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AMF and slot car racing


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#1 TSR

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 12:14 PM

Over the years, the controversy over AMF's (American Machine & Foundry) involvement in slot car racing has raged between historians. Some claiming that AMF purchased track manufacturer and franchised raceway orchestrator American Model Racing Congress simply to torpedo the hobby because it was threatening... bowling.
Pure fantasy in my book, AMF never purchased AMRRC, it simply... created it.
To quote a qualified person who was there, here is an excerpt from Champion's Ray Gardner's brief history of the hobby:

In 1962, former engineers and employees of AMF (American Machine and Foundry - makers of bowling alley pin-setting equipment) formed a company in California named "American Model Raceways and Racing Congress."

AMF first produced arcade games as commercial slot racing was not quite on the map yet. Here is an example of their two known efforts:

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(Picture courtesy of pinrepair.com)

With their years of skill and experience, they designed and manufactured 8-lane commercial tracks that were sold to raceways all over the globe. The tracks were quite unique, well ahead of their time, yet quite expensive.

But they went far beyond just building slot tracks. They formulated a complete business plan and produced thick manuals on all phases of the operation. The track layouts were named using English "royalty" and distinctive in that the thick, Formica-covered side walls were all in different colors - Red, Yellow, Green, Black, Orange, Purple, and finally Blue. The color and the name became synonymous and anyone who raced regularly knew what the track was by naming either. For example, the "Orange" was called the "Monarch" and had 8 lanes of 100’ each. The Red was the "Imperial" and was 150’ per lane. The "Sovereign" was American’s "biggie" - a 220’ dream which ultimately became known as the "Purple Mile."

AMF went further and actually developed what they claimed to be as many others, the "Fastest, Best-Handling, Indestructable" slot car, to be used on their tracks. Indeed, all genuine AMF/AMRRC tracks had a T-shaped slot so as to allow the specially-designed guide to hook at the bottom of the slot, in such a way that when the tracks were new and before the slot was worn to a much larger width, those cars had to be inserted in a special place at the beginning of the front straight.

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So AMF commissioned MPC, a relatively new company in Mount Clemens, MI, to manufacture a specific car for use on their new tracks, and there was born the heftiest commercial-raceway slot car ever produced this side of the Adams & Sons pile of parts. Sold in a clear plastic box, the thing weighed over 10 ounces, with massive 3/16" axles, heavy-duty wheels and a vacuum-formed Mako Shark body that was made of "Lexan" polycarbonate, the first use of such material on a racing car of any kind, large or small, that is until GM's Don Gates fitted sliding skirts of the same stuff on the 1969 Chaparral 2J.

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The huge front guide had no less than three sets of brushes, guaranteeing good contact for a long period of time, or so goes the story anyway. A rear guide was also fitted on some cars so as to elimine spins caused by the poor traction of the supplied silicone tires once the track surface had gotten dusty. The tilt factor was held under control by the T-guide and general heft, let alone the lack of speed as the large MPC motor could hardly cope with the weight of that brick.

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The cars were dubbed "International" but only this single American model was ever produced, in many different shades of colors.

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The car was supplied with a conventional guide for "other" tracks, to be customer-fitted.

These cars were controlled through a steering wheel and a "gas" pedal, the operator being seated in a comfortable palstic chair made of polyester resin and glass fibers, mounted on a chromed steel tubular structure. The steering was simply an electrical switch interrupting the current to flow if not turned at the proper degree in each curve. The loud pedal actually fed the juice. It simply did not work very well and most people were confused by a system that was simply a lie in its actual functions.

I believe that the only such remaining operating track is the AMRRC "Black" at Buzzarama in Brooklyn, NY.

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This system was quickly discarded by track owners, to be replaced by a simple hand-held speed controller.
The lifespan of AMRRC and its AMF involvement was racer-brief, by 1967, they were gone. The legend in which "all AMF tracks were shipped to Europe" was largely disproved, most AMF tracks simply fell victims of their own deficient design and were either rebuilt without humps and hills, or simply became firewood. To disprove the story, Buzzarama has no less than six original, near-mint AMF tracks in their store.

All pictures copyright Electric Dreams 2006-2007
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#2 KF4OZJ

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 03:59 PM

One of the first big slot car tracks I can remember in my area (South Carolina) was inside a AMF Bowling Alley, 1963 maybe '65. It was billed back then as "good family fun".
Soon there was a track at just about every empty corner building. I can recall maybe ten tracks in Greenville alone, with several others in surrounding towns...
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#3 Prof. Fate

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 12:13 PM

Hi,

In '65, one of the slot tracks in Salt Lake was one of the T-slot "Orange" tracks. When I saw it in '65, the stools were still there, but they closed the track in the late summer for a week to pull the foot pedals and steering wheels, although they were still using the rentals with the T-slot guides and would add the rear pin for new drivers.

I think, I am not completely sure, the track that survives in Natrona Heights, PA, was originally a T-slot. This was an American orange with a extension in the main straight and coming out of the donut, and painted yellow. I think when I last saw it in '01, you could still see the T-slot entry point. I may be misremembering. I expect Rick may know more.

Fate
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#4 tonyp

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 02:30 PM

The Hillclimb we used to race on at BIR was a T-slot track. When Bob Emott set it up he had to replace the surface in the section at the end of the back straight because of damage so there was no T-slot there.

We had a big group 27 race. Steve Bogut thought he would outsmart everyone with his home made T-slot guide. Problem is he did not want anyone to see it so he put it on his car after practice and just teched it in.

Have you ever seen a slot car go from full speed to dead stopped in zero inches?... LOL...

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#5 MarcusPHagen

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 02:53 AM

THAT story belongs in the History section! What a great come-uppance.

Thanks for sharing it, TonyP.
Marcus P. Hagen -- see below, my five favorite quotes: applicable to slot cars & life in general.
[ "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.". . Daniel Patrick Moynihan ]
[ "Time is the best teacher. Unfortunately, it kills all its students.". . . . . . . . Hector Berlioz ]
[ "There is a very fine line between 'hobby' and 'mental illness." . . . . . . . . . . . Dave Barry ]
[ "Build what you like to build, they are all doomed." . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Prof. Fate ]
[ "The less rules the more fun. Run what you brung." . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Larry LS ]

#6 Cheater

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 07:53 AM

Tony, I don't think you've seen this old thread from SlotForum:

Confessional, confess your sins

The post you want to read is Post #6, although there are a few other good stories in that thread.

Gregory Wells

Never forget that first place goes to the racer with the MOST laps, not the racer with the FASTEST lap


#7 tonyp

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 02:13 PM

Pretty cool thread. I could fill it with a lot of stuff....

"And if my thought-dreams could be seen they'd probably put my head in a guillotine. But it's alright, Ma, it's life, and life only." - Dylan

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#8 Cheater

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 02:38 PM

Tony, you'd better not be posting the good stories over at SlotForum: they need to be posted here at Slotblog!

Why don't you start a thread in the history forum here?

Gregory Wells

Never forget that first place goes to the racer with the MOST laps, not the racer with the FASTEST lap


#9 Mark Wampler

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 02:41 PM

I have to believe that the the track in Pismo Beach (R.I.P. 1988) was a full-on AMF commercial raceway such as was mentioned. It had the American Raceways clock and four tracks: red, orange, yellow, and black. The black track being the shortest, about 70 ft max. The red track was of the same layout as the black track pictured in New York. The color coding is a bit confusing.

There were comfortable stools to sit on and phono jack inputs to plug in your controller, but no steering wheels. The rental cars were a sidewinder direct motor shaft to rear tire setup, but they were not Mabuchis as I remember. The power supplies and track power board all had American Raceways lettering and logo. The track surface was regrettable compared to today's smooth epoxy finish. I have no idea what sort of textured grainy finish was used in those days.

What I really liked about the orange track was the stools set up close to the wall behind. Just kick back, lean against the wall and be cool. Easy visibility sitting down. B)

Steve Foster has the original "Monarch" orange 100' from Pismo in storage. There has been some hinting around about getting it back out on the floor, but he needs more sq ft.
You can quote me.

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#10 Ron Hershman

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 03:13 PM

The American red track was 150' in lap length. The orange 100' (although we had a raceway that had a factory-made 135' orange). The yellow was 80' and the black (depending if flat or banked turns) would be 90' with flat turns and 95' if the turns were banked. The flat 90' black was run in the direction where you would go "down" the donut and the 95' banked black you ran in the same direction as a blue King track, up the donut.

The black track in the pic is a 95' "Royal" track. Or as some call it... a "mini King".

#11 Mark Wampler

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 05:53 PM

What I remember is the orange track was the most popular including the "esses". The red should have been more popular except for the humps down the straight. :angry: For some reason the black track looked smaller than the yellow, maybe it was the way it was laid out. That was only 40 years ago.
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#12 Prof. Fate

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Posted 30 August 2007 - 10:37 AM

Hi,

Over the years, and mostly in the more rural areas, I saw a lot of black tracks, usually the flat one and run in either direction. Often the middle turn would get an added 8' section out and back, adding a "finger" for only a couple feet in floor space. A very popular mod which turned the 90' into a 106'!

The orange was very common as well. Both tracks were the ones you saw mostly during the "dark ages". Blue Kings just took too much space.

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#13 sportblazer350

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 12:50 PM

I remember racing on one of these tracks at a place in New Brunswick, NJ when i was a kid back in the late '60s. Sorry, but i forget the name of that place......will ask around and try to come up with a name for you guys. I do remember: the plastic seats, steering wheels, gas pedals. there were also either thae same or similar tracks at the jersey shore back then, probably Asbury Park and Seaside Heights in the arcade centers. I remember racing on those as well.

Glenn Orban
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#14 Ron Hershman

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 02:12 PM

There used to be on the old Boardwalk in Daytona Beach, Fl a booth with a AMF/American Figure 8 16 lane rental/amusement track. It had the AMF cars, T-slots, steering wheels, foot pedals, race director/lap counter. I last seen it in 1983 and ran on it. The guy who owned it only used the 8 middle lanes and the cars on the unused lanes just sat on the start/finish line. It was funny because on the lanes the cars ran on were clean and shiny, the unused lanes looked to have a inch of duct and dirt on them. If I remember correctly, the cars had huge hard silicone tires on them. I don't remember the lanes being color coded as the cars did not come out of the slots. The guy has the power so low on the thing, if you didn't have the steering wheel in the correct position, the car would just stop. There wasn't enough power to get the cars sideways or to spin out.

There is a slot car book that was published in 67 or so that has a AMF promotional pic of this type of track in it.
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#15 team burrito

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Posted 03 September 2007 - 12:39 PM

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

"In 1969, American Machinery and Foundry (AMF) bought Harley-Davidson, streamlined production, and slashed the workforce. This tactic resulted in a labor strike and a lower quality of bikes. The bikes were expensive and inferior in performance, handling, and quality to Japanese motorcycles. Sales declined, quality plummeted, and the company almost went bankrupt. The venerable name of "Harley-Davidson" was mocked as "Hardly Ableson", and the nickname "Hog" became pejorative.

In 1981, AMF sold the company to a group of thirteen investors led by Vaughn Beals and Willie G. Davidson for $80 million.[16] Inventory was strictly controlled using the Just In Time system."

I guess bowling and bikes don't mix. :lol:
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#16 TSR

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Posted 03 September 2007 - 01:11 PM

Russ,
The Wikipedia story is also very inaccurate. Why would Harley-Davidson, a public company since 1965 would be "sold" to AMF? It simply did not happen. What happened is very different: just as for the obsolete British motorcycles, hampered by pre-war thinking, lack of modern features and full of unreliable parts and poor machining, Harley bikes had become obsolete junk compared to the vastly and technically superior Japanese machinery featuring very reliable and very usable machines with superior performance and at a much lower price as the American machinery. Indian had already fallen from obsolescence, Harley was following this path with narrow-minded Milwaukee thinking.
By 1968, the stock had plunged to its lowest since the company went public. AMF saw a possible opportunity of diversification and began acquiring the stock at a very low price until they had controlling interest of the company. But they never changed management and thinking, so the company simply plunged deeper and deeper in spite of the injected capital.
By 1981, the stock was at its lowest and a group of investor thought that all it would take is a bit of revamping and good marketing to boost Harley into a new "niche" segment, besides the now established Japanese onslaught and capture of 80% of the market.
So they outdid AMF and began buying shares, until they got very close to majority ownership. Then and only then did they approach AMF and convinced them to let go of the controlling interest. AMF was only too please to dump that loser.

But the company ONLY survived through protectionism: in 1982, President Reagan signed a bill that taxed the Japanese imports a 20% fee on wholesale, this for a period of 10 years. This allowed HD to get the needed oxygen to eventually re-capture some of the more conservative US market.

The new owners did indeed create an all-new image for the bikes and progressively made them more reliable and usable. By the 1990's, their marketing approach and the help of a few celebrities such as Malcolm Forbes made the bikes more popular, then the organization of owners meets such as Sturgis blew the market wide open. Tattoos became The thing as well as the whole fashion fad for both men and uh, large women in search of "freedom".
It took another 25 years for HD to issue, at last an all-new and more usable motorcycle almost comparable to that of the Japanese.
But the Japanese failed to match the superb marketing of the new guys in town. Now, the HD bikes are the ONLY machinery on American roads not meeting the maximum sound level imposed on ALL other vehicles. Not a law to speak of, but a tacit acceptance of the noise as part of the image. Is this fair? Nope, but this is how far the new masters have been able to exert their influence in the Powers that Be of the NHTSA...

AMF has only been successful in ONE segment of their ventures, and it is bowling.

Returning to the AMF slot cars, further research has now revealed more interesting evidence, and I will soon post it.

#17 Mark Wampler

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Posted 03 September 2007 - 01:39 PM

There is nothing like the sound of a tuned exhaust system on a Harley. Often imitated, but never duplicated. The HD sound is reverenced by most Americans as the sound of the only American made motorcycle in the world. More like rock star status. There are aftermarket shops that do build HD style engines from solid aluminum blocks, but the sound says HD.

Its not fair that the rice burners have to muzzle their racket, making them sound like pesty mosquitoes. A Harley sounds best idling and fully wound out. Arnold the Governator gave HD's a pretty good boost. I don't think you will get the Highway Patrol to stop the HD's for noise anytime soon. The HD sound is here to stay. I've found that most HD riders are very respectful in residential and other sensitive areas to keep the RPM's low. Its a sign of respect for others and that generates more respect for the HD and the rider.
You can quote me.

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#18 TSR

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Posted 03 September 2007 - 01:55 PM

Respect or not, it is an illegal racket.
Also it is not too respectful for the dozen or so of other American motorcycle manufacturers. Do they have the same "right" to wake up everyone in the middle of the night while being "respectful"?
Even Ducatis are quieter, and in the ear of a purist, sound a lot more like the business.
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#19 Mark Wampler

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Posted 03 September 2007 - 02:08 PM

I guess you can call it a cult following or American as Apple Pie. Just one of those things. Ducati's only wished they could sound like an HD.
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#20 TSR

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Posted 03 September 2007 - 03:18 PM

Ducati's only wished they could sound like an HD.

Ducati does not have to wish anything. While they are a much smaller company than HD, their product is years ahead in actual handling and performance, let alone reliability. The customer basis is obviously very different with a level of education well above the HD customer average.

Even in the USA, Ducati sales are quite good for such exotic motorcycles:

2006 was another record setting year for sales of Ducati Motorcycles in North America. At year end, over 8100 motorcycles had been retail registered...


Harley sales in the US fell slightly in 2006 but are still quite high worldwide at approximately 350000 units for 2006.

Reuters story on HD

Ducati also competes on the world scene and are currently winning the MotoGP title. Harley can only compete on dirt ovals, the last remains of traditional racing in the world. They stand absolutely NO chance in ANY racing class on pavement at this time.
Just a very different animal and not my particular favorite, but obviously a great success on the market place, however what gives them the right to be exempt from sound standards?

Back to AMF and slot cars in the next post.

#21 TSR

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Posted 03 September 2007 - 04:03 PM

The relationship between American Model Car Racing Congress and AMF is quite obvious when one considers the following packaging for the basic Mako Shark car built for AMCRC and later AMF:

The traditional packaging and believed to be the last issued is this one:

Posted Image

However it looks like the very original box for these cars was this one. Please note that the museum is looking for a better example. Cash waiting.

Posted Image

Please note the name of the car: "Americana" and "The world's finest model racing cars", certainly one of the most exagerated statements in the history of slot car racing. Now check this out:

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This apparently rare box (I have never seen another so far) bears the very same definition. But there is another important clue and link to the AMF car on its end:

Posted Image

Of course and until further evidence, the AMF car is the only production slot car known to have had a dual guide system. Hence the link between the cardboard AMCRC box to the clear plastic box simply vaunting the "Americana" car name (no manufacturer mentioned) to the final AMF box.

The correct story of the controversy about AMF and their "purchase" of AMCRC so as to "destroy" the hobby is probably as follows, through the recollections and statements of Jim Russell and Hank Rose of the Russkit company, as well as those of Ray Gardner, formerly of Champion of Chamblee, GA:

The question at hand at this time is, why would AMF former execs CREATE AMRRC, only to destroy it? It makes absolutely no sense at all.
The evidence is clear and there for anyone to see: AMF had offices in London and sold a grand total of 25 tracks over Europe. Those 25 tracks are still there, inside clubs and private homes. The business lasted but 6 months for them as they came late and the hobby was already falling off the cliff. Why would ANYONE in his right mind want to send thousands of tracks to Europe???
If as some claim, AMF "closed their centers" (which they did NOT own, ALL were franchises anyway) and "sent the tracks to Europe", for what purpose and where are they today? Slot car racing collapsed in Europe basically at the same time as in the US. Transporting THOUSANDS of tracks to Europe to do what? have them burned as firewood? The cost would have been ENORMOUS, and AMCRC were having serious cash problems then already.
The truth is a lot more simple:
1/ virtually ALL AMCRC tracks in the USA NEVER had AMF labels on them. In fact, the ONLY one I have EVER seen with an AMF label is in Bordeaux, France, and was purchased new for the AMF center in Paris in 1967, from AMF in London. Even the mint-condition tracks at Buzzarama, the most original in existence, do not have AMF labels. They do have AMRRC tags. In fact, there are VERY FEW references of AMCRC and AMF together in the USA.
2/ I recall racing on AMCRC tracks all over the country from 1970 through 1973. I have seen literally DOZENS. Why would not THESE tracks been shipped to Europe too?
3/ There are still PLENTY of AMCRC tracks around the USA, Buena Park's Kingleman is made from AMCRC original track elements... if "all" the tracks had been "shipped", why not those too? The King track seen in NorCal at Rohnert Park raceway appears to be an old refurbished AMCRC track.
4/ Don't you think that the retirees who purchased franchises from AMF/AMCRC would have objected to some to AMF execs showing up and telling them that they had to close their stores right now and then, and pack up the tracks as they are being sent to Europe? I personally knew original AMCRC franchisees, Tom Tucker of "Circle T" in Burbank being one of them. He still had his raceway and all his tracks in 1973. Why did "AMF" not shut him down too?
5/ The Wilshire Blvd offices were deserted by mid-1968 as the AMCRC people disbanded and could not pay the rent. Jim Russell told me that and said that "these guys disappeared with lots of unpaid bills", including to him.
The simple truth is that the bottom fell out of the hobby and AMCRC went simply... bankrupt.
Others assertions are pure speculation because slot car racing NEVER threatened bowling, simply because bowling addresses a completely different kind of people. Slot car racing was HOPED to increase AMF's revenues, or so was it represented by the ex-AMF employees who created AMCRC. It is POSSIBLE that AMF gave them some kind of financial capitalization for a while, but I seriously doubt that it went that far after the accountants at AMF put the figures on paper. It did for a short while, but the writing was on the wall quickly when the accountants figured revenues VS. floor space and the waning of the novelty. Hank Rose, the former partner of Jim Rusell at Russkit, was one of the AMCRC execs for a while at the Wilshire Blvd offices. He told me that he got out of "that nest of snakes" very quickly as these people were "fast-buck artists". Do you think that by that time (early 1968), AMF would want to kill slot car racing? It was already dying on its own!
Slot car racing was simply doomed because of its very nature of competitive, planned-obsolescence machinery. The customers simply could not keep up, they began making their own machinery and the revenues to the stores simply stopped. The excuse about mail-order taking their business away is only one part of the story. Bowling never evolved, the balls and shirts are always the same, save for their color.


Comments? Evidence? New information?

#22 ravajack

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 06:33 AM

Comments? Evidence? New information?


OK, here goes:

I recently acquired these beauties, very similar but yet quite different.

Both cars appears to be original and in pristine mint condition, but unfortunately no box or other packaging was included in the deals.

The cars are VERY sturdy and features most irregular mechanics: Axles front and rear are not the usual 1/8 threads, but 3/16(!). The same goes for bearings, wheels, gears and nuts. Not very easy to find regular spares in these dimensions...

Front steering/pick-up guide is also quite different from the regular stuff, spring-loaded and VERY long, it appears to consist of three regular guide blades w. brushes mounted in line. Also the extra steering guide in the back is quite remarkable. Apparently this extra blade also came in different shapes and colours.

As you can see in the pics below, this AMF car also came in two flavours:

The blue car with a quite ordinary looking MPC mill w. yellow end bell, the green car with a quite different open motor w. integrated gears. No markings to reveal its origin, though.

Now I'll let the pics do the rest of the talking. Enjoy!

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#23 TSR

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 09:28 AM

Bertil,
From what I have been able to gather over time, the first model, issued in 1966, used the Pittman DC706 sidewinder motor and was mostly used in the USA, sold in the cardboard, and called "Americana".

The second model with the MPC motor was marketed from the AMF headquarters in the UK and distributed wherever it needed to be in Europe. It was sold in the clear plastic box embossed with the AMF logo. The American version was sold in the clear-plastic box with gold embossing, still under the "Americana" name.
Both were manufactured by MPC in Mount Clement, MI. within a short period in 1966. By 1967, those cars were so obsolete that thousands were left unsold and eventually dumped when the British part of AMF collapsed.

Since I wrote the story, we found a much better example of the original "Americana" box:

amcrc_5.JPG

amcrc_6.JPG

These do not come up very often, as almost all of them were trashed as soon as the rental cars would come out of them.

#24 ravajack

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 03:20 PM

Thanks for info, Philippe.Top notch, as usual.

Upon closer look on the open motored car (US version w. Pittman 706) it appears it actually has got an ordinary 1/8 threaded axle in the rear (but still the 3/16 axle up front). I now also see the slight difference in the rear wheels, though both appears to be silicones.

Strangely, I've never seen a Pittman-AMF before, until this one showed up on my doorstep. Only Dyn-O-Can varieties, even in US sites. Even the LASCM site shows only the supposedly UK-only made MPC-motored AMF. As for endbell colours, i've only seen white and yellow in AMF cars, never a blue one.

Finally:

Since I wrote the story, we found a much better example of the original "Americana" box:


Can I have it? :good:
Bertil Berggren
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Posted 07 July 2012 - 08:54 PM

Bertil,
The LASCM has just about every color in which this model was made, in AMF boxes. While the earlier Pittman powered car is harder to find, they are out there. They do have larger rear wheels and tires, while the British-assembled version has MPC wheels shod with silicone tires similar to those on their series 2 stockers marketed in double kits or as individual RTRs.
You will love reading the whole story in the book when issued. We are getting closer to publishing every day.
here is a pic I took a couple years ago of some of the AMCRC/AMF cars at the LASCM:

amf-category.jpg

#26 Mopar Rob

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 11:09 PM

Russ,
The Wikipedia story is also very inaccurate. Why would Harley-Davidson, a public company since 1965 would be "sold" to AMF? It simply did not happen. What happened is very different: just as for the obsolete British motorcycles, hampered by pre-war thinking, lack of modern features and full of unreliable parts and poor machining, Harley bikes had become obsolete junk


I've owned four bowling ball era H-D motorcycles including a '73 FLH that was purchased from the nephew of the orginal deceased owner. The bike was all orginal and had never been apart. I owned that bike for over 11 years. While not quick or great handling, I wouldn't have hesitated to jump on it and ride it to your coast or exactly what it was designed for.

Not really sure where you pull your misinformation from? How many H-D's have you owned?

I've owned many different brands and style of motorcycles ranging from a 1936 H-D WL, Ducati 916 and my last bike that was a Suzuki GSXR1000.

From my experience I woudn't exactly call your beloved Desmo headed Ducati's exactly maintenace free.  ^_^
 

But the company ONLY survived through protectionism: in 1982, President Reagan signed a bill that taxed the Japanese imports a 20% fee on wholesale, this for a period of 10 years. This allowed HD to get the needed oxygen to eventually re-capture some of the more conservative US market..


It was univerally acknowleged that the Japanese were dumping bikes on the US. The tarrif was only on motorcycles over 750cc which is why at the time the motorcycles like the Suzuki GS700 came out to circumvent the tarrif.
 

The new owners did indeed create an all-new image for the bikes and progressively made them more reliable and usable. By the 1990's, their marketing approach and the help of a few celebrities such as Malcolm Forbes made the bikes more popular, then the organization of owners meets such as Sturgis blew the market wide open. .

 

Considering the first year of Sturgis motorcycle rally was in 1938, not quite sure why you imply it was in the '90s?

Now if you were inaccurately refering to the formation of HOG or Harley Owners Group promoting the motorcycle along with the lifestyle, I believe that was formed in the early '80s after the 1981 leveraged buyout fom AMF? :crazy:

Back to the reliabilty issue. About the only thing I see that lends itself to that myth is the rear chain oiler on pre-belt driven bikes. There's a check ball in the oil pump and if the bike sits for long periods of time oil sometimes gets around the check ball and upon start up that oil is blown from the vent tube leading one to believe the motorcycle leaks. With modern O-ring chains the oiler can be turned off and AMF era or pre-AMF era motorcyles won't leak anymore or anyless oil than anything else unless your refering to the way earlier constant loss oil systems of say a VL or DL. :shok:


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Rob was right!


#27 Ron Hershman

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 11:50 PM

More things that AMF once owned besides Harley Davison.....Huffy bycycles, snowmobiles, mono rails, golf carts and nuke reactors.... they sold Iran and Pakistan there very first ones.

Read on...... http://greghoy.com/c...fy-me-vol-1-amf

Lots of AMF HD motor bikes here http://www.youtube.c...0.0.p9LFLh1NVnM

#28 Rick

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 01:28 AM

PDL,

HONDA was the one with its marketing campaigne in the late 60's that made people look at motorcycles in a different way, with their "you meet the nicest people on a Honda bike" yadda yadda yadda.

Harley never promoted a nice image, that I can remember.

I bought a 71 XLCH out the door, $2160. AMF first year, IIRC.
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#29 ravajack

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 04:01 AM

here is a pic I took a couple years ago of some of the AMCRC/AMF cars at the LASCM:


Philippe,
I notice that all the AMF cars in your picture has a cockpit tray w. driver. Were there different "batches" when these cars were produced, or were there different specs for different markets (US/Europe/rest of the world)? Also, was the tray insert in the AMF cars the same as in the regular MPC cars, like Ford J and Mako Shark?

I also notice that all the cars in the pic appears to be of the UK-made variety, not the US "American" version. That seems a little strange, as the AMF:s weren't supposed to be marketed in the US, yet these AMF:s seems to be the most abundant today, not the US-Americans. How come?

More questions on this subject, while we're at it:

While MPC was manufacturing this Mako Shark car for AMF, MPC also had their own version of the Mako Shark in their production pipeline. Same model of car make, but yet distinctive differences in body shape. Any idea of the motives behind this decision? Also, as both body shapes were made of Lexan, did MPC also manufacture these bodies, or were they OEM:ed from any outside source? If so, whom?

As for the MPC Dyn-O-Can, I've never seen any info on what company that actually manufactured this motor. Was it produced in-house by MPC, or? And was it used by other companies than MPC an AMF?

Lot of questions, but who better to ask than The Dokk? :)
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#30 TSR

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 08:05 AM

All the AMCRC and AMF cars had the standard MPC printed cardboard insert, with the injected flesh colored torso and helmeted head glued over it. This was taped inside the body but the tape dries quickly and these inserts fall off.

The MPC motor was produced in USA but do not know what is the actual manufacturer. As far as I know, these motors in their various forms never used by another manufacturer.

The endbells in the AMCRC and AMF cars can be of different colors: dark blue, lighter blue, beige, red...

Most of the survivors today that are MIB are from a small stock that escaped tax-driven destruction in the UK (in other words, a person at AMF in charge of destroying merchandise for tax write-off, kept some and eventually they ended on the marketplace).
Because the AMF scheme in Europe was no short of a total failure, few were actually sold. I remember driving one of those piles in the AMCRC racing center in Paris in the day. Steering wheel, "gas' pedal and all!

Virtually all of the American issues were simply... used up as rental cars, so they are harder to find. Boxes are even rarer.

MPC made these cars for AMCRC on a contract. They did not do the design of either car or body, and few of the actual MPC slot car parts are used on these models. MPC made their own Mako Shark (there are several variations of these over the two years in which they were produced) but 95% of the parts are different.
MPC had their own vacuum forming facilities and made their own bodies and did all their painting in house. Even the metallizing of their Lola T70 bodies was done in house. MPC was first to use Lexan for the bodies, but their paint made the material very brittle...

#31 don.siegel

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 12:18 PM

Didn't MPC claim that the Dyn-O-Can was US made, just like the Dyn-O-Charger?

When I saw the first of these rental chassis with a Pittman DC706 I thought it was a special modification, but have since then seen them relatively regularly on ebay, although often without the body.

I few years ago, on ebay UK I think, somebody was selling a bunch of the AMF rental car spare parts, but don't know whatever happened to that...

Don

#32 TSR

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 12:37 PM

Hi Don,
yes indeed MPC cars were, unlike many other slot cars marketed in America, 100% American made. But i was unable to find out which company produced the motors, would they be Dyn-O-Can or Dyn-O-Charger.

The cars with the Pittman motors are totally genuine and are the first iteration of the AMCRC "rental" car. I believe that the sequence went as follows:

-1965: first issue as "Americana", Pittman motor, American-flag cardboard box.
-1966: second issue in clear plastic "Americana" box with gold embossing, MPC Dyn-O-Can motor.
-1966: British issue, same car but boxed in British AMF box.
-1967: the whole AMCRC and AMF scheme collapses and millions invested are lost. Firewood becomes cheap for a while...
-Circa 1980: John Ford introduces worldwide conspiracy theory of AMF torpedoing slot racing to save bowling.
Film at 11.

Sorry John, I had to do it. I still love you man, you did a lot for the hobby. :)

#33 Rick

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 01:10 PM

Don't you still find it amazing that the fad collapsed so quickly? That was fueled by the millions of baby boomers. Maybe because we all also turned 16 at that time and found perfume and gas fumes? I would hazard a guess that hormones trumped a chitty plastic trophy. LOL

I am bowling at an AMF center now and have been asking the owner if there is any old papers laying around from the 60's in the back? Would be cool to find some paperwork in a box back there............
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#34 TSR

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 01:28 PM

Rick,
You would never find anything in an AMF center about slot cars since AMF was NEVER involved in the USA. AMF only purchased a license from AMCRC to establish slot car centers OUTSIDE of the USA, mostly in the UK, France, Germany and Japan. And this venture was a fiasco for AMF.
AMCRC had nothing to do with AMF other than the guys who started it were apparently ex employees of AMF.
This is why there was no conspiracy, because AMF was NEVER in the slot car business in the USA. :)

#35 ravajack

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 02:35 PM

OK, sorry but this topic begs for some more questions, as I'm still confused, but on a higher level...

Re: The acronyms that are floating around concerning this enigmatic topic and era.
I've collected these from around the Net and also within this site:

AMF - American Machine and Foundry
AMCR - American Model Car Raceways
AMCRC - American Model Car Racing Congress
AMRRC - American Model Raceways and Racing Congress

How were these related relatively each other?

I've found logos for the first three, but the fourth, AMRRC, seems somewhat vague and has eluded me.
What exactly was the AMRRC?

Posted Image
AMF, AMCR and AMCRC logos.
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Posted 08 July 2012 - 02:47 PM

AMRC, AMCRC and AMRRC are one and the same. All based at the same address on Wilshire Blvd in LA, then when things got ugly, retrenched in their warehouse in Santa Monica.

AMF is not part of the group, only a licensee for use of AMRC and AMCRC products outside the USA. :)
The LASCM now has a large collection of the literature, plans, drawings, photography, mailings, correspondence and paraphernalia about AMCRC and their various entities. Not possible to publish it all, but eventually much will be shown on the interactive website of which address and access will be granted after the new book's purchase, and that promises to be a very busy locale for enthusiasts. :)

#37 Ron Hershman

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 05:19 PM

This is why there was no conspiracy, because AMF was NEVER in the slot car business in the USA. :)


The one and only connection..... the steering wheels and foot pedals/based used on the American Raceways tracks were in fact produced by AMF.

#38 ravajack

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 05:51 PM

Hmm... I'm pondering the AMF Mako: What kind of strange creature is this?

Posted Image

I've searched high and low all over the Net, but I've yet to find any full scale, IRL Mako Shark in this special MPC-made AMF design. Was there ever a Mako Shark in this shape, or was it a pure fantasy design?

According to the many Corvette/Mako Shark sites I've sifted through, there were only ever two distinct GM Mako Shark design prototypes, the 1961 Mako Shark I XP-755 and the 1965 Mako Shark II XP-830. Both can be seen in the picture below:

Posted Image

I don't think the Mako 1/XP-755 was ever made as a slot car in any scale, but the Mako II/XP-830 has been seen in many slot car iterations, not least by MPC in a version that is distinctly different from the AMF version (below).

Posted Image

So what about AMF Mako? Were there a full scale 1/1 car in this shape?

If so, was it a Mako, or do we have another case of the Tamiya King Cobra/De Tomaso Sport 5000/Lang Cooper confusion here?
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#39 MSwiss

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 06:13 PM

The back reminds me a bit of an Iso Grifo (but with a spoiler).

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#40 TSR

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 06:42 PM

The one and only connection..... the steering wheels and foot pedals/based used on the American Raceways tracks were in fact produced by AMF.

Yes, on a subcontract. The AMCRC guys were after all, former employees with connections... :)
And of course the tracks actually produced in Europe do bear the AMF markings, such as the one currently in Bordeaux, France.

So what about AMF Mako? Were there a full scale 1/1 car in this shape?


Bertil,
I think that the AMCRC "Americana" is simply a rather poor rendition of the GM Mako Shark. Or, like in the case of the Classic "Manta Ray", it kept only a vague relation with the real car to avoid any legal or royalties implications.

Also MPC produced two distinct Mako Shark bodies, a "short" MK2 and a "long" MK4. The one you show is the later MK5. Here is the shorter MK2:

mpc_ms_mk2.jpg

Here is another MK4 by Cannon, using the Lancer body:

Posted Image

#41 ravajack

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 05:37 PM

The WWW is a wonderful information source, but there also seems to be some widespread confusion and even misconceptions
about a lot of things out there. Not least this Mako Shark issue...

After further investigations and research in the Mako Shark trails, I've found the following to be a most likely scenario:

There were ever only three GM concept cars labeled "Mako Shark":
The first and single one 1961 XP-755 car (XP for eXPerimental), a one-off design called simply "Mako Shark", and a refined
second 1965 model, XP-830, called "Mako Shark II" in two versions, one mock-up and one runner.

Posted Image

GM's design boss Bill Mitchell with the 1961 XP-755, the original Mako Shark.

Two prototypes of this second model, the XP-830, were produced:
A non-drivable mock-up design study without engine only for shows, and a second fully-functional and drivable car with a
big block Chevy 427 Mark IV engine.

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The 1965 XP-830 Mako Shark II mock-up, a pure design study without an engine.

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The 1965 XP-830 Mako Shark II runner, slightly different in details and with a big block Chevy 427 Mark IV engine.

It seems that this engine, with the Mark IV label, is also what's causing the confusion in the history of the Mako Shark. The
1961 car had no extra designation, only a "Mako Shark" emblem consisting of "handwritten" text and a fish. The two 1965
models had the same "Mako Shark" with fish emblem, but with the addition of the roman numeral "II" (2) following the text.
Thus "Mako Shark II".

Posted Image

The chrome emblems for the Mako Shark and the Mako Shark II.

No other examples of the "Mako Shark" concept cars than these three (two functional and one mock-up) were ever produced by
GM. The references to "Mako Shark Mk IV" and "Mako Shark Mk V" that can be seen on the Net today has most likely its origin
in the fact that the 1965 XP-830 runner in addition to its "Mako Shark II" model emblem also had a chrome "Mark IV 427"
emblem on the hood, referring to the engine...

Posted Image

The Mark IV designation on the Mako Shark II was only referring to its big block engine...

There was, however, yet another GM concept car that has more than its roots in the Mako Shark. It's the 1969 "Manta Ray",
that essentially is a re-build of the motorized 1965 XP-830 "Mako Shark II". The Manta Ray was over all very similar in shape
and featured many of outward features from the Mako Shark II, the main difference being in the back, where the rear window
louvres of the Mako were substituted for a recessed "sugar scoop" design with a small vertical window in the Manta Ray. The
making of the Manta Ray concept car also means that the Mako Shark II concept car no longer exists.

Posted Image

The 1969 Manta Ray concept car was based on a rebuild of the Mako Shark II runner, that now no longer exists.

As for the design of the Mako Shark, it was the brainchild of Bill Mitchell, the GM Chief of Styling 1958-1977, a job he had
inherited from the legendary Harley Earl, GM's design director 1927-1958 and the creator of the original Corvette in the early
1950s. Mitchell also applied for a patent for the design of the Mako Shark II concept car. A lot of the everyday real design work
on both the original Mako Shark as well as the Mako Shark II was done by another legendary Detroit designer, Larry Shinoda.

Posted Image

Behind the anonymous US patent D206063 "Vehicle Body" was dwelling the Mako Shark II concept car.
(Right-click picture to open it in a new window, left-click again for a larger version and further detail.)

But back now to the topic at hand: The AMF version of the alleged Mako Shark II.
It's not hard to see that the unknown(?) mold designer of this car has used quite a large quantity of "artistic freedom" in his
interpretation of the original car, to put it mildly.

That is, IF this AMF brute was really meant to depict a Mako Shark II. Or was it?
Maybe it's as simple as this: The AMF car is NOT a Mako Shark II. It's something else. But what?

It sure doesn't look like a Mako Shark II, nor in the overall shape or in the details. The most obvious design differences are in
the large, clear rear window, the shape of the hood with the long central ridge, and also the coupe door/window parts
arrangement.

Posted Image

There are obvious design differences between the alleged AMF Mako Shark II (top) and MPC's own, more life-like
version (below). The AMF is most likely depicting a totally different car. But which one?

Over the years it has been an established fact, though, that the AMF car is a Mako Shark II.
But how do we know that?

Has AMF, AMRC, AMCRC, or AMRRC ever stated anywhere that this car really represents a Mako Shark II?
As far as I can see, no reference to "Mako Shark" is found on the paper box or the plastic cases that Philippe has shown in this
thread and on the LASCM site. It simply says "Americana".

Maybe that's what it is, a fantasy kind of "thingie" design, vaguely resembling a period popular American sportscar:
The Americana, to dodge also any legal or royalties implications, as Philippe suggests.

Why else would the MPC folks bother to design and make two different body shapes of the same car, one for themselves and
another quite different for the AMF OEM project?

Curiously, I've also found this pic, labeled "Mako Shark concept", showing what seems to be the the significant hood shape of
the AMF car, and not the real Mako Shark II louvred hood. Strange, but this is also a one of a kind picture. No other pics or
different angles of this particular car seems to be out there...

Posted Image

There are some likeness between this car, allegedly a "Mako Shark concept", and the AMF car. But this is unfortunately also the only pic I've found of this vehicle...
Bertil Berggren
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#42 TSR

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 08:06 AM

Hi Bertil,

I think that you are raking your brains too much about this one... :D

Indeed AMCRC never claimed that their model was anything else but an "Americana", and as I pointed, looks to me to be patterned as a poorly-rendered Mako Shark.

I believe (but will have to verify) that the period mags called it a Mako Shark, but frankly it is unimportant. What is is that the model and its whole purpose were a complete commercial fiasco. It was slow, handled poorly, and the bodies were quite fragile because of the lacquer paint used on the material made it quite brittle. Driving those piles with a steering wheel that provided no steering was also not a good experience for a first-timer, as no one was there to explain to him that the "steering" only provided electrical contact when turned precisely at a certain angle... so the whole scheme fell apart quickly and regular controllers were quickly installed, replacing the ill-conceived wheels.

But it makes for interesting discussion... :)

#43 ravajack

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 05:32 PM

I think that you are raking your brains too much about this one... :D


Yeah, I think so, too. :)

But as I've got these two AMFs (and also a couple of MPCs) believed to be Makos that upon closer examination seems to be something completely different, I got curious and did some Net research. The "Americana" box info you showed was complete news to me, and further proof to put another nail in the AMF Mako Shark coffin.

And if we can not determine or find out exactly what IRL car that the AMF "Americana" is supposed to represent, then we must assume that it is indeed a pure fantasy design, n'est ce pas? By now we all must agree that it's at least NOT a Mako Shark of any kind or breed.

Also the name "Americana" in my mind well implies that there was no specific IRL "role model" for the AMF car.

And that in turn leaves us with the conclusion that this AMF lemon, (too) long regarded as a model of the legendary GM Mako Shark, is in fact a mere - thingie!

At least I guess that will make Edo the "Thingie Kingie" happy to be able to extend his realm yet another inch... :D
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Posted 10 July 2012 - 05:49 PM

Americana it is, but it has lots of elements from the Mako and the 1968 Vette, except that it was produced in 1966... :)

I think that it is just a lousy rendition of the Mako, by a model maker probably more versed with agricultural machinery...

#45 ravajack

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 01:02 AM

This might be of interest here: Two short video clips featuring commercial slot car racing the AMRC/AMF way back in the 1960s. The cars are maneuvered and controlled with steering wheels and foot pedals. The track seems to be a "blue King" and the AMF/Americana cars with the huge guide really seems to be able to slip out and de-slot despite the infamous T-slot.

The first clip is 1:54 long with commentary and sound effects, the second clip shows additional out-take footage and is a bit longer, 3:24, but without sound. Original footage is in vintage 4:3 aspect format, but I've edited it for clarity and to better fit the modern 16:9 TV/computer screen format.

No vital content is lost by this re-format. (And no animals were harmed in the process).




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Posted 11 July 2012 - 07:22 AM

Bertil,

This footage has been seen here before but thanks for posting it again.

As you can see, the cars in this film are not fitted with the second guide, allowing them to spin. But I did not see any cars actually OFF its slot! However the whole thing is comical/farcical, and it is quite obvious that this was going to fail as anyone with a simple controller would easily lap all the cars rather quickly. :)

The LASCM has several elements of this mess, the giant (and noisy!) lap counter, the power pack, and the cars. All it needs to complete the whole display is one of those seats/steering wheel/throttle pedal units in mint condition...

#47 ravajack

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 09:44 AM

This footage has been seen here before but thanks for posting it again.


You're welcome. But only the first clip with sound may have been seen before, and never in enhanced 16:9 video. The second, soundless clip has surely never been seen before in any format, as it was dug up and retrieved from within quite another reel containing mostly sailing boats. That's the cut out, leftover film parts from the sound-edited first movie.

I did not see any cars actually OFF its slot!.


That's probably because you didn't pay attention, or didn't bother or had the patience to watch the clips through until the end... :buba:

Beginning at 1:46 in the sound movie, first a hi-speeding red car does a huge wall shot and de-slots, and is then also being hit by another red car.

A few seconds later a white car does the same and ends up spinning wildly on its roof. I have no idea how you could have missed these quite obvious and major de-slotting incidents if you:

A. Have seen this video before.
B. Have seen this video again.

For convenience, I've cut out only the de-slotting parts of this video and am serving it below on a silver plate. Enjoy! :D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyWAWr49cbg
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Posted 11 July 2012 - 09:54 AM

Yep, I missed it! :D

The cars indeed could de-slot if pushed too hard. But you HAD to push their hefty bulk to the point of forcing them out of the slot. I was too busy looking at the gentlemen racers in suits and ties... how the wold has changed.

#49 Ron Hershman

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 10:17 AM

I was too busy looking at the gentlemen racers in suits and ties... how the wold has changed.


Or the lady racers in their skirts. ;)

#50 Gary Bluestone

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 12:44 PM

Most of the Dyn-O-Can motors I have seen have the name "Rowe" or an "R" stamped into the can end. This was covered with a tinfoil sticker labeled MPC when these were new. I Googled Rowe but couldn't find out much since it is a common name. Maybe someone else will have some more info on this.





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