A look at Mattel's new diecast range celebrating Formula One champion Niki Lauda

03 May 2011
imports_CCGB_mattel_46895.jpg A look at Mattel's new diecast range celebrating Formula One champion Niki Lauda
Richard Ayling looks at the new Mattel Ferrari Formula One models driven by three-times World Champion, Niki Lauda. ...
A look at Mattel's new diecast range celebrating Formula One champion Niki Lauda Images

By 1974 Scuderia Ferrari had not won a Grand Prix championship, drivers or constructors since John Surtees in 1964. Although Ferrari had recorded some wins in the late 1960s and early 1970s, wins weren’t championships.

Niki Lauda had made his Grand Prix debut at the 1971 Austrian GP, as a pay-to-race driver for the March F1 outfit. By 1973, with a further bank loan for funding, he drove for the English BRM team.

Following a best placing of 5th in Belgium plus some other promising drives where he retired, for the 1974 season Enzo Ferrari signed him to Scuderia. Lauda was to be the second driver to the experienced Swiss racer, Clay Regazzoni.

Ferrari 312B3 Flat 12 (1974–75)
The Ferrari 312B3 was used by Scuderia Ferrari for the 1974–75 Grand Prix seasons. It had been based on a prototype design made during the previous 312B usage called the ‘snowplough’. Even the 312B3 was a work-in-progress at the time of its introduction at the 1974 Argentine GP.

Following that race, the front end of the car and the aerodynamics were re-designed, so that by the time of the race featured by the Mattel model, the 1974 French GP, the car looked totally different.

Lauda took pole in France with Peterson driving the Lotus 72 in second and Tom Pryce in the Shadow a surprising third. Lauda and Peterson maintained their positions at the start, whereas Pryce collided with Hunt in the Hesketh and Carlos Reutemann in the Brabham, with all three retiring as Regazzoni took third. Lauda and Peterson battled it out in the early stages but soon Lauda began to suffer from a vibration and Peterson was able to pass him and pull away. Peterson went on to win, with Lauda managing second and Regazzoni third.

In that year’s championship, Fittipaldi driving the McLaren M23 Ford took the title by three points from Ferrari team leader, Clay Regazzoni, with Lauda in fourth place. Ferrari finished second to McLaren in the constructors championship – Ferrari was back!

The model
Mattel’s model represents the car as driven to second place by Niki Lauda in the 1974 French GP, which was round nine, held at the Dijon circuit. The model shows the re-developed nose with the top-mounted wing, and the side venting for the radiator ducts is accurately represented.

The car itself was small compared with some of its contemporaries. The tinted windscreen and the famous Campagnolo cast 5-spoke wheel hubs are reproduced in the gold colour used on this model. Sponsors logos from the Italian fuel company AGIP, the Swiss watch company Heuer plus the trade logos from the various suppliers are all represented in miniature.

Ferrari 312T Flat 12 (1975–76)
The development by chief engineer Mauro Forghieri of the 312T to replace the 312B3 had begun in 1974. The most interesting feature was the transverse-mounted gearbox – hence the T in the car’s name, which stood for transverse. Niki Lauda tested the car extensively during the ‘off’ season, ready for a full-on championship challenge.

Although the first 312T was completed in the autumn of 1974, and unveiled to the press in Modena after the end of the 1974 season, the team used the old 312B3 at the first two races of the 1975 season. It was not until the South African Grand Prix that the 312T received its race debut, where it unfortunately disappointed. After a slow start to the season and further testing by Lauda, the car went on to win four races, securing the driver’s title by the Italian race at Monza, by finishing third in front of the Tifosi. Clay Regazzoni’s victory in the same race was Ferrari’s first constructor’s title since Surtees in 1964.

Changes to the high air box regulations meant that the 312T could only race the first three races of the 1976 season. Lauda won the first two including the second round featured by the Mattel model, the South African Grand Prix. Regazzoni took the third race victory before the 312T2 with the lower air box was introduced. The 312T was certainly a successful car.

The model
There were few obvious differences between the 312B3 and 312T. As shown on the model, the paint finish was an obvious change with the larger use of white paint and the Italian red and green on the upper bodywork. However, the model reflects some of the subtle changes that turned the car into the championship winning car that it became.

Mattel has picked out the front and rear brake ducts which are painted to represent the hi-tech Kevlar material that the real ones were constructed from. The aerodynamics, which were not achieved by using today’s Cad-Cam computer design programmes, were tidied up from the 312B3 and the lines shown on the model are more rounded and appealing.

From the rear, the famous white enamel painted exhausts are seen pointing out from below the rear chassis under the large rear wing. The pin-striping around the one-piece upper cockpit is also faithfully reproduced on the model which carries Lauda’s 1976 first championship number one on the air box side.

Ferrari 312T6 Flat 12 – 6-wheeler (1977)
In 1976, Ken Tyrrell’s Formula One team had launched a 6-wheel car into the championship from total secrecy. Six wheels, however, were nothing new. Auto Union, Alfa Romeo and ERA had used twin rear wheels on hill-climb versions of their Grand Prix cars in the 1930s.

What made Tyrrell’s car different was that he had introduced a car with twin sets of miniature Goodyear tyres steered wheels at the front! This set had many teams thinking about 6-wheel cars, especially when the Tyrell P34 car took victory at the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix. March F1, Ferrari and Williams also tested but never raced 6-wheel cars of different configurations.

Ferrari took the 312T2 car and put two front tyres on each side of the rear axle, the reasoning being not the reduction in frontal area but the need for more traction in the rear axle. Ferrari thought that the huge rear tyres suffered lots of deformation under cornering and believed two smaller front tyres would be more rigid.

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The car was ready to test at the Ferrari test track at Fiorano by Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann. Reutemann crashed it after 13 laps but Lauda was actually quite happy with it. At one point he considered racing it as the championship was looking to go his way and therefore Ferrari could afford some time developing the car under race conditions. Lauda’s accident in Germany put paid to that idea and also the notion that the car may run at the Italian GP.

The model
The Mattel model captures the extraordinary looks of the rear of this Formula One prototype very well. The front end is, of course, the same as the conventional 4-wheel 312T2. The airspeed pitot head is mounted aloft the roll-bar, as was the original, and the brake ducts are correctly covered by red tape.

The car was tested extensively so some decals may have been changed or added, especially following Reutemann’s accident and subsequent fire to the car. The decals look pretty accurate, though, compared to the rare photos available of the original testing. Another great point of detail is the special rear hubs that were created for the rear wheel assembly which are correct.

Even the model in 1/43 scale looks wide compared to the other Ferrari models being reviewed in this article. I wonder whether many cars could have overtaken it had it raced at somewhere like Monaco for instance!

Ferrari 312T2 Flat 12 (1976–78)
Although Lauda’s accident at the Nürburgring German Grand Prix had cost him the 1976 title, and nearly his life, he went into the 1977 season with the proven 312T2 chassis as a strong title contender.

Lauda won at the second round South African GP, the first victory since his accident. He went on to win his second title by scoring two more victories in Germany (at the Hockenheim circuit) and the Netherlands. The key to his second title was the fact he scored six second place finishes as well. Ferrari also took the constructor’s title.

The model
Mattel’s model represents Niki Lauda’s Dutch Grand Prix winning car and his final Ferrari victory. After this season he left Ferrari for good and joined the Brabham team. He then moved to McLaren where he won his third and final world title in 1983.

The obvious difference to the 312T model is the lower bodywork which, as previously mentioned, had been introduced to reduce the sizes of what were becoming outrageously large air box devices. Ferrari’s chief engineer, Mauro Forghieri, had gone down the route of adopting a second outer cockpit skin so that NACA ducts at the front of the cockpit would suck in the air to the flat 12 engine trumpets fitted low-down. This gave the car a unique look that season and the model captures this well.

The white bodywork shown on the model has featured regularly on Ferraris over the years and was combined with the Italian red and green colours around the cockpit. The model correctly shows Ferrari’s allegiance to FIAT who owned the team by this time.

From the rear, the side pod cooling ducts on the model are wider than on the 312T and this view confirms what a neat package the 312T/T2 3-litre cars were.

THANKS: Diecast Collector would like to thank Francesco Lercari of Mattel for all his assistance with this article.

Top right - Mattel’s Ferrari 312T2 Flat 12.
Left -  A model of the car driven to second place in the 1974 French GP.
Right - Mattel captures the extraordinary looks of the rear of this F1 prototype very well.


Release dates of the models

mid August - V8371 Lauda 312 B3 France 1974
mid September - V8370 Lauda 312 T South Africa 1976
end September - W1186 Lauda 312 T2 Holland 1977
mid November - V8380 Lauda 312 T2 1977 (test 6 wheels)