Ebay is the place to find the more common ones. Auction houses rarely sell slot cars. They expected the book to sell 3, copies over three or four years. That means the interest is still there. It will have a description of the car, the type of motor, and other things. There will also be all kinds of side stories in there, too. For instance, in the new book I talk about the Mabuchi Motor Corporation, which is now the largest electric motor company in the world.
It has 10 factories, making eight million electric motors a day. Toyota, for instance, will put 15 or 20 Mabuchi motors in each one of its cars—for electric windows, mirrors, seats, and fans of all kinds. All of those motors are made by Mabuchi, now mostly in China. Mabuchi was a company of about 10 people when they started making slot car motors. In two years they had something like employees.
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Another year later they had a thousand employees. There were millions of motors, so this is a very important side story. After the slot-car crash, competitors absorbed companies like AMT, which was basically bankrupt by then.
Cox was nearly bankrupt when it was approached by a holding company. So they made a huge amount of money in the beginning and then lost a lot at the end. Their late-entry came in , when they issued four models and a racing track with three lanes. Russkit also went under. Jim Russell, who was one of the pioneers in the hobby industry, founded the company.
By he was being hounded by creditors. People also began to realize that a lot of the manufactured slot cars were not very good.
So many people started making their own cars using steel wire, brass, brass plate, brass wire, and components they would buy at the raceways—wheels, tires, gears, motors, bodies. By , those hobbyists represented about 80 percent of the market. People were still buying the new kits and ready-to-race cars, but not nearly as much. That inspired a lot of people to make their own cars. When you find an old slot car box, 90 percent of the time it will have homemade, hand-soldered cars with vacuum-form or hard plastic bodies. Those cars were very efficient. In an American magazine organized the first pro racing series in the U.
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The participants showed up with gorgeous cars, and the racing was very competitive. Cars had to be built to certain specifications. Pro racing is still alive today.
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They use the most advanced electric motor technology and go at incredible speeds. In the meantime, the late s and early s pro racing cars have become highly collectible. The craftsmanship is unbelievable and the paint jobs are pure art in many cases. In fact, there were some very famous slot car body painters back in the day.
In the last 15 years, it has become a new form of collecting. A lot of people made the mistake of collecting as an investment instead of for the fun of it. Right now the market is pretty stable. The vintage market is solid. A good item sells for a lot of money, and the competition for it is fierce.
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Common items are fairly cheap, as they should be. De Lespinay : The best painter of them all was Dave Bloom. His style was wonderful. He was the first to deviate from normal paint jobs to psychedelic designs or the name of the racer on the car in big letters. Bob Kovacs in California is still a very famous painter. He paints motorcycles and cars now. Those are the two biggest names. There were others, but these two guys dominated.
Bob Kovacs painted virtually all the bodies on the pro racing cars on the West Coast. On the East Coast, it was all Dave Bloom. Dave Bloom died of cancer in about We also have replicas made by very talented new painters. De Lespinay : Yes, most of them. Classic was one of the few companies that made dream cars or freaky cars. It was very loosely modeled after a real custom job made by Dean Jeffries in Los Angeles.
John Power designed the Manta Ray. It was a bubble top. Power designed a dream car for them called the Banshee that was going to kill the Manta Ray on the market. But the Manta Ray was so successful that nothing could stop it. The Banshee sold very well, but never in numbers like the Manta Ray. Those cars were very successful and are icons today. Then he went back to General Motors and concentrated on designing car interiors.
Cadaret designed some fantastic machines for Classic, like the Stinger, which had a working wing. When you flapped the wing the car slowed down because the motor would hold it slightly at an angle. He designed the Gamma Ray, which was an extraordinary looking car in shades of purple and yellow. He also did the Asp, which was lime green. Kids bought them by the hundreds of thousands. He worked under Bill Mitchell, who was basically the vice president of styling. Larry was a fan of slot cars. He started making bodies of his own design on the vacuum-forming machine at the General Motors Research and Development Center.
Very serious people raced those cars at the Groove. They were the fastest things in America at the time because they were designed for functionality. All the other companies were making realistic cars. Monogram was also doing extremely realistic models of Ferraris and Lotuses, but a few companies were making thingies, which were very successful. Of course, those bodies will never be assembled. He fell in love with them. He had a very successful gallery exhibition of thingies in Milano last year. He photographed scantily clad young ladies with the cars.
They wore lipstick that matched the color of the car, and things like that. They were beautiful, very artistic photographs. Slowly but surely, slot cars are becoming recognized as a form of toy art, like tinplate toys or diecast models from before and after World War II. That was before the heated-plastic era in the s, which virtually killed the tinplate industry and the good toys.
Would you collect a new Volkswagen Beetle? Would you collect a new Camaro? They represent a completely different era when things were still made by hand and you could sense the personalities of the people behind the object. The same goes for the Japanese tin toys of the s. The Marusan tinplate Cadillac is an absolute piece of art. Marusan toys were built by hand by craftsmen and assembled in very substandard facilities, but those toys sold very successfully, especially in the U.
Less than 25 still intact are known to exist today, although they made thousands of them. Many of them were destroyed when Leisure Dynamics dumped its leftover inventory. Jim Hall started the Chaparral Company. He worked in collaboration with General Motors out of Midland, Texas. If the item is perfect, it still sells for big money, but anything less than mint loses 50 percent of its potential value instantly. It uses different wheels and tires and has a less-realistic but great-looking chassis. And the box is beautiful.
They made a lot of them. Tamiya and other Japanese companies got into the hobby market in and were very inspired by what the Americans had done. Very few were made, and they were sold mostly in Europe.
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