But no, I won’t be tempted. My Scalextric days are long behind me now, lost in the longings of the 1960s.

And besides, we don’t do Christmas these days. But maybe that’s for another post?

Through Twitter ‘The Racing Room’ in Nottingham subsequently got in touch. And if you’ve ever liked Scalextric you will love this place, a cathedral to Scalextric. Go and see their website at the link. And to tempt you, look at this!

See also these other 1960s posts done with my friend Barry Ward. Food in the 1960s, What else were we eating and Sweets in the 1960s. I don’t think Barry ever had a Scalextric set, or a desire for one. But he may tell us different?

11 thoughts on “Scalextric in the 1960s

  1. stephenjroberts

    Very evocative. I remember shaking with excitement every time our adult family friend David Hughes said he was going to let me play with his Scalextric. It was an unbelievable thrill. Imagine my delight when my Dad bought me my own set one Christmas. I felt truly privileged, especially as the price was still on the box – £9 10s 6d: a great deal of money in those days. I do remember those wiry brushes wearing out and having to go to a big model shop in the centre of Liverpool to get replacements. I don’t think it was Hattons. I bought my son a set when he was quite little and he actually cried with excitement and disbelief! Now he races (and shoots) his friends over the internet on his X Box.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Your Liverpool model shop might have been ‘Hobbies’ which I think was in Tarleton Street, off Church Street. Used to spend hours in there gazing at the Dinky and Corgi Toys racing cars.

      Glad this one was evocative for you.

      Reply
      1. stephenjroberts

        Yes I remember that shop now: it was awesome. We couldn’t buy anything in it apart from those little brushes. I have just unearthed another memory – old Dave Hughes said that I could play with his Scalextric one evening at his house, so I sat with him watching the television politely waiting for him to lift the garishly exciting box off the top shelf and get those wonderful cars whizzing around that track. I waited and waited, but Dave never moved. He was glued to the television, watching the news – the Soviets were invading Czechoslovakia and that had taken his attention away from the beloved Scalextric. I went disconsolately to be bed without a grain of sympathy for the poor old Czechs, but oodles of frustration at having missed a session with Salextric.

  2. Barry Ward

    Hi Ronnie,
    You’re quite right, I never did get a Scalextric set, either! I remember being friendly with a lad who lived a few roads away from me who had one, and I used to go round to his house regularly to play with his set. Until his mum & dad stopped me from going.

    The first game I ever remember Father Christmas bringing was ‘Blow Football’ I imagine you will have been round at ours playing it with me. Two plastic goals, two straws and a ball ! Things were simpler then….but I loved that game.Kids today, eh……..don’t know they’re born…..(cue rant against modern day consumerism in best ‘Three Yorkshiremen’ mode).

    I never did buy any of my daughters a game of Blow Football, I don’t think they would have appreciated it! I’m sure your daughter was just humouring you with the Scalextric, she probably goes round telling people she really wanted My Little Pony!
    Regards, Barry.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Strange how memory works and how I never had you down as a Scalextric person. What did you do to get stopped going round? Was it Scalextric related?

      And you could well be right about my daughter humouring me, after all, you’ve had 3 times as many daughters as me. All I can say in my defence is that she carried on being devoted to Formula One into the Bernie Ecclestone era, long after I’d lost interest.

      Blow football? Yes I remember coming round to play that. And its more complicated cousin, Subbuteo.

      Reply
      1. stephenjroberts

        Do you remember that little cricket game which involved rolling dice-like objects which determined the outcomes of each ball? I only have a vague memory of it. Does anyone have any more detailed knowledge?

      2. Ronnie Hughes Post author

        There is something hovering vaguely round the edges of my memory here. A stronger memory is Subbuteo Cricket, a complicated and truly pathetic game, considering how good Subbuteo Football was and is.

        In Subbuteo Cricket ‘catches’ were done by the players having little indentations in their stands. And bowling and batting involved fiddly little bats I recall. It looked great but I think I only played it 2 or 3 times before it was cast into that outer darkness called ‘the loft.’

  3. Mark Fallon

    Hi Ronnie, been following your blog for a while now. In Iraq this week and feeling homesick, so browsing your site and that of the splendid Seven Streets to remind me of the wonders of Merseyside. All this talk of Scalextric etc reminded me of another Merseyside institution – Half Man, Half Biscuit. Being too poor as a kid to own either Scalextric or Subbuteo, I think they nailed my ambivalent attitude to these relatively expensive games! –

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Welcome to here Mark, glad us and SevenStreets are reminding you of the wonders of home.

      I suppose you’re right about the expense of Scalextric, that’ll be why I never got one! Mind you, I never got a Dukla Prague away kit either.

      Thanks for mentioning Half Man Half Biscuit too, a pleasure any day of the week.

      Reply
  4. Mike

    Memories – I was an assistant at a hobby shop called precision model engineering in whitechapel in the late 50 s it had a small workshop in the back where I used to tune up scalextric cars and model aircraft diesel engines !!
    At that time they also produced plastic model boat fittings from a place in south road Waterloo
    Mike

    Reply

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