At the start of 2019, Scalextric announced a brand new system for their Micro and My First Scalextric ranges.
The track, cars and controllers have be completely re-designed to provide a more reliable and enjoyable first taste of slot car racing for young families. I was lucky to have a look at the pre-production models and was hugely impressed. I think the Scalextric team fulfilled their brief really well.
However, fans of the previous Micro Scalextric range were left disappointed and – in some cases – quite annoyed. The old and new systems were not compatible. The new system is the third 1:64 scale track and chassis design that Scalextric have produced. The first dates back to 1994 and was a simple re-branding of the American Marchon MR-1 product. This used a typical ‘HO scale’ track and chassis, with vertical track rails and cars with solid metal pick-ups. It was sold as ‘Scalextric Micro MR-1’.
In 1995, the new ‘Micro Scalextric’ range was announced. This had re-designed vertical-rail track – joining to MR-1 track via an adapter piece – and a slightly re-designed chassis with characteristic Scalextric braided pick-ups. The two ranges were sold side-by-side for a number of years, with MR-1 gradually phased out. Between 1994 and 2019, nearly 300 cars and dozens of sets were sold in the Micro Scalextric and My First Scalextric ranges – most of those cars sold in the sets.
The main problem with these old systems is the track. For an entry-level product, it was fiddly to put together and could be incredibly glitchy. Even if it worked perfectly, the cars would take a few laps to get going. And if “a few laps” turned into 20 or 30 laps – was that normal or was something wrong? Micro and My First Scalextric sets ruined Christmas Day festivities for too many families. As an introduction to slot cars, that was disaster for everyone.
The new track has left behind the traditional HO scale layout and has flat rails – like full-size Scalextric track. The connectors are some of the best I’ve seen on any slot car track system, making it easy to assemble a layout, keeping the pieces together while you play – and then safe and easy to take apart, with little risk of damage. Although the range of track pieces is limited at the moment, I expect more to be available soon. There are cool ‘old’ track pieces and accessories, but they are completely incompatible with the new system – there is no adapter track and it would be next to impossible to make one.
All the new sets – battery and mains-powered – run at 9 volts, as opposed to the original 18 volts. This means the new cars, controllers and accessories are designed for 9 volts and are not compatible with the previous systems. The new cars will run on the old track – albeit rather too quickly – and the old cars will be very slow on the new track. Cars from the old-style My First Scalextric 9 volt battery-powered sets work fine. That is as far as direct compatibility goes between the new 2019 and older systems.
For those wanting a first set, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick a new 2019 or 2020 set – there are some great choices available, plus a growing range of individual cars, track expansion packs and spares. Thankfully, I can’t see the new sets ruining anyone’s Christmas – although it’s always a sensible idea for Santa to have a play beforehand.
For those of us with the old system, we have the choice of sticking with what we have, switching to the new or using both. Personally, I have switched to the new track and love it. In addition to having fun with the sets, I have built a drag strip with the new track for hosting mail-in competitions. The track is so smooth and reliable – it is perfect for a drag strip. My project also shows it is possible for an enthusiast with some basic skills to modify the new system for cross-compatibility. I have upgraded the power to 12 volts and we are running both the old and new Micro Scalextric, plus 1:64 scale cars from other brands.