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A Beginner's Guide to Collecting Vintage Slot Cars

Updated: Nov 18, 2023

Collecting Vintage Slot Cars

Collecting Vintage Slot Cars - During the 1950's and 60's slot cars were a toy that both dad and son could share together. Be sure to check out our latest selection of vintage slot cars for sale

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By 1966, there were some 3,000 commercial raceways in the United States and over 200 in Europe. They sold the latest cars, controllers and parts to hordes of enthusiasts, resulting in the slot racing industry generating annual sales in excess of $500 million for three years in a row. Slot car racing had entered its golden years.

SCALES - biggest to smallest 1/24, 1/32,1/64 - there are some odd-ball scales that were produced as well 1/87. 1/24 was considered the competition series that was for the serious racers while the 1/32 scale was more what was called club racing and even home use. H/O was focused on home use because of its small size you could fit a track on an 4x8 sheet of plywood and store it under a bed.

Slot Car Boom, and Bust, in the 1960s

STROMBECKER - The 1950s had seen the emergence of a number of new electronic toys, including slot cars, motorized size plastic vehicles that could be raced against each other on an electrified track. The cars, which were replicas of actual models made by the likes of Jaguar and Ferrari, quickly became popular with youngsters, especially boys.

To cash in on the trend, in 1961 Dowst acquired the hobby division of manufacturer Strombeck-Becker, hired 14 designers, and retooled its factory to facilitate production of the car-and-track sets. Sales of the toys, which were marketed under the name Strombecker, jumped from 20,000 to 500,000 sets by 1963, making the company one of the industry's leaders in this category. With the cars now comprising the firm's main source of revenue, Dowst Manufacturing changed its name to Strombecker Corporation.

AURORA - Aurora is well known for their HO (1/87-scale) line of slot racing products. John Cuomo, Joe Giammarino and Abe Shikes founded Aurora at the beginning of the 50s and in the 60s Aurora introduced the first electric powered slot cars.

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The Thunderjet 500 slot car model was introduced in 1963. The T-jet motor sat uprights in the chassis. The T-jets were easy to service because of the simple gearing and replaceable parts. The T-jets were released until 1972.

Hugh success of Aurora

By 1965 Aurora had sold over 25 million HO slot cars. Current manufacturers can only dream of such sales. Aurora bought K&B in 1965 to get a share on the 1/32-market. Aurora started to produce in the same year some models on that scale, but it was a flop. The models were not competitive. Aurora called these models A-jets. The "A" stood for American. The American models carried an American flag sticker on the doors, but some came without flags or stripes. Not only cars were produced but also a few Thundercycles and a Wheelie trike. Aurora's production of 1/32-scale models ceased in 1971.

The size of the cars made it possible to easily set up a course on the family carpet. By 1965 Aurora had sold an astounding 25 million HO slot cars, the most popular line of slot cars in history. Dwarfing the sales of any other slot car company in the United States regardless of scale.

ELDON INDUSTRIES - Eldon was based out of Hawthorne California and produced lots of different toys, but got into the slot car business producing 1/32 scale models. Eldon Industries was a major player in home slot car racing, mostly in 1/32nd scale. Originally founded as the Ungar Company, Eldon Industries was established in 1962 to carry toy and hobby lines. Eldon got onto the HO racing scene around 1968-69 after much success in the 1/32nd and 1/24th scale side of the hobby. Cox bought out Eldon in 1979, long after Eldon had exited the hobby lines, including slot cars.

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COX - The greatest name in vintage slot cars was Cox. The company was founded by L.M. "Leroy" Cox of Santa Anna, California in 1945.

Cox Manufacturing whose main lines involved the production of miniature gas-powered internal combustion engines along with control line model aircraft, created in 1947 the Thimble Drome Champion, the car that helped start the tether car craze before slot cars.

In 1964 they joined the new slot car business with some high quality kits initially featuring die cast magnesium chassis and realistically detailed bodies. With their box art and attention to detail they are now much sought-after toys which they produced until 1969.

The Ferrari 158 F1 assembled in Hong Kong for the American company was the first RTR model marketed by Cox. When Cox issued the orange low-slung slot car known as "La Cucaracha" or, "the cockroach", it created a small revolution in the slot car world. The car was fast, out-handled most of its production competitors. Still it is the Can-Am Chaparral which is what the company is most famous for. In 1965 they would sign a sponsorship deal with Jim Hall's Chaparral sports car team, which would carry the new slot car manufacturer's famous red emblem on all future race cars during the season.

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REVELLE - MONOGRAM & AMT- also entered the slot car market mainly in the 1/24 scale both known for their plastic model kits it wasn't to hard to enable slot car bodies.

Another company in the plastic kit business that sought to cash in on the slot car craze was

MONOGRAM - Bob Reder and Jack Besser who had worked together at Comet Model Airplane & Supply Co. in Chicago started their own company in 1945 producing simple die-cut balsa wood ships. The first Monogram car kit was the Hot Shot jet car kit in 1948, powered by a CO2 cartridge. In 1964 they produced their first series of high quality slot cars consisting of two 1/32 kits and seven 1/24 scale kits. The 1/24 scale kits used recycled static model bodies attached to a 3-piece brass chassis. Later Monogram would also produce a home racing set including their own high-quality track. In 1967 Monogram issued a three car series of thingies, one of which, The Assassin used a stamped aluminum chassis and a sidewinder Mabuchi FT36D motor and a vacuum formed body designed by auto stylist, Tom Daniel. In 1968 Monogram stopped producing slot cars and only issued static model kits.

While producing slot cars, Monogram recognized the fact that groups of enthusiasts were gathering to race their model cars, so they made sure they also supported slot car racers with a fairly complete line of racing parts and accessories under the Tiger brand. The "Tiger" line of 1:24 and 1:32 racing parts included everything from machined aluminum wheels with better tires to "hot" motors (like the Tiger 100 and Tiger 200 can motors) and complete aluminum and brass frames. During the late 1960s, Monogram and Revell were rivals for the scale model market but in 1986, after declining profitability in a new era of video games and cable television, Monogram now owned by Odyssey Partners of New York was merged with Revell and folded into Monogram Models of Morton Grove, Illinois.

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Vintage Revelle 1/24 Slot Car

vintage revell slot car

RUSSKIT - In 1959, 34 year old Jim Russell, a local accountant and management consultant was looking for something to do on a weekend when a friend introduced him to a novel new hobby called slot car racing. Russ, as everyone calls him, was hooked. Then, in early 1963 while refinishing a coffee table, some Behr varnish spilled on one of Jim's cars. He didn't notice until after it dried but the effect was dramatic. Ever the entrepreneur, Jim decided to market his discovery as a way to improve and protect the finish of models and a new product and company were born.

Russkit was incorporated in November of 1963 but its first product, Russ-Cote, actually hit the shelves in the summer of that year. Russell had quit his job in April to concentrate on getting a product line together for the new company so he started selling out of his car while he put together the financing and organization for the enterprise. The timing couldn't have been better as interest in slot cars was just starting to climb. After manufacturing styrene body kits to use on Strombecker chassis, Russell introduced his own car kits featuring injected bodies.

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