What’s Going On With Scalextric?

The slot car forums were recently abuzz with news of product cancellations from Scalextric’s 2016 product line.  No official reason for the cancellations has been given but the usual reason for items being cancelled prior to production is insufficient preorders from distributors. The cancellations include several cars of particular interest to American slot car hobbyists:

c3725

C3725 1970 Camaro driven by Swede Savage in a race in 1971.  I can see why this one might not have generated much enthusiasm from hobbyists, dealers, and distributors.  It’s a pretty dull livery and the car a really obscure one.  I have no idea why they picked this one to begin with.  There are still plenty of much more colorful and better-known 1970 Camaros to model.

c3726

C3726 L88 Corvette. This one is harder to figure out.  This is an attractive and quite well-known car with a lot of history and it should have drawn enough orders to keep it in the lineup.

c3728

C3728 1970 Mustang.  This is actually an Australian car, but it is really colorful and graphics-heavy, since it is a car being run in present-day Australian vintage car racing.  I would have thought it would appeal strongly to both Australian and American hobbyists.  It has the sort of livery a modeler might come up with for a fantasy livery, but it’s real. Maybe there are licensing issues with this one.

c3729

C3729 Mercury Cougar.  This is not the best-known of the classic TransAm Cougars, but it ought to have done well enough to make the cut.  Some forum posters think its deletion might have something to do with the less competitive performance of the Cougar (as well as the Challenger, by the way,) compared to earlier Scalextric TransAm cars.

c3707

C3707 Lotus 49 F1, Pete Lovely.  Maybe this one is too plain and obscure, but it has a great little niche in F1 history.  Pete Lovely was an SCCA racer who did well for himself selling Volkswagens in Tacoma, Washington.  One day he realized that he had made enough of a fortune to live his dream of racing in F1. So, he went to England, bought a year-old race-winning Lotus and traveled the F1 circuit hauling the car on a VW pickup truck.  Maybe I’m a little biased because I live only a few miles from Lovely’s VW dealership and I actually saw him race the Lotus a time or two in F5000 races, but I think this car would be a winner.  It’s a shame it got dropped.

c3769

C3769 Riley Daytona Prototype.  The axing of this one isn’t too hard to figure out.  I think somebody at Hornby finally realized that 2016 is the last year for Daytona Prototypes in IMSA and there are only a very small number of liveries for this Riley DP to model- very likely not enough to amortize the tooling.  It also would have become another “orphan” car like the Jaguar XKR TransAm car, with no other DP in the product line to race it against or pair it with in a race set, but without the Jag’s large number of really attractive liveries to produce.  The money they would have spent to tool this car would have been better spent to do another tube-frame TA car, like a C6 Corvette.

What’s unfortunate about these deletions is that they are a majority of the 2016 cars aimed primarily at the US market.  It looks like we are now left with just two America-specific cars for 2016.  One is the  C3724 Sterbins Camaro.

c3724

I’m glad to see Scalextric finally doing this car.  for years, if you wanted to race a model of it you had to buy Carrera’s version, which required a complete chassis transplant to Scalextric or Pioneer to be readily matched in performance with anything but other Carrera cars.  The other American car is this one…

c3731

This, of course, is the long-awaited Penske Javelin.  Alas, Hornby, the maker of Scalextric, is thought to be determined to make it an inline car, a departure from all previous Scalextric (and Pioneer) TA cars, which have all been sidewinders.  This, in my view, would not be a well thought-out move.  All the sidewinder TA cars are more or less equal in performance, and since they all have a common chassis layout and magnet position they can all be made very competitive with no more than tire options and magnet height adjustments.  It must be said here that the two most recent TA cars, the Challenger and the Cougar, are well to the “less” end of “more or less equal” because Scalextric’s product designers, for no apparent reason, changed the depth of the magnet pocket, placing the magnet higher above the track and thereby significantly reducing downforce.  That makes those two cars harder to equalize withe the others.  The Javelin very possibly will be even harder to do that with.  I suspect that the reason for making it an inline is that they are making a “pro” chassis for the car.  That will be an inline to please the non-magnet racers, and they may well want to be able to switch between the standard and pro chassis with no complications, such as interior tub configuration, that may arise from different chassis layouts.  What they seem to have missed is that the vast majority of the car’s purchasers will be magnet racers who just want the car to be easily and reliably matched in performance to their other TransAm cars.  But take heart.  Pioneer’s Javelin is coming, and it will be a sidewinder, at least as far as we know at present.

It’s worth noting that a significant number of cars specific to the Australian market also got cut, so I don’t think the American market as such was arbitrarily singled out for cutbacks.

I should reassure everybody that the total number of 15 cars cut from the 2016 product line is only a relatively small portion of the total, so these cuts probably represent no more than a response to prevailing economic conditions and should not be taken, along with other recent news about Hornby, the manufacturer of Scalextric, as a sign that the entire Scalextric product line or the company itself is in serious, immediate jeopardy.   Hornby just appointed a new CEO, and it appears that other changes are being made.  We have word that a member of the management team at Hornby America, the US subsidiary, will soon be traveling to company headquarters in England, where he will receive a good deal of information on the company’s plans going forward.  We expect that US dealers will receive some kind of update from him and I will pass along any publishable information that comes our way.

Bob

5-2-2016

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