Toy market news

Auto World, Kidracer founder Oscar Koveleski dies at 88

Oscar Koveleski, founder of the Auto World and Kidracer brands, died last Monday at the age of 88

By toybook.com

In 1958, Koveleski - a race car driver and scale model enthusiast - launched Auto World as a mail-order store from the basement of a home in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The operation, which initially placed ads in the back of magazines, became a popular catalog business and pioneered the hobby and specialty retail space through its extensive offerings of slot-racing cars and track sets, plastic model kits, R/C cars, building supplies, and other items from brands including TYCO, Aurora, Scalextric, and more.

“At that time slot cars were a mainstream toy,” says slot car evangelist Dave Kennedy, former brand manager for Hornby Hobbies’ Scalextric/Airfix lines and former North American marketing manager at Carrera of America. “They became a staple toy in every mass-market store and catalog … everyone - and I mean everyone - that is in the business now follows in Oscar’s footsteps.”

The success of the mail-order business led to the opening of a brick and mortar location to compliment the catalog. Eventually, Koveleski would take to the track in an orange McLaren M8B Can-Am car emblazoned with Auto World slot car livery.

In 1988, Koveleski launched the Kidracer line of miniature Formula 1 race cars for kids with an event held at Watkins Glen International raceway. The battery-powered line of cars evolved over the years, most recently being sold as the Kidracer Formula 5 and offered alongside the opportunity to host community races and events, or for interested parties to open Kidracer driving schools.

Following the closure of Auto World as a mail-order business in 1991, the name was resurrected by Round 2 Corp. - makers of Johnny Lightning die-cast and AMT models - in the mid-aughts. Auto World lives on as a brand of original die-cast vehicles, slot-cars, and tracksets sold at hobby stores and major retailers, including Walmart and Target. Coming full circle, Round 2 reinvented the Auto World Store as a digital retail destination where consumers can find automotive toys and collectibles from a variety of brands and licensees.

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