The first slot car sets of this design were produced by "Ungar", which was an abbreviation of "Ungar Electric Tools".  Ungar made wood burning kits and other items as well.  In 1958, Eldon bought a controlling interest of Ungar Electric Tools, but ran the companies independently, to a point.  It is interesting to note that later on, Eldon brought out some wood burning kits, which was a reconstituted version of the Ungar set.

The early Ungar sets were battery powered and had the same track that the Eldon brand would use for the production run.  I have seen some Eldon sets that had track labled Ungar.   (Right: A Ford GT purchased from EJ's Hobbies)

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Background and History
 

Eldon Industries was originally located in Hawthorne, California. Throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s they made a series of wonderful toys. In the 50s, they manufactured a large amount of "poly" toys, made of polyethethylene plastic, almost "unbreakable", and marketed as such.

They brought out kind of a goofy manumatic "robot". A plastic ferry with cars and trucks that floated. (A later version which was much larger came out in the late 60s). The wildest toy they came up with is the Bowl-A-Matic, also featured on this site.

In the very late 50s, they brought out slot cars. after buying out Ungar. They started out with open wheel racers, go cart racers, battery operated tracks, etc. They quickly moved away from Ungar styled cars, but retained the track design created by Ungar.

The designs of the cars were very much reflective of what was going on in the racing and automotive scene at the time.  Early models with the thin, tall "wire wheel" style wheels, and racing bodies such as Ferrari, Porsche, Lotus, plus cars such as Corvettes, Plymouths, and Pontiacs.  All were powered by a Mabuchi "can" motor.  Chassis were extendible to accomodate different body types.  They were made out of a nylon plastic, and were pretty durable.  In fact, I have only see one broken chassis.  Some models even had headlights.  At this period in time, they were all 6-volt.  

A great innovation were the Selectronic cars.  They were the same cars, but with a diode that allowed a sort of seperation of current if you will;  when cars with these diodes were used on the track with the special Selectronic Transformer, you could drive either car in either lane, and maintain control of the car.  All Selectronic sets came with a lane changing track piece as well.  All Eldon sets could be upgraded to Selectronic.

Eldon brought out many different sets.  Some with a stock car theme, others with a standard racing theme, and others with stunts.  A special promotion was run with Eldon Sets featuring Dodge cars and trucks, available solely through Dodge dealerships.  New tire and wheel designs reflected the up and coming "mag wheels" or real cars.

Eldon brought out tons of accessories, including grandstands with plastic people, score boards, special track segments, flag kits, lap counters, and many other items to enhance the fun and functionality of the racing experience.

As the 60s progressed, more and more commercial slot car tracks opened. These were very different to these types of cars...much faster. The good news is that general interest in slot cars themselves, even the "big brother" tracks, helped fuel the general interest of the hobby down to the consumer level.

Eldon rode that wave as long as possible.  As with many products, sometimes there was disappointing downgrades.  Eldon started producing "chassisless" cars, with the motors and axle assemblies all snapping into the bodies.  This really cheapened the whole thing, however, some racers claim the lighter cars gave a performance edge.

Big slot car interest waned in the late 60s and 70s, and interest in "HO sized" cars and tracks picked up. Eldon was eventually purchased by Cox, who along with Revell, Scaletrix, etc, made large slot cars too.

 

Hated by Hobbyists

Hardcore hobbyists can be a strange breed, especially when guys make any hobby their whole life.

If you talk to these guys, they usually bad mouth Eldon and pretty much place it at the bottom of the barrel for slot cars, or vintage slot cars even.

Common complaints are with Eldon's nylon chassis, pickup, shallow slot grooves, you name it. Some say that the cars fly off the track too easily. I have to laugh...that is part of the skill in this. What, do some guys expect the cars to just fly around and never come off? What is the sport in that?

To me, the cars are plenty fast, but do require alot of time, patience and skill to get working once they have sat awhile. Particular care must be taken to clean the track, remove any corrosion or build up that prevents good electical contact, and the biggest irritation, the pickup brushes.

I have become quite good on working on these cars, and even done some surgery on the tiny Mabuchi motors. Quite fun to get a car that is not working and a few hours later get it flying around the track!

Personal Experience 

I especially love these cars because I had them as a kid.

Around 1963, my dad worked for NCR, right across from Eldon Industries in Hawthorne, California. They had a counter at Eldon with ladies sitting at desks. You could go in and buy items. It didn't have a showroom, but you could tell them what you wanted and buy it there. My dad told them he wanted a big slot car set. After paying $30, he got what he asked for, the huge International Grand Prix Selectronic Race Set. He also added a Corvette with working headlights, and a marked down Eldon Go Cart racer. (He may have added these on future trips). I can still, BARELY remember when we first got it (I was almost 3 years old). Uncles and my dad played with it for hours. It was Eldon's biggest set, and an advertisement for it is shown below.

As years passed, my sisters and dad showed less and less interest in it, and it was me as a young boy trying to set it back up, and as years went by and oxidation built up on the track and brushes deteriorated, I could get it to work less and less. Finally I gave up and the set was given away. :-(

I remember we had the Corvette in Orange, the Lotus and Porsche in both white, a Ferrari in yellow, and either another Porsche or Lotus in yellow. Our controllers were aqua and orange. The Corvette came in a plastic show case with a flagman. I used to love putting the flagman on the track and gunning him down with the Corvette. (This was not the electric flagman, more on him later). If anyone reading this has my exact set, can I buy it back???!!!! (It was all put into a yellow Mayflower moving box, probably still is in that somewhere).

 

What I Have Now
 

The Collection currently houses three relatively complete Selectronic sets. There is a full International Grand Prix Set (no box), the Eldon Selectronic Set, and a Sears Version of the Selectronic set. I also have several non-Selectronic sets of various configurations.

Selectronic was an ingenious early design that allowed both cars to be seperately controlled cars on the same track, and the ability to change lanes on a special track piece. If you were good, you could force your opponent off the road, or get onto the inside track. The secret was the Selectronic power pack, and a diode in each car. This kept the currents seperate and allowed both cars to go forward on the same, or different lanes. Simply throw a standard Eldon power pack onto the same track and you can race your non-Selectronic cars. (Make sure you remove the lane change track!)

All my sets and cars and now operational. Some cars seem faster than others, but hard to be definite. Racing with my sons though has shown us both that a faster car is no replacement for skill in racing!

 

Eldon Dune Buggy from The Dune Buggy Race Set

1962 Plymouth Fury from the Daytona Beach Detroit Stock Car Set

Videos

Enjoy some videos of my various sets:

Eldon Track:  Styles include black track with and without provisions for screws (into a permanent base) and with and without provisions for the "mesh style" fencing.  There is the standard radius curve, 4 lane radius curve, banked curve, tan track for the Dune Buggie set, white track for the Snowmobile set, plus tracks for lane changes, power packs, etc.

Typical Eldon controllers: very early sets had simple on/off buttons; this style is very cool, space age, "speedometer" on the top edge;  colors included blue as shown, orange, yellow, and others.  Some were color coded to the cars!  There are a few versions that are screwed together versus glued as these are.

I grew up with Eldon Slot cars.  I still restore sets today, run them and enjoy them.  Interestingly, I never went to a commercial slot car track.  I didn't want to hang out with other goofballs and have my cars smacked around carelessly...besides, the little 6-volt Eldons were really meant for home use and we loved having fun with them.

This is the way-cool Eldon lap counter. This allows laps to be counted on Selectronic sets regardless of what lane you are in.  For with Selectronic or standard sets, a small pin was placed to the left or right side on the bottom of the car.  The counter had left and right levers on both sides, so your laps always counted no matter what lane. you were in. I have seen these in various color combinations, such as this white ring on one side, yellow ring on the other. They will often be white rings on both sides, with perhaps one side having a red center, and the other having a blue center. There is a very nice clicking sound as the cars pass over and register a lap. Small pins that can move to either side of the car associate the car with a counter.

These are the color coordinated Ferraris from my Sears set. Interestingly, the controllers are color matched--yellow with a red trigger, and red with a yellow trigger. Check out the colored heads on the drivers!

Also note that some of these early cars did not have holes for headlights but were just filled in.

How about buying a new slot car with a hand painted head? You could! Here is a close up of the guy in the Ferrari.

Here is my test layout. I like it because it is simple, doesn't have the special track pieces that act up a little, and it is easy to troublshoot cars on. This is made from the Grand Prix set, notice the special turnout track pieces in the center.

Here is the Sears version of the Selectronic Road Race Set shown to the right in the Eldon labeling. By looking at this box, you have no idea what it is like inside. Notice the Allstate logo on it, typically reserved for the automotive accessories and parts at Sears. Even a real Kaiser Henry J  automobile was sold as an "Allstate" at one point in time.

Although the box is old and slightly water damaged, I love the plain graphics. Markings on the side made this appear to indicate either an incomplete set or a damaged and returned set. When I got it, there was only the red Ferrari Testa Rossa in it. Interestingly, the guardrails on this set are the old style.

Repair and Restoration

Lots of folks have been getting these out of their parents or grandparents attics, or folks are wanting to share with their kids or grandkids.  All Eldon sets have aged and will have performance issues.  The good news is that most of them can be repaired.  I have restored many sets.  Every single one of them did not work.  As a kid, when mine stopped working and had contact and operational issues, I eventually gave up on the set as I did not have the skills to troubleshoot and repair.

For 25 years I have restored toys in my collection, and for a while, had a small business repairing toys.  When I started getting back into Eldon sets in the 1990s, it was out of nostalgia as well as a determination to see these cars run again.  Every set I have obtained I have restored to proper working order.  The processes I used are time tested and always work. 

The Eldon transformers, controllers, and track are very well made and are typically still functional.  There are three key issues with these sets and they are consistently, almost without fail, problematic on every old set:  Rotted or hard tires, brushes, and track contact.  I have a solution to address each of these items.

Tires

Do not attempt foolish things like sanding, soaking, spraying or licking old tires hoping to get them from spinning horribly around and not getting the car anywhere.  Open up that wallet and buy new ones.   You can find them on eBay, but my recommendation is to go to Ray and get them.  Here is his website.  Everyone likes Ray's work, here it is for cut and paste purposes: 

https://smilinrays.webs.com/tires.htm

He has most if not all of the tires for Eldons---plus others, even the Dragsters!

Brushes

Replace those old brushes, ensure good connection with the wires, and on the ends of the brushes turn the tips downwards for better contact.

Track

Almost all track needs to be cleaned.

An additional video is being developed showing all these processes.

For now, click here to go to my Eldon repair and restoration page!


Each Grand Prix set came with two motorized chassis and 4 bodies. Here are my extra bodies, a white Ferrari and an orange Lotus. Those are Eldon decals on the bodies. Other special features of the Grand Prix set include the turnout tracks, banked curve supports, and international flag set.

Other Fun Things

Click here for the Car Page

Click here for the Track and Accessories Page

Here is the exact same Selectronic set with the Eldon packaging.  The Ferraris are also color matched as in the Sears set.

Documentation

Click on the manual to the right to go to our documentation page and see the complete "Dan Gurney" manual and other interesting paperwork! 

Eldon Collect-a-car Raceway