MRAdvent 3 Dec: You can't beat Scalextric

You can't beat Scalextric

“Turn on my lights, I can race all night.” To readers of a certain age, this will bring back memories of a time when Scalextric ruled the living room. Back in the day, the only present a young petrolhead wanted to find under the tree was a Scalextric set. Or maybe a Matchbox Powertrack.

But whatever, the 1970s and 1980s were the golden decades for Scalextric. In the days before games consoles, and when the television offered a paltry three channels, this was the best way to get your petrolhead kicks. As the advert proclaimed: “you can’t be-e-e-e-e-eat Scalextric.” How could a young and impressionable child resist this?

The advert has got it all. A catchy soundtrack (that will be in your head for the rest of the day), crashes, smashes and the occasional flip. Highlights include the Ford Capri (3.0S?), Triumph TR7 and a Porsche 911, complete with working headlights. The darkness gives it a real feeling of Le Mans. Also look out for the TT racers, which were notoriously hard to control.

In reality, the living room experience was never quite the same as the advert made out. Unless your parents were prepared to splash the cash with Geoffrey down at Toys ‘R’ Us, a simple track layout couldn’t really cut it. Well, not beyond Boxing Day. For the full effect you really needed the pit lane, the scenery, the chicanes, the grandstands and the adoring race fans. Oh, and a slow-motion camera would be useful, too.

[bctt tweet=”A catchy soundtrack (that will be in your head for the rest of the day), crashes and smashes”]

But then that was the beauty of Scalextric. Once you had a set, you just had to build on it. And as the ad states, accessories were available from 57p to £28.75. No internet price-match nonsense in those days. Although we’re not quite sure what you could have bought for your 57p pocket money. Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

MRAdvent 2 Dec: When Father Christmas had a wash


Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Yuletide carols being sung by a choir. And photoshopped images doing the rounds.

OK, so they weren’t the exact words sung by Nat King Cole. Heck, rounds doesn’t even rhyme with nose. But you get the picture. And if you’re anything like us, you’re probably wishing you hadn’t.

It’s beginning to look like the time of year when press offices send out weird photoshopped images, sprinkling some Christmas magic on some otherwise festive-free products and services. You know, like car washes. What could be less festive than a car wash? Aside from the Grinch and Ebenezer Scrooge enjoying a BBQ in mid July.

Two years ago, the IMO Car Wash Group did its best to convince us “even the busiest person in December has time to wash his sleigh”, which isn’t strictly true. Everybody knows Yodel and DPD drivers are far busier. Father Christmas only has to go to work once a year. Although, to be fair to Santa, at least he’s guaranteed to find your house…

[bctt tweet=”What could be less festive than a car wash? Aside from the Grinch and Ebenezer Scrooge enjoying a BBQ in mid July.”]

According to IMO, Father Christmas was “spotted on a stop off at an IMO car wash”, no doubt taking advantage of the scratch-free wash in under three minutes. Well excuse us for being cynical, but we’re not sure Santa really paid IMO a visit. And it’s not because the company is on the naughty list.

For a start, that Star of Bethlehem is generating some unnatural levels of light. And wait, what’s going on with the shadows? We look at shadows cast by the fence and reindeer and begin to smell the distinct whiff of rat in the air.

But wait, there’s more. We’ll gloss over the fact that Father Christmas seems to be touring around with two Mrs Christmases, both of whom look far too young for him, but there’s something weird going on with that IMO operative. Comedy holly aside, we can’t help but think he isn’t attached to his legs. Perhaps he had an unfortunate run-in with the car wash.


We wonder where Father Christmas will be ‘spotted’ this year? Maybe he’ll be stocking up on some much needed sleigh polish. Or checking out some Magic Tree air fresheners for his sleigh. We’ve heard he’s rather partial to Forest Fresh.

MRAdvent 1 Dec: Minis have feelings too

Minis have feelings too

This year, Sainsbury’s might just top the tree when it comes to the nation’s favourite Christmas ad, although John Lewis, Lidl and Aldi may have something to say about that.

But back in 1986, there was no such debate, because the Rover Group delivered what was not only the best Christmas advert of the year, but one of the best ads of all time. If ‘Minis have feelings too’ doesn’t make you go all gooey and full of Christmas spirit, you have a heart of stone.

Deck the halls with boughs of holly, pour yourself a glass of mulled wine and enjoy a few seconds of nostalgia from Christmas past.

The timing was perfect, with the Mini seemingly on borrowed time. Now under the control of Rover Group plc, the Mini was facing the axe in 1987. To say the decision to give the much-loved Mini a stay of execution was entirely based on the success of the advert would be wrong, but it must have played a part.

The feelgood factor associated with the kissing Minis is so high, not even an inch of snow falling on Christmas day, Mariah Carey in a Santa outfit and a dozen chestnuts roasting on an open fire could make you feel any more festive.

The ad is superb, right down to the ‘The First Noel’ soundtrack, which puts us in mind of the music used to accompany the scenes featuring Noel Coward in The Italian Job, which – given the Mini’s starring role – is rather apt. In short, no amount of CGI nonsense or inflated marketing budgets will ever top this Mini ad.

[bctt tweet=”‘In short, no amount of CGI nonsense or inflated marketing budgets will ever top this Mini ad'”]

But without wishing to play the role of party-pooper, amid screams of ‘humbug’, we bring you news that the two lovestruck Minis are no more. At least, we don’t think they are.

According to DVLA records, D748 DAC was last taxed in January 2003, with D401 MOJ disappearing in May 1993. But all isn’t quite what it seems, because the DVLA records also show that D401 MOJ was powered by a 2257cc engine. As for D748 DAC, well that featured a 1598cc engine and weighed in at a rather portly 1700kg.

Either D748 DAC had eaten far too many mince pies, or the D-reg plates were half-inched from other cars within the Rover stable.

We bring you more bad tidings with the news that MINI – that’s the new uppercase version – decided it was time for an updated version. Only it wasn’t. There’s never a good time for an updated video. Some things are best left in the past. Bah humbug.