I think that the ad, the surviving models, and the evidence are clear enough.
In the LASCM vault I have the original pencil sketch of the Classic Manta Ray concept drawn by John Powers himself dated Nov '64 which was used for the box art. The car was most likely put into full production in early '65 as you suggest Don.
I spoke with John personally and he was very proud of the fact that he introduced the very first TRUE packaged ready to run car suitable to run on a commercial track!
Why else would this car have sold nearly one million examples? It certainly was not for its looks and there were certainly plenty of cars that could outperform it within a few weeks of its introduction.
John Powers' idea was brilliant! He conceived of a car that could be easily produced in large numbers in nice packaging that ran well right out of the box and you did absolutely NOTHING to the car, just hook up your controller and GO!
That’s not all though, he knew that the purists might want the car to look like a real 1:1 racer so he included a Lotus 30 body for anyone that did not like the blob concept.
Now look at how many Classic Manta Rays you see with the Lotus body compared to the Manta Ray body, my opinion maybe 1-100.
Obviously his concept drew a whole new demographic of kids and adults that wanted a car they could buy off the shelf without waiting for any finishing or detailing and simply run it!
There is no dispute here that the Strombecker car would NOT be in the mix and so far no other major manufacturer would qualify as the first commercial raceway RTR. I assumed that any car designed for home tracks would not be considered in this so called contest.
There MAY have been some cases where a distributor would promote a partially-assembled car and call it ready to run or a manufacturer or raceway would assemble a car for you but none of them could be considered the first real factory packaged RTR like the Manta Ray.
There is absolutely no evidence yet that the Unique Jag was ready to run! Every known example of the 2411 has been altered in some way by its owner and clearly there is not a single advertisement with a claim that this car is ready to run or fully assembled!
Based on evidence here at the LASCM I believe that the body/chassis assembly was bare with a big hole where the grille would go and two holes where the headlight lenses go, no seat, driver, or windscreen installed, not to mention braids, wiring, and rear wheels/tires BUT the car WAS PARTIALLY assembled with motor installed. Not even Philippe could get THAT car around the track fresh out of the box!
Please note that Philippe now clarifies his position on all other contenders offered between the Jag and the Manta Ray; he now says that they are ready to run simply by virtue of being able to get around a track?
According to Philippe the car need only to make it around the track, no matter how it looks and even if the body is unattached that it should be considered ready to run. At Revell Raceway in North Hollywood you could not run a car without a body and you could not run it if the body was not attached in some way! All of these other cars require that the body be trimmed, painted, and mounted and require SOME kind of assembly and detailing to be a car that would be acceptable to run at a commercial raceway
Philippe does not have the perspective of that kid or adult that has no mechanical or painting ability but wants to race a slot car on the BIG tracks. He thinks EVERYONE should be able to glue, paint and trim, fit and screw things together, but this just wasn't the case for a vast demographic that was being totally missed by every other slot car manufacturer until the first REAL ready to run slot car was introduced, the Classic Manta Ray.
Could you autograph my book and make it out to "winner" please, Philippe?