MeTV Fan Collections—Race to see vintage slot cars from the 1960s
The 1960s slot car craze continues for this avid collector.
Is collecting a hobby of yours? Show MeTV Your Collections is an online show-and-tell series that gathers our favorite collection submissions from MeTV fans. Today we look at a vintage slot car collection by Tom Nagler. Want to show us your collection? Share with us here!
Let's go back to 1963. The Beverly Hillbillies was the No. 1 show on TV. The Fireballs' sweet single "Sugar Shack" was on the top of the charts. Cleopatra was the highest-grossing movie in the world. And if you were a young boy? Well, if you were like MeTV fan Tom Nagler, you were in a basement with your best friends racing Aurora slot cars.
"My collecting passion is vintage slot cars," Tom said. "These were tiny electric racing cars about the size of Hot Wheels, but they had tiny motors in them and ran on plastic racing track with steel rails embedded in them and a groove down the center for the guide pin. Slot cars were a giant fad in the mid 1960's, and they came in all sizes - from my beloved tiny HO scale cars, to 1/32 scale, and even 1/24th scale (think model car kit size). I love 'em all, but my favorites are the Aurora Model Motoring and AFX slot cars."
By 1963, Aurora had manufactured more than a million and a half of the tiny cars that took toy stores by storm through the end of the decade. There are many factors attributed to their popularity: their small size, their economical cost, the social aspect of pitting your cars against your big brother's.
"Aurora was a big toy manufacturer in the 1960's - they are well known for the uber-cool Monster kits - Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, the Mummy and dozens more," Tom said. "When I was very little growing up in Chicago, my older brother and his buddies would set up huge slot car tracks in our basement, and race 'til all hours of the night - Svengoolie (Jerry G. Bishop) would be on the TV, and I could hear them all laughing and having a great time. Oh, how I desperately wanted to be part of that!!! Every once in a while I would sneak down there and get in a few minutes of track time only to get ousted out by my big brother, usually after sending one of his prized cars zooming off the table into the dark corners of basement oblivion!"
Today, Nagler's collection spans more than 300 slot cars. "I have at least 300 slot cars, some still in boxes, but most are available for racing on my track," Tom said. "All sorts of real cars were made into slot cars - Mustangs, Camaros, Chargers, Dune buggies, I have bunches! Aurora even made tiny copies of the Batmobile, Green Hornet - and amazingly - even a Good Humor Ice cream Truck! Of course, I have miles of plastic racing track and tons of accessories as well."
Although the slot cars are all special to Nagler (he said he really wants the Green Hornet one but at least his Batmobile is cooler), the item in his collection that means the most to him tugs at a very particular aspect of collecting slot cars that we think other nostalgia fans will strongly identify with:
"My most prized slot car possession isn't a slot car at all! A few years ago, I went back to the old hobby shop where my buddies and I used to buy our slot cars - Pilot Hobby on Belmont at Austin," Tom said.
"As kids, we would spend hours looking in the display case full of slot car goodies - cars, parts, you name it - that case held genuine treasure! He was going out of business sadly, but before he did, I bought that very same massive glass display case from him and somehow got it home into my new basement (my wife still shakes her head...). I've got that case jam-packed full of my own slot car treasures - many of them bought right of that case by a younger me, almost 40 years ago! I just love it!"
Oh, and if you're worried about all that time Tom spent wishing he could join his brother and his friends in their racing games, don't fret. Tom eventually grew to start his own basement crew.
"I made up my mind that when I grew up, I'd have as many slot cars as I could, and everyone, friends and family alike, would get to race them," Tom said. "By the time high school started, I had my budding collection (many cars swiped from my brother who had since moved onto more interesting things), and my own buddies and I would get together in the basement, racing on our tracks, with Son of Svengoolie playing in the background. Funny how that all worked out!"
In fact nowadays, Tom said his biggest wish would be to go back to that time as a young boy with his own slot cars with his brother and his friends creating the noisy din of the racetrack with their laughs.
"Truly, what I would love to have the most, is the chance to go back and hear my brother and his buddies laughing again in the basement, and to relive the fun I had with my own," Tom said.