HO scale racing history

The beginnings of it all for slot car racing, what is known as HO scale

Not covering everything, and just some cool info on the HO Aurora slot car history.
The beginnings of it all for racing what was known as HO scale
Where this HO thing began, and some history of the popular HO slot cars, there were lots
of brands that tried to grab the market, but just stories on the main ones going to cover here.

Late 1950’s HO scale racing

HO scale slot cars can be traced to England, where in the late 1950’s the English inventor, Derek Brand first developed a small motorized car, to be used with model railroads. Vibrator HO cars. They worked with AC current.

The Aurora Model Motoring system first appeared in U.S. hobby stores just in time for the
Christmas buying season. These were the vibrator cars and used AC power. These were no much fun and more a novelty, and with AC power and have attached a pic, just moved around the track. these worked about as good as the old football games we older ones can remember as kids. You put the players on the track, the board vibrated and your player moved. So yea I guess the vibrating thing could be exciting to some back in the day. Although the cars did move through a mechanical vibrating AC current motor in their case.

Aurora introduced the Thunderjet 500 chassis in response to customers’ complaints about the difficulties they had keeping the original Vibrator cars running well. The Thunderjet 500 chassis, or just T-Jet, was designed so that the original Vibrator bodies could continue to be used with this new, faster and more maintainable chassis. This increased the fun factor 100 percent, the cars were fast and could actually deslot and had to control the cars. That is what a racecar should be, should have speeds that are “near the edge” and Aurora did that and interest really took off.

Mainly the Thunderjet 500 came to be, to replace the trouble prone and slow Aurora Vibrator car. Although the Aurora vibrator car was trouble prone, and slow, it went on to sell 1.5 million cars, in a three year span from 1960 to 1963. There were so many bodies produces with screw posts, these could be placed on the T-jets, so Aurora thinking was good and very good moves they did back in the day.

1963 Aurora gets some heated competition in HO scale

Enter Tyco slot cars

Aurora’s remarkable success didn’t go unnoticed, and several other hobby companies attempted to get into the market. The most successful of these was Tyco, who in 1963 introduced its own line of ‘HO’ slot cars.

Tyco’s original cars were larger than Aurora’s Thunderjets. Tyco’s car bodies were closer to 1:64 scale then they were to the ‘HO’ scale. The slightly larger cars could still be operated on 3 inch wide track, of which Tyco offered its own track system, or on the many Aurora Model Motoring layouts that already existed.

Tyco’s decision to produce larger 1:64 scale cars made it possible for them to offer a more powerful square can motor. with a pinion gear mounted directly on the armature shaft driving an axle-mounted crown gear. Seems Aurora had a patent on the pancake
design, so Tyco used a different approach. Tyco’s larger 1:64 scale chassis made it possible for them to offer cars with more realistic proportions and better details. The Tyco chassis also provided wide rear hubs and soft racing slicks that dramatically improved handling over the skinny ThunderJet rear tire

Back to Aurora…

By 1965 over 25,000,000 HO slot cars had been sold by Aurora.

1/32 scale vs HO scale 1965

HO Thunderjets are really taking off in United States, but meanwhile, back in England, ‘HO’ slot car racing had all but disappeared. Larger 1:32 scale slot car sets made by Scalextric dominated the U.K. market. Playcraft eventually went out of business, and Aurora opened a small sales office to service English owners of the original Playcraft Vibrator cars still in use.

Aurora Model Motoring 8-Lane Track System, Aurora’s early success with HO slot car racing, made it possible for them to expend the financial resources required to develop new and exciting products. A full line of track sections was added, making it possible to build large HO raceways with up to 8 lanes. New body styles were constantly being added to the line. In 1966 alone Aurora added several more race cars to their already impressive line-up. A Ford GT-40, Cobra GT Coupe, Porsche 904, Chaparral, Lola GT, Ferrari Dino and Ford MK-IV were all added to their catalog. These tracks started showing up at various locations in US and made a place for fun racing and gatherings at Hobby Shops, since 8 lanes, could keep interest and have races.


During the 1960’s HO slot car racing was as popular as video games are today. Most boys and their dads raced in the basement together. Many of the magazines of the day featured father & son projects involving carpentry and electrical wiring of elaborate HO model raceways.

Early 1970’s
Aurora and A/FX wars begin to really heat up

Aurora Factory Experimental – A/FX

Aurora was quick to follow with a larger 1:64 scale chassis design of their own called the Aurora Factory Experimental or A/FX for short. The larger chassis made it possible for Aurora to produce bodies that were just as detailed as their competitor, Tyco’s offerings.

True scale ?

The entire range of small slot cars produced by Aurora and Tyco were referred to as ‘HO’ even though they never were actually 1:87 scale. From a purists point of view, the original Model Motoring T-Jets were ‘OO’ scale and the later and larger A/FX cars were actually ‘S’ scale.

But we all know them as the HO scale,and that was the adopted term.

1972 A/FX Super II was Auroras answer to competitors, and this thing was fast!

The pancake motor was modded using chassis of original A/FX, but with gold plated electrical parts, very hi revving 4 lamination armature. They revved about 4 times the RPM of normal 3 lamed motors, since the regular A/FX only had 3 lams. The Super II also had aluminum wheels, weights for better handling, and a lightweight lexan body designed only for this chassis. These are super rare now, and can find on ebay once in awhile, but get ready to pay big money for one.

Introduction of the AFX Specialty Chassis

This chassis was longer and had 4 gears and was of the magnatraction line.
“Special” bodies were made for this line of cars

Details of AFX Magnatraction, they dropped the / the A/FX in later years


Introduction of the Aurora A/FX Magna-Traction

This AFX chassis, designed with larger more powerful motor magnets, which could grip the track rails, greatly improving lap speeds since would not deslot as easily. cars to stay in the slot better in the turns. Very easy to identify, the contacts for brushes are like a criss cross, and can see exposed magnets. Still takes same body clips as early A/FX

Aurora Success

The flat- commutator (“pancake”) motor. The car was an instant hit ! Faller (Germany) produced it for sale in Europe, and competing companies tried in vain to match the speed and reliability of Brand’s design. The Thunder Jets and their improved versions, the AFX, sold in the tens of millions, completely dominating the HO market for almost a decade.