Eldon Slot Cars


 

At-a-glance information:

Items  Eldon Slot Car Racing
Manufacturer Eldon Industries
Location Hawthorne, CA
Manufactured Focus on 1960-1970

Left: An amazing Ferrari Testa Rossa in 1/32nd scale was a popular early 60s Eldon car.

Right: Dan Gurney promotional picture right on the cover of the instruction manual.

Background and History

Eldon Industries was originally located in Hawthorne, California. Throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s they made a series of wonderful toys. In the 50s, there was a large amount of "poly" toys, made of polyethethylene plastic, almost "unbreakable".

They brought out kind of a goofy manumatic "robot". A plastic ferry with cars and trucks that floated. (A later version which was much larger came out in the late 60s). The wildest toy they came up with is the Bowl-A-Matic, also featured on this site.

In the very late 50s, they brought out slot cars. Starting with open wheel racers, go cart racers, battery operated tracks, etc. About this time, either Eldon bought out "Ungar", or "Ungar" made tracks for Eldon. You can find old track with Ungar written on them. I will clarify this bit of history when I find out more.

As the 60s progressed, more and more commercial slot car tracks opened. These were very different from these types of cars...much faster. The good news is that general interest in slot cars themselves, even the "big brother" tracks, helped fuel the general interest of the hobby down to the consumer level.

Big slot car interest waned in the late 60s and 70s, and interest in "HO sized" cars and tracks picked up. Eldon was eventually purchased by Cox, who along with Revell, Scalectrix ,etc., made large slot cars too. Eldon, as a company, decided to use their plastics experience in providing plastic office equipment and accessories, like file holders and the like. They were finally bought out by the Rubbermaid Office Products division. As Robert DeNiro says at the end of "Casino"-- 'And that's that'.

Hated by Hobbyists

Hardcore hobbyists can be a strange breed, especially when guys make any hobby their whole life.

If you talk to these guys, they usually bad mouth Eldon and pretty much place it at the bottom of the barrel for slot cars, or vintage slot cars even.

Common complaints are with Eldon's nylon chassis, pickup, shallow slot grooves, you name it. Some say that the cars fly off the track too easily. I have to laugh...that is part of the skill in this. What, do some guys expect the cars to just fly around and never come off? What is the sport in that?

To me, the cars are plenty fast, but do require alot of time, patience and skill to get working once they have sat awhile. Particular care must be taken to clean the track, remove any corrosion or build up that prevents good electical contact, and the biggest irritation, the pickup brushes.

I have become quite good on working on these cars, and even done some surgery on the tiny Mabuchi motors. Quite fun to get a car that is not working and a few hours later get it flying around the track!

I especially love these cars because I had them as a kid.

Around 1963, my dad worked for NCR, right across from Eldon Industries in Hawthorne, California. They had a counter at Eldon with ladies sitting at desks. You could go in and buy items. It didn't have a showroom, but you could tell them what you wanted and buy it there. My dad told them he wanted a big slot car set. After paying $30, he got what he asked for, the huge International Grand Prix Selectronic Race Set. He also added a Corvette with working headlights, and a marked down Eldon Go Cart racer. (He may have added these on future trips). I can still, BARELY remember when we first got it (I was almost 3 years old). Uncles and my dad played with it for hours. It was Eldon's biggest set, and an advertisement for it is shown below.

As years passed, my sisters and dad showed less and less interest in it, and it was me as a young boy trying to set it back up, and as years went by and oxidation built up on the track and brushes deteriorated, I could get it to work less and less. Finally I gave up and the set was given away. :-(

I remember we had the Corvette in Orange, the Lotus and Porsche in both white, a Ferrari in yellow, and either another Porsche or Lotus in yellow. Our controllers were aqua and orange. The Corvette came in a plastic show case with a flagman. I used to love putting the flagman on the track and gunning him down with the Corvette. (This was not the electric flagman, more on him later). If anyone reading this has my exact set, can I buy it back???!!!! (It was all put into a yellow Mayflower moving box, probably still is in that somewhere).

 

What I Have Now

The Collection currently houses three relatively complete sets. There is a full International Grand Prix Set (no box), the Eldon Selectronic Set, and a Sears Version of the Selectronic set. I also have some non-Selectronic transformers and cars.

Selectronic was an ingenious early design that allowed both cars to be seperately controlled cars on the same track, and the ability to change lanes on a special track piece. If you were good, you could force your opponent off the road, or get onto the inside track. The secret was the Selectronic power pack, and a diode in each car. This kept the currents seperate and allowed both cars to go forward on the same, or different lanes. Simply throw a standard Eldon power pack onto the same track and you can race your non-Selectronic cars. (Make sure you remove the lane change track!)

All my sets and cars and now operational. Some cars seem faster than others, but hard to be definite. Racing with my son though has shown us both that a faster car is no replacement for skill in racing!

How about buying a new slot car with a hand painted head? You could! Here is a close up of the guy in the Ferrari.

These are the color coordinated Ferrari's from my Sears set. Unbelievable, the controllers are color matched--yellow with a red trigger, and red with a yellow trigger. Check out the colored heads on the drivers!

Also note that some of these early cars did not have holes for headlights but were just filled in.

Each Grand Prix set came with two motorized chassis and 4 bodies. Here are my extra bodies, a white Ferrari and an orange Lotus. Those are Eldon decals on the bodies. Other special features of the Grand Prix set include the turnout tracks, banked curve supports, and international flag set. Here is my test layout. I like it because it is simple, doesn't have the special track pieces that act up a little, and it is easy to troublshoot cars on. This is made from the Grand Prix set, notice the special turnout track pieces in the center.

 

Here is the Sears version of the Selectronic Road Race Set shown to the right in the Eldon labeling. By looking at this box, you have no idea what it is like inside. Notice the Allstate logo on it, typically reserved for the automotive accessories and parts at Sears. Even a Kaiser Henry J real automobile was sold as an "Allstate" at one point in time. Sears also packaged at least a Marx set like this.

Although the box is old and slightly water damaged, I love the plain graphics. Markings on the side made this appear to indicate either an incomplete set or a damaged and returned set. Interestingly, the guardrails on this set are the old style.

Here is the box for the standard Selectronic Road Race. This is different from the Grand Prix set. It does not have the special turnout pieces of track, nor does it have the Le Mans start. What these sets DO have is the electric flagman. He has an adjustable timer at his base, and when activated, he raises his flag. The moment the flag is "waved", juice flows to the track and racing can start!

Both this set and the Sears equivalent to the left have the color coordinated racing controllers to match the Ferraris provided.

I love this picture. Here is an unopened bag from the Sears set. Replacement brushes and a tiny bottle of oil, never pierced. Was this set ever really used? Set up once and returned to the store? I have no idea what the wire pieces to the right do.

 Racing controller, complete with "speeds" marked in the top with a little pointer that works with the trigger. I love this design. Like a 50s Sci-Fi ray gun. I love the feel of this controller in my hands. Later models, and I have a few, were screwed together, and allowed for cleaning of contacts. I have not had much problem with these, and it appears that contact cleaner may be able to be sprayed with a tube inserted into the MPH indicator slot.
 These are the brushes that create so many headaches if you don't know how to make them work right. While these look frayed, they are the perfect condition. To make these work, you need to make sure that there is a downturn to the brushes AT THE TIPS. As a lad, I was always pulling the whole brush outwards from the car thinking this made better contact. All that does is allow more of the brush to push the guide out from the track, and also more area to potentially short to the other brush. If you just curve out the tip, this works great, and the brushes "settle in" and do their job for quite a while. Make sure that the old connecting wires still flex and allow the "guide shoe" to move back and forth easily. Also make sure the solder joints of the wires to the motor are tight. I have had them loosen on all my old Ferraris. Resolder them VERY carefully. Many cars had this innovative two speed axle. One gear range was for greater speed, the other for better handling, according to the guide. You simply popped the axle out of the nylon chassis, flipped it over and moved the cog/ring over. Notice the silicone tires I pressed into service here. These are incorrect--and the guy that makes them warns not to use them like this!--but they do work. All old Eldon tires will have dried to the point to yield zero traction. I have some new ones on order from a different source that look just like the old Eldon tires. See the front tires on the picture to the left--since these are not as important traction-wise as the rear, I left them on, and you can compare the difference.
 Tire and rim specifications, early Eldon models. Later units used fatter and thicker tires, some had no ridge on the rim. Apparently, most tires and now thankfully reproduced. I will be testing them, and will post references in my parts section after such tests. I also plan do add more Eldon cars to my collection for laughs.

Early chassis. Notice that it is "expandable" to allow for slight differences in bodies. This has the weight in back, the long silver piece of metal. I have not determined that this does all that much. Two screws hold they body on well.

Note: if one of your screw mounts strips out, simply put a tiny amount of 5 minute epoxy on the edge of the mount. Let it try, then rethread with the screw. This absolutely works like a charm. Don't use too much, experiment as needed. Also, never tighten the screws down too much, you just need to keep this light body on the chassis.

Although hard to see in this pic, many people do not realixe that the pin that registers on the lap counter can be moved to right behind the motor, providing another registration point for the car in the slot. This is for the more junior kids to help them keep the car on the track. So much for the idiots that claim these cars are hard for beginners because the small guide up front lets the cars off the groove too easily. Guess they didn't know about this feature!

 

This is the way-cool Eldon lap counter. This allows laps to be counted on Selectronic sets regardless of what lane you are in. I have seen these in various color combinations, such as this white ring on one side, yellow ring on the other. They will often be white rings on both sides, with perhaps one side having a red center, and the other having a blue center. There is a very nice clicking sound as the cars pass over and register a lap. Small pins that can move to either side of the car associate the car with a counter.

Notice the "black asphalt" Eldon track. Very cool. Important to note that old Ungar and newer Cox track all are the same. I even have some pieces with Ungar written on them! The wonderful thing is that this track is abundant. Hobbyists as I said don't like Eldon. If you do, you are in luck.

 

Here is the lane change controller. Each Selectronic set came with two of these. Well timed switches could force your opponent off the track, could force you into him, or vice versa. These work quite well.

   

Here is a great ad from the early 60s. Notice the Bowl-A-Matic and Skee-Ball entries. Pictured is the Grand Prix set, which I have. Notice the international flags on the roadway.

December 2008, Updates!

Added ALOT this season!  I purchased  a "Spiegel" Catalog Power 8 set, a complete Daytona Beach Detroit Stock Car Road Race Set, and a terrific Dodge 3-in-1 Stunt Set.  I have restored the Power 8 and Daytona Beach sets to full functionality.  Awaiting tires now from Tiny Motors for my Dodges, and then I will profile the sets.  

I have also made a series of movies for your enjoyment.  See below!

Video Number 1:  Daytona Beach Detroit Stock Car Road Race Set




Video Number 2:  Spiegel Power 8 Road Race Set



Video Number 3:  Selectronic Race Set


 

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