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FACTORY-BUILT DISPLAY LAYOUTS

A number of display layouts were built by the factory to promote Wrenn Formula 152 at exhibitions and toy fairs. They were built to be totally functional and included items from the existing range of buildings and accessories. It now seems that there were at least seven different display layouts built which made appearances at various exhibitions and photos of them were then used in Wrenn’s 152 Catalogues, in adverts and also in books. Unfortunately there are only single, partial view photos available of two of these layouts and with no further details. So even though they did include the Wrenn railway track the whole layouts can only be imagined at this time. At the time of the 1962 Brighton Toy Fair, Wrenn did announce to the trade that there were smaller display layouts available for dealers to use in their toy and model shops or even as a static display in their shop windows. 

The simplest display layout seen was an oval of track mounted onto a 6mm thick piece of plywood 32½” x 15½” painted a Terra Cotta colour. The centre section and other small areas had a thin Green foam sponge material stuck to the board to imitate grassed areas but in the examples that have survived and been seen, this has subsequently perished over the intervening years. A Grandstand and a Trackside Pit were included which were push-fitted over raised timber blocksfactory-built display layouts There were also various scenery items such as Fencing, Flags and Flag Poles, there were also some Figures which were included and glued into place. Finally there was even a Car included, although this was just a rolling chassis permanently screwed to the baseboard. From a recently seen scanned photo it seems that one of these layouts was featured on Wrenn’s exhibition stand at a German Toy Fair.

I am aware that there are at least three examples of this type of layout that have survived and subsequently been acquired as part of individual’s slot racing collections. It is likely that these were supplied as part of the dealer offer above since these versions included two special items not necessary when Wrenn originally took them to exhibitions. Firstly there was a specific, custom piece of Barrier Fence with unique printing and the other was the inclusion of one of Wrenn’s cardboard advertising banners fitted onto two stainless steel posts. The cardboard banners had previously been used at exhibitions where a number of these were usually placed around the exhibition stands. The track itself included a Lap Counter and a Deflector Section and to promote the latter unique element a special short piece of Barrier Fence was produced. This was printed in Red with an angled arrow pointing to the Deflector operating button and with the words ‘OVERTAKING THREE CARS ON EACH LANE’. This straight section of Barrier Fence also featured an angled end to emphasize the arrow. The special cardboard advertising banner was printed in three colours, a Turquoise background with Yellow & Red which was 18⅞” x 3½” overall and then folded horizontally. It featured the standard Cooper illustration to the left, ‘WRENN formula 152’ in Yellow & White and ‘FOR REALISTIC MODEL MOTOR RACING’ in Red to the right hand side. This was stapled together so that it could be fitted onto two polished stainless steel rods which were fitted vertically to the base via holes in flat timber blocks.

The examples seen of this version of display layout have included Trackside Pits with Maserati and Vanwall pit boards. Two layouts have been seen with E1 Controllers fitted to the corners at opposite ends of the base with their separate securing strips. The other later layout is the one that I luckily own and it includes Mk2 Controllers, so the assumption is that this layout could well have been produced after 1964 since it does not have any previously drilled fixing holes which would have been necessary for the earlier Controller securing strips. In support of this, the bodyshell of the car that is fitted to the baseboard is a Red DC Ferrari which further supports that this layout was originally assembled for use with DC-motored cars. The examples seen of these layouts are all slightly different from each other, from the building positions, type of car included and the positions of the figures which all differ.

There were three medium-sized layouts built, some with and some without the Wrenn railway track. The larger of these layouts seen is the more interesting, being the one featured in the 4th version of the A10 – ‘152’ Instruction Manual with a photograph and accompanying layout plan, therefore dating it’s probable production during 1962. Wrenn described this as a ‘high density layout’ and was one which was subsequently acquired over twenty five years later in a very sorry state. The layout was fitted onto a baseboard with a substantial timber frame having a plywood top and being 4’-6” x 2’-6’ overall. This was painted, similarly to the other display layout baseboards, with a Terra Cotta coloured paint. Since the layout was built on a number of levels the Track sections were additionally supported on timber blocks as well as items from the Grey polystyrene T30 – Bridge Support Set. A paper-backed Green Landscape Sheet was used to imitate grass and to cover the landscaped areas. This layout included a Deflector Section, two Trackside Pits, with Cooper and Ferrari pit boards, as well as various items of Fencing, Flags and Figures. The landscaping of the layout was improved with model trees, a small river section, a supporting feature ‘brick’ wall and even included some of Wrenn’s Model Railway items such as track and points etc. These elements were used on other subsequent factory-built layouts to enhance the overall appearance and obviously to further advertise Wrenn’s other products. The other medium-sized layouts had photos taken of them and these were included in the Wrenn 152 Catalogues and Wrenn’s UK trade adverts. One of these appeared in the book ‘Model Car Collecting’ by F. Brian Jewell and another appeared in the book ‘The Complete Book of Model Raceways and Roadways’ by Louis Hertz.

The final, and largest, figure-of-eight layout appeared in the last Catalogue as well as in the current trade advert and was actually based on the ‘Q 2-level’ layout from the Racing Circuits leaflet. This landscaped layout was actually used as the feature element in Wrenn’s exhibition stand at the Olympia Toy Fair in August 1961, where a competition was held over the week-end for the Olympia Sprint Championship. This was held in two categories for Juniors (9-12 years) & Seniors (13-16 years) but unfortunately with nothing for the ‘older’ racers. See Newsletter No10 for details and photos.

However there were a number of other notable landscaped layouts that were not built by the factory. In the modelling press of the time, features could be found with photos and plans of Wrenn Formula 152 layouts built by individuals and small clubs. There was Group Three’s ‘East London Grand Prix Circuit’ (Model Roads and Racing), Michael Scott’s ‘Brands Hatch’ (Model Roads and Racing), GR Fraser’s ‘Travelling Man’s Circuit’, which was portable (Miniature Autoworld) and finally RA Phillips’ ‘Craven Park Formula 152 Circuit’ (Model Roads and Racing). We are very lucky that this last scenic layout is still in existence today after over 55 years of use. I wonder if any of those others are still out there?

Some local International importers also had scenic layouts built to promote Wrenn Formula 152 in their countries. Waldmeir, the Swiss importer, had a large two-level layout built and photographed for inclusion in their first German-language catalogue, see Newsletter No18 for details and photographs. Another very large display layout, was built with Wrenn 152 components and was only featured in Wentzels of Sweden’s current catalogue. See relevant International Market section and Newsletter No2 for a photo. This was over 13′-0″, or 4.5 metres, in overall length. Finally another very large layout was built, which was a representation of the Monza Autodromo circuit that even included the banking sections. It was actually specially-built to feature in the 1966 movie ‘Grand Prix’ which starred James Garner. See the article in Newsletter No19 along with a movie still and details of it’s location in the movie.