Parnelli-Jones

Remembering Legendary Racer Parnelli Jones in Diecast

Racing legend Parnelli Jones died this week at the age of 90. If it seemed like he participated in just about every form of auto racing, it’s because he did. He got his start in Mdlget racing before moving to NASCAR in the late ‘50s. He would go on to race Can-Am, Trans Am, and Indy in the 1960s and ‘70s.

After climbing out of his last Indy car, he immediately became a team owner, winning the 1970 and ’71 Indy 500s with Al Unser piloting the Johnny Lightning Special. He even did a short stint in Formula 1 after that. If it had four wheels and an engine, he would jump in and drive it!

Of course, someone with such a diverse career in motorsports would also inspire some great diecast collectibles. Here are just a few…

Jones got his start in Midget car racing in the 1950s when those cars looked a lot like the bigger Indy and F1 cars. He looked a lot like a driver destined for those bigger series.

parnelli jones Offenhauser midget
GMP 1/18-scale Parnelli Jones Willard Battery Offenhauser Midget Sprint

Jones raced in style in the Trans Am series in a Mercury Cougar. He would then switch to a more famous burnt orange Mustang and clean up on the track.

Parnelli_Jones_1967_Mercury_Trans_Am_Cougar_Ford_Ramp_Truck_Model_Vehicle
GreenLight/Acme Models 1/64-scale 1967 Cougar Trans Am with Ford Transporter
1970_Ford_Mustang_Parnelli Jones
SMTS Models 1/43-scale Parnelli Jones 1970 Mustang Boss 302 Trans Am car

In Can-Am racing, Jones drove the achingly beautiful Lola T70 for several years.

parnelli jones lola t70
GMP 1/18-scale Lola T70 Spyder Can Am

In 1967, Jones drove the asymmetrical Paxton Turbine car to a near win in the Indianapolis 500. He was running in the top of the pack when a $6 part broke in the transmission. This was one of the fastest and certainly most experimental cars of its era.

Replicarz 1/18-scale 1967 Paxton Turbine Indy car

He only drove in F1 for a short time before owning and designing cars for other drivers including a star-spangled 1976 car driven by Mario Andretti.

Parnelli_VPJ4_1976_Mario_Andretti
Spark Models 1/43-scale Parnelli VPJ4 Formula 1 driven in 1976 by Mario Andretti

Parnelli Jones retired with six IndyCar wins including twelve pole positions, four wins in 34 NASCAR starts, 25 midget car wins in occasional races between 1960 and 1967, 25 career sprint car wins, and seven Trans Am wins including the Drivers Championship in 1970. 

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