On the Curb at Watkins Glen, 1952


I adore this shot of Bill Spear’s OSCA MT4 thundering past the start-finish line of the Watkins Glen street circuit in 1952. Bill went on to win the Queen Catherine Cup race for small displacement cars.

The composition of the photo though, puts it in a different light that makes me love the photo all the more. The biggest thing in this photo isn’t that gorgeous little barchetta. Just as important in the photo are the three spectators crouched behind a streetlight, ready to leap out of the line of danger.

I don’t think there’s many of us that would want motorsport to return to the closeness and peril of this spectator experience, but there is a sense of loss that we’ll never feel the adrenaline rush those three spectators felt as a passing racing car sent a blast of air over their bodies. It’s a sense of immediacy that connected racing fans to racing drivers. If you found yourself at the Seneca Lodge after the race, you’d have been able to swap stories with drivers and other spectators in the same way that drivers talked amongst themselves. You had your own harrowing experience. You had your own adrenaline coursing through your veins—not in support of your favorite driver, but for your own very real brush with death.

Dangerous? Foolish?


Does part of me want to be able to watch a race this way?


14 responses to “On the Curb at Watkins Glen, 1952”

  1. Pilote says:

    An OSCA “thunders?”

    • Harlo says:

      HA, Pilote! Of all the artistic license and waxing poetic and romantic ramblings I put on this site, THIS is the thing someone is finally going to call me out on?! 🙂

  2. Pilote says:

    Just trying to keep it “objective,” or “realistic,” or something… Wax On, Harlo, Wax On…

  3. Captain Ned says:

    Hmm, old-school rally-style spectating. I’ll take Old Spa and the Masta Kink every day.

    And no, OSCAs do not thunder. I’m not sure if they even bleat at 1.3L.

  4. Edward B. Eichenlaub Jr says:

    My brother and I were there on that day. I had a 52 MG TD and toured the course. Great fun.

  5. Mike Jacobsen says:

    I say they thunder! OSCAs had a wonderful exhaust note. Had Spear run this car in the big bore main he would have been near the leaders. This OSCA passed to Bill David and then Chick Leson–a long string of successes which I was lucky enough to see.

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