The 900 Pound Gorilla


Aurora Plastics was one of the Largest Toy Companies in the World.

When it came to slot cars, Aurora held more market share than than any of its competitors, no matter what scale. Probably the most memorable of the Aurora slot cars, the Thunderjet 500 in 1963. Some slot-historians claim that the diversity is actually partially responsible for Aurora's demise! From the earliest days after acquiring Playcraft's Highway slot car system, to Postage Stamp Trains and 1:32 scale slot cars, Aurora tried to offer something for everyone...

Aurora spokesman Don Adams from TV's "Get Smart"

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Aurora's Many Slot Cars

Including variations, Aurora actually had about a dozen different slot car chassis offerings through the years. The below list is currently a placeholder. Expect elaboration soon...

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Ford-Aurora Grand Nationals

It should come as no surprise that before their demise, Aurora also produced more literature and slot car television commercials than any other slot car manufacturer. We've collected much of it here, however there are some true rarities throughout the world, much of it collected or whereabouts known by ‘Mr. Aurora’, Robert "Bob" Beers. In 2008, Bob collected the 1963 Ford Thunderbird that was given away at the 1963 Ford-Aurora Grand Nationals.

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Aurora Spokesman

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Aurora Slot Car Literature by Year

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Aurora Slot Car Patents

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Miscellaneous Aurora Instruction Sheets, Service Manuals and Stuff

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Aurora Slot Cars and Accessories

Without question (and like it or not), eBay rules much of the slot car marketplace.

If you are contemplating a slot car purchase, we strongly encourage you to seek out and support a hobby store in your area. However, if your intent is to buy used or vintage slot cars, we have to recommend eBay.

Below are the some of the most viewed Aurora slot car items on eBay right now.

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Aurora Plastics Corporation Company History

For nearly 30 years, Aurora Plastics Corporation led the way in popularizing some of the most spectacularly successful hobbies of the modern era, including plastic model kits and electric slot cars. Because Aurora created innovative and intriguing products, produced them well, and showed enterprise in marketing them, it rose by the 1960’s to become the world’s largest hobby company. In the 1970’s Aurora expanded even further, becoming one of the nations foremost producers of tabletop games. Then, in the tumultuous business climate of the 1970’, Aurora disappeared. The untimely demise only adds to their mystique.

Aurora Plastics Corporation was founded in March, 1950 by engineer Joseph E. Giammarino (b. 1916, d. 1992) and businessman Abe Shikes (b. 1908, d. 1997) in Brooklyn, New York (in West Hempstead, Long Island from 1954), as a contract manufacturer of injection molded plastics.
Aurora's Big Three

Aurora's Big Three

With the hiring in 1952 of salesman John Cuomo (b. 1901, d. 1971), the company began the manufacture of its own line of plastic model kits. These kits were marketed to young hobbyists, as were the kits of rivals Monogram and Revell. Aurora profitably targeted to a younger demographic than their competitors, creating smaller-sized models at a lower price point.

Like all toymaking legends, Aurora comes from the most humble of origins. Aurora Plastics Corporation founded by Abe Shikes (who did the talking) and Joseph Giammarino (who made the machinery run) received its charter from the state of New York on March 9, 1950, beginning operations in August from a converted Brooklyn garage on 62nd Street. The early days saw Aurora as a contract molding shop. Then in the fall of 1952, Aurora made a change of direction and introduced its inexpensive all-plastic model airplane kits. Because of these Aurora kits, model building became the most popular hobby for boys in the 1950’s.

Brisk demand for Aurora models caused the young company to quickly outgrow its makeshift Brooklyn facility and so Aurora moved to a larger more modern plant located at 44 Cherry Valley Road, West Hempstead, Long Island, in December 1953.

The Slot Car Era Begins

In 1960 Aurora introduced another hobby product, electric powered slot cars. Aurora succeeded in slot cars where others failed because they spent time, energy, and money showing youngsters how to have fun with miniature racers. Slot cars catapulted Aurora to the top of the hobby world, far ahead of model rival Revell, and very far ahead of venerable toy manufacturers like scale train giant Lionel. It was the product line that ultimately defined the West Hempstead based manufacturer.

Aurora Moves into the 1:32 Market

Aurora management also felt that their leadership role in slot cars demanded they get into the 1/32 and 1/25 scale raceway business (large track layouts where hobbyists could "run’ their cars)- and do it in a very big way. Aurora subsequently purchased the old Vic Tanny’s gym on Hempstead Turnpike down the block from their world headquarters in West Hempstead and operated a massive new Raceway Center there. With all the prevalence of the large scale slot cars in the mid 1960’s, this fad didn’t last long and by 1967 the novelty had worn off, with HO scale slot cars eventually continuing its popularity to this day.

Aurora Plastics continued producing model kits, games, and slot cars through most of the 1970’s. However, for many reasons one of which was the gas crisis of 1973-74 that really put a strain on production costs eventually making the world leader in slot car production close its doors, having been purchased by Nabisco with all segments of its divisions being sold off. However the company that really made it happen, Aurora Plastics Corporation, has made an indelible impression on collectors and hobbyists around the world to this day.

Closed in 1977
The company once described itself as the General Motors of model car racing, selling about one-third of all model car racing equipment that was in use during the sixties.

Fastest Growing Hobby

At the time that slot racing was the fastest growing hobby in the United States, model car racing was approached as a sport instead as a leisure activity. Most cars were built from scratch. The results of these homebuilt models were used at big commercial raceways. At the time the plastic ready-to-run cars were hardly available.

Aurora Plastics Key Players
  • Joseph E. Giammarino
  • Abe Shikes
  • John Cuomo
  • Gennaro Giammarino, Sr.
  • Derek Brand

The Pancake Motor

Aurora made the change from the Playcraft Vibrator style chassis to the venerable Pancake Chassis in 1963. Using a Pancake Armature, this design would not only differentiate Aurora in the U.S. market (German Faller had a similar design), but seal its fortune through-out the 1960s and 1970s as the most prevelant HO scale slot car.

Aurora Slot Car Videos

Cork Screw Stunt Set Commercial

1972 Aurora XLerators Commercial featuring #2673 XLerator II Big Loop Demolition Speedway (22ft)

1983 Aurora Laser 2000 Set Commercial

1969 Aurora Speedline Cars The Speedline series was a likely product entry, essentially competing in the small die-cast market against slot-car-manuf-matchbox, Corgi, etc.

1980s Aurora Slot Car Commercial showing the Blazin' Brakes, Stop Police and Cats Eyes cars and sets.

Aurora G-Plus Promotional Formula One Video

1980s Aurora Promotional Video introduces the G-Plus series of HO Magnet Cars.

Aurora AFX Speed Shifters Commercial

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