Since 1977, a small group of fellows have been meeting in a north London village hall to keep alive one of Britain’s greatest grassroots motorsport. Few of the regulars are under thirty, many are well paid professionals, some don’t have driving licences, yet all brag of at least a dozen classic race cars within their personal collections. For over 40 years The London Scalextrics Club has hosted competitions on every Tuesday night from 8pm till late; think of it as a genteel 1:32 scale Fast & Furious … but with tea, biscuits and toilet breaks.
But like all hobbies from yesteryear – things that well-heeled middle aged men once played with in their younger days – vintage Scalextrics has become big business and is highly collectible. For example, the James Bond Goldfinger set from 1967, complete with gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5 and baddie-spec Merc 190 SL, can fetch up to £1,500 at specialist toy auctions; that is nearly a 13,000% increase on its original £11 RRP. Interestingly, a real DB5 would have probably appreciated by a mere 2,500%. Pint-sized wheeler dealing is a real money spinner; in 2012 one savvy Scalextrics expert sold his entire collection of 3,500 vintage slot cars at a London toy auction and bought a full-sized DB7 with the profits!
Maybe, like me, you’ve got a vintage Scalextrics gathering dust and fancy a sparky trip down memory lane. If you do, then a word of warning: prepare yourself – you’ll be very disappointed when you first put it together; after a flurry of nostalgic enthusiasm you’ll invariably click in that last piece of Silverstone’s back straight, slot in your vintage Fitapaldi Lotus 72 John Player Special, switch on the transformer and … nothing.
After a decade or more in hibernation your first problem will be tarnished track. A good rub down with wire wool should help. The next thing will be to replace hardened rubber tyres and fit new pick up braids (all cheaply available eBay). Once that’s done your vintage slot racers should be good to go.
Pride of my Scalextrics collection is a 1971 March-Ford as driven by Ronnie Peterson. This MIB ‘shelf queen’ was the same car I campaigned as a kid against mean looking JPS Lotus and other fag-sponsored F1 replicas. But over the last few months the Scalextrics bug has bitten hard. I’ve bought matching Mini 1275GTs, a Stirling Moss Vanwall and am looking out for a Cafe Roadster-esque Sebring MGB. These top-heavy antiques require a lot of skill to keep upright – Scalextrics veterans might be horrified to hear that modern cars have track-hugging magnets underneath which makes things a bit too easy in my books; my modern Le Man spec Porsche 911 are almost impossible to spin. Very un-911!
At some point we’ll be popping down to the London Scalextrics club which boasts some famous alumni including Romford’s own F1 hero, Johnny Herbert. The club is keen to attract new younger members but admit that Scalextric racing struggles to attract many ‘yoofs’ from the Xbox generation; kids that’d prefer to hoon around enormous virtual landscapes in million quid supercars bristling with gadgets and compliant prostitutes rather than de-fluff a clogged axle on a vintage slot car. Still, it’d be nice to get my March-Ford down there to do battle on their six lane 100ft track and share a cream bun and a brew with fellow enthusiasts. Fancy it? we’ll keep you posted.
(First appeared in MotorPunk in August 2014)