On Nov. 4, 1962, Ewy Rosqvist rocketed across the finish line three hours ahead of the competition to win the Argentine Grand Prix. In the unforgiving road race known for destroying cars thanks to treacherous terrain along its course, Rosqvist and co-pilot Ursula Wirth drove a Mercedes-Benz 220 SE to victory, making history on multiple counts. Setting a speed record of 126 km/h (78 mph), Rosqvist proved that women couldn’t just drive the Grand Prix — they could win it. “They said I could never finish,” she says, “so I finished first.”

Nearly 60 years later, there’s still a stigma about girls and cars — something that I’ve written about extensively as the father of two girls who love cars just as much as their dolls and dresses. Kids shouldn’t be forced into any interest, and they certainly shouldn’t be told that something isn’t for them. Still, we often come across grownups who continue to reinforce the archaic stereotype that “cars are for boys” — particularly here in the U.S.

Mercedes-Benz and Matchbox are looking to change that once and for all.

Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) invited a group of first grade girls to choose from an assortment of toys, with the opportunity to provide feedback on why they play with certain things. What they found was not surprising — the little girls felt that things like toy cars were “boys toys.” That is, until they were shown a short film — Ewy Rosqvist: An Unexpected Champion. Released by MBUSA in honor of Women’s History Month, the clip has taken on new life as a tool to inspire a new generation of girls. Complete with a discussion guide that can help parents and teachers break down the imaginary walls that tend to box kids in, the overall goal is to empower kids through play.

The design team at Mattel’s Matchbox division has turned Ewy’s Mercedes-Benz 220 SE into a playable, 1:64-scale die-cast car that will be gifted to thousands of girls across the country in partnership with Mattel’s Dream Gap Foundation. Next year, the grey vehicle with its bold, black No. 711 will be available for sale, with proceeds being used to produce and distribute additional cars and a teaching toolkit.

Mercedes-Benz x Matchbox

Initiatives such as this one are reminders that we as adults need to lead the way by letting kids be kids and experience open-ended imaginative play without restriction. Toys are for everyone.


Related: Matchbox sees a 13% sales increase in the first quarter of 2019