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The History of Racemasters

Racemasters, Inc. is the Nevada-based company that now owns AFX. Racemasters wasn’t formed until 1998 but the means for its creation was the result of a 50 year journey by Jim Russell.

In 1969 Jim sold his slot car company: Russkit, to Aurora Plastics Company and moved to West Hempstead, New York, to accept a position with Aurora Plastics Company to head the Hobbycrafts division. This segment of the business dealt with the hobby side of the HO scale slot cars that had become such a staple for the company. He hired a new team and proceeded to re-make the product line dramatically improving the design and performance of the cars. He also oversaw the renaming of the product range AFX in 1971. As a result of these changes, AFX grew dramatically over the next 5 years to about $45 million and became the clear market leader.

In 1975 Jim left Aurora to start his own company in the hobby and crafts market. In the meantime, AFX sales flattened in 1977 and the toy side of the business was very unprofitable. Aurora’s owner, Nabisco, sold the company to a British toy conglomerate in that year. The new owners struggled and the AFX brand ended up in the hands of Coleco, and finally Tomy. In each case, the new owners would hire Jim to help with product development and hobby sales would rise. So Jim was not only involved in the creation of the line but was involved in its development nearly continuously. Jim was a paid consultant to Tomy for the AFX line after they bought Aurora in 1980, until the creation of Racemasters in 1998.

At various points along the way, Jim did consulting and product development for other slot car companies like Tyco, Galoob, Ideal, and also formed two stand-alone companies in the industry.

It was for this reason that Tomy chose Jim’s offer to take over AFX sales and product development in the USA after Tomy decided to cut back their American operations. Actually, the company had two much more attractive offers to buy the existing inventory and take over the sales in the US but Tomy’s opinion was that while the other suitors could sell off the stock – they couldn’t keep the line going. Jim Russell was the only person they felt could assure the survival of AFX.

Today, Jim is considered to be one of the most important figures in the history of the hobby and a legend among slot car fans.

At that point Jim’s son, Steve, proposed a business plan that partnered Jim with longtime friend and slot car entrepreneur, Gary Beedle. Jim carried out the product development and most of the sales. Jim’s wife, Mimi handled the finances, operations and customer support. Steve crafted the marketing strategy and helped with sales, operations and trade shows.

By 2003, Jim’s health began getting a little rocky. After all, five decades of slot car racing is tough on a fellow. So, Steve and his wife, Laurie – a racing fan in her own right, started getting more involved while Jim started watching more TV.

Then, in 2010, after a long, rich life, Jim Russell passed away peacefully.

Now, Steve and Laurie run the company and the principles that have guided the Russell family’s involvement in the hobby for half a century remain unchanged: Performance, Realism, & lots and lots of racing.


The History of Aurora/AFX or The History of Russkit