Archive for June, 2017

British Toy Companies : Scalextric

June 23rd, 2017 No comments

Scalextric Race Game

For the purpose of this post I don’t intend to cover the full history of Scalextric in all its forms. To do so would take forever, so I am concentrating my efforts from its inception until around 2000 or so.

My brother and myself had a set given to us as our main Christmas present when I was about 10 or 11 years old, which would have been way back in the early 1960’s or so. The set could be made up into a figure of eight with a bridge under which ran a chicane. The cars were the Jaguar D types, one green and one blue with a head and shoulders driver-in, manufactured from moulded plastic.

My brother and myself plus a couple of mates would spread ourselves on the living room floor, those not actually ‘racing’ were the marshals, it was their job to place the cars back on the circuit if they came off … on average about every other lap !

We both thought it was the best thing since sliced bread ! Not sure if our parents agreed with that especially after about 3 hours of non stop racing ! !

Enough of that … lets look at some of the facts …

Scalextric came out of the ‘Scalex’ racing car models of Minimodels Ltd, which was a clockwork powered race car system that first appeared in 1952. When their inventor, “Freddie” Francis (who sadly died of cancer in 1998), added an electric motor to these models they became Scalex -electric or Scalextric cars. These were first shown at the annual UK- Harrogate Toy Fair in 1957, the first set contained metal models of a blue Maserati and a green Ferrari and were an instant hit with the dealers. In 1958, the brand was sold to Lines Bros., which operated as Tri-ang Toys.

Tri-ang’s subsidiary Rovex, which specialised in plastic, then developed Scalextric for the mass market, converting the metal cars to easier and cheaper to mould plastic versions. The track, which was originally a rubber compound, later became moulded plastic. Production continued at Minimodels in Havant, Hampshire until 1967, when it moved to Rovex’s own site.

When Lines Bros collapsed, its subsidiary Rovex-Triang, which handled Scalextric and the Triang railway brand, was sold off, eventually becoming Hornby Railways. Although Scalextric remains based in the UK, most of the products are now made in China.

The Sets :

Original sets came with pieces of interconnecting track made from rubber and two metal model racing cars.

The cars chosen for the first sets in 1957 were a Ferrari 375 and a Maserati 250F – then driven by big name Grand Prix rivals like Stirling Moss, Juan Fangio and Alberto Ascari.

The tracks and cars were built to a scale of 1:32 – and the cars were capable of a scale speed of 130mph.

The speed of the cars was determined by handheld controllers and to make racing more fun the sets came with two small bottles, one of silicone ‘skid patch fluid’ to create on-track hazards and another of light oil to lubricate the model.

A 1957 set cost five pounds, 17 shillings and six pence ( £5/17/6d ) – the equivalent of around £120 in today’s money.

Scalextric is typically sold as a set containing enough track to make a circuit, the necessary power supply and throttles and two cars. The cars are usually based on real vehicles from Formula 1, A1 Grand Prix, Nascar, rallying, touring, or Le Mans, or simply based on ordinary road going cars.

Most Scalextric models are 1:32 scale, though between 1968 and 1970 Super124 cars and track were manufactured at 1:24 scale. In the late 1990s, Micro Scalextric at 1:64 scale was introduced. Needless to say cars and track are not compatible between scales.

The Track :

Standard track consists of several straights of various lengths and corners of different radii and degree of turn. Special track includes several different styles of chicane, cross-over tracks, crossroad track and humpback bridges.

There are five generations of 1/32 scale Scalextric track. 

  1. Original Scalextric Track (Mk. 1): This was made from rubber with thin, vertical electrical connectors, and held together with separate metal clips. This track had white lines between the lanes.
  2. Original Scalextric Track (Mk. 2): Released in 1962, the material became plastic, electrical connections were through wider, horizontal pins, and the track was held together by two integrated circular, spoon-shaped pins and sockets moulded into each end. Converter pieces were available to link the two types. It is now known as Classic track. Classic track is compatible with another leading brand, SCX’s classic track.
  3. No major track developments until we saw the introduction of the smooth surfaced plastic track, released around 2001 termed the Scalextric Sport. The track connectors were now square and slotted into place and ‘converter’ pieces were now available to allow the link to Classic track.
  4. A leap forward for Scalextric in 2004 with the Scalextric Digital, compatible with Sport it allowed up to 6 cars on a 2 lane track at any one time, with each car fully controllable.
  5. Scalextric Start released in 2010 it was supposedly a basic track for children (funny I thought that was where I started out in the late 1950’s).
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Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School – Book Illustration Errors ?

June 11th, 2017 No comments

Yellow Jacket Book Illustration Mistakes – Back to the Drawing Board !


Now anybody that has followed any of my previous posts will know that the ‘Fat Owl of the Remove’ is a massive hero of mine. There’s nothing I like better when the winds blowing a gale outside and the rain is lashing against the window pane than sitting down in a comfortable armchair with a glass of something strong and one of my Billy Bunter ‘yellow jacket’ books.

However, having read my Cassell and Skilton books many times over, I began to look more closely at the illustrations they contained. The more I looked the more I noticed how many of these illustrations actually contained errors, some only minor some more glaringly different to the text they actually related to.

The illustration that first caught my eye and sent me along this pointless path was the one shown opposite !

Taken from ‘Billy Bunter’s Double’ and illustrated by R.J. Macdonald it depicted Billy Bunter batting in the practice match that had been arranged especially for him. If he proved his quality Bunter was going into the eleven to play Highcliffe.

Vernon Smith, fielding in the slips, was determined to catch Bunter out. His chance came as Bunter’s flashing willow met the leather and the ball whizzed between the slips. The bounder was on it like lightening, perhaps too eagerly, stumbling as his hand went up to meet the ball it cracked on his wrist rather than landing in his eager hand. So severe a crack that it sounded almost like a shot … the ball dropped. Smithy picked  up the ball with his left, he could not use his right.

Now coming from Yorkshire I reckon I know where the slips should stand and its not where Macdonald has drawn Smithy, but I’ll let that go and put it down to artist licence. However, no matter how you look at it, Smithy is definitely holding his injured LEFT wrist ! and not his RIGHT !!

Not only that but it looks to me like Bunter is now batting LEFT HANDED !

In this case was it a drafting error or was it simply a case of the printer reversing the plate by mistake ? BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD METHINKS !                                                                      

Or how about this one taken from ‘Billy Bunter’s Brain-Wave’.

After having had his head smacked by Loder of the Sixth whilst attempting to deliver a message from Wingate, Bunter decides to console himself with a quiet smoke in his study. But when he rolled into No.7 in the remove, he found his study-mates, Peter Todd and Tom Dutton there, making preparations for tea.

Now by my reckoning, Billy Bunter, Peter Todd and Tom Dutton, who together make up the usual occupants of No.7 study in the remove total three chaps. Yet the illustration clearly shows three schoolboys around the table plus Bunter … making four in total.

Not only that but a little further on in the same chapter we are told, ‘Evidently there was nothing for Bunter, in No.7 Study, but bread and marger, and a share in Peter’s sardines. He hoped to make it the lion’s share. But Peter, with the selfishness to which Bunter was sadly accustomed, apportioned the sardines in three equal portions on three plates – a proceeding which Bunter eyed with deep disgust.

So there we have it, the written evidence – the usual Study crowd of Bunter, Dutton and Todd, the three portions divided onto three plates – yet in the illustration we have four chaps around the table ! BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD Mr. Macdonald !

Not quite so obvious to the casual observer is my next offering taken from ‘Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School’.

Bunter, having purloined a jar of plum jam from Smithy, took shelter in Mr. Quelch’s Study, a safe retreat in which to devour his ill gotten gains. Quelch had gone out for a walk in the quad after class, a fact which Harry Wharton had passed on to Bunter, a fact which Bunter had made use of in order to elude the clutches of the wrathful Smithy. Bunter was safe – till Quelch came in and in the meantime there was the jam.

Sitting in Mr. Quelch’s armchair, Bunter opened that pot of jam. Unluckily he had no spoon, but on Mr. Quelch’s table lay a paper-knife which answered the purpose fairly well. With that implement Bunter scooped out jam and conveyed it to a large mouth : and chunk after chunk of delicious plum jam followed the downward path. It was a happy, sticky Bunter that cleaned out the jam-jar with the ivory paper-knife.

There was still a spot of jam at the bottom of the jar, and it was not easy to extract it with a paper-knife.

Unfortunately for Bunter, Mr. Quelch came back in, Bunter bounded out of the armchair, the jam-jar rolled on the hearth-rug. The sticky paper-knife dropped on the carpet.

So according to the text we have a cleaned out jam-jar which had fallen on the hearth rug and an ivory paper-knife which had dropped on the carpet of Mr. Quelch’s Study.

The illustration gives us a contrasting picture of a jam-jar still containing jam with a substantial quantity oozing out onto the floor. Several large spots of jam nearby with what appears to be a spoon. Gone is the hearth rug and I will assume the armchair is somewhere behind the study table.

What can I say Mr. Macdonald but BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD !

And finally for the moment comes this effort taken from ‘Billy Bunter’s Bodyguard’.

The Famous Five were several miles out of school bounds, Harry Wharton and Co. were taking a rest before riding homesitting on a low wall facing the sea and cheerily sharing a bag of dough-nuts. Five bicycles were parked against the wall a few yards away. It was a lonely but very attractive spot. Only one building was in sight – a bungalow far back from the beach, with a garden surrounded by a low brick wall – on which they were sitting in a cheery row.

Suddenly they were confronted by the sight of two figures coming along the beach which reminded them that Greyfriars juniors caught several miles out of school bounds were booked for a spot of trouble. One of the figures was tall and angular, that of Mr. Quelch, master of the Remove. The other was shorter and plumper, easily recognizable as Mr. Prout, master of the Fifth. All five quickly slipped off the wall on the inner side, ducking their heads below the level of the wall and crouching behind the numerous laurel bushes that were growing in the garden between the wall and the bungalow. Unfortunately for the Five, Prout and Quelch did not pass by, but instead stopped at the garden gate. Quelch had once again walked the legs off Prout who had decided he was in need of a rest before continuing and as there was a garden seat in the garden Prout was determined to make use of it for a few minutes. Five breathless juniors, huddled in the laurels under the wall, watched as Quelch walked up the gravel path to the door of the bungalow in order to ask permission to rest on the garden seat. Quelch knocked at the door which was opened by a man known to the masters and Quelch called for Prout to join him.

I need go no further, the scene has been set. The Famous Five hiding behind laurel bushes in the garden of a bungalow. Quelch and Prout standing at the door of the bungalow being greeted by its occupant. Look closely above the head of Quelch and behold what do you see, why nothing less than a first floor window. Someone should have told the artist, Mr. Chapman this time, that it was a bungalow and not a house that was required – BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD !

That is all for the moment but I intend to add to this post as there are many more yet to be included !!

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