Drag racing in the 1960s was very much a fledgling sport. It was a tough way to make a living. Prize money was a pittance. Drivers could look forward to $100 plus free parts and oil if they won it all on any given day. Consequently, living conditions were bare bones.
One way to draw in the crowds was to highlight match races and generate rivalries that people wanted to see. Nicknames were also common in this era so Don Prudhomme earned the handle “Snake” because of his cobra-quick launches off the starting line. Ed Donovan, a drag racing pioneer, thought it would be a good idea to name Tom McEwen, “the Mongoose”. This set up Mongoose vs Snake matchmaking and people paid attention.
As the 60’s wore on,”the two racers realized that a colorful rivalry based on their racing nicknames was very popular with fans, especially the young fans.”1
Bearing this in mind, Tom McEwen approached Mattel and negotiated a unique deal that moved drag racing from barnstorming to a multimillion dollar profession.
Mattel became drag racing’s first sponsor outside of the automobile industry. And they did it both right and big time. The Mongoose & Snake rivalry rose to a new level on the drag circuit and Hot Wheels fans were treated to the 1970 Hot Wheels Mongoose & Snake Drag Race Set.
This set comes with 32 feet of orange track, 12 joiners, 1 universal clamp, 1 start gate, 1 finish gate, 2 dare-devil loop bases, 2 ‘chute traps and 4 parachutes.
The main highlight of this set is the 1:64 scale replica of Don Prudhomme’s yellow 1970 Plymouth Barracuda funny car and Tom McEwen’s red 1970 Plymouth Duster funny car. To showcase this set for you I am going to race four 1994 reissues of these 1970 Mattel funny cars.
2 Snakes and 2 Mongooses in their 1994 blister paks.
Like the 1970 original, this 1994 reissue opens up like a real funny car. Too cool!
Page 1. Copyright Mattel, Inc.
Page 2. Copyright Mattel, Inc.
Page 3. Copyright Mattel, Inc.
This is the layout.
At the start…a blue Plymouth Duster “Mongoose” and a yellow Plymouth Barracuda “Snake”.
Into the loops.
Flat out down the straightaway.
Poppin’ the ‘chutes.
Rolling to a stop.
Here’s my YouTube video of some Mongoose vs Snake matchmaking races.
So there you have it.
The 1970 Hot Wheels Mongoose & Snake Drag Race Set. Probably the most famous Hot Wheels set ever produced.
It’s still fast. Still fun.
Box art – back
Box art – back. Close Up.
Box art – back. Close up of message.
Box art – side
Box art – side. Close up.
Box art – side
Box art – end
1970 toy catalogue. Courtesy eBay.
Original 1970 buttons. Courtesy eBay.
Hot Wheels “Wide World of Racing” Poster featuring the Snake & Mongoose. Courtesy eBay.
1970 magazine ad. Courtesy eBay.
Sunday Newspaper Comics Section. Mattel’s Hot Wheels ad for the Mongoose & Snake Drag Race Set. July 19, 1970. Courtesy eBay.
Reissues of Mongoose & Snake Drag Race Sets have been frequent over the years. Here’s the “Classics” version. Courtesy eBay.
The UK version, from 1971, was quite different. A Match Maker & Big Belter to launch the cars, no loops, and narrow chute traps for a better dual lane fit. Courtesy eBay.
Sides and back of the UK Mongoose & Snake version. Courtesy eBay.
1. Snake vs Mongoose: How a rivalry changed drag racing forever. By Tom Madigan.