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There are a number of reasons why you might want to take apart a Scalextric car. You may want to do some maintenance on your favourite model or you might have brought an old car at a boot sale that needs a little restoration.
Over the years, Scalextric have made many changes to the way they produce slot cars and the internal components that they use. I’m going to do my best to demonstrate how the cars from different eras are most likely to come apart and I’ll show you what’s inside them.
We’re going to start with this Porsche 962C from the late 1980s as it’s kind of in the middle of Scalextric’s life cycle and is kind of how you would expect most Scalextric cars to come apart and contains what you’d most likely expect to see.
If you flip it over you can see that there are three small Phillips head screws. These hold the chassis to the body and will need to be undone to take the car apart.
The silver box in the centre of the chassis is the bottom of the motor. Just behind that is a magnet. The magnets on this era car is normally quite weak. They are held in with glue too which over time can deteriorate and sometimes people just like to take them out. Sometimes when you buy a car of this era it’s not super uncommon to find that it is missing the magnet.
At the front of the chassis you can see the guide. The guide is what sits in the groove of the track and allows the car to follow the path of the track. Either side of the guide’s blade are braided bits of wire called braids. The braid is what picks current up from the track to turn the motor.
Taking the guide off of a car of this era is super simple. It literally just pulls out. Some earlier cars have wires directly attached to the guide but this car has two metal strips that make electrical connection.
The two metal strips are held to the chassis by melted plastic. On the inside of the chassis the metal strips poke up and are connected to the motor’s wiring by two little spade connectors.
The two little spade connectors also simply pull off if, for whatever reason, you need to take them off.
At the back we have the Scalextric ‘Mabuchi’ style motor. These have been used since the mid 1980s and are still used today. They’re a great reliable little motor. I’ll do a blog post on servicing one if you would all like to see that.
The gear box is a simple white nylon pinion gear on the end of the motor shaft and the spur gear on the axle is also of black plastic.
You tend to not get many issues with the gears on these cars although being plastic if the car is old and has been used a lot the gears can begin to wear away. The gears will also be the first to suffer if the motor isn’t sitting quite right.
Replacing the spur gear means replacing the whole back axle. It’s not difficult to do as it just lifts out, with the bearings, out of the holder on the chassis. The pinions can be a little more difficult. I highly recommend the Ninco gear puller as a tool to remove old pinion gears.
Notice the white plastic bearings. These are also made of white nylon and simply allow the axle to spin true whilst holding the axle in place. If the car takes a heavy hit against one of the rear wheels it can break that bearing. They are super cheap and easy to replace though. Just pop the axle out of it’s holder. Pull off the wheel and it will simply slide off.
Those white nylon bearings have been used by Scalextric forever. They can even be found in their earliest cars.
The car we will be looking at next is considerably earlier. This is a Triumph TR7 made in the mid 1970s.
A lot of cars of this era aren’t actually held together by screws. The chassis’ are clipped to the body and to release them you have to flex the chassis out of the body. Some cars in the 1970s were held together with screws and some later cars were also clipped into the shells (such as the Escort Cosworth). However, this era seems to be the most common era for the clip in chassis.
The TR7 is quite an unusual one as it has two retaining clips on either side of the body as pictured:
Then there is a long clip at the front of the body beneath the front bumper. On this particular car to remove the body you gently fold the chassis so the front clip comes out of it’s mounting first.
Many cars just have one clip at the front and one clip at the rear rather than the two side clips. Removing them is normally just a case of pushing one clip in and folding the chassis out.
Once the chassis is out you can see that there are some changes from the Porsche.
The motor is the big difference. The earlier Scalextric cars use Johnson motors. These are a longer heavier can than the Mabuchi. They also tend to be a little more temperamental and require a little more servicing and maintenance than the Mabuchi can. I’ve written an article on how to rebuild and service the Johnsons motor which you can find here
The guide is the other big difference. Rather than having the metal pick ups the motor wires are held directly against the braids by these little metal tubes.
The guide does just pull straight out as per usual but it will hang on the wires rather than coming away cleanly. As the wires get older they can get brittle so as the guide turns it can break the wires. Again, I can do an article on how to rewire a slot car if you would like.
Some cars also have lights such as this BMW E36. This is an earlier car and as such has small “grain of wheat” type bulbs at both the front and the back which piggy back their power off of the motor.
Notice the kidney grills moulded onto the chassis. These sit inside the shell and as if it were one of the clips from the earlier car, but this E36 is actually held together by two screws; one at the rear and one at the front near the guide.
The underside and running gear of the BMW is pretty much exactly the same as we covered earlier on the Porsche.
One thing I should have covered when writing about and photographing the Triumph was interior removal. In the 1970s-1990s cars the interior is simply clipped into place. To remove it flex the plastic and pull it out and away. Some cars you’ll pick up second hand will have dirt and such on the windows or inside that you may like to remove.
I know the cars we have covered so far have all been quite old but that’s because they are much simpler and easier to dissect.
Scalextric have come on leaps and bounds in terms of making detailed and accurate models in the past 20 or so years. The cars have become more collectable models than toys.
Here we have a Mercedes SLR. It has a full interior and the motor at the front as would be found in the real machine.
To take it apart there are six screws that hold the body in place.
These guides are also interesting. The braids are on a plastic disk that slides forward and lifts off the main guide making the braids even easier to change.
Inside the principal elements are still the same. The elongated motor shaft is only on a few Scalextric cars, most cars are still mid mounted.
Those that I’ve come across with the front mounted motor include the Ferrari 250 GTO, Corvette C3 and of course the Mercedes-McLaren SLR.
Really the biggest change is getting rid of the “grain of wheat” bulbs for LED head and tail lights which are attached to printed circuit boards. LEDs are much brighter (although I think the original bulbs look more realistic, these bulbs are a bit too bright) and most importantly last much much longer than their conventional counterparts.
All the room in the middle section of the chassis is for the fully detailed interior. They’ve made a really nice job of this! Although you won’t see it when going around the track, whilst the car is static it looks so good having the cars with full interior rather than the plastic sheet of earlier cars.
Oddly, that interior isn’t secured to anything inside the shell of the car. It just sits there. To be fair it doesn’t really need to be attached as it fits perfectly but I just find it a little odd. I’m surprised they didn’t add the little clips just to make it even more secure in the car.
Scalextric’s new Formula 1/Grand Prix cars are also exquisite models. Here we have the Lotus Type 49:
Notice how narrow the car is? They would never fit a normal sized Mabuchi can in there so Scalextric (along with other slot manufacturers who make cars like this) have started using a slim motor. It doesn’t need much maintenance and works in exactly the same way as the Mabuchi. It’s just narrower!
The newer Grand Prix cars, expecially the Lotus Type 49, are a little fragile and fiddly to take apart in comparison to the others so if it’s your first time dissecting a Scalextric car I’d recommend trying something else first.
So in conclusion, whilst manufacturing techniques and materials have changed over the past 50 or so years, the principle of how a Scalextric car hasn’t changed and if you can take apart and fix an old one, with a little more patience you can tackle the new ones too!
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By Richard Francis