The Mongoose and the Snake

Don "the Snake" Prudhomme earned his nickname early in his career, for the way he would "strike fast" off the starting line and leave his opponents "snake-bitten".

In the fall of 1964, Tom McEwen won a high-exposure match race against "the Snake", beating Prudhomme in two straight sets. Ed Donovan, McEwen's car owner, nicknamed McEwen "The Mongoose", starting the most famous rivalry in drag racing.

Because their first get-together had received so much attention, two more match races between "the Snake" and "the Mongoose" were held in 1965. McEwen beat Prudhomme two rounds to one in the first, then lost in two straight sets in the second.

Prudhomme was focused and avoided interviews, but McEwen was more relaxed and outgoing. That personality contrast helped them to be successful. In 1969, Prudhomme's winning record and McEwen's talent for promotion led to their creation of a national touring team called Wildlife Racing.

McEwen knew the value of corporate sponsorship, but the standard at the time was to appeal to automotive-related sponsors such as Wynn's, Firestone, Pennzoil and Champion. In 1970 McEwen went "outside the box" and negotiated a deal with Mattel Toy Co. At the time, it was the biggest sponsorship deal in drag racing history. That was the first time a major non-automotive company had been involved in drag racing, and it paid big dividends all around. Mattel made lots of money off of the relationship by selling toy versions of the race cars, and the little toy cars brought more attention to the "big time" professional drag racers.

In 1970, Mattel offered the Snake and Mongoose funny cars in both individual blister-cards and in a track set. They were heavily promoted, and ended up being the best-selling Hot Wheels™ cars that year. But 1970 was the only year the red and yellow funny cars were made. In 1971, Prudhomme raced a white "Snake II" Barracuda funny car, while McEwen's "Mongoose II" Duster was blue. Both cars had new, "flamed" paint jobs. Mattel capitalized on the popularity of the drag-racing duo by releasing issues of the Snake II and Mongoose II, along with the Mongoose and Snake Rail Dragsters.

The Mattel deal ran from 1970 through 1972, with both drivers racing top fuel and funny cars.

In 1994, Mattel reissued the Mongoose and the Snake as part of the Hot Wheels™ "Vintage Collection". Each car was painted one of five different metalflake colors, packaged on reproduction style blister-cards, and sold exclusively through Toys 'R' Us.

In 2003, as part of its 35th anniversary celebration, Mattel unveiled the Hot Wheels™ Hall of Fame, a line of forty-two cars honoring the history of the automobile. The cars were nominated by an online ballot and released in limited production as a tribute to the men, the machines, and the moments that had a significant impact on car culture. Each car featured a clamshell package and a card that tells the story behind the person, event or vehicle it represents.


1970-only redlines

1971 Rail Dragsters

1994 Vintage Series 2

2003 Hall Of Fame releases


Back to Top ↑