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New Micro Scalextric system announced

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  • #16
    I suspect the changes to the track and the cars were designed to improve the 'playability' of the new Micro Scalextric products.

    I give Scalextric points for realizing the major issues with the traditional HO scale track and pickups are fragility and poor performance. Somebody at Scalextric decided that their new slot racing system needed to be more rugged and reliable, and they were willing to throw out old designs and try to come up with something better. And I am willing to bet they tested their new designs with real children and tried to prove that said new designs were real improvements -- that the kids could play with them for more than one day and have a good time.

    Scrubbing track rails is a nuisance easily avoided by using wider rails and braid pickups. Mismatched track transitions can be improved with wider slots and tapered guides. A better way to join tracks together also helps.

    And the traditional pickups, with their tiny springs, are touchy and not suited for use by children. That, and they need regular cleaning, and also replacement when the narrow rails wear grooves into them. I believe the fact that the guide/pickup assembly is easily replaced with only one screw is major. The braids will last a very long time for starters, and when they do need to be replaced you won't need to be a jeweler to do it.

    I suspect a lot of effort went into designing and testing the track-joining system. HO has suffered some truly awful track-joining designs. Again, I see evidence that Scalectrix made a real effort to develop a track-joining system that is accurate, reliable and can stand up to normal play-time abuse.

    I think Scalextric used their own, immensely successful 1/32nd scale cars and track as a benchmark. I think they set themselves a goal of making the Micro Scalextrics equal in quality and playability to their 1/32nd scale products.

    The fact they are introducing cartoon-based racing sets shows they want these products to appeal to children, so they need to be simple enough, reliable enough and rugged enough for children to play with them. Making these products compatible with traditional HO products was so far down their list of requirements you probably can't see it from here.

    I congratulate Scalextric for having the intelligence and courage to break out of the box and address many of the weaknesses of traditional HO products. I've been in that (very lonely!) fight for a couple of decades now, and it is nice to have an ally.

    Will Micro-Scalextric be successful? I think so. Will they redirect established HO practice? Hardly. They are going off in their own direction, and their goal is to make money doing it. Good for them!

    Ed Bianchi
    Last edited by HO RacePro; 01-21-2019, 03:48 AM.


    • #17
      Given the ongoing conniptions some HO guys still have every time AFX release a new body with a 1.7'' wheelbase, despite that being more accurate, I can imagine the uproar if they brought out a whole new track system that was utterly incompatible with the previous stuff

      I think the new MS system will work out fine for them. Whether they will be 'brave' enough to tool up 10-20 new track pieces is another matter.


      • #18
        Originally posted by HO RacePro View Post
        Making these products compatible with traditional HO products was so far down their list of requirements you probably can't see it from here.
        It would not of been on the list at all, not for their smaller scale anyway. The three guys who came to visit me thought about it, but they would of been in the minority, and that was years ago. In the markets where MS sells they don't have any rivals, so.....

        They probably thought about their own 'traditional HO product' for a while, but clearly they wanted a totally clean break.

        Last year Carrera brought out 'First', at 1/50 scale, frustrating for us when they could of done HO, but they have their own agenda, just as MS do.


        I see lots of similarities to the new Micro system, so maybe Hornby just copied.
        Last edited by NicoRosberg.; 01-20-2019, 04:28 AM.


        • #19
          The Hornby and Carrera track sections do look awfully similar, although their joining geometries are very different. Do they have the same size slots? If they do that should make the cars compatible.

          I did notice the Carrera cars use braids for contact. And magnets for traction. Speeds seem to be limited so the cars stay on the track despite full power.

          Again, the Carrera products, like the Hornby, are very, very focused on playability for young children. Not for nothing the 'First' designation.

          Ed Bianchi


          • #20


            • #21
              It's a gutsy move and should work great with thier braid pickups.
              They carried over the Achilles Heel of the cars, though - the weird tapered guide blade.

              If the car slides at all, the trailing edge of the blade efficiently lifts the front out of the slot and the car goes flying. No hope of recovery.


              • #22
                That is a clear cost-saving faux pas that is hard to ignore.

                People in the know often list the many missteps Scalextric have made with their bigger range, which paints a picture of them not so much being brave or other complimentary things, rather floundering around.

                I take the list somewhat with a pinch of salt, as much of it could well be hardcore 1/32nd club guys miffed at what is released when it isn't what they want. A bit like the AFX situation with set-cars and wheelbases.

                Whatever the faults with Micro, then and now, it has lasted a quarter of century. It has never quite got the attention from Hornby I think it deserves but, on the flip-side it has been close to being canned at least twice, and endured. That is to be applauded.


                • #23
                  I see the tapered guide, and the wider slot, as yet another attempt to make the Micro Scalextric easier to play with. I have seen young children have trouble getting cars with the standard guide pins into the narrow slots of conventional HO tracks. The wider slots and tapered guides should make this easier. The tapered guides will also survive being leaned on better than standard plastic guide pins. Finally, the tapered guides will tolerate slightly misaligned track joints better.

                  Scalextric has made a strategic decision to rely on traction magnets to keep the cars lined up and in the slot rather than allow the cars to slide. Compatibility with historic HO standards was never the goal. They want the cars to be easy to play with and rugged enough to survive childish clumsiness.

                  I want to remind folks (and inform those who were not there) that HO slotcars were originally envisioned as scenic additions to model railroads. Racing was not anticipated. Nor was playing with them as toys. They were intended to be operating models only.

                  That led to many of the issues Micro Scalextric has tried to correct. The narrow slots and rails of conventional HO track were designed to be inconspicuous, and the performance trade-offs were tolerated. Said narrow slots demanded that the guides be thin pins. Plastic pins, because they were cheap, and were expected to handle light loads as the cars buzzed at modest (somewhat realistic) speeds around the track.

                  The pickups -- originally spring steel -- were replaced with the shoe-and-spring assemblies when the Thunderjet 500 debuted. But this was still in the days when "Model Motoring" was the tag line. Hobbyists, with some basic skills, were still the target, not toddlers.

                  Some of the postings I have seen online indicate that many adults, let alone children, aren't really up to the very basic demands of caring for the Micro Scalextric cars. Some folks don't seem to realize that pulling out the braids isn't a good idea. Dressing the braids? Come on.

                  I could be cynical and mention that old bit about idiot-proofing in the face of better idiots. Not constructive. Micro Scalextric is attempting to reduce the technical demands of slot racing so less skilled people can enjoy it. Again, to make money! And that's good.

                  Ed Bianchi
                  Last edited by HO RacePro; 01-21-2019, 03:47 AM.


                  • #24
                    The tapered, all-in-one design is on the outgoing as well as incoming Micro chassis designs.

                    It is definitely only a money-saving thing. I always retro-fit the earlier, more expensive to produce devices to my cars.

                    Last edited by NicoRosberg.; 01-21-2019, 04:35 PM.


                    • #25
                      Just as a point of conversation - I have a friend who uses a few Scalextric HO cars for bracket style drag racing. With the factory braided contacts, an added down force magnet or two and a pair of silicone tires slipped on to the rear wheels, they have become fairly consistent runners for him. No one else in our drag racing group uses these cars.
                      I'd like to get one or two of the scale type cars just for my collection, as I'm not at all interested in the cartoon type kiddie cars. -- Ernie :>)


                      • #26
                        playability. sellability. durability.

                        Just to add to my original post and maybe clarify a couple of things. Firstly - Hornby has new owners and Scalextric has new management. It's not a secret that the new people have very different views on the company and the business. The old regime sold off the historic and iconic factory building in Margate, the new owners are now moving the company offices back. All the new 2019 ranges (Hornby, Scalextric, Airfix, Humbrol, Corgi and Pocher) were presented to retailers and the media in the old factory.

                        The Scalextric manager who introduced the new range to me was very clear about what he and the team want to do with Micro. The redesign is about playability - as Ed suggested - the flaws of the old system often made it a disappointing and frustrating product for young families. To be blunt, it ruined too many Christmases.

                        Although Hornby has invested significantly in the redesign, the sets, cars and accessories will be sold at approximately the same price point as before - a much better product for the same price. The Warner Brothers branding has come at the perfect time to get the new system really noticed in the market place. I'm sure it will do well in the UK, but is also very sellable worldwide. Without the Warner Brothers branded sets, the new design may have slipped under the radar - thanks to Bugs Bunny et al, Wacky Races and the Justic League, it is arriving with a full-on fanfare.

                        Another important aspect of the new system is that it is designed to be more durable. In the short-term, that means a Micro Scalextric set should no longer be a throwaway item. In the medium-term (2020-21) it means that Hornby will offer a range of accessories to add to the sets. In that respect, Micro can be a stand-alone 1/64 system, not just a hit-or-miss stepping stone to the 1/32 range.

                        What accessories were mentioned? Obviously the individual non-set Warner Bros cars are already in the catalogue. Coming after that will be track expansion packs, the possibility of electronic gadgets adapted from the 1/32 range, plus sets and cars that are more like the 1/32 range than the current Micro offerings. The aim was not to release a fully-formed new range, but to break out with the new sets and then gradually evolve it - I guess that's a more sustainable business model. However, I'm sure the prospect of 'real' racing cars in the not too distant future will please many of us - SpeedHoppy in particular


                        • #27
                          Thanks for the detailed explanation, some good info there.

                          Seems to me that Scalextric have thought this through very well - particularly in trying to make the hobby accessible and enjoyable to the youngsters, which is how most of us got started with it.


                          • #28
                            I wonder what the lane spacing is on the new Hornby and Carrera Micro tracks are? Aurora originally set the lane spacing at 1-1/2 inches. But at 1-3/4" it is possible to race both 1/64th and 1/43rd scale cars. That would be a plus.

                            It does look to me like the lane spacing is wider on the new tracks, but I'd love to hear what they actually measure out to.

                            As for cartoon characters, I am surprised that Hornby has not (yet?) featured Danger Mouse and Penfold in a set...

                            Ed Bianchi
                            Last edited by HO RacePro; 01-24-2019, 08:22 AM.


                            • #29
                              Hey, Woodcote, I am not against cartoon characters! Growing up, I watched Saturday morning Warner Bros. cartoons (followed by cooking shows; go figure).....

                              But when I discovered auto racing in 1964 at age 11 (specifically endurance racing like the Ford GT40 & Ferrari "P" cars, and open cockpit sports cars like the Chaparral 2 & Lola T70, I was hooked!

                              My first Aurora set had Mustangs, but when I could get the Ford GT, Ferrari Dino & GTO, I raced THEM. Never wanted "cartoon cars"; but that is just me. I STILL prefer the racers of the 60's & 70's if I can get them........
                              Last edited by Speedhoppy; 01-24-2019, 10:19 PM. Reason: Sentencs addition


                              • #30
                                'Hoppy - I've not been a big fan of cartoon characters on slot cars either, but the Looney Tunes cars certainly surprised me! The Wacky Races cars were also promising and I did love the original series as a kid. However, what I'm more excited by is the prospect of the same designers taking the same care and attention on any future 'real' racing cars. My mouth waters just at the thought...

                                Ed - most of the overall track dimensions I measured were approximately the same as 'traditional' HO track, including the lane spacing which does work out at 1.5-inches. I agree that even a couple of millimetres more would have been an improvement.

                                This is what the digital calipers said:

                                Track width: 74.5mm
                                Rail width: 4.0mm
                                Lane spacing: 37.6mm
                                Slot width: 2.25mm
                                Slot depth: 5.75mm
                                Curve radius: 223mm (approx 9-inches)
                                Straights come as 75mm (approx 3-inches) and 150cms (approx 6-inches)
                                Curve pieces are 45-degree (1/8 of a circle)

                                The sets appeared at the London Toy Fair last week and reaction from retailers and the press was positive, by all accounts. The sets were a main feature on the Hornby display.

                                The new Micro offerings are also featured in the latest Scalextric Test Track video blog: