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