This is the Victory Lap Raceway from Lego, which first appeared in the 1988 catalog. This isn’t an electronic item but it is one of my proudest thrift store finds.
Before Abbey Ann’s moved to the Tallmadge Circle they had two stores next to each other on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls, across the street from Acme. The first store, called Abbey Ann’s #1 was located on the first floor of an old two story building with an apartment on the second floor. It was a series of cramped spaces with low ceilings and it was filled to the brim with all manner of thrift store
items. I remember especially being on the lookout for Sega CD games in the display case by the cash register. Next door in a much larger one story building was Abbey Ann’s #2.
Today the site of Abbey Ann’s #1 is a parking lot while store #2 has become a different furniture consignment shop called Pieces.
Unlike the cramped spaces of Abbey Ann’s #1, store #2 had much more floor space and a large front window that made it ideal for selling larger items of furniture. They also had large sections for household items, records, and electronics so we visited often. There was a section for toys and books along the left wall that more often then not was crammed in behind some furniture or appliances.
Most of the time the toy section was just old board games so I didn’t pay very close attention to that area. But, one day, among the piles of board games was this Lego set.
This was remarkable to me for two reasons.
First, I can’t stress how rare it is for Lego to show up at thrift stores. I’m not sure if people just keep their Lego for their children or if they mostly sell it at garage sales, but even buckets of unsorted Lego are rare at thrift stores around here.
Second, this set would have been 10-15 years old by the time I found it, still in the box. The box is a bit beat up and unsealed but it’s clear that all of the original contents are still there sealed in their bags.
Because the Victory Lap Raceway debuted in 1988 it was also in the 1989 catalog.
The 1989 Lego catalog holds a special place in my heart. Something must have happened in 1989 where my parents decided that I had outgrown Duplo and grown into regular Lego. That year through a combination of birthday and Christmas gifts I got the entire 1989 Lego Pirates line up, which had debuted that year.
For me, Lego was not just a toy it was the toy. You could add parts to a set. I didn’t like that my Black Seas Barracuda had only one deck, so I added another one. You could take a set apart and transform the parts into something else. I remember looking at the unique octagonal windows of the Stardefender 200 and imagining them to be the nose of a B-29.
I spent a lot of time looking at the 1989 Lego catalog. I probably still recognize every set in it. When I found that beat up box at Abbey Ann’s #2 I immediately recognized Victory Lap Raceway as one of the sets that I has known so dearly from the catalog, but never owned. I also knew it was one of the more expensive sets in 1989.
I must have spent a lot of time in the Lego aisle at Toys R Us looking at all of the sets lined up in their distinctive yellow boxes. The low and mid-range priced sets just had the yellow box. But, you could tell the big, expensive sets because they came in large boxes with a lid that opened to reveal the set’s unique pieces suspended in see-through trays.
The inside of the lid was filled with gorgeous zoomed in images of the different parts of the set.
The front of the box always had a gorgeous picture of the set in action and the large red Lego logo in the right corner and a yellow “Legoland” stripe telling you which theme or “system” the set belonged to.
The rear of the box had examples of other models you could build with the same pieces.
The name of the set was always written in black, bold sans-serif type on the long edges of the box while the short edges had action scenes from other angles.
I remember when I was a child looking at the 1989 catalog thinking that the Victory Lap Raceway was somewhat silly because it was just part of a racetrack. The Black Seas Barracuda, for example, was clearly a whole ship.
In the intervening years between 1989 and when I found this set Lego went through some lean years with their set designs. They started using fewer pieces and making the models look chunkier. There was a point in time in the late 1990s and early 2000s that I though they were really doing a disservice to their fans by watering down their models so much.
That period of time made me really appreciate this set and all of its little details. Sure, there’s not too much structure, but what is there is very well done. The stairs are made of individual pieces rather than just a single stair piece. The decks of the grandstand walkways are made with gorgeous long flat pieces. There appear to be no decals: All of those Shell logos and car numbers are actually on the bricks. The way the motion picture camera travels on those flat rail pieces is brilliant. This was Lego at it’s best.
I’ve thought about building it. The problem is that it’s not the sort of set that’s easily displayed or stored. Since it has a lot of little bits that could easily get lost it seems more prudent to keep it all together in the box.
Having something like this, still in the box is incredibly special to me. It’s like having a little piece of my childhood still there, waiting.