News Issue 13

Tom McEwen

Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen, one of the most iconic figures in drag racing history, died on June 10th. He was 81.

He began racing stockers at the California strips in the early Fifties, progressing via Gas coupes, Altereds, Gas and Fuel dragsters to Funny Cars and Top Fuel. The ‘Mongoose’ nickname first appeared in 1964, mainly to taunt Don ‘the Snake’ Prudhomme into some match races. The Snake v. Mongoose matches happened only a couple more times that decade, but were a popular crowd draw.

Whilst he was a solid performer, McEwen was never as successful as some of his contemporary stars; he was definitely a character, though, and his entrepreneurial chops led to one of the most famous deals ever in 1969 – the Mattel Hot Wheels Snake & Mongoose Funny Cars. With big-money backing from Mattel, McEwen and Prudhomme toured the country, match-racing. Meanwhile, Mattel were selling toys, models and paraphernalia faster than they could make it. The tour rolled from 1970 to 1972, then sponsorship switched to Carefree gum.

McEwen had started the ball rolling on major corporate sponsorship for drag racing. He even admitted that, in the lucrative Snake & Mongoose partnership, “I was the bullsh**ter and Prudhomme was the racer.” However, after Snake & Mongoose dissolved their partnership in 1973, McEwen went on to achieve more NHRA racing success than he ever had before, bagging five national wins in both nitro classes. He won Top Fuel at the 1991 Summernationals, and retired the following year.

He was an active racer across five decades, but will forever be best remembered for the Snake & Mongoose Hot Wheels years, which fired the imaginations of a whole new generation of race fans, and the sponsorship package that forever changed the face of professional racing. The biographical Snake & Mongoose feature film was released in 2013. Farewell, Mongoose.

Crayons Out!

Here’s a stunningly brilliant idea – the Retro Rides Colouring Book! Twenty pages of Fordy goodness, from the pen of our own Motorvation artist Simon Coulson, ready for you to col… I mean, ready for the kids to colour in! Make the long car journeys fly by, and get some early brainwashing in on the nippers. Or you could use the drawings to trial a few modification or colour scheme ideas of your own. A proper bargain at £5, you’ll find it at store.retro-rides.org.

SORN Again

According to a recent ‘report’ by KwikFit, of all people, there are a shade over a quarter of a million cars in the UK first registered between 1960 and 1978 that, since May 20th, are now MoT exempt. Of those, almost 117,000 are SORNed, and the report states that these cars “are now free to be driven without testing.” Really? Erm… The most SORNed cars in the UK are MGBs (13,000), VW Beetles (6,800) and Morris Minors (6,500). There are also 7,800 Minis, but they come under Austin, Morris or Leyland. The top three culprits for having more cars SORNed than on the road are Leyland, Reliant and Volkswagen.

Being Frank

The Ford Mustang Bullitt special edition is coming to the UK in right-hand drive. Order books are open now, first deliveries should be September, and production will run until June 2019. Prices for the warmed-up 5.0 start at a whiff over £47,000, and it’s only available in Dark Highland Green or Shadow Black, and with a manual transmission.

Holy Grail

In an amazing ‘container find’ in the south of England, the Coys boys uncovered a stunning collection of rare classic parts. Many of the NOS parts are still in their original Sixties packing cases and oiled paper, and include original wire wheels, carburettors, and grilles, some for rare Ferrari and Maserati models such as 250 GTOs, 275s and Daytonas. The stash, owned by a collector who passed away many years ago, goes under the hammer at Coys’ Blenheim Palace auction on Friday, June 29th, where Coys MD, Chris Routledge, confidently expect it to fetch well over £1 million. And this, folks, is why we never throw anything away…. although the entire contents of my garage would probably earn me a goldfish in a bag from the rag man.