In this article we examine Lotus representation in Scalextric racing car sets. This has an importance. It actively reflects the perception of Lotus to the public and here a significant category; the young and young at heart. Our examination of Lotus through Scalextric is a prism which measures its perception and aura / charisma to the customer.
The editors support the concept of consumer sovereignty [accepting some limitations] with its definition containing:-
“The situation in an economy where the desires and needs of consumers control the output of producers.”
Scalextric is an example of a product bought freely born of a genuine demand and interest.
Scalextric has been an extremely popular toy/game with its high point in the 1960’s.Sadly the editors have been unable to trace information relating to sets sold in the UK, but have found a brief reference for America. .The most recent information available being:-
CityA.M. [9th Dec.2015]
Airfix and Scalextric maker Hornby yesterday unveiled sliding sales ………..Group sales fell to £22.3 Million in the six months to end of September …………..but the company added UK trading has risen 10% year on year ………….the business is performing well in the important Christmas and New Year period”
Good research might reveal the annual sales statistics .The number of clubs and organisations as evidenced by the internet confirm the enduring international popularity, size of the market and participants. Somewhere it might be possible to discover the number of sets that were sold on the back of Lotus imagery/ content. The editors believe that the number of Lotus racing cars represented suggests that they were significant touching a nerve with customers thereby reflecting the esteem with which Lotus was held and providing a commercial success for the manufacturers.
Of course the principle of consumer sovereignty is equally important in the motor car manufacture and was an issue that Colin Chapman addressed.
Subscribers might like to see related A&R articles:-
- Getting Groovy in the 1960’s
- Product Placement
- James Bond
Scalextric, Commercialism and Popular Culture
Roger Gillham comments:-
“ to be successful in the toy and model industry it is necessary to continually invent new and interesting ideas which appeal to the public ……….Scalextric definitely comes into the “classic” category having maintained its appeal to the buying public for many years –indeed the word “Scalextric “ has come to be used by many as the generic term for electric slot car racing systems……….this continuing success has not been easily obtained : throughout its existence the product range has been the subject of constant improvement in order to stay ahead of competitors………”
The evidence suggests that Scalextric remained successful and relevant because it was contemporary and was able to embrace and encompass the achievements of Lotus and other manufactures and create a link or bridge with the aspiration of its customers.
This act squares the circle of consumer democracy – the provision of what the customer wants and in so doing being economically profitable. Of course this achievement was easier with the success and positive imagery and publicity Chapman and Lotus achieved.
Slotting into Place: Lotus in the Grove
The editors suggest the importance and attractiveness of Lotus in the public’s estimation is due to the following:-
- Outright success and achievment at highest level of international motorsport
- The brand had international appeal ; was exported and known throughout the world not least in USA, Europe and Australia
- That Lotus manufactured road cars and the public could identify with the marque, its owner and racing programme
- Lotus was British and cultivated national pride it also represented the triumph of innovation over brute force power and money
- The above was reinforced by the British drivers like Jim Clark and Graham Hill who were World Driver Champions for Lotus
- The Lotus cars had presence , drama, visual appeal, aesthetic and articulation –important in young minds helping understand form and function
- The factors mentioned filtered through into aspiration and desire for ownership, for many the Scalextric set was a training , preparation and transition stage
- All of the above was inseparable from the drama, glamour, danger, technology, glitz and celebrity of motor racing –Lotus seemed to possess it all
Lotus Representation by Scalextric
The editors have deducted that the following list of Lotus cars have been modeled for slot car racing /Scalextric. There may be others; we would be pleased to discover more.
The extent and spread of models suggests the enduring appeal of Lotus and of course their near continuous place in the vanguard of international motor racing.
Lotus were coincidently entering international GP racing with the growing popularity of Scalextric. In the nations mind was the recent success of Vanwall on which Colin Chapman had provided consultancy. Both marques featured in early sets.
- Indianapolis car
- 72 various liveries
- Indianapolis Type 38
- Formula Junior
- Lotus Honda /Honda turbo
- 98 T and Renault 98T
- Indianapolis Turbine [possibly non UK model?]
- 40 [possibly adapted from other kit]
And recent Caterham /Lotus Seven
This image is of the early Lotus GP /F1/2 car and complementary figure set to add scale and realism.
Scalextric, Jim Clark and Lotus: Catalogues of Achievements in the Lap of the Gods
There could be no greater testimonial/ endorsement of the product than by multiple World Champion, Jim Clark. Furthermore with the inclusion of the appropriate Lotus model participants could maximize the realism of their participation.
It’s possibly no coincidence that Scalextric perhaps reached its zenith in the mid/late 1960’s along with Clark’s, Hill’s and Lotus achievement in quick succession.
Both men were greats with charismatic and ambassadors of the sport and the nation.
Jim Clark was perhaps more idolized because of his natural talent, modesty and relaxed driving style. He was hero to many and he deserved their adulation.
Though the Scalextric sets participants could readily identify with their heroes and the sport was brought within the means of the many often operating through organized clubs etc.
The graphic art of the Scalextric sets deserves attention. The editors have not been able to identify the commercial artist but in the era before commercial photography their portrayal helped sell the sets.
The box art touched a nerve and resonated with the participants. The psychology that the artists reached was placing the participants in the driving seat .It increased participation and feelings of realism and direct competition that other more passive models could never achieve.
The box art was an extremely important invitation to the speed drama danger excitement of motor racing and when combined with the identification of Jim Clark exercised powerful attraction, desirability and engagement.
We recommend a full study of the art work used .Some subscribers might like to relate it to our series on the fine Art of Motor Sport.
In the examples mentioned its Lotus that is used as the banner, torch and imagination trigger to identify the product – no mean achievement?
The cover to this Scalextric catalogue, features Jim Clark driving a Lotus. It reflects their achievements in World Drivers and Constructors Championship .The catalogue contained a testimonial/ endorsement from Jim Clark. “The only model racing system officially approved by Jim Clark –World champion Racing driver]
The 1966 catalogue 7 front cover put the reader behind the wheel of Jim Clark’s Lotus.
This is the 16th edition catalogue of 1975 with JPS Lotus on the cover
“Feelin Groovy”-slot car racing in America
In 1966 Simon & Garfunkel released “Feelin Groovy” and the strap line “slow down you move too fast”. The time, mood, popular culture, music and sporting events overlapped. These lyrics could apply to slot car racing in America. As we have noted Scalextric/slot car racing was possible at its zenith during this period. The editors have chosen this published article to reflect the American dimension. Extracts from the following net article explain significance:-
The Short Story – by email@example.com
Scale Auto Racing News Magazine – http://www.scaleautoracing.com
Reference credits to: Rocky Russo, the late Jose Rodriguez, Phillippe de Lespinay, Dieter Bollinger.
Photo credits to: Heidi Gravius, Jeff Davies, Mark Gussin, and John Ford.
The question is “Where did slot car racing come from”? I’ll try and answer that with this short article.
Slot car racing was so popular in the 1960s that special racing events were televised live nationally on shows hosted by Mike Douglas, Steve Allen and Johnny Carson.
Even Ed Sullivan hosted a nationally televised high-stakes race with slot cars which featured the top racing drivers of the day, including Stirling Moss, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, and Dan Gurney. It was a very amusing race. As with most novice slot car racers, the cars spent as much time off the track as on and the flights the little cars went on when barreling too fast through a corner were very impressive.
Prior to the “Golden Years”, the foundation of our hobby was already in place. Car Model magazine did a survey of slot racing in 1964. Their results showed that there were some 15 manufacturers that reportedly did 100 million in sales in 1963. At that time, hobby shops rated trains as their number one seller. After that time, they reported that trains were second behind slot car sales. 1966 through 1968 were the “golden” years. There were reportedly some 20,000 commercial tracks in operation involving almost every town in America. Tracks such as AMF’s American and Stan Engleman’s Hi-Speed and Altech were in great abundance. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Slot Car Racing was EVERYWHERE, even on prime time TV!
It may seem like a small thing, but one of the real changes that affected racing was the invention of the Dynamic guide. This is the father of every guide in use today. Until this guide, there was no standard. Braid was cut from strips and screw mounted to the guide. With the new Dynamic guide, braid came with clips that plugged into the front of the guide. The guide itself was secured to the drop-arm by collets or nuts. The modern flag is just a modification of this original idea.
During the 1960’s Lotus were making a big impact through appearances in TV programmes such as the Avengers [ see A&R articles] , through racing , the engagement of American drivers and of course the success and disproportionate publicity attracted to Lotus-Ford winning Indianapolis with Jim Clark.
The 1960’s America also witnessed the greater involvement in GP racing with the likes of Dan Gurney with Eagle and of course the large capacity American manufactured V8 engines used in Can-Am where both American and European marques competed against each other.
Scalextric were quick to respond to these opportunities and soon Indianapolis Lotus were issued along with Chaparral. In doing so they were able to extract commercial advantage in Britain through Lotus and Jim Clark but also in America.
This Scalextric model represents a Lotus Indianapolis car; image from the net.
Exhibitions, Education and Economics
In the museum context the editors believe that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.
For these reasons our suggested outline Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. It’s suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.
The editors believe the following exhibitions and competitions might be attractive with educational opportunities:-
- “Slotting into Place” photographic record of Scalextric with product images and celebrities in period
- “Lap Counter “historic tracks and races reconstructed with team competitions –special reference Lotus achievements like the Type 25, 72 and Indianapolis
- “Track Pass”- then and now Lotus on track
- Lotus – the models and manufacturers
Our learning /educational opportunities are intended to be challenging thought provoking and requiring additional research and/or analysis.
These opportunities are particularly designed for a museum/education centre location where visitors would be able to enjoy access to all the structured resources available in conjunction with any concurrent exhibition.
In this instance we can tap directly and borrow from the acknowledged attributes of Scalextric:
Simon Kohler writing in Scalextric 4th edition stated:
“Scalextric has the enviable attribute of being a game which keeps children happy occupied for many hours .Together with this it enjoys a fine reputation for all-round robustness and durability.
Many parents take pride in watching their children develop, and seeing their coordination and abilities improve .Scalextric stimulates quick reactions and good timing: both qualities requiring great concentration and imposing real demands upon skill of each participant. As with any really good game or hobby there is always scope for further self-improvement…………interest in Scalextric does not stop at mastering the ability handle cars well, it reaches beyond that. Youngsters son become interested in the more technical aspects of their models .Repairs and modifications begin to take on a different meaning becoming , in themselves , a part of the hobby ………..”
We have noted many exhibition opportunities exist around Scalextric .In addition further curriculum learning opportunities exist such as:-
- Evaluate the importance of Marques like Lotus to toy/model makers inluding the size and nature of the industry
- List games/ toys with strong learning content – identify skills needed
- List other toy manufacturers who have portrayed Lotus
- Identify 5 -10 of the most exploited motorcars used by model makers; what contributed to the selection
- How and why do marque/manufacturers cooperate with toy makers
- Study the science of electric cars
- Suggest ways in which Scalextric can be used to teach science subjects
From pole position to pole to pole Lotus through Scalextric has raced in the hands, minds hearts of a large proportion of the world’s population. Lotus has been represented within Scalextric for four decades and six if we include the more recent entry of the Seven and Caterham.
Scalextric is an internationally respected product within which Lotus has been very much a strong sales and identification feature being the standard bearer and personification of motor racing greatness. It has resonated with purchasers and is a reflection of aspiration and identification that has captured the imagination with its youth, idealism, ideas, ambition and achievement.
We have noted that Scalextric has become a generic word and Lotus has underpinned this fine reputation and helped provide the association on which its drama and success has been based.
It’s a measure of the Lotus reputation that it was been as wholly adopted as totem of the best. Furthermore its sponsors have enjoyed a further dimension of exposure as result offering and extending the value for money.
As mentioned the A&R has several Lotus orientated Scalextric pieces and we are proud of these.
Scalextric has a proud international reputation as brand, toy, game, hobby and sport. It has entered the annals and its widespread acceptance seen it abbreviated into generic acceptance. This reputation is partly due to Lotus that imparted much of the identification required to be successful and we perhaps ought not to overlook that in many respects Lotus is near household name brand and it too has generic association. Both in their own fields have made a mark on the popular cultural landscape.
We see Scalextric has having great potential for competition and learning opportunities in the event the proposed CCM&EC be established. Furthermore the nature of the product is that it is accessible to many disabled people and we support it for its facilitating, enabling role.
Scalextric: The Ultimate Guide. [8th Edition]Norman & Gilham]
Over 700 pages providing a complete catalogue, full history and fresh photography.
Limited Edition of 3000 with each book uniquely numbered
Originally published in 1981, Roger Gillham’s classic guide to the world of Scalextric has become known as the essential aid to all Scalextric enthusiasts, This New Book supersedes all 7 previous editions, with a brand new classification listing and a massive gallery of cars, sets and accessories produced. Special effort has been taken to document and photograph items seldom seen, limited and unique cars, bound in to one large volume with a limited edition print run of only 3000. This New Limited Edition, will without doubt, continue the book’s reputation as the gold standard of the story, history and product reference work of Scalextric. Interested in racing or collecting Scalextric? Then, you should not be without this reference work.
Scalextric: The definitive Guide.Gillham.Foulis.1981
The A&R has a Scalextric set, Lotus cars and trackside buildings