The story behind Pat Denis' Slot Racing Archive
As I mentioned in the "Story", Tyco hired an outside Design firm in California to develop some concepts for the Train and Racing lines. The only product that we were able to use, during the time I was working for them was the Motor Roar concept. It was a fairly simple device - an inexpensive Mabuchi with rotating "hammers" striking a vac-formed diaphragm. These were connected in series with the controllers so the motor in the "Roar" would attempt to destroy the diaphragm by rapidly beating it with the hammers, making a noise that, with a lot of imagination sounded like a race car engine. Not exactly like a 7 liter Can Am engine, more like a FV about to throw a rod.
But the sales department was ecstatic - until we costed it out. "Can you make it work with only one unit?" "Bob & I can make anything you want work - in some manner" was our reply.
A single unit was enclosed in a observation style tower, tested and found that it did not overtax the power supply, cut the car speed by no more that 25%, and it had a reasonable life expectancy (I used to joke that we would be getting returns with smashed Motor Roars - and if you looked closely, the word "Neolite" would be imprinted in reverse on them, as the parents would be desperately trying to stop the racket).
I took the sample to Tyco HK on my next trip. The guys there took it more seriously that I did and started the engineering drawings and mold patterns.
Up until this time, I had always considered myself totally informed of the slot racing industry - I had been in it from back in the days when we had to hand make everything to the present, to the present, where we even had "inside information" of what our competitors were doing. Well, not so! I decided to do my usual evening activities in HK - checking out every Toy and Hobby type shop I could find. I was staying in the Tsim Sha Tsui section of Kowloon, the European area, so there were a multitude of shops. As I looked way up on the top shelves (I should explain that in HK, they never have "sales" closeouts, or sidewalk sale days - as new products come in, all of the unsold items are moved up to higher shelves, eventually reaching the very top. One of my most lucrative shops sold ladies lingerie on one side of the store and toys on the other.) I spotted an elderly Scalextrix set - WITH SOUND! This set had been out of production for more than 5 years, but was still in a pristine package. Not only had they produced a set with sound, they did a much better job that we were about to make. It had separate circuits that were activated by a switch you mounted on the side of each hand controller. You could sit on the starting line and rev up the sound without the car moving. Very well done and used a lot less plastic than we were proposing. Talk about reinventing the wheel! That night, and for the rest of my stay, I toured every shop in the area and bought every set, from every manufacturer I could find. I looked for sets with special features, interesting and unusual track joining systems, etc. By now I had amassed sets from nearly every manufacturer and country that had ever been in the business. Most had been on these shelves for years. I vowed that I would never reinvent the wheel again. I continued this search after returning to the US, but the most obscure sets came from garage sales, thrift shops and the like.
I have used this archive extensively ever since. As I purchased these with my own money, when I left Tyco, they left with me.
Several years ago, I took the opportunity to photograph the more interesting sets, and ultimately sold the archive to several collectors. Strangely, neither Tyco, Aurora, or Tomy (who was introducing their HO line in the US) were interested in buying it.
Here is a link to a spreadsheet listing of some of the sets and their features...