As the old saying goes, “Money can’t buy happiness,” but it can sure buy nitro — and snappy Coca-Cola pants to boot!
As drag racing matured, it became much more expensive to be competitive. Equipment manufacturers were building better parts, and now, the stuff was being designed specifically for drag racing. The science of nitro engine development, tuning and chassis design was making rapid advances. Crew chiefs were getting savvier. Drivers, many becoming full-time professionals, were constantly honing their skills.
All this was conspiring to radically improve the performance of Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars. This increase in performance came at a cost, though, literally. Racing was getting much more expensive. You could no longer get by on the parts deals doled out by traditional automotive-related sponsors.
This was the state of professional drag racing that brought about the “Hot Wheels Deal.” The whole deal kicked off in late ’69. I realized that if my racing career was going to continue to flourish, it was going to require a major injection of cash. To come up with the kind of money I needed, unconventional thinking (and funding) was required. After doing my homework, Mattel Toys and their highly successful Hot Wheels line of toy cars and accessories seemed like a natural target. The kids raced their cars in a straight line like we raced, and the parents, being about my age, were either already race fans, or at least potential fans. Throw in the Mongoo$e and Snake animals to use as advertising hooks, and it looked like a win-win situation.
Next: Can the Mongoose persuade the skeptical Snake to get on board with the deal? (more…)