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Scalextric Ultimate Guide 9th edition, volume 1 review
#1

This book has a lot to answer for:
   

In 1981 I had some Scalextric track and five cars bought on a whim from my local paper's 'bargains under £5' section. I played with it occasionally but had no overriding interest in the stuff. One day I was in W H Smith, saw the book in question on the shelf, bought it and started on the slippery slope to slot car addiction. My wallet has never forgiven me!

Forty years later the guide has been through several incarnations and expanded from its original 135 black and white pages to around 700 full colour ones by the time it reached its 8th edition in 2015. Yes, I bought most of them and even got the author to sign my copy of the 6th edition at the Goodwood Revival in 2004! Sad or what?
   

Although the first seven editions were written by Roger Gillham many enthusiasts have contributed information over the years including well known Scalextric collector Adrian Norman who came on board as a joint author when the 8th edition was compiled. By now it had been renamed 'Scalextric The Ultimate Guide'.

All of which brings me neatly to the subject of this review - the 9th edition. Roger has now retired from the project so Adrian has taken over authorship of this latest version. For the benefit of people who aren't aware of him Adrian is a long-standing Scalextric enthusiast and collector who wrote the factory liaison column for the NSCC magazine for a long time. He was also employed as Scalextric promotions manager by Hornby for many years. His knowledge of the subject is virtually unparalleled.

As mentioned above the 8th edition ran to about 700 pages. This new one has well over 3000! It is now so big that it has been split into 10 parts, volumes 1 - 3 are currently available with the rest to follow during the course of this year. In fact it should probably be renamed the 'Ultimate, Ultimate Guide' and contains more information about Scalextric than any sane person would want to know! A full rundown of the individual parts with ordering details can be found HERE. It is a truly massive undertaking on Adrian's part and I dread to think how many hours he must have spent on the project.
   
I have been sent volume 1 for review which covers some pre Scalextric history along with the development of the brand from tinplate wind up toys through to the modern plastic age. It also includes a complete catalogue and photos of virtually every Scalextric set produced.

Chapters
1 The Tin Age.
This is a very interesting section which deals with the founder of Scalextric, Fred Francis and the history of his Minimodels firm. Fred was a very talented engineer who had much more on his CV than toy racing cars.

2. The Development of Scalextric.
Contrary to often perceived opinion Fred did not invent slot racing although he was largely responsible for its entry into mainstream toy production. This chapter therefore covers the general history of the hobby prior to the launch of Scalextric in 1957 and goes on to give a general outline of the firm's development through the years.

3. Scalextric Tinplate cars and sets.
A detailed look at the early tinplate clockwork cars and their subsequent transformation into slot cars.

4. Plastic Scalextric Cars.
Following The sale of Minimodels to Triang in 1958 the tinplate cars were phased out and replaced in 1960 by the plastic variety we have been playing with ever since and this chapter gives an overview of the next 40 years of production. It is not a detailed listing of every car produced but a pictorial guide to some of the types of models available to date with notes on various significant changes. A full listing and photos of every car will be found in subsequent volumes and this chapter is more a taster of what is to come later. 

5. UK Scalextric sets.
A large and very comprehensive section covering virtually every set produced to date. Every box lid and many contents are pictured along with a potted history of each decade and developments of the Scalextric logo and marketing. It is an excellent history of the brand in itself.

The whole book contains a huge number of relevant photos, including some nice ones of Rallyhub's tracks and this 1st volume alone runs to well over 300 pages.

Editorial pedant department
No publication is without technical errors, as I know only too well from editing the NSCC magazine for nine years, and this one is no exception. I spotted the usual small number of typos but my main source of criticism would concern the way the text has been laid out. Justified text has been used throughout where each line is exactly the same length and this is a notoriously difficult format to get right. You have to be very careful not to produce over spaced text or unnecessary hyphenation where one word is split in strange places over two lines and this book is riddled with the second error. Quite large font sizes have been used throughout, which is great for my ageing eyesight, but a small reduction of a point or two and some limited copy editing would largely have eliminated them.
The average reader will hardly notice these things and it doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment of the book but it really grates on my grammar Nazi sensibilities.

Buy it?
A tricky one to answer - all ten volumes are going to make a very large hole in the buyer's wallet and the complete collection will probably only be of interest to a small number of really dedicated Scalextric enthusiasts/collectors. Incidentally, there are still some copies of the 8th edition available for those with a slightly more moderate involvement in the subject.
This first volume is a very useful introduction to the subject though and is well worth buying as a stand alone item. I found it eminently readable and it filled several gaps in my knowledge of things Scalextric. If you should buy some of the other volumes you will discover that there is much, much more to the story of this quite remarkable toy.  Who knows, after reading this one you may descend into the same rabbit hole as I did after that very first red covered book way back in 1981!
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