As the new millennium dawned the club seemed to be in excellent shape with a stable membership around the 1000 mark, healthy finances and a continually improving monthly magazine. However, several things were conspiring to make the club less relevant, particularly the rise of the internet.
In 1999 eBay reached the UK and this soon wiped out one of the mainstays of the magazine, members adverts, which virtually disappeared within a few years as vast amounts of slot car items could now be bought and sold online without joining the club. The appearance of slot car forums in 2003/4 meant that people could receive all their information virtually instantaneously without waiting for a print magazine at the end of the month.
Facebook did not become a major force till about 2010 but the rise of social media would change many things in the years to come. Like other organisations the NSCC initially failed to notice which way the wind was blowing and struggled to cope with the new internet connected world, it had a fairly lacklustre website and didn’t really engage with the new forums. Although membership levels were stable the club ceased to grow and, if you are just standing still, then you are really going backwards.
In October 1999 I took over the job of newsletter editor myself when Alan Slade retired. I had actually joined the club in 1983 but made no real contribution to things apart from placing a few adverts and helping out at the occasional swapmeet. Quite why I decided to take on the role of editor remains a mystery to this day as my only previous experience of computers was playing games on a Sinclair Spectrum ZX. Somehow it just seemed like a good idea at the time!
I inherited some aging computer equipment running Windows 98 and outdated desktop publishing software and it took a little while to get the hang of it with the blue screen of death a common occurrence. The committee were reluctant to spend money updating things, cash reserves were still good but the annual membership fees were rarely increased so higher printing and postage costs were gradually eating into them. Eventually I did the same thing as Malcolm Parker many years previously, bought a brand new system running Windows XP and an updated version of the Adobe publishing software then sent in the bill without asking permission first.
The quality of the magazine continued to improve during my tenure but this was due to advancing technology rather than any great effort on my part. When I started out, the internet, which was still dial up and terribly slow was really in its infancy so most articles received were handwritten and had to be typed in manually. Any photos provided were old fashioned prints which had to be scanned in with somewhat haphazard results. The arrival of broadband and widespread email use radically changed things for the better and it became far easier to put the thing together. A large membership also ensured that I had a good number of regular and knowledgeable contributors to draw from so the number of pages continued to increase with at least 52 pages every month.
In 2000 the committee decided that ‘Newsletter’ was an outdated term so the magazine was renamed the ‘NSCC Journal’ although it remained the same black and white production it had always been. Colour printing was still very expensive at this time and would have required a doubling of the annual membership fee so it was not until printing costs became more affordable in 2005 that colour was introduced on a regular basis. Initially a four page colour section was included and this continually expanded until a full colour magazine became the norm in 2010.
One of the earliest colour supplements featured an article about a home rally track by new member Hub Habets. You may know him as master track builder Rallyhub on the forum and the NSCC journal was the first magazine in the UK to feature three of his tracks.
Incidentally, you can read issues of the magazine from 1999 - 2018 on the club’s website in a cut down (minus adverts) pdf version. Each year's publications are usually put up about 12 months after the print version appears.
Adrian Norman’s dream job
In 2002, NSCC/Scalextric liaison officer Adrian was made redundant from his IT position at Pfizer when it shut down its research and development facility in Kent and he was recruited by Hornby for the post of Scalextric promotions manager. At long last enthusiasts had one of their own in the company! He resigned from the committee to avoid a conflict of interest and naturally tended to toe the company line but was an invaluable friend of the NSCC for many years to come and the club’s relationship with Hornby flourished while he was there.
25th Anniversary Year 2005
This was a very significant year for the club as it celebrated its 25th year of existence and continuous publication of the magazine.
To celebrate this the first club cars since 1998 were produced, a matching pair of Scalextric Minis, probably the prettiest of all to date. 500 of each were produced and sold out in record time.
The club also organised a two day 25th Anniversary show at the Toyota Headquarters in Surrey which was the very first major event solely dedicated to slot cars in the UK and would eventually result in the birth of the annual UKSF show at Gaydon. The full story of this event and a second one in 2006 can be read HERE. It also built a giant Hillclimb for the Toyota stand at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2006 which you can read about HERE.
The decline of club swapmeets
These had always been run as members only events (although this was not always strictly enforced) and had settled into a pattern of six a year. Milton Keynes was always the largest and most commercial with the others, at various venues around the country, being smaller more social events. As time went on the committee came under pressure from the traders within the club to open them up to the public and greatly expand the calendar.
Rightly or wrongly this was resisted so the traders went their own way, started to organise open events themselves and the number of swapmeets multiplied dramatically in the following years. Some were successful and still continue while others fell by the wayside.
NSCC ones, which had always been run by individual members on a non-profit basis as a service for the club then rapidly declined. The commercial events were often run in close proximity (date or place) to the club events so tables became difficult to sell and it was no longer worth the effort of running them. The sole survivor was Milton Keynes, which is still run by the club, albeit no longer restricted to members only but they do get free admission.
A bad choice of car
Two more limited edition cars were produced in 2006 and 2008. The Ninco Mégane was a great choice and an instant sell out but the SCX Skoda Fabia was a bit of a disaster and probably the most unloved club car of all.
SCX had originally agreed to produce a unique Mk11 Escort in full Rothmans ciggy livery but reneged on the deal at the last moment and offered a muddied version of the standard Fabia instead with just a small NSCC tampo on the windscreen. It should have been rejected out of hand but for some reason the committee allowed it to go ahead and sales were terrible. It took many years to offload them, with some still unsold as late as 2017 and causing a considerable hole in the finances for a fair while.
An interesting front cover and the 300th issue of the magazine
In 2005 the venerable magazine ‘Motor Sport’ had a disastrous makeover and ditched its distinctive green cover for a garish red one which went down like the proverbial lead balloon with its readership and was soon abandoned. Mark Sanderson designed a tribute front cover for the 2006 NSCC Journal which is quite possibly the best one to date.
Another milestone was reached in March 2007 with the publication of the 300th edition of the magazine, the first full colour issue ever. Among other things it contained the definitive history of the collector’s holy grail, the Scalextric Bugatti.