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!
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!