14:50 h / 2021/01/01
Oscar Koveleski, founder of the Auto World and Kidracer brands, died last Monday at the age of 88
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.