A Brief History Of Slot Cars

Slot cars have around 100 years of history. The first commercially available slot cars were made by Lionel in 1912. They were powered and guided by a rail in a sunken slot attached to a battery. Speed control was an optional extra. Production of these slot cars finished in 1915.

Slot Cars History

Slot cars were produced from time to time over the next 40 years and ran on a rail (rail cars is probably a better description) and were more like an add on to model railroads than for racing. Slot car racing was intermittent over this period with the development of different ideas and innovations.
Henry Baigent is considered by some to be the father of slot cars with his innovations in diesel and then electric cars. From his ideas in 1957, in Britain, Scalextric introduced the rubber race track with a slot for the cars to pick up the electric current. A couple of years later the hand control was introduced giving better control over the speed of the slot cars. Slot car racing had begun. Scalextric exported their slot car sets to America where they were a hit.

Slot Cars In The 1960s

In America Aurora introduced the Aurora Factory Experimental cars (AFX) in HO scale and Stombecker had 1/24 scale cars and 1/32 scale cars.
During the 1960s slot cars and slot car racing became immensely popular with different brands competing for the attention of boys and their fathers. There were even professional slot car racers and championships and Scalextric held world championships. There were many commercial slot car racetracks around country where you could go and race your slot cars. It was huge with professional racers and race circuit. This huge craze was on its way out by 1973 with many commercial tracks closing down.
Also after this time many of the manufacturers of slot cars and sets struggled to stay afloat as demand fell and they changed hands a number of times with many going out of business. During the early 1990s a number of the remaining companies reduced the quality of the cars to survive.
However, in the later 1990’s the quality began to improve and this has seen an upturn in the interest in the sport or hobby, with Carrera, Scalextric and AFX leading the way with competition from smaller manufacturers keeping them on their toes for racing in the home.
A good article on slot cars history can be found here: http://www.ddavid.com/slot-car-gallery/slot_car_history.htm

Slot Cars Now

In the 2000’s digital slot cars were introduced that add another dimension to hobby for in home racing. You can now race 6 cars on a 2 lane track with the ability to swap lanes to overtake and block cars. Also AFX are making longer tracks but fitting them within a confined space. With the internet it has also made it easier for enthusiasts to make contact and there are many clubs across the country and also commercial tracks. It appears slot cars are set to be around for another 100 years.

A very brief video of slot cars in the sixties.

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