Reviewed: A Question of Speed

Fred Bonatto's A Question of Speed

There are a lot of photographic studies of classic motoring available at the bookstore. Most of these are a collection published by a stock motoring photography house, with a variety of photographers images from the past slapped together under a sometimes tenuous theme. Occasionally we’ll see a singular volume from an individual photographer’s catalog. I tend to be more drawn to these as the work takes on a new perspective than simply the subject of the photographs. The consistency of photographic technique and the photographer’s eye lends the volume a more personal and intimate point of view that holds the book together.

Fred Bonatto’s A Question of Speed is akin to this later type of work, but with a key difference. Rather than a collection of decades old photography, Fred spent the summer of 2013 traveling to the Donnington Historic Festival, the Spa Six Hours race, and Copenhagen Historic GP documenting the cars and—vitally—the community of contemporary vintage racing. I love it.

An image from Fred Bonatto's A Question of Speed

The past few summers I’ve not been able to attend the number of vintage races that I would like and Fred’s book makes me feel like I’ve just returned from a great race weekend. The reason is simple: he turns his lens at wonderful cars—some in the pits and some on track. Just as importantly he also trains his eye on the real reason race weekends are so wonderful: the people that make them happen. The moments captured of drivers, mechanics, spectators, and corner workers all hard at work/play give you a real sense of being in the paddock on race weekend. We all know that the on-track action is only a fraction of the enjoyment of a solid race weekend.

An image from Fred Bonatto's A Question of SpeedI also appreciate Fred’s commitment to capturing the atmosphere of a race on black and white film. Film! I’m not necessarily a personal stalwart for chemical photo developing, but I do appreciate the confidence and patience that it takes to limit yourself. When I’m in the paddock, I shoot hundreds and hundreds of images with my digital camera knowing that I’ll be able to find a precious handful of quality shots from the weekend. That is a luxury that the expense of film makes impractical for me, but in the hands of a much more talented photographer, there’s a beauty in the grain of film photography that A Question of Speed captures beautifully.

Fred Bonatto’s A Question of Speed is like a perfect race weekend that I can pluck from the shelf anytime I like—whether it’s because I’m missing whatever vintage event happens to be this weekend, or because it’s mid-February. I’ll always have this wonderful little escape to the paddock right there on the shelf waiting for me.

A Question of Speed is limited to 100 precious copies and is available from fredbonatto.com.

DISCUSS (No Comments)

How Does This Happen?

Rusted Jaguar and Porsche racers

I’m just going assume that this is fake and that photoshop, not neglect, is to blame for this Jaguar XK and Porsche 356 racer rusting away amongst the trees.

Update: Ugh. A few emails from readers and Frederik’s comment on Facebook have confirmed that these are indeed authentic. One of whom pointed me to this article about a German who purchases vintage cars and allows them to rust in his “garden” as a sort of art project. What an asshole.

DISCUSS (2 Comments)

Reader Photos: Gary Mason’s 1959 Coppa Città di Asiago Hillclimb

Coppa Città di Asiago by Gary Mason

Let’s dig back in to the scores of photos that Gary Mason sent in from his teenage years spent in Italy in the 1950s. Among them are these magnificent snapshots from a decidedly less documented location than Monza or along the Brescia-Rome route. The Asiago Hillclimb in the mountains of Northern Italy is exactly the kind of event I love seeing imagery from. This looks very much like a locally organized race for local racers—no glitz required.

Coppa Città di Asiago by Gary Mason

Of course in classic hillclimb fashion, it’s the variety that makes these amazing shots come together so beautifully. Everything from open-wheeled formula junior cars and little sub-1000cc barchettas to big Ferraris and proto-econobox Fiats (albeit tuned by Abarth) are all well represented here. What an incredible afternoon it must have been for Gary, nestled in among the other fans atop this little wall above a switchback.

Click on through to more of Gary’s photos in our Gary Mason Archives. Another huge “thank you” to Gary Mason for sending these in. More to come.

DISCUSS (1 Comment)

Ferrari F40 Promo Video

The F40 is iconic for a lot of reasons. It was the last Ferrari to be created under Enzo Ferrari’s direct supervision. It was a perfect moment at the height of the old fashioned—some say purer—supercar (old fashioned in that it was without much in the way of onboard computerized driver aids). It isn’t bad to look at either.

When the Japanese magazine Car Graphic was asked to make this promotional video for the Ferrari F40 in 1987, they may have produced something just as unique as the F40 itself… Something we’re unlikely to ever see again. I’d bet that this is as close as we’ll ever get to a Ferrari television ad.

You know… as good as it looks, the view pales in comparison to the sound.

DISCUSS (1 Comment)

Toyota 2000GT Crushed by a Falling Tree. Nooooooooo!

Toyota 2000GT crushed

An unnamed 28-year-old driver was passing under the limb of a beech tree in the Gokayama area of Toyama Prefecture at the exact moment that the tree decided to call it quits. The driver escaped with minor injuries; which is something of a minor miracle when you see the damage to the passenger compartment in this photo.

What makes it all the more frustrating is that this tree has been identified as a potential hazard, but local historic preservation in the area barred its removal.

More (if you have the stomach for it) at Japanese Nostalgia Car.

DISCUSS (1 Comment)

World of Champions: Stirling Moss

Stirling Moss World of Champions

I stumbled across a few scanned pages of this comic strip highlighting Stirling Moss’s career in the wake of his crash at Goodwood in 1962. I’ve had little luck tracking down more information about the series or where it first appeared. Other “World of Champions” strips may have been published in Tintin books or in “Champion” magazine, but I haven’t found anything definitive about this strip. Maybe it was published in both in varying locations or times.

I’d love to find a physical copy.

DISCUSS (1 Comment)

From the British Pathé Archives: Racing Drivers School

This racing school at Snetterton charged £1/week in 1959… Sign me up.

DISCUSS (2 Comments)

Sir Jack Brabham 1926—2014

Gnoo-Blas Championships Program

Of all the imagery we’ve seen commemorating the passing of Jack Brabham this week, my favorite might this shot of Jack in the Redex Special on the cover of this 1955 Program for the Gnoo-Blas Road Racing Championships. Looking back at his early midget racing days and knowing where he would go from there is a lovely way to appreciate his racing legacy.

Although I frequently glorify the records and accomplishments of racing drivers in the early years of Formula 1, the truth is that most of those records have been beaten and most of those glories have faded (at least in the minds of the general racing fan public). I feel pretty confident though, that one of Jack Brabham’s records will stand for a very long time indeed. I can’t imagine a future where another figure in Formula 1 emerges to design, build, and drive a Formula 1 car to another championship.

Jack Brabham: the ultimate union of engineer and driver.

Race in Peace.

Photo via Stephen on The Nostalgia Forum.

DISCUSS (No Comments)

Jim Clark’s “Swinging Style”

Let that Cortina’s ass slide.

DISCUSS (3 Comments)

Jaguar to Build the Six “Missing” E-Type Lightweights

E-Type Lightweight at Silverstone, 1963

Jaguar’s original plan was to build 18 E-Type lightweights, but ultimately only 12 were built. In the years since, 2 were converted to low-drag bodywork and one is (currently) considered too damaged to rebuild. That makes 9. For fifty years, those 9 cars had to be enough and today they are among the most coveted GT racers in the world. A handful of workshops have made a decent business of reproducing lightweight specification parts—and even turnkey replicas. Now Jaguar has decided to finally follow through on the original build order and make the remaining “missing” 6 lightweights.

When I say original build order, I mean it. Jaguar intends for these to be perfect continuations of the build—down to using the 6 reserved chassis numbers from the original run. That means that right now there are craftsmen at Jaguar assembling full aluminum monocoques, dropping an alloy version of the 3.8 liter straight six fitted with a D-Type wide angle cylinder head, and mating it to a 5-speed ZF gearbox. There are Jaguar employees fitting aluminum bonnets and hardtops and vented bootlids.

So now there will be 6 more. Do they have the same provenance? No. Will they be as hotly desired as their older sisters? Nope. But none of that matters. What matters to me is that sometimes the original manufacturers show the same enthusiasm for their motorsport heritage that the rest of us have.

DISCUSS (1 Comment)

The Chicane is licensed under a Creative Commons (Attribution: 3.0) License. | The Chicane is a *January Studios Production. | info@thechicaneblog.com