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Part 28

VIPTRAK, The Viper Model Club & The Viper Gazette and the MkII Club Specials, 

It would be true to say that at this time, many people considered VIP slot cars to be the best out-of-the-box racers on the market. The same couldn't be said for their painted metal track. Although it had served its purpose admirably in being cheap to produce and easy to assemble, it was also easy to damage, the common negative in the center of the metal track which meant changing the polarity of the cars if you changed lane meant the system lacked some of the flexibility of other makes and the protruding "sleepers" meant that used conventionally you could only have a two-lane circuit. There was also criticism from some quarters about the realism of the painted surface although this particular concern could equally be levied at just about any other brand of track!  In 1965, at the Brighton Toy Fair, for the third time in less than ten years, Victory announced a completely revised track system.

Drawings from the original VIPTRAK patent

VIPTRAK was entirely the invention of Fred Francis. Because it was flexible and cheap to produce, he remained faithful to the rubber track surface that he'd originated with Scalextric but the compound was much more sophisticated to make it both hard-wearing and high grip with a patterned non-slip surface "for ultra-quick getaways." Like Scalextric track, the new system allowed controllers and power to be plugged into any straight section (these also happened to be identical in length to Scalextric). Other notable features were the power rails whose design ensured perfect electrical connection at every joint and which were also flexible enough to allow the track to be curved slightly so that you could recreate a smoothly rounded hilltop or dip without kinking, and the patented method of locking the track sections together with integral clips. 

In due recognition of the work of Fred Francis, the new track, sets and track fittings were all given the prefix FR denoting Francis Raceway!

Three different sets were offered initially; FR1100 - a basic oval with two F1 cars, FR1700 a figure of eight with two F1 cars and FR1700Sports which had an MGA & Healey but otherwise the same contents as the FR1700. 

Also announced at the toy fair was the VIPER model club which Victory owners could join for the modest sum of 2s 6d. For this you got an enameled badge and a subscription to what was hoped to be a quarterly newsletter - The VIPER Gazette. The first issue of which appeared some time in August.

The first issue of the Viper Gazette

Also around August, the Club Special cars were fitted with a hotter armature for more speed and a new 32 tooth contrate changing the gear ratio from 4:1 to 3.5:1. A 34 Tooth contrate was also made available (along with the 32 tooth and original 36 tooth) as a spare part. A second lower resistance (15 Ohm compared to the original 33 Ohm) Varispeed controller was added to the better match the new more powerful motor.

One further change that appeared this year was a minor alteration to the guide blade. The leading edge was now made fully enclosed to provide a more secure location for the mini-brushes.