DRIVERS WERE FAT AND THE ENGINES WERE IN THE FRONT!
FRONT-ENGINED GRAND PRIX CARS IN SMALL-SCALE
by David Cook
Bugatti type 35 - Ferraro
Pre-WWII single-seater - Micro Machines
Maserati 4CLT - Matchbox
Kids today could be excused if they didn't know that racing cars weren't always rear-engine. Pre 1960 it was standard but because small-scale cars are mostly about new things, few examples of front-engined cars exist. Here are some that I have been able to accumulate.
A 1930's era Bugatti race car all in plastic, this toy is labeled Ferraro and is roughly 1/64th scale but I thought it came from Germany inside of a plastic eggshell. French Bugatti racecourse were a fixture on tracks until Mercedes and Auto-Union cars began to dominate Grand Prix racing in the late 1930's.
This very small-scale (less than 1&1/2 inch) pre-war race car could be another Bugatti or perhaps a Mercedes. It is by Micro-Machines and was part of a set.
The Maserati 4CLT raced both pre and post WW2, bridging the gap to the more modern Alfa-Romeos and Ferraris that dominated the early world championships in the 1950's. By Matchbox, it is a re-issue of an old model and also came in yellow.
The manufacturer of this Cooper-Bristol is unknown to me; it is a bit rough looking but a fairly nice representation of this obscure race car. It appears to be 1/64th scale. CB's were staples of club racing in 1950's England and grid-fillers in grands prix behind the larger Ferrari and Alfas.
The Mercedes-Benz racers pictured here were world-beaters in 1954 and 1955 driven by the best talent available at the time- Juan Fangio and Stirling Moss. Fangio won 2 of his 5 world championships in these cars and Moss got his first top-line drive to launch his international career. The Busch model pictured is approximately 1/72 scale (less than 2 inches) and is amazingly detailed for such a small model. The Schuco model is a "piccolo" and is almost exactly 2 inches.
The final entry in the front-engined derby is an F1 Aston-Martin, a DBR-5 model by Lesney. These are fairly hard to find in good condition and I had to accept one without a driver. At the time this model was entered to race in 1959, rear-engined cars had begun to dominate the scene so very few good results were scored. Aston quit racing after that year since they had won LeMans and the sports-car championship as well. One of their drivers was the great Carroll Shelby who went on to build the Cobra line of race and streetcars.
Are there other small-scale front-engined open-wheel cars out there? I would love to see them. It is a shame that Hot Wheels has not yet seen fit to make any of the front-engined Ferrari racecourse yet.
Mercedes-Benz - Busch
Mercedes-Benz - Schuco
Aston Martin DBR-5 - Matchbox