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The history of the NSCC


The National Scalextric Collectors Club (NSCC) is currently in its 40th year of existence, founded in January 1981 (not 1980 as their website erroneously states). It is almost certainly the oldest such enthusiasts club in the world and its monthly magazine is the longest continuously running English language publication devoted purely to slot cars anywhere.
It has never had a huge membership but has consistently punched above its weight and been responsible for initiating many of the things we take for granted these days such as swapmeets, limited edition cars and the UKSF. Several of today’s major slot car suppliers such as Pendle and MRE can trace their foundation directly back to their membership of the NSCC. As with all such clubs it has had its fair share of ups and downs but has managed to survive financial crises, committee upheavals and the rise of the internet so I thought it time to document its full story.

Part 1
The 1970s were an exceptionally low point in the history of Scalextric following the bursting of the slot car bubble at the end of the previous decade. The market had almost totally collapsed due to declining interest and the advent of new mechanical toys such as Hot Wheels. Several of the smaller slot manufacturers had gone bust, as had Scalextric’s parent company, Triang, in 1971. Scalextric managed to survive under new ownership but the range was drastically cut back and production of new cars was severely limited for the next few years. Quality took a nosedive with cars such as the Mini Clubman and Porsche 935 amongst the worst ever produced by the firm. Slot racing clubs had also mostly disappeared with just a few well-established ones managing to cling on.
By 1977 however, there was the glimmer of a revival in interest and some new racing clubs appeared, amongst which was the most important as far as this tale is concerned – The London Scalextric Club.

Roy Charlesworth, the club’s founder, worked as a dance instructor at the Harmony Ballroom, located above the Odeon cinema in Wood Green, North London and so he was able to use the dance hall on a Sunday to build a circuit and host races. The track sections he used in the beginning were old Plexytrack from his previous club nine years before when model slot car racing had succumbed to the might of the commercial raceway.

He advertised his race days in the Exchange and Mart and was surprised at the good response he got as people came from all over London and the South East to race every two weeks. The club grew so well that it organised a South of England Championship for several years. The 1979 event attracted a 60 strong entry and one of the drivers racing that day was a 15 year old John Herbert from Romford, Essex. Though he had never even seen the circuit before he went on to finish 3rd, beating most of the home drivers in the process. Johnny, as he later became better known, went on to greater things in real cars, winning F1 Grand Prix as well as Le Mans. A report of the race can be found HERE. The following year the club lost its premises but soon found a new home at St Marks Church Hall, just 200 yards from where it had begun, and they race there to this day every Tuesday evening.

Aside from the racing quite a few of its members had begun to collect early Scalextric cars which could be picked up for as little as a pound each at that time. Foremost amongst them was a certain Roger Gillham who was already working on the first edition of his legendary ‘Enthusiasts Guide’. Accordingly, Roy decided to start a collectors branch of the club, it was a separate entity with a subscription of £3 a year and produced newsletters in 1979/80. I have 6 of them in my possession but there may have been more. Here is #2 which also came with a couple of pages of members’ sales/swaps/wants.

Apart from Roger there were several members who would become well known to the collecting fraternity such as Martin O’Reilly, Shaun Claremont, Chris Gregory, Reg Palmer and Eddie Collins. Surprisingly, the branch had some members in the USA including Lee Stokely of California and Chuck Lawrence from New York. I have no idea how this was achieved in those pre internet days! Several auctions were held in the ballroom which were a precursor to later swapmeets, and a visit was also made by Anton Palau who ran a famous model shop in Spain which led to the first significant arrivals of Spanish Scalextric cars in the UK.

The man who started it all, Roy Charlesworth (right) with future editor of the newsletter, Malcom Parker.

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Part 2 Genesis
Dale Tremble of Southend was a member of the collectors branch and it occurred to him that it might be possible to expand it to a national club, so he placed a few adverts in late 1980/early 1981 to gauge the response. They were usually placed in the ‘Collectors Gazette’ and the earliest surviving one I have is from the February edition of 1981.

Interest was deemed sufficient to go ahead, most of the members of the  ‘collectors branch’ signed up so that was disbanded and the National Scalextric Collectors Club was formally launched in January 1981 with the publication of the very first newsletter which also included a potted history of the brand by Roger. 

Swapmeets devoted purely to slot cars, which we now take for granted, were non-existent prior to the formation of the club and the NSCC introduced them in the first few months of its life. As noted in the newsletter above the very first was held at Luigi Ciaparelli’s dental surgery in Romford on March 15th, 1981. The club has organised them ever since and they have expanded greatly over the years.

The first membership list was produced in April that year, it contained just 37 names and it is quite remarkable that five people on it, Geoff Spencer, Robert Cast, Paul Whitehead, David Wells and Chris Gregory, remain members to this day.

Unfortunately, Dale decided to step down as organiser/secretary after just six months, announcing that he had sold his collection in the June issue and was seeking someone to take over. It remains unclear why he stopped, I met Dale in early 2000 and got no definitive answer but he generously provided me with all his early club archive material which forms the basis of this early part of the history. As far as I have been able to ascertain no more newsletters were produced that year although there must have been some method of communication with members as another swapmeet was held in November.

Rebirth 1982 
Rob Brittain took over the running of the club and restarted the newsletters from scratch in January 1982. As he began at #1 again it means that all subsequent publications are incorrectly numbered to this day.
The newsletter gradually expanded to 6 sheets of A4, mostly consisting of members wants and swaps which were a mainstay of the club’s appeal for many years until the arrival of eBay. A secondhand price guide was also introduced for people’s guidance.
The only swapmeet of that year was held in Petersfield, Hampshire:

The June issue brought both good and bad news:
Good – Hornby Hobbies officially recognised the club and were willing to help promote it.
Bad – the club was in danger of running out of money, probably due to subscriptions being set too low to cover the printing and postage costs of the newsletter.
An urgent appeal was launched for members to donate £2 each to see the club out till December. This had the desired response; the financial crisis was averted and membership cost was increased to a more sensible level (£4.50 per annum!) for the following year.
A monthly prize draw was introduced in September, two entries for a pound with a top prize of a C96 white Auto Union. As the total membership was 70 people at the time the odds of a substantial win were rather good!

By the end of 1982 10 newsletters had been produced (July/August and October/November were combined issues), membership had increased to 85 and the club was properly up and running. One notable new member was Dave Yerbury of Accrington who you may know as the maker of AA Bodies.

Part 3 1983/1990 next.
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