Picture the scene: Christmas Day, 1985. It’s time to open your big present. You know that massive rectangular box sitting under the tree, agonisingly close to you but never within reach until now. You hope it’s what you think it is, the one you circled in the Argos catalogue months ago. You tear the wrapping paper off to reveal that distinctive yellow logo and images of Saturday evenings gone past – it’s the Back to the Future vs Knight Rider Scalextric Race Set.
Only it’s not because back then, it didn’t exist. This wasn’t for want of trying on Scalextric’s part, who had been doing licenced cars and sets since the 1960s and James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5. Since then, sets from both Marvel and DC comics appeared; everyone’s favourite webhead had The Amazing Spider-Man’s Web Racer Set in 1984; while the caped crusader got two sets in 1990. The Batman Chase Set and the stunt-orientated Batman Leap Set came from the then-recent and hugely popular Tim Burton movie and featured its super-cool Batmobile.
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Interestingly enough, David Hasselhoff’s Michael Knight and his super-powered car K.I.T.T. did have sets, and the Knight Rider TV show was the precedent for standard and stunt editions. Back then, the sets were called “Pursuit” and “Turbo Boost”, both named after certain special functions K.I.T.T. would enact on Michael’s request in every episode of the show, which at the time of the initial set releases – 1987 – was still a popular tea-time fixture. It was easy to find merchandise, from die-cast and radio-controlled cars to a somewhat awkward Transformers knock-off.
Back to the Future, on the other hand, was a different proposition. Despite having an instantly iconic vehicle that has gone on to be the most popular movie vehicle of all time, it wasn’t until 1989 that the floodgates opened, and little versions of Doc’s time machine were available for purchase. That was all thanks to the debut of Back to the Future Part II, so perhaps they didn’t bother previously because they didn’t bank on the film being so popular.
Anyway, let’s go back to the future. Or the present. Scalextric’s new set is a mammoth affair that pits the aforementioned modified Delorean Time Machine against the Knight Foundation’s computerised Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, aka K.I.T.T. You may think this is a bit of a weird choice. Still, it makes sense financially and nostalgically; individual cars of the Time Machine and K.I.T.T. have been available previously, so this set packages them together with tracks and gear to appeal to the kids who didn’t have this when they were young and who now have kids of their own. Scalextric is marketing this as a 1980s set, and they know exactly what they’re doing – more power to them.
Without revealing too much, I am Scalextric’s target audience, and I got a total thrill when unpackaging this. It’s not like the 1987 Knight Rider set; this is a beautiful replica of the original vehicle, and the famous red scanner also works. All you need to recreate the intro is a dusty purple horizon and a growly voice talking about “a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist”.
As such, the Time Machine is the same car I reviewed previously. There are a couple of minor differences in paint ops, but functionally it’s the same, which is to say, excellent. Both cars come with their appropriate drivers in the guise of Marty McFly and Michael Knight, and when you put them together, it’s surprising how big K.I.T.T. is compared to his time-travelling companion. American muscle at work.
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The real fun is racing them, especially at night. The lights of both cars – K.I.T.T. and his scanner and headlights, the Time Machine headlights, and the flux capacitor – make it neat just to watch zooming around with the lights blurring, especially as both vehicles have rear lights too. The only thing missing is a speaker playing the woo-woo scanner noise and the theme music, but chances are you’ll be making those anyway. There’d be something wrong if you didn’t.
Make dad’s Christmas. Get him this under the tree, and he’ll be peeling potatoes and sprouts in exchange for just one more go around the track. Woo-woo.
Back to the Future vs Knight Rider Scalextric Race Set is out now from Hornby Hobbies.