Beat the champ

Not only Aurora (Beat the Champ and the nation-wide competition Grand National!) was organizing competitions but also other companies and organizations have organized or sponsored big races from coast to coast.

Miniature International Racing Association
The Minra, the Miniature International Racing Association, sponsored a wide variety of competitions for members on a local level all over America. Drag and Road Racing Championships were organized throughout the year.

Strombecker international started in 1965 on a local slot car shop and raceway level. The competitions were not limited to Strombecker cars or to cars using Strombecker equipment. The contest was open to those 18 years of age or younger. Qualifying races were held on the first and second Saturday of each month through November. The qualifiers went to regional championship trophies. The regional winners race for the American championship in Chicago. In 1966, Strombecker bought airtime on the NBC Radio show “Ted Webb’s Sport of Speed”. The winner of the event received a Plymouth Barracuda fastback and a $ 5,000 Pepsi-Cola college scholarship.

Local tracks
The IMRS, the International Model Racing Society, organized also competitions for members on local tracks. The track owners recorded the results. Every three months the IMRA reported the standings. The hundred top drivers were invited for the final races. The winner got a price of $10,000.

The first International all-scale Drag meet took place in March 1966. Dodge and Car Model Magazine organized the event. Dodge took the drag strip that was constructed especially for the event to all international automobile shows. The timing device, at that time very sophisticated, was built Heuer Timer Corporation.

The NAMRA, the North American Miniature Racing Association, programmed regional and national events. The models had to meet the specifications as mentioned in the Namra handbook.

The first Chicago-Ford Model Car Racing Championship took place in spring of 1966. The competition was open for everybody who resided within fifty miles of any Chicago-area Ford dealer participating.

Beat the Champ The Grand National, an in-store racing competition, was a marketing concept developed by Bill Silverstein of Aurora. Aurora installed tracks in the stores nation-wide.

Grand National
The first race (Grand National) was organized in 1962. The final was shown at The Today Show, hosted by Jack Lescouli on the NBC channel at 21 August.

The final of the race of 1963 was held on Johnny Carson’s Tonite Show on NBC at 20 August.
A “behind the scenes” article of this event was written by Bill Silverstein in number 95 (winter 1964) issue of the quarterly Models and Modelers World.

In-store racing competition
Beat the Champ was an in-store racing competition in 1964. The tracks were based on Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan, test track. A celebrity should record a fast lap and the public was invited to beat that time. The Ford Mustang was chosen as the official competition model. It was allowed to tune the model but not to modify the car. Unfortunately something went wrong. The chosen champ was the Nascar driver Glenn “Fireball” Roberts. Just after the start of the Beat the champ competition the driver crashed at a 600-mile race in North Carolina. The car got fire and the Roberts burned over seventy percent of his body. He was not wearing a fireproof suit. The Aurora champ died five weeks after the crash.

The concept of the competition was changed and the race of four finalists (local winners) was organized at the Steve Allen Show (I’ve got a secret, Sunday, November 14, CBS) on national television. The host Steve Allen, the famous driver Stirling Moss and four referees had a close look at the race of the four talents. The winner won a Ford Mustang and a $2,000 college scholarship.

Ford-Aurora Grand National
The nation-wide competition Grand National was repeated in 1965. The final of the Ford-Aurora Grand National was shown on The Mike Douglas Show. The winner returned home with a real Mustang.

Ed Sullivan Show
Aurora Slot Cars showed more interest for national television. Silverstein managed to get seven minutes on the famous Ed Sullivan Show on the CBS channel in November 1970. The four famous drivers Dan Gurney, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart and Stirling Moss competed for a big price. Jackie Stewart was the winner of the race and went home with $ 35,000.

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