In Praise of the Illustrated Racing Program Cover

Keeping goofy “title sponsorship” logos off of program covers and event posters wasn’t a conscious design decision in the 60’s, but it’s one I wish more poster designers would make today.

I have a poster hanging in my house for the 1999 running of the Meadowbrook Historics at the Waterford Hills Road Races. Like the brilliant imagery presented here, it’s beautifully illustrated with bold colors and finely executed imagery of racing cars. Bugatti was the featured marque for the race and the poster features a gorgeously realized Bugatti-blue Type 35.

The color and composition are quite lovely, but then the sponsoring corporation’s logo is slapped across the bottom. “Tech-Sight”, it says, in anachronistically severe quasi-contemporary logotype. It tarnishes the poster with its poor design and placement and late-90’s generically futuristic branding.

I had to look up what the company was to write this post: It’s a subsidiary of defense contractor General Dynamics. Yeah, that’s the kind of thing people want hanging in their automotive art gallery: graphically dated defense contractor logos.

Thankfully, we can always look back at these marvelous American Road Race of Champions program covers to give us the essentials: evocative illustration, uncluttered typography, and the sanctioning body’s logo – if necessary. That’s it. Follow that equation, poster designers.

6 responses to “In Praise of the Illustrated Racing Program Cover”

  1. Rubba says:

    more please!

  2. Manley Ford says:

    I have the ’96 Meadowbrook poster on my mantle. By Dexter Brown, I presume it depicts Tazio Nuvolari’s MG K3 on its way to victory in the 1933 Ulster TT. I did a little googling and found one on the ‘net:
    http://www.arteauto.com/meadowbrookhistoricraces1996posterbydexterbrown.aspx
    In 1996, it was the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the first production automobile (by Mercededes Benz), Pontiac was the event sponsor, so the featured marque (naturally) for the Meadowbrook car show and historic races was . . .MG. Never could figure that out, but I had a great weekend there in my MGTF.

  3. phil says:

    Now, nobody can put on one of these shows without sponsors. And no matter how elegant any one logo might be, put too many together and it’s just a mess. And, illustration is currently ‘about of fashion’ … Like attractive race cars and ground–clearance.

  4. Mike Gulett says:

    I love these old posters. I have two Shelby factory posters from the 1960s celebrating the Cobra race victories and the 1965 World Championship.

  5. Mike Jacobsen says:

    Poster probably shows the winning Mille Miglia K3 Magnette driven by Eyston & Lurani; Tazio’s TT car wore #17. Mike Jacobsen
    P.S. Manley’s TD is ridiculously fast–but he did pass me under yellow at Pittsburgh (along with the two other TDs he was dicing with).

  6. sean says:

    Nice post, seen http://www.progcovers.com/?

    Amused that the ’64 cover depicts an overwhelmingly (I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that that’s a Cobra rather than an Ace) British field…

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