Ideal Motorific

 


 

At-a-glance information:

Item  Motorific
Manufacturer Ideal Toy Corporation
Location Hollis, NY
Manufactured 1965-1970 est.

 

A very entertaining slot car set was the Motorific Line made by Ideal. These came in a variety of sets, separate cars, trucks, boats (called Boaterifics) and accessories.

What was different about Motorific was that each car or truck was powered by two AA batteries. There was no contacts in the track. Hence, track assembly was VERY easy, although you could not control the speed of the car.

There were really three different types of sets.

Motorific: These were the first, originally designed as 'test tracks', with a variety of tests that are performed on the car, as if it was a large proving ground. Tests included horsepower test, steering test, spring test, and crash test.

Racerific: These used the same track as Motorific, but they added a timer and additional items to each set. The idea was to compete with others to see who could get through the course in the shortest amount of time, or in a rally scenario, who could come closest to the handicap time.

Highway Sets: Larger track, packed with trucks that did all sorts of things.


Track

Here is a comparison of all the different tracks. The furthest right is the grey track, typical in the Motorific Torture Track sets. On the far left is the much larger track that came with all Action Highway sets. They were made wider to accommodate the larger trucks that came in those sets.

The middle blue track was exclusive the later Racerific sets, featuring the two speed cars. These included: Racerific Super Speed, Camaro Racerific, Survival Run, Firebird, and Whirlwind.

 

 

 

We will go through each of the above types of sets.

 


Motorific Torture Tracks

The first sets, brought out in 1965, were called 'torture tracks', for example, Dearborn Test Track, Alcan Highway Torture Track, etc. There was a variety of cars from the beginning. These were AA battery powered. The early cars had the option to free run on a floor, and their wheels could be placed in a variety of positions, allowing for circles, straight line racing, etc. Also, a pin could be installed on any car. This pin would engage the groove that ran down the center of each track. Hence, a 'slot car'!

To the left, you see a Jaguar XKE, a Cadillac no less, and a Ferrari. The blue coloring is especially pleasing. Each one contains a snap in motor and gearing. Thin tires, with whitewalls, and hub caps made up the wheels. Most cars had an oval sticker on the door that identified the car to those who were too stupid to tell what the car is. The first car line had a Triumph TR3, Mustang, Chevrolet, and more.

As the front wheels snapped into position, they stayed in whatever position they were last in when they are placed on the track, and the wheels do not turn and follow the direction of the road. Each plastic body snaps onto the black chassis.

 

 

 1  2  3

Chassis details. Panel one shows the steering and the guide pin slid onto the chassis, at the bottom of the car. Panel 2 shows the entire chassis. Notice the gearing in panel three.

Sets

Here is a typical Motorific Set.

The Alcan Highway Torture Track set was very popular.

This set has various 'tests' that were identified by yellow signs.

Spring Test: A car jumps of an embankment, and hopefully can continue on with the 'test'.

Horsepower Test: Here, the car stops, and its wheels spin a set of gears in the track to determine the 'horsepower' of the car. Once the gauge gets to a certain point, the car is released.

Steering Test: The car jiggles through a zig zag in the road.

Other sets included a 'crash test', where a simulated block wall is 'crashed through' by the car!

Other Torture Track sets include: GTO, Dearborn, and Giant Detroit sets.

 


Action Highway

In about 1967, Ideal released the Action Highway line. These sets featured the wider yellow track. The old cars could run on this too, but the new track would not connect to the old track. Reminds me of how Tyco used to change tracks and create compatibility problems.

However, the yellow tracks were also a breeze to connect, they just lay together and simply lock down. Although the fit is sloppy, the cars pass along fine, and there is no road contacts to worry about.

Trucks came in each Action Highway Set. Here is an example of two trucks.

 

   

Both are finally detailed GMC trucks. The truck chassis are different, bigger, with double rear tires. The steering also follows the track. The track pin is built into the trucks. They are more solid and durable than the cars, but trim parts can easily break. The tow truck has a fitting that will snap into a Motorific car, and you can actually tow the car.

Other trucks include a cement mixer, refrigerator truck, and others!

Sets

There are some great Action Highway sets. They include

Highway 77--I love this set...simple and easy to set up, and fun to watch. It includes one truck, two switches, and instructions.

 

 

 

 

Highway 87--This set includes a 'construction site'.

 

 

 

 

Highway 88--This set adds trestles, for an overpass, as well as a fun collapsing bridge. The bridge will allow cars to pass, but trucks will knock down a danger sign, which causes a bridge collapse. With proper switch setting, the trucks can take a by pass road.

 

 

Highway 97-- This is a lesser-seen set that includes some fun things. The set comes with both a car and a truck. There is a car bypass lane with allows a car to pass up a slower truck. The construction site is part of the package, along with the Mystery Warehouse.

 

This item (real pictures of the item coming shortly) differs a bit from the drawing in that the flagman is monochrome (grey) in color, but I suppose you could paint him.

This accessory will stop a vehicle, and allow a flagman to 'cross' in front, then allow the vehicle to proceed. Ingeniously done with a hidden turntable and magnets. The extra fun of the item comes from its own inherent lack of precision: Occasionally the vehicle runs over the obnoxious flagman.

The set also comes with some cargo items to carry around in the truck.

 This is a fun accessory. One roadway goes into the warehouse. Double doors swing open and closed. Once inside, the car will 'magically' turn around and come shooting back out! Warning: Certain larger trucks will have difficulty with this, so using the switch for larger vehicles to bypass this is recommended.

 

Highway 99--One of the largest of the Action Highway series, this set comes complete with the collapsing bridge of the 88 set, plus other interesting items. A truck and a police car came with the set. Other interesting things include (alot of these items were part of other sets too, not just exclusive to the 99 set):

A special strip of two lane 'passing track'...ingeniously designed so that a Motorific car can pass up the truck and go around it.

 
A controllable intersection that will stop lanes of traffic to let the other side go by  
A remote control (air bladder) for the intersection or other switches  
A wonderful speed trap that will keep a car (it should be the police car, but I am using a blue Impala here) in place until another car passes by, at which time the "police car" is released, and a wailing sound is produced within the mountain at the right of the photo. There should also be a billboard present to hide the cop car, but my set was missing this.

 
 The collapsing bridge.  

 

Action Highway 100

Isn't this wild? A rare 100 Highway. This features a trailer terminal like the Midnight Special set. This set came with the semi truck shown below. The fairly rare semi truck was sold separately too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the semi truck/trailer. A nice addition to any fleet.

 

Highway 100 set photos courtesy of Ray Miller and Karen Fry.

 

 

 

 

Action Highway 101--Largest of the Highway Series

Midnight Special--This great set features a semi truck, with working headlights!!!

Midnight Freight--Does not include the freight terminal, but has a delivery truck with headlights!!!

Midnight Freight picture courtesy of Debby + Marty Krim of
New England Auction Gallery at
http://www.old-toys.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update! December 2008--I caught this Motorific Action 95 set on EBAY! I didn't bid on it, but the sellers were kind enough to allow me to use their pictures of this indeed rare set. I have never seen another. I don't know if this is a Sears Exclusive, but notice the Sears Service Station as part of the package. Really neat. Photos are courtesy of Craig Bush and Stacey Mooney.


 


Racerific

Ideal created another line that focused on competition to get your car through various hazards against a clock. Motorific Racerifics had a racing theme, with road rally checkpoint flags, water hazards, dangerous curves, and other things. Clocks, starter timers and other gadgets added great fun to the sets. The same cars were used as in the Motorific sets.

Here is a typical Racerific set. Notice the huge timer. The "Cornering Strip" is similar to the Steering Test in the Torture Track series, but includes little cones on top of springs which quiver when the car goes by.

There are some interesting things to point out on the box. For one thing, the kids are always odd looking and completely out of scale with the track. The pictures always also show a whole bunch of cars on the track at the same time....really impossible to do without them colliding all over the place--believe me, I have tried it. One car, maybe two is all you can really handle. If you were 6, I don't think you could handle that!!!

UPDATE ON BOX PHOTOS: It is really obvious to me now that I look closer at it. As I mentioned below, the kids look weird and out of scale in the pictures. The reality is, that the kids are really not there. They are cut and pasted into the pictures. The kid who is screaming on the Action Highway 99 box is the exact same photo used on the model 88 box in the Dealer Reference Catalog ONLY. Different kid (shown above) on the production version. I knew they looked wield.

 

Here is a sample layout from the Fury instruction sheet.

 

Here are some of the sets, from the instruction sheet

     

 

In 1968, Ideal changed the Racerific sets, adding 2 speed cars, and changing the names of the sets, and the track color to blue. These sets are much more rare.

2 speed cars actually contained a little gear switching mechanism that would switch between high and low gears either from a stick shift control, or by a mechanism in the track. In some sets, a car pulling out of the pit stop will suddenly upshift and increase in speed!

Here is a beautiful, never opened Camaro Racerific set. Important to note that only some, not all of these sets came with Camaro cars! Corvettes and TBirds are known to be part of the sets. The cars have blue chassis, switchable gears, and different tires than the regular cars.

 

Photos of Camaro Set courtesy of Barry Goodman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a rather uncommon Whirlwind Racerific Set.

 

Photo courtesy of Shane.

 

 

 

 

Here is a Firebird Racerific, with stick shift control and 'speed up guy'.

 

Photo courtesy of Cherryl Wiltse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The king of all Racerific sets, and perhaps all of Motorifics, is the Racerific Super Speed set. In addition to all the hazards, hairpin curves, and multiple checkpoints, it features the 'Terror Turn". This fascinating piece of engineering is a plastic mountain where a recording of crash sounds inside the mountain, should the car run off the road at this junction. You hear a screech, a crash and breaking glass. It is a fun effect.

You also get a Lemans Starter/Timer. This holds the cars up by the back bumper until YOU hit the release key. At that moment, the car is released, timer is going, and after the car finishes the course, it hits a peg on the timer and stops the clock immediately.

You also get a pit stop, where the car will stop for a moment, then take off.

The car shipped with the Super Speed set is a 2 speed car. You can set the speed manually, or through a shift point on the track. The chassis of the car, and the track, are blue in this set.

 


Mini-Motorifics

Ideal introduced Mini-Motorifics in the late 1960s. These were scaled down cars, and used N type batteries. There were various speed and race sets available, but they were not nearly as popular as Motorifics..

Mini-Motorific came in a variety of sets, most common are the Speed Trial Series and the Sprint Racing 100-300 sets.

   

There were some very nice things about the Mini-Motorifics. For one, there were die-cast metal chassis (perhaps so they could compete with Hot Wheels on some level, and be considered 'die cast cars'). Each car had a fold up and away pin, although it was plastic, no more missing guidepins--although there are slide on pin hold downs to keep the pins from moving forward and out of the way of the road groove....and they are packaged the same way as the old pins, in little envelopes, and just as easy to lose. Unlike the original Motorifics, the wheels follow the turns in the track, like the Motorific trucks do. The metal chassis is great for such a vintage item, since one of my issues with the old original Motorifics is that the chassis bend over time, especially with batteries in them. The bodies on the Mini-Motorifics are nicely detailed with rich colors and decals. A smaller motor is used. The on/off switch mechanism is a little under-engineered.

 

Cars are nicely detailed. There are decals, colored light lenses, and nice paint. The bodies are relatively sturdy too.

 

 

 

 

   

 

Above, we show the two different Motorific chassis, at least the two that we know of. On the left, the motor is activated with the rotating switch on the bottom of the car, which presses the flat contacts together. On the right model, the inverted L-shaped brass contact is pushed over to connect with the other verticle brass contact, completing the circuit and starting the motor. The car on the left also has the "guide pin retainer" installed. The brass strap simply held the drive pin more firmly in the down position. Instructions tell you to swing it down and it will snap into place, but the snap is pretty soft. Evidently they brought out the strap to firm it up. These retainers were packaged in little envelopes just like the original add-on steel drive pins for the standard Motorific cars.

 

Most, if not all sets, came with a big stopwatch to time your races. The Speed Trial sets were single lane, the Sprint Racing, for the first time in Motorific history, allowed side to side racing. It used much the same single lane track, but utilized dual lane pieces and some creative layouts to allow simultaneous races. Here is a comparison of a long piece of Mini Motorific track compared to the original grey track.

 

 

What Mini-Motorific profile would not be complete without mention of this:

 

 

Here is the package for the Mini-Motoric logo'd N-sized battery pack put out by Eveready. The package originally contained 4 batteries.

 






End of the Road: Driverific Torture Test

The last run of the original Motorifics was the Driverific Torture Test.
Driverific Box Car
Above: Box for Ideal's 1976 Driverific Torture Test Mid-70s Chevrolet Monza, rechargable battery, motor, plastic chassis

Most people don't know about this, and there is virtually nothing on it on the internet--save for auctions.  In 1976, Ideal pulled out the moldsLayout for the Mini-Motorific, compiled a few "torture test" tracks, which of course was the theme of the full-sized Motorifics, and introduced this version.

The kicker here is they configured a dashboard with a steering wheel that controlled the switches.  Console

What was special about this set is that the car was NOT a regular Mini-Motorific, but a small car that had a rechargable battery.  This is an oddball battery that looks like a huge watch battery.  The car has the same motor, however, that is in the Mini-Motorifics.  One of the switches will move the car to a recharing station.  This was connected to three "C" cells that would charge the battery sort of like a Hot Wheels Sizzler in a couple of minutes.  After the charge, a shifter control both stops, charges, and releases the car.



I have two sets, both with a Chevrolet Monza car.  All except one of the Driverifics I have seen over the years have this car; below is a picture of the other known car, a Ford Mustang II.  These are the only two I have identified so far.  There are no indications on the box of other cars available, or any additional accessories, or anything at all.

Mustang II

The choice of the Monza is indeed strange.  The Monza, for those that don't know, was an extension of the Chevrolet Vega that preceded it.  But it was a larger, heavier car.  Often they were powered by the God-awful 305 V-8, which felt like a wheezing V-6.  My friend Bob in high school used to drive his parents' all the time, and it had a console-shifted automatic.  Even if you manually shifted it just wouldn't go.  The interior, while confortable, was very plastic.  I had a coworker who had one with a 4 speed 350, and he told me it was very rare and very fast, but I never rode in it.  Either way, these do look like bloated Vegas.  I have no idea why they selected this car.  And the Pinto-based Mustang II was almost as bad.

(Right) Here is a Mustang II car, from a set on EBAY. Courtesy of randyjanetstoysbooks from EBAY, used with their permission.

Unfortunately, like any old camera, toy, or other item with rechargeable batteries, the batteries are shot and leaking.  Same issue with both my cars.  One still had the wiring in place, the other the wires were broken and just loose in the car.  A set of wires went to the charging posts, and the other to the motor.  There is no identifying numbers on the battery.  I suppose something modern could be adapter, or go to the Mini-Motorifics "N" battery setup.  But I really don't want to carve up the car, so I may just leave as is.

In the meantime, I have run my Mini-Motorifics on this track.  The only thing that does not work with these cars is the shifter-controlled charging station.  It will stop the car ok but does not release it well as the stop tab on the rechargable cars is offset a different way than regular Mini-Motorifics, so they kind of hang up on it (although jiggling the shifter will sometimes break it loose), but the "driver" can avoid the charging station altogether.

The set includes a zig-zag with spring mounted pylons, a car jump, and a "brick wall" breakaway test.

The weak part of this set is the "flag" that is attached to the steering wheel and engages the plastic uprights to change the lanes.  Not only is this weak plastic--both my sets were broken, but the flag will slip past the pegs--going too far--and the wheel cannot be turned back to "re-engage".  You have to unscrew the console from the base, jiggle the wheel free, then reach behind the front of the console to snap out the wheel.  This happens so often--no matter how careful you are--that it destroys the meager amount of fun you will have with this version.  Add onto that that using the old Mini-Motorifics will not allow you to effectively use the charging area, or even get out of it cleanly, and you see pretty quickly this is not a good toy.  In fact, its shortcomings make it a pretty bad one.

Steering Charging Port
Here is the source of the problem with this set.  This flag arrangement is glued to the steering wheel...mine was broken so I epoxied it.  It goes through the dash (removed so you can see this) and lies between these two upright posts.  In this picture the wheel is pulled back and away from where it lodges. When you turn the wheel, the flag shoves one or the other post, which in turns shoves the push lever that changes the switch you see in the distance.  The problem is, the flag has a little bevel on it, for whatever reason, and the whole thing is so flimsy that it is extremely easy to turn too far and push the flag over and past the post, and thereby you no longer can engage either post--and you cannot turn the wheel back forcibly without busting off the flag, so you have to take the console apart and replace the wheel between the two posts.  As hard as you try NOT to do this, you will.  Terrible. If you steer the car to the left in front of the console, you will drive onto the charging port. This is controlled by the gear shift on the console.  The car will stop on this peg, the shifter can then move it into the charging position, atop the little copper tabs you see coming out of the plastic lane.  These connect to the charging connectors on the bottom of the car, and the car is charged courtesy of three "C cell" batteries.  Of course, these 30 year old car batteries are all since long dead.




I was sad after restoring this and seeing how terrible it worked.  Under-engineered, borrowed elements from successful toys in the past, and rechargeable cars that over time are ruined.  Yes, I could add some plastic to the flag and fix the steering issue.  Yes I could add this to other Mini-Motorifics to have a big weird hybrid.  But just not interested in it.  For me, the Mini-Motorifics were a gigantic step down from Motorifics, and the Driverific Set was worse still. Back into storage it goes.

A sad end to a terrific toy line.

 

 

Corner of the Bizarre!

Here are some interesting things.

   Just a couple of Motorific Jags, right? WRONG! Guess who made the yellow one?
  Believe it or not, its from MARX. MARX also brought out a short lived gravity track and car set, non motorized, to compete with Hot Wheels. Who knew?
  Inside view of MARX Jag
  Chassis of MARX Jag. Notice slide on off switch, motor, etc. Tires missing, but new replacment tires work just fine here. Interestingly, Transogram made a few cars too!

Down Under Fun 'Mates!

Just like with automobiles, Australia has their own take on things in the Western World. In a country where Dodge Chargers were really Valiants, and a Falcon GT was nothing like our dreary little Falcon, we find a very special version of Motorifics. Enjoy this selection from my friends Down Under!

Savor these pictures and insight into Motorific marketing for our friends in Australia. These pictures are all courtesy of Dawn and Dave in Adelaide, AUS.

 Here is the Aussie Action Highway 1, interesing.
 Warwick Farms? You betcha!
 They had terms such as "build up kits".....interesting.
 Are any of these left hand drivers?!?!
 


Restoration Corner

The #1 problem with vintage Motorifics, and indeed all old slot cars, is rotted tires. Motorific tires tend to harden, develop flat areas, and break off into black, powdery chunks. This is especially true with the original cars, and their whitewalled, hub-capped wheels.

I have recently acquired and tested several sets of replacement tires from Motorific Joe. Motorific Joe provides replacement tires for the older style cars. I have been bugging him for replacements for the two speed cars and trucks too!

I tested these tires exhaustively. They completely changed and enhanced the use of the cars. My best performing cars would still consistently veer off the road, or lose traction in any kind of climb. Once I fitted these new tires, the cars ran great. To maximize usage, I cheated and just replaced the rear tires, since the fronts really don't supply traction! The tires hold up just fine.

The new tires do not have white walls; however, I have devised a plan to add white walls to the tires quickly with a little effort. Stay tuned for more information.

Thanks to Joe for bearing the cost burden and making these available to Motorific fans. Joe will also provide modifications to cars, and other services. To contact Joe and discuss your tire needs, contact him at his website, http://members.aol.com/jmotorific/index.html.

 


Sales Literature/Samples

Click on the picture below to view/download full sized version

 

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