Slot cars have been around since 1912, when Lionel made its first slot cars and tracks. Its business did not last very long — Lionel dumped the cars for model trains in 1915. An almost 40-year-drought followed until 1954, when a British slot-car enthusiast club called the Southport Model Engineering Society created a much-copied 60-foot long track for 1:32 scale cars. The modern, collectible-slot-car era had begun.
Not long thereafter, in 1957, a U.K. company called Minimodels introduced its first Scalextric slot cars. Examples of single-passengers roadsters from that year include a C55 Vanwall and a C54 Lotus. In 1963, Scalextric released its first car with lights (an MM/E1 Lister Jaguar) and its first motorcycle (a B1 Typhoon, complete with sidecar).
These cars, along with other models, gave slot-car fans plenty to get excited about. The biggest manufacturer was a U.S. company called Aurora — cars riding on the Aurora Thunderjet 500 chassis from 1963 are highly collectible. Tyco was also early at the starter’s flag.
By the middle of the 1960s, no self-respecting town in the United States was without a slot-car center, where kids and their parents could bring their cars to race on enormous, banked tracks. But just like Lionel, the operators of these enterprises weren’t in the game for long as the fad quickly faded out. Some of the dedicated core of slot-car fans that remained turned to the companionship of clubs, while others set up increasingly elaborate slot-car layouts in basements across the land.