A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY

My book on the History of Scalextric tells me that the first oval track set came out in 1957. I reckon my Dad bought me mine at Christmas in 1958, when I was 10 years old. Older slot-racers will remember that the very early cars were metal-bodied, running on shiny rubber track, with only one rubber rear tyre and a strange 'wheel-type steering and pick-up system. They didn't half come out of the groove easily! It took a couple of years before the plastic cars started to appear. One of the first that I had was a Vanwall. It was pale blue!!! It had a different motor, rubber tyres and a nylon guide pin.I thought it was WONDERFUL. New cars came out thick and fast thereafter, and soon slot-racers were able to own versions of most of the, then current, Grand Prix cars.

By 1961 I was 13 years old, and at Grammar school. I had a friend, Fred Mallett, who was a year older than me. Fred also had some Scalextric equipment. We found out that a third member of our school, John Davie had some too, and early in 1962 the MDB was born. MDB stood for 'Model Driver's Band' (or Mallett, Davie, Boor, of course.) Looking back into my record books, (yes, I still have them) I find that our very first Grand Prix consisted of 10 cars. One of us had 4 cars, and the other two had 3 each.The cars were Coopers, BRM P.25s (front-engined) and Lotuses, (front-engined 16s.) I remember clearly that first race. It was the Dutch Grand Prix run on a replica of the Zandvoort circuit. Fred won it with a BRM 'driven' by Richie Ginther.

Fred, John and I raced for 3 years before the two of them left school and went their own separate ways. To their eternal credit, they gave me all their cars, track and other bits and pieces, and I have ploughed a lone furrow ever since. In fact, by our last year together, we were buying countless rear-engined Lotus 21 bodies, and making all our cars from them. F1 cars were all roughly Lotus 25 shaped by then; the nearest we could get to that shape was a 21, with various bits glued on the back to represent V.8 engine covers.(Airfix model aircraft canopies were excellent.) Plastic cocktail sticks served as exhaust pipes. John was not a great builder, so Fred used to make and paint his cars. We had polarised our teams by that time. I had Brabham and BRM, I seem to recall, while Fred ran Ferrari and Cooper; John had Lotus and some minor outfits, and I can remember to this day how delighted Fred and I were when John finally won a race with Jim Clark's Lotus, late in 1965. This was his only ever race win in the 3 years of our club.

We ran our races by racing each of our own cars against each of our 2 opponents cars. A win gained 2 points, and an unlapped 2nd gained 1. The winner was the car with the closest average to 2.00 at the end. Ties were decided by head-to-head results, and if 2 cars belonging to one person finished level, that person could place one ahead of the other by choice.

In 1966, therefore, I ran my first 'solo' World Championship series; and have been doing so, with one or two breaks, ever since. Up to 1970, I managed to get by with the old Lotus 21 shell, but what really finished it was the Lotus Cosworth 72. There was no sensible way to make the old 1.5 litre 4-cylinder body shape into Chapman's revolutionary wedge. As it happens, this co-incided with my getting involved with a real F.1 project, and due to that, and other factors, a gap of 6 years followed before I resumed racing slot-cars.

By 1977 I had learned of the existence of slot-race car bodyshell manufacturers, so my resumption of racing in 1977 was with Charlie Fitzpatrick's help. Charlie made, and still makes, brilliant 1/32nd scale bodies, which I used for 7 or 8 years, mounted on the lower half of my old Lotus bodies.

For me, the drawback in using Charlie's shells was that he only produced one new F.1 car every 2 months - 6 per year. I found this terribly frustrating. As a result, my first race grid in 1977, (Brands Hatch Race of Champions) consisted of some '77 cars, some '76 and a few made from bodyshells of other cars; e.g. my Williams FW.06 was a McLaren M.26 with body filler added to reshape the car. My Ligier was a Ferrari with the same sort of additions.

Here is a group photo of my first set of cars made using Charlie Fitzpatrick's bodies.

My frustration at not being able to get current cars led me to begin to wonder if I could make them myself. I pride myself at being a fairly inventive individual so I put my mind to work on a method of making the bodyshells. I am, by profession a Craft teacher (they call it Technology, nowadays), so I have some woodworking skills. I used them to carve out balsa wood replicas of the car bodyshapes, and then used a re-usable moulding rubber to made a female pattern. Initially, I laid up fine surface fibreglass matting in my mould and created the bodies in this way, but it was terribly messy, and I didn't always get the matting into the corners sufficiently. This led to holes and 'soft' areas. It was around the mid-80s by then, and I hadn't been teaching for some years. Then, in 1986, I returned to my original vocation in a school in Caernarfon, North Wales where I discovered vacuum forming.

My balsa wood patterns were prone to breaking up when being removed from the plastic, so I changed over to a different material. I now use jelutong, which is a very stable softwood, with many of the properties of balsa, but MUCH more strength.

And that brings us more-or-less up to date. To see how the current cars are made and with what! go to the 'HOW THE CARS ARE MADE' page.

Believe it or not, it is now 2017 and jolly well time I updated this page. It must be at least ten years ago, maybe more, that a slot racing friend named David Lawson introduced me to slush casting. Thus have I resumed carving out my bodyshells and making rubber molds therefrom but now the shells are resin cast within those molds. The results are much more satisfying because the details is on the outside of the shell not the inside as with vac forming. If you care to look in detail at my home page you will quickly discover that nowadays and for almost 20 years now I have been making and racing cars from the nineteen fifties (just creeping into the sixties). This is because I gave up trying to reproduce modern F.1 car shapes - they all look the same anyway - and attempting modern racing car liveries is way beyond me.

So, if this hasn't reduced you to tears and you'd like to find out more head off to: my home page.