By Jerry J. Broz
All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.
Merit 1:24 Scale Slot/Rail Conversions.
started as a military electrical equipment manufacturer and eventually became involved with “signaling devices” such as Morse Keys and Morse Sounders as well as Scientific Products which included stationary steam engines, electric motors, student microscopes and chemical apparatus. These various products were sold under their other trading name SEL (Signaling Equipment Limited).
In 1950s and 1960s the company grew and entered the mass Toy
market, producing toys and novelties continuously until early 1976. During these years, J&L Randall Ltd. became a leading British toy and model maker. Under the brand Merit they were also an early manufacturer within the model assembly kit industry. Beside model car kits, the company also produced aircraft and ship assembly kits. In 1978 the J&L Randall Ltd. company was purchased by Letraset and the company ceased to exist. Some of the products, however, such as the steam engines and model assembly kits and especially the Bluebird Speed Record Boat model assembly kit are now sought after collectors’ items.
The first Merit model car assembly kits were sold as single
model, packaged in non-descriptive, checkered strip framed boxes
as the “Quick Construction Racing Car Kit” with the model name
printed on the sticker applied to the front of the box.
Soon after, each group of assembly kit model cars (in 1:24 scale),
and aircraft (in 1:48 scale) were sold as single models in colourful boxes. Each box had pictures of the model and model group printed on the top of the box. The ships (in the lengths from 10″ to 12″) were sold as a single models in separate boxes with a colour picture of the ship on the top of the box.
After closing J&L Randall Ltd. in 1978, some kit moulds were sold
to European model kit manufacturers. Two model car kit moulds
(Lago Talbot and Alfa Romeo “Alfetta“) were sold to Czecho- slovakian toy and model manufacturer SMĚR and these models were produced for sale in separate boxes, as shown above.
Photo Credit: Peter Vack / Veloce Online magazine
Another Merit individually packaged kit was Donald Cambell’s
Bluebird World Speed Record Breaking Boat produced in 1958.
Bluebird K7 was the first jet engine powered hydroplane which, between 1955 and 1967, set a several world water speed records.
Unfortunately, on January 5th,1967, Donald Cambell was killed trying to break his own speed record.
In addition to a small capsule of glue, a decal sheet, and the instruction sheet, each model box contained a Merit Promo Leaflet. This leaflet showed and listed available model cars, aircraft and ships but without prices. Below are images from side 1 and side 2 of the Merit Promo Leaflet.
With the increasing popularity of Scalextric and Strombecker slot and rail car racing, the 1:24 scale Merit static model car assembly kits of the 1940s and 1950s racing cars were easily converted and motorised for slot and rail model car racing. The ELDI Service (the Editions Laidlaw-DIckson) published the “Motorising Merit” booklet which offers detailed how-to-do-it instructions and drawings to convert the Merit 1:24th scale plastic model cars to electric racing. The booklet is authored by L.D.Laidlaw-Dickson who has written numerous booklets and magazine articles on slot and rail racing cars, along with the Model Maker magazine and slot and rail car product Advertisements.
Production of these model car kits started in 1956/1957 and these cars were continuously used until the early 1970s. Many of the initial Scalextric components (such as the standard plastic front wheels, gimbal pickup parts) and Walshaw (rear rubber tires), Triang and Pittman (motors) were later replaced by newer components.
The following pictures show some of the old Merit model race cars from the 1950s and 1960s kits as 1:24 scale slot/rail cars.
Below is the Merit BRM. The body, wheels and tires are the original parts, as is the Pittman DC 60 motor. The chassis, however, is new. A replica of the original folded brass chassis.
Both these Merit model race cars fairly represent the standard conversions made around 1960.
This is a recent Merit Cooper 500 converted to slot car, with a new guide shoe.
Merit Vanwall with worm drive and slot/rail conversion.
Above and below more photos of old Merit plastic model cars converted to slot cars.
Photo credits: Merit cars slot/rail conversion photos shown above are by DonSiegl & Slotblog.
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