This is my second blog post since closing down the shop, and today I’d like to make some additional comments on Scalextric’s just-announced 2020 product line.
The car pictured above, the Scalextric NASCAR Thunderbird, is the second car in the company’s historic NASCAR category that began, around the time we closed down, with the Chevrolet Monte Carlo Aerocoupe.
The pictures shown here are the two additions to the category scheduled for 2020 release. The T-bird is C4088 and the Monte Carlo is C4079. I could go on at length about these cars’ problems where scale accuracy and chassis design are concerned and I will at another time, but today I want to write about what Scalextric got very right about them.
If you are familiar recent slot car history you know that several manufacturers, including Scalextric, Carrera, SCX, and Revell-Monogram have produced 1/32 scale NASCAR slot cars of varying eras since the turn of the century. Of these, only Scalextric and Carrera are still doing it and both are concentrating on vintage/historic cars. One significant reason you aren’t seeing any current or recent NASCARs being modeled is the enormous complication and expense of licensing for the cars. If a slot car manufacturer wants to do a current Cup or Xfinity car it has to go through an involved process of getting every aspect of the model licensed and signed off on by NASCAR, the car manufacturer, the race team, and all the sponsors, even the contingency sponsors with the little decals on the front fenders. Any of them can and often do demand revisions where their trademarked logos and trade dress are concerned. All this adds to the cost of bringing a NASCAR slot car to market, eating into profit margins for the slot car maker. In addition, NASCAR is constantly making changes large and small to the design of the cars and expensive slot car tooling can be made obsolete between one season and the next. Several manufacturers have simply decided it just isn’t worth the trouble and cost for the sales the models can generate.
However, if you go far enough back into NASCAR’s history the whole thing becomes a lot simpler and less expensive. Licensing issues are generally much less of a problem. The slot car maker can determine in advance how many different liveries of a given car configuration can be produced and know that figure won’t change; it’s set in history. That’s the approach Carrera appears to have taken with continuing success, getting years and years of profitable new versions from its Ford Torino and Dodge Charger tooling.
Now Scalextric, much to its credit, has taken the next logical step-eliminating most or all of the whole licensing hassle by producing cars in liveries that look like they could be real but are entirely fictional. All that takes is an artist in the design department who can look at photos of historical liveries and produce original but highly evocative paint schemes with imaginary sponsor names and logos. That can go on forever.
The possibilities here go beyond the recently introduced Monte Carlo and Thunderbird. Scalextric has tooling for several recent generations of NASCAR cars that could be brought back under the same plan. These cars are highly accurate, detailed models in ways and to a degree that the Monte and the T-bird are not, and going the fictional livery route with one or two of them each year would be a way to get continuing profitable use from the tooling while keeping a supply of the cars available for those hobbyists who want to paint and decal them in “real” liveries by using the many decal sheets available from cottage industry decal makers. The generation of cars just before the COTs would be a good place to start. Will enough people buy these cars? Yes, I think they will as long as the liveries do a good job of capturing the basic NASCAR character and are bright and colorful. And if some of the logos are close enough to historic ones without stepping over the line into copyright or trade dress infringement that a sheet of eBay decals can make them “real”, so much the better.
A few words about the body shapes of the Monte and the T-bird: While I have been involved elsewhere for the last year and a half I’ve really only looked at photos of them. That can be deceiving; there’s no substitute for looking at the actual object up close when making judgments about issues of scale accuracy – something I intend to do soon. However, trusted sources tell me they both have significant problems in this regard. I don’t consider this as great an issue as one might think. The cars appear to me to have been designed to be “race set cars”, that is, cars intended to be sturdy, simple, with as few parts and possible and therefore ecomomical to produce while still looking the part of the full-sized car when running around the track and standing up well to the beating and banging they are likely to get. In other words, just what at least 75 percent of the actual and potential market needs and really wants. I believe they will be a long-term success for Scalextric and very much want them to be exactly that.
The ford Mk4 is not my favorite Scalextric car of all time but it’s good to see it being released in all the various colors in which the 1:1 car was raced. It’s an American car from an American manufacturer and seems to be doing well. The more American cars that do well the more different ones will be produced-at least I hope so. This one, C4031, is the car raced by Denny Hulme and Lloyd Ruby.
Here’s another American car, this one as it appeared in an American race, the 2019 Daytona 24 Hours, driven by Richard Westbrook, Scott Dixon, and Ryan Briscoe to 12th overall and 3rd in GTLM. Stock # C4151.
This Couugar, C4160, is a model of a car active in present-day vintage racing. To see my blog post on “How they should have made it”, go to https://blog.victorylaphobbies.com/2018/04/23/how-they-should-have-made-it-recent-scalextric-transam-cars-part-1-mercury-cougar/
The rest of the 2020 product line, while many of the models in it will be of interest to hobbyists worldwide, is not particularly focused on the US market. I’m going to try to concentrate as much as possible on new cars that have specific US connections. You can see the whole 2020 Scalextric lineup at https://www.scalextric.com/us-en/shop/new-for-2020.html
I want to let all my readers know that I welcome your comments on any of my posts and also any questions or requests for additional information. I would like my blog to be a resource to slot car racers and a means of establishing and maintaining ongoing conversations about any aspect of the hobby and industry you would like to talk about. Especially, please let me know if you have a specific subject you would like me to write about. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the comments section below.
More coming soon!