Promoting the Club
Model Engineer Exhibition
This was a long running major exhibition at Olympia over nine days each year which catered for many disciplines. In 1992 Gary Cannell joined the committee as promotions officer and, at his prompting, the club decided to take a stand at the 1993 event and run a slot car track for the public with prizes generously provided by Scalextric. With the help of a well known collector of the time, Phil Etgart and other volunteers from the club it was a huge success. Over 2000 people paid to have a go on the track and many new members were recruited.
The exercise was repeated in the following years and gave a very welcome boost to the club finances from the race fees. In 1996 Gary and the club received an award for the “Stand of the Show.” The certificate still resides on the wall of his downstairs loo!
At this time Gary was still just a slot car enthusiast and collector but the number of people who asked him where to buy Scalextric at the exhibition set his mind working and he eventually decided to take the plunge, left his job and started MRE in 1998 as a high street shop before moving online the following year.
The club also had a stand at the second Revival in 1999 and built a replica of the Goodwood circuit for public use. Unfortunately the set up expenses were allowed to get out of hand, the club lost money on the exercise, few new members were signed up and it was never repeated.
Relationships with Hornby
The club has had somewhat variable relations with the firm over the years and there were times in the late 80s/early 90s when communications deteriorated quite badly. For most of this period Scalextric did not really have a separate brand manager as Simon Kohler was marketing manager of both the model railway and slot car divisions. He is a well known and liked figure in the industry, has Hornby written through him like a stick of rock and has been the public face of the company since God was a lad. Unfortunately his extreme brand loyalty makes him over sensitive to the slightest criticism of the product and this led to many run ins with the club. He is essentially a model railway man with little interest in slot cars which he often seemed to regard as something of a nuisance. One particular past member of the committee also had a unique talent for upsetting him which led to temporary withdrawals of support, a refusal to produce any special cars for the club and veiled threats to withdraw permission to use the brand name in the club’s title.
Malcolm Parker put in a great deal of effort to restore a somewhat shattered relationship in the early 90s and eventually got to the stage where they were once again happy to give news, prizes and another limited edition car.
Things improved further in 1997 when Adrian Norman became NSCC/Scalextric liaison officer and wrote the ‘Factory Lines’ monthly report. He went to the factory every month and got on well with Simon Kohler. In 1998 he arranged the 200th Edition Jaguar and designed the livery himself.
One of Adrian’s major achievements was convincing Simon and the Scalextric development team that it would be a good idea to get first hand feedback from the members at a jointly organised social weekend in a Ramsgate hotel. The first one was held in 1998, has been repeated virtually every year since and continues to be a highlight of the NSCC calendar. The weekend consists of some racing, Q&A sessions with Scalextric product managers and designers, evaluation of new products, charity auctions of rare pre-production items, an evening meal with a quiz and much socialising of members over a pint or six.
Each year all attendees receive a special event car and these have become the most sought after of all the club’s limited editions. At this time production was still based in Margate so Hornby would take a small number of whatever car was being made at the time and do it in a special colour free of charge. When production was later moved to China this facility was not available so the club had to pay for special NSCC liveries to be produced.
The 1998 car was a blue Renault Megane, 50 were made, 48 for attendees, one for the club archives and the last one was a prize car for overseas members, who made up a quarter of the membership at this time.
Change of name
The club had always been mostly known by its initials but in 1999 it dropped the Scalextric reference entirely from the name and became just the NSCC. There were a couple of reasons for this:
The arrival of Ninco in 1994 and Fly cars in 1996 had really shaken up the slot car market and the newsletter naturally reflected members’ interest in them with articles on a much wider variety of makes.
In 1998 Hornby had launched its own Scalextric club with a magazine called ‘Racer’. This was really just a promotional tool for its products rather than a genuine club but it started to refer to the NSCC as ‘The National Slot Car Collectors Club’ indicating that they were not happy with the continued use of their brand name by a ‘rival’ club.
Permission to use the brand name was never formally withdrawn but the committee took the hint, removed it unilaterally and changed the club logo and masthead accordingly. A few different designs were tried out before settling on these, designed by Gareth Jex: