05 September 2022
In 1970, fuel giant, Texaco, teamed up with Zylmex for a short-lived series of track-based diecasts. Rick Wilson puts his racing overalls on.
Travel back to the late 1960s and early 1970s – it was the pinnacle of diecast production and all the big companies were vying for the same space on the shelves of retailers. Each manufacturer searched for that unique selling point and when Mattel unveiled its Hot Wheels range, in 1968, complete with its own bespoke track system, it had found the leap all the others had been looking for. Suddenly, track systems were all the rage – Matchbox’s Superfast, Lone Star’s Flyway and Corgi’s Rockets systems being two examples of big names jumping on the bandwagon as quickly as they could, so as not to lose too much ground in the sales race.
Somebody at Texaco obviously thought it was a great idea too and, for 1970, its petrol stations were full of promotional packs and advertising, trying to get the youngsters to badger their parents to buy Texaco fuel. The system name was called Scorchers and it comprised eight Formula 1 style racers, at about 1/64 scale, and a limited, but nevertheless impressive, track range.
The track system was by Lone Star and was basically a selection of components already available in the company’s Flyway track system, introduced specifically for its new high-speed Flyers range. The track was orange and other parts were yellow, such as the loop-the-loop supports, starter and finishing gates, etc. For the Texaco version, the track remained orange, but the accessories were changed to red to match the fuel company’s brand image. Texaco’s limited range comprised 12ft track sections, a starter gate, finishing gate, anchor clip and loop-the-loop hoop set.
To run on its new track system, Texaco wanted racing cars and turned to Hong Kong-based Zyll Enterprises Ltd., which was making diecast cars under the brand name of Zylmex. Its early ‘Dyna-Mites’ series of F1 racers were pretty much replicas of the Politoys ‘Penny Series’ of racing castings. Whether the Penny Series moulds were sold outright or loaned to Zylmex, or even if the castings were produced under licence is still unclear. Zylmex also produced much larger scale F1 racers, such as the Ferrari shown here – this was also a replication of an existing Polistil release.
A grid of eight
Now it has to be said, this is not a range for the motorsport purist, as these were always intended very much for the toy market. But they are fun, even if each model only bears a passing resemblance to the real F1 racers that they were meant to represent. Each car bears a racing number that tallies with its number in the series, which makes it nice and easy to identify which one is which, especially as they are all a little similarly generic!
No 1 in the series is the BRM F1, wears racing number 1 and is painted white , No 2 is a Ferrari (#2, orange), No 3 a Cooper Maserati (#3, a very unrealistic purple), No 4 is the Eagle (#4, blue), No 5 a Brabham Repco F1 (#5, red), No 6 a Lotus-Climax F1 (#6, a darker blue than the Eagle), No 7 a McLaren Ford BVF 1 (#7, yellow) and No 8 another BRM, this time the H16 F1 (#8, green).
Each of the models came in a smart, suitably-sized box, all with the same eye-catching artwork on the front face and all eight models listed with a colour side-on profile graphic alongside its series number on the rear face. Both sides and the two ends bore the Scorchers logo and the model name and number, with the Texaco logo added to the sides as well.
The whole set up, including track system and cars, could be found at each petrol station in an impressive counter top display unit. Each car could be had for just 2/- with every four gallons of fuel, and then the accessories could be bought separately. The ‘Single Track Kit’ cost 15/- and included 12ft of continuous track, loop base and supports, plus anchor clip and instructions. Both the ‘Starter’ and ‘Finishing Gate’packs were 2/11 each and were for two-track set ups.
The Zylmex series of racing cars would carry on and be repackaged as part of its ‘Dart Wheels’ blister-pack range, with fancy new Superfast-style wheels. The eight racers would line up in the same order, as D1 to D8, in the new range, which initially ran to D40, but soon extended beyond that. This range seems to command pretty high prices for those still in their packaging, so for now I think I’ll stick with the Scorchers Eight. I also think its time for some vintage track action...