Toy Ferrari Grand Prix
By Doug Breithaupt

In 1998, Ferrari is again rising to the top of Formula 1 racing. Thanks to Michael Schumacher and new levels of reliability, Ferrari has regained the winners circle after spending most of the 1990's with the back-markers. Ferrari racecars have always been favorites with toy car makers. Today's F1 drivers were very likely racing these toy cars on the table-top as children. Do you suppose they dreamed they would be where they are today?

In the collector scales of 1:43 and 1:24, almost every Ferrari racecar has been produced over the years. In the 3-inch toy car scale (1:55-1:64), Grand Prix Ferrari racecars are far less common. Matchbox, Majorette, Corgi, Tomica, and Polistil are some of the few that have offered toy Ferrari racecars for the Grand Prix circuit.

One of the earliest Ferrari F1 toy cars was made by Matchbox, owned then by Lesney. In 1962 Matchbox introduced the Ferrari 156 F1 120 Racing Car. This diecast gem featured the first rear-engined Grand Prix Ferrari, driven in the 1961 season by racing-great Phil Hill, among others. Numbered as 73 in the Matchbox 1-75 series, 73 also served as the car number. With white numbers, yellow and black Ferrari decals on the red car, everything looked correct. Wire wheels, twin exhaust, driver and steering wheel make this one of the best race cars ever done by Matchbox. The next Matchbox Ferrari F1 car was not labeled as such. Number 34-E was offered in 1971, labeled simply 'Formula 1' and done in yellow with a blue stripe and #16 on the nose. The V12 in the tail and general design are most like the 1968-69 Ferrari 312F1V12, driven by Jacky Ickx, among others. Perhaps for licensing reasons, Matchbox refrained from identifying the car as a Ferrari. With the next Ferrari F1 car from Matchbox in 1984, it was now simply called 'F1 Racer' but Ferrari red was back. Along with other correct sponsor decals, # 16-H represents the Ferrari 126 C2/3 driven by Gilles Villeneuve until his death at the Belgian GP. Matchbox offered this same car in other non-Ferrari colors and offered two Ferrari racecars and a Ferrari Racing Transporter as a boxed set. The most recent Matchbox Ferrari GP car was offered as #74-J in 1988. This time labeled as a 'Grand Prix Racing Car' and offered in a variety of colors, Ferrari team markings and #27 gave it a Ferrari look although the body is closer to Williams Honda styling.

Majorette has produced two Ferrari F1 toy cars. This first is #232, the Ferrari 312 T2 of 1977, in which Niki Lauda won the Driver's and Constructor's Championships. The car is incorrectly numbered on the nose as #1 when it should be #11 or #12. The base and rear wing both identify the car as the 312 T2 and the decals are reasonably close to Ferrari Team markings. The second Ferrari GP car by Majorette is still in production. Identified as #282, 'F1 Ferrari', it represents a GP car of the 1990's. Nose numbers changed from #27 for Jean Alesi, to #1 when Michael Schumacher joined Ferrari in 1996 and the 1997 edition has been updated with Shell decals. Like Matchbox, Majorette also offered a recent Ferrari Racing Transporter.

Two of the rarest and most authentic of all the small-scale Ferrari F1 diecast were produced in 1976, 1977 and 1983 by Polistil of Italy. An extension of their delightful Penny series, Polistil produced GP cars from the 1974-82 seasons. The 312 B3 from the 1974-75 season was not one of the more successful Ferrari GP cars. Polistil's 312 B3, #RJ.2 has an authentic look, right down to the gold wheels. The #1 on the nose and side must be wishful thinking, as only the driving champion is allowed to carry this number in F1 and the box art shows #12. The second car is the 312 T2 of 1976-77. Niki Lauda's car, #11 is re-created and again with accuracy uncharacteristic in this scale. Polistil again showed the real car on the box art, this one numbered #RJ.55. The third car is the 126 C3 of the 1982 season. This is one of a set of six F1 cars made for the 1982 season by Polistil. All of the Polistil small scale diecast are quite rare and gaining in value.

Several other Ferrari F1 racecars by Tomica, Corgi and Real Toy have been offered. The Tomica example, #F59 in 1:55 scale, is of excellent quality and represents the Ferrari 312 T3 driven in 1978-79. Produced in 1978, it is one of many F1 racecars offer by Tomica over the years. Tomica is currently offering the new Ferrari F1V10 car from the 1997 season. Corgi also produced an F1 Ferrari, the #28 car driven by Gerhardt Berger in 1995. It is surprisingly accurate, especially as the last diecast labeled as 'Corgi' usually suffered from poor detail. Many Corgi cars are now sold in new colors, with the Hot Wheels label, a move by Mattel to remove the famous Corgi name from small-scale diecast. The last Ferrari GP car is from Real Toy, and is made in China. At first glance it looks like a very accurate Ferrari F1 car from the last two seasons. However, in order to avoid licensing costs all of the markings and names are slightly changed. 'Agip' becomes 'Agid' and 'Bridgestone' becomes 'Ridgestone'. Beyond this, the quality of the tooling is excellent, even the driver is painted. It is only available in a racing boxed set and comes with a variety of other vehicles and racing accessories.

In small-scale diecast, F1 Ferrari racecars are available from the 1960s to the 1990s. With the current success of Ferrari on the GP circuit, more toy examples can be expected. The dream of owning or driving a real F1 car is a fantasy for all but a select few. At the same time, toy F1 collectors never have to pay millions to prima donna drivers and a crash on our table-top race courses seldom retires the car. I wonder which of these toy cars Michael Schumacher played with in the back yard?