Compatibility between old and new Scalextric cars and Scalextric track


Use your new Scalextric cars on your old Scalextric track and your old Scalextric cars on your new Scalextric track with these simple hints and tips

Abstract

Scalextric (in one form or other) have been producing Scalextric track and Scalextric cars since the late 1950s and over this time several different standards have been used. This is for both the cars and the track. However, some of the basic principles have remained the same. The track has a slot and two conductor rails on each side. The cars use the slot to guide them around the layout and electrical contacts to touch the conductor rails. Also, the system voltage and current requirement are similar too.

This article explains what is compatible from old to new to Digital and what is not, and what you can do about it.

Introduction

Over the years the track has a slot that has broadly remained unchanged, the cars have a pin or blade that runs in this slot to guide the car around the track. Each side of the slot there are two electrical conductor rails who's dimensions have broadly remained unchanged. The Scalextric cars then have 2 contacts, usually made from flat braided wire that touch each conductor to carry the electric current into the car. The nominal electrical voltage has remained at 12 Volts to 14 Volts for both the power systems and the motors in the cars and the current draw has remained similar too.

This article considers the compatibility of cars and track produced from 1960 to the present day including the Digital control system.

Scalextric Track

The Scalextric track pieces provide several key requirements:

  • A known surface for the cars to race on.
  • A slot in order to guide the cars around the circuit.
  • A method of supplying electrical current to the motors in the cars.

Mechanically the Scalextric track may appear quite different from old to new and had several different standards over the years. The very first track pieces produced were known as "rubber track" and wasn't well designed with poor fixings between the track pieces. In 1963 a plastic track was introduced with good positive fixings between the track pieces. This plastic track is now often referred to as the Classic Scalextric track. In 2002 the track design changed to the Scalextric Sport track design which had an improved fixing method between the track pieces. At the time of witting in 2013, this is the current track design.

Classic Scalextric track

Throughout this period the slot in the track and the conductor rails have remained largely unchanged in specification which means the key interface to the Scalextric car has also remained unchanged. One area of difference is that the Classic Scalextric track range offered many track pieces that contained obstacles such as chicanes, hay bails, backed curves and even rocks. None of these are available to the same degree with the Scalextric Sport track system.

Further, the Classic Scalextric track range had a deep graining on the surface giving the car tyres good mechanical grip for cornering and acceleration. With the introduction of Magnatraction the Sport track range didn't need such heavy graining and so has a much lighter surface graining giving a smoother appearance and feel to the track surface.

  • 1960 to 1962: Rubber track.
  • 1963 to 2001: Classic track.
  • 2002 to present: Sport track.

Classic Scalextric track and Sport Scalextric track use different clipping arrangements to connect together. There is a special piece of converter track that can be used to join together Classic Scalextric tack and Sport Scalextric track.

Scalextric Cars

The Scalextric cars have changed little in their basic layout throughout this time. There is a method at the front of the cars to locate or guide them around the track which is either in the shape of a blade or a pin. The blade guides need to rotate in the underside of the Scalextric car to allow the car to take corners while the pin guides tend to be fixed and not rotate. With pin guides the pin is narrow enough to rotate in the slot itself.

Each side of the guide blade or pin there are two metal conductors, usually in the form of flat woven metal braids. These braids rub along the conductor rails providing the necessary two electrical contacts between the track and the car. The motor is then connected to the braids with short lengths of wire. The motor drives the rear axle via a simple gear mechanism which in turn drives the car forward.

Scalextric Javelin model from 1970

Older Scalextric cars tended to have plenty of up/down movement of their front axles and sometimes the front wheels were no where near the track surface. The front of these cars rests solely on the guide and braids. Later Scalextric cars have removed this movement with most running fixed front axles where the front wheels run on the track surface. This is much more realistic as the front wheels rotate as the car moves along the track layout.

In more recent times Scalextric Digital has been introduced. In Scalextric Digital cars there is a small electric circuit (chip) fitted to the car where power from the track goes into the chip and the output from the chip drives the motor. The chip also drives an LED which points downward and which communicates to track pieces to change lanes.

Electrical

The basic electrical specification has remained unchanged from 1960 to the present. The analogue system voltage is 12 Volts to 14 Volts with a series resistive control method. The electrical current drawn by the motors has reduced over the years with the introduction of more efficient motors.

Scalextric Digital uses a completely different way to control the cars. Constant power is supplied to the whole track layout and the cars are controlled with digital signals that again go around the whole circuit.

Compatibility - old cars on new track

There are several factors concerning the use of old Scalextric cars on new Scalextric track. The first of which relates to the change in the surface grain from Classic to Sport track. The older Scalextric cars without Magnatraction will have little mechanical grip from their rear tyres making acceleration and in particular cornering difficult. This can be overcome by fitting Magnatraction magnets and/or MAX Grip tyres. With some ingenuity magnets can be fitted to all of the older Scalextric cars and MAX Grip tyres are available for all the older Scalextric cars too.

The other difficulty concerns the pin guides. The later track layouts used obstacles such as crossovers and the modern Scalextric Digital layouts use lane change pieces or points in the railway vernacular. Essentially, the pin guide doesn't provide any directional stability which means as a car with a pin guide passes over a crossover piece of track it stands a good chance of moving to the wrong lane or slot. To use Scalextric cars with pin guides on later layouts either the lane change or crossover pieces of track need to be removed from the layout or the cars can be converted to use guide blades instead of pins.

The older Scalextric motors tend to consume more electrical current than the newer Scalextric cars. As such the newer power supplies associated with newer Scalextric layouts may not provide sufficient current to allow two older Scalextric cars to race at full power.

Non digital Scalextric cars cannot be used on the Scalextric Digital system as the electrical systems are not compatible. NOTE, a traditional analogue Scalextric car may sustain permanent damage if placed onto a live Scalextric Sport track layout.

Compatibility - new cars on old track

On the whole it is easier to operate new Scalextric cars on the older Scalextric track layouts. Electrically they consume less current and all have guides blades rather than pins. The key problem concerns the fixed front axle as this prevents many of the older obstacles from being used. As the front wheels traverse an obstacle they lift the contact braids away from the conductor rails on the track and the car stops. Obstacles that cannot be used with new Scalextric cars include:

  • Banked curves.
  • Hump backed bridges.
  • Bumpy or rocky track.

Additionally, because of the front axle the new Scalextric cars need a very flat surface on which to operate. Old warped, bent or out of shape track pieces may cause problems for the newer Scalextric cars.

Scalextric cars fitted with a Scalextric Digital chip can be used on analogue layouts.

Compatibility - Analogue and Digital

There are two types of control mechanisms used by Scalextric, these are Analogue and Digital. The Analogue control system is the traditional method which uses a basic resistive winding of wire in the hand controller to control the D.C. voltage sent to the track and car. In the car the wires from the braids connect directly to the D.C. motor.

The Digital system uses frequent digital data messages from the controller to a microprocessor fitted to the car. The track has a permanent A.C. power supply which also goes to the microprocessor in the car. The microprocessor in the car then controls a Pulse Width Modulated (PWM) power feed to the D.C. motor based on the digital data messages from the controller. Therefore there is no direct connection from the track to the motor in a digital car.

Digital cars will work perfectly normally on an analogue power system but analogue cars do not work the Digital power system. Analogue cars may be permanently damaged by the Digital power system.

General

On the whole there is very good compatibility between the old and new Scalextric cars and Scalextric track. Newer Scalextric cars can run well on older Scalextric layouts as long as the layout is flat and contains no sudden changes in height such as rocks or banked curves. Older cars may need some updates to run well on the newer track especially concerning grip. Scalextric cars with pin guides need to avoid layouts with any form of crossover or lane change method.

About the author:

Gary Harding has been working with Scalextric cars for over 40 years and now operates Scalextric Car Restorations in the UK. Scalextric Car Restorations is a Worldwide internet based business that offers for sale high quality Scalextric cars and Scalextric parts from the 1960s to the present day. All the restoration work is carried out to the highest standards with the highest quality parts available. Only the best cars are selected and the final result is a car that is genuinely like new.

Further help and advice relating to this article or Scalextric cars in general can be found at:

http://www.scalextric-car.co.uk