Hey John Doonan! (Mr. Mazda)

What’s in your model cabinet?

I’ve always wondered what racing’s team principals or top model car builders have in their model collection. You just know that there are some wonderful things they’ve got that we want. Bad.

By blind luck, I’ve struck up a conversation with John Doonan, head of Mazda Motorsports. You can see the back story here; scroll down to “Star gazing”. Learning that he is an avid model collector, my model collecting brain went into hyperdrive. I asked Mr. Doonan to share a bit of his collection with us.

Naturally, his main focus is Mazda models

I’ll let him fill in the details:

spencer pigot indycar model from the collection of john doonan“I have a pretty massive collection of models…mostly Mazdas (nearly every 1/43rd Mazda ever made). And then key cars from young drivers who have come through our driver development system like Rafa Matos (Swift .016a Atlantic) and Spencer Pigot (all of his Indy 500 and Indy Cars). My Crossle 32F in 1/16th scale, Mazda 787B LeMans winner in 1/24th scale (autographed by nearly all the drivers and key program/team members), and our Global MX-5 Cup car.

“I have a pretty massive collection of models…mostly Mazdas (nearly every 1/43rd Mazda ever made)”

“I have 1500 Matchbox and Hot Wheels and about 400 1/43rd scales. About 200 1/18th scales of various cars. Significant cars from motorsports history, cars of drivers who have driven for me, and cars of my boyhood heros: Johnny Rutherford, Rick Mears, Al Holbert, Richard Petty, Mark Donahue, Roger Penske, Bobby Rahal, and the long, long list goes on.”

What you may not realize about John Doonan and his models

crossle from the collection of john doonanThat Crossle has provenance. Mr. Doonan purchased a full-size red Crossle 32F and then learned it had been driven by the estimable Bob Lobenberg. Lobenberg was a master of Formula Ford and later drove the radical ADF Formula Ford to an SCCA runoffs victory to go with his earlier FF Runoffs win. That ADF later morphed into the first Swift FF, which dominated FF for years and years. The model is a custom piece true to Lobenberg’s car as it ran in its prime. I believe Mr. Doonan took this car to Indy for some vintage running.

That Swift Atlantic? I’ve never seen another. If you never saw a Pro Atlantic race, you missed what I consider to be the best ever class in racing. The engines screamed, the chassis’ handled, and they were visibly fast out on the track. Europe has Formula 3 as the training ground of future F1 stars. Atlantic was America’s training ground for Indy 500 drivers like Bobby Rahal, Kevin Cogan and Michael Andretti. A few decent future F1 drivers competed in Atlantic too, like Gilles Villeneuve, Keke Rosberg and James Hunt. Also Bill Brack, Tom Gloy, Jeff Wood, Jacques Villeneuve Sr. and Howdy Holmes, amongst so many others.

Try to imagine what 1500 Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars looks like.

Ya gotta love this guy

He’s a racer through and through. His dad was a racer too. I envy Mr. Doonan as he gets paid to do what he loves to do and describes it as his dream job. He does it pretty darned well too. Think of all the drivers Mazda has brought to top-line racing. Mr. Doonan’s fingerprints are all over their careers.

Since he can’t get enough racing, he collects model cars too. I’m not sure which he would rather talk about, Mazda racing or his model collection.

My kind of guy. A genuine racerhead, with cars on the brain.

More model car stories here.

A gallery of models from the collection of John Doonan