1961. America stopped talking to Cuba. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin became the first human in space. Roger Maris hit a record 61 home runs. And Ferrari was the king of motorsports.
The 1960s were a dynamic time and 1961 was one of the busiest years of the decade (I’m sure some of you old farts lived it). But as Cold War tensions hung over the world’s head and the Civil Rights Movement raged in America, there was still motor racing, and Ferrari was the best.
There was already an excellent post on every Ferrari that Hot Wheels has produced by Enginerrrrrrrrr earlier this month and it actually inspired me to pick up one of the two cars I’m featuring here, my first ever LALD post. It’s really unfortunate that Hot Wheels lost the Ferrari license and all of a sudden I find myself wanting a similar collection. I wish I had picked up a LaFerrari and a 599XX when I had the chance.
As I’ve already written, Ferrari was in the midst of one heck of a run of motorsports dominance in 1961 and Phil Hill was their man. The Prancing Horse, with Hill at the wheel, won not only Le Mans but also the F1 driver and constructor championships.
The Ferrari 156 was powered by a 1.5 liter V6 (as Ferrari’s naming convention actually points out) and was known as the “Sharknose” because of its massive intake nostrils at the front of the car. It was Ferrari’s first mid-engined F1 car (they had made some mid-engined F2 cars in recent years but not F1) and it was almost unbeatable.
Between three drivers, Ferrari won five of the first seven rounds of the F1 World Championship and, with both championships clinched, decided not to compete in that year’s season finale at the U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. That decision also came on the heels of Wolfgang Von Trip’s crash into a group of spectators at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza that killed himself and 15 spectators.
Ferrari stuck with the car over the next two years but didn’t have much success. An updated version, without the sharknose design, helped Ferrari win the constructors title in 1964 but it was ultimately replaced by its running mate that year, the Ferrari 158.
This Hot Wheels cast is a thing of beauty, even with the hard plastic track wheels and a plastic engine/roll hoop/cockpit (despite having a metal base). Apparently there was a real riders version that was part of a special Ferrari Hall of Fame run but I couldn’t bring myself to pay the premium. The Rosso Corsa is perfect and matches my P4 (that was produced in the same time frame but that I’ve had for much longer).
By 1961, the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa had been racing for four years, winning Le Mans in 1958 and 1960, and the angry red head wasn’t done yet.
With Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien at the wheel, the 3.0 L V12 Testa Rossa finished Le Mans three laps ahead of the next closest car — also a Ferrari 250 TR. Ferrari went on to win each of the next four editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with various versions of the 250, its dominance finally ending when Ford blazed to a 1-2-3 finish in 1966. Ferrari hasn’t won Le Mans since 1965.
My 250 TR cast is one I’ve had since I was quite a bit younger. It has a plastic base and the headlights don’t quite look right but those awesome pontoon fenders and all the
red silver head’s curves are in the right places. I certainly wish I had a red version of this but I guess I didn’t care enough when I was younger to look specifically for it. Funny thing is the other Ferraris in my collection, besides the aforementioned P4, are blue (F40) and purple (F50).
On a somewhat related Hot Wheels note, I actually came across a Lamborghini Ursus at the grocery store last night. I don’t have a particular interest in adding it to my collection, but I was really tempted to get it if only to hang on to for a couple years. I could see that being kind of rare. I’m kind of kicking myself for not getting it.
Thanks for reading.