Young Gil de Ferran,
PPG-CART runner-up in 1997,
gets ready to race slot cars
Gil does his turn-marshall duty
As the pictures above show, the 1997 CART runner-up Gil de Ferran (brazilian), got his first sponsorship deal on a 1/24 scale track, not 1/1... Another famous brazilian, Emerson Fittipaldi also started there. Slot cars is how a lot of Brazilian race car drivers got started. The passion this country has for high-speed starts early.
Slot cars in Brazil can be traced to 1963. That's when Estrela (a leading brazilian toy manufacturer) started making slot car sets licensed from Gilbert. It was named (like Gilbert's) the "Estrela Auto-Rama set". It was a 1/32 scale set. To this date, home-slot-car-racing in Brazil is focused on 1/32 scale. In the slot-racing scene, it's pretty much (an it always has been) a 1/24 scale world. Estrela started , and it never stopped, making slot cars. Together with Scalextric and MRRC, they are the oldest in the market. They never abandoned the market, even through it's tough times. Kudos to them!
The first known championship of "Auto-Rama cars" was in 1963. A 17 year old boy named Emerson Fittipaldi came in second.
The sucess was so immense, that the name "Auto-rama" to this date is synonymous with slot cars in Brazil. No, they no longer license nothing from Gilbert, but the name remains. Like in England, where the name Scalextric is synonymous with slot cars, "Auto-rama" is how this delightfull hobby is known in Brazil.
In 1965 Estrela stop making Gilbert clones, and started making Strombecker clones, after a contract was signed. The track was identical to the strombecker track, but the power track was diferent, so were the controllers. The controllers were designed by Estrela itself, but it had a stricking resemblance to the Cox's mark-series controllers.
In the late 60's Estrela started making a real salad. It signed agreements with Revell, Monogram and Cox. The "Estrela Auto-Rama Set" by then was a Monogram track with Revell controllers. The cars had very similar chassis to the Cox ISO-Fulcrum chassis. The bodies on these cars were modified versions of the Strombeckers, like the Ferrari Berlinetta and the Ford J. What a salad! To spice it up, Estrela had option controllers that were licensed from Russkit!
By the 70's, following the success of Emerson Fittipaldi in formula 1, Estrela "Auto-Rama" sets were pretty much the same, but the cars became primarily F1's. By then the standard track had the Russkit-clone controllers, and had aprons and such. The track became very good.
In the 80's the only things that changed were the cars. As new F1's were designed, Estrela made new F1's "Auto-Rama" cars.
The most difficult set to find is the "Estrela Auto-Rama Senna/Prost chase". Its made in the late 80's, and the cars are a McLaren and a Ferrari. Ferrari sued Estrela for some breach of contract (Apparently some of the wording on the set was not "nice" to Prost), and the sets were pulled from the shelfs.
To this date, the Estrela "Auto-Rama" set is based on Monogram tracks. Since the 70's Estrela makes their own chassis and controllers. Following Estrela's lead other smaller manufaturers started in the 70's. To name a few: Imbrima, Sebring, Minicock, Maeda and others. Not very known, but loyal to the hobby,
Brazil has produced a few champion in slot cars, like "Gugu" Bernardino, Who became famous racing internationally in the 80's. This is his picture taken in 1996 during the European championship in Italy. He is the bigger one. The smaller one is my friend Alfonso Lolli from Italy, who generously donated this picture.
Today in the slot scene, there is a lot of raceways. Some of them still exist from the 60's! Here is a few links to Brazilian sites: