Reader Mystery: Florida Alfa

John Shea wrote in with another photographic head scratcher. Can anyone identify this Alfa-Romeo photographed at Sheppard’s Imports in Tampa, Florida in the mid-1950s?

I think we can all agree that the handwritten “Alfa Romero” isn’t exactly right. 🙂

Jack Holliday’s Watkins Glen

1954 Watkins Glen Paddock by Jack Holliday

There are few things I love more than an uncovered treasure trove of unseen (preferably amateur) motorsport photography. I wonder about all the thousands of slides and negatives and prints hidden away in attics around the world; worrying if they’ll ever see the light of day; daydreaming about being the one to find them. That this group of photos shot by Watkins Glen resident Jack Holliday over several years of Watkins Glen sportscar races. These amazing shots were discovered when avid photographer John Oliver inherited his grandfather-in-law’s Leica camera that was used to shoot these scenes from the Glen. John has posted about his discovery of his late grandfather-in-law’s hobby on Film Foto Forever.

There are some marvelous images captured here: including Frank Bott’s 1954 Catherine Cup winning OSCA MT4 (#118 above) and several years of preparation in various incarnations of the paddocks. My favorite shot might actually be the rather disinterested-looking ticket and program seller from the 1954 event. It’s scenes like this that are almost never captured. We’re used to seeing images of the cars and the track but ephemeral moments from amongst the fans or support staff are almost never preserved.

John has tantalizingly labeled his post “Part 1”, so I’m hoping that more will be revealed shortly. In the meantime, you can see more of Jack Holliday’s wonderful photos at Film Foto Forever.

Thanks to John Shingleton for bringing this to my attention.

British Pathé Presents Italian Motor Racing (1950-1959)

The Track that Might Have Been: Brands Hatch at Early GP Length

Brands Proposed layout 1952

The Half Liter Car Club has a marvelous article on Brands and its inextricable link with 500cc racing over at 500race.org. The original kidney shaped “Indy” circuit at Brands Hatch was a favorite among spectators who could see virtually the entire track from anywhere on the grounds. This plan, published by the club’s 1952 annual report demonstrates just how quickly there were plans in place to expand the track to accommodate Grand Prix racing. The above visualizes an expansion of Brands to meet the minimum length requirements for the fledgling Formula 1 series. After a series of expansions (and change in racing direction from counter-clockwise to clockwise), Brands Hatch hosted her first Formula 1 World Championship event 12 years later.

Head on over for more of Brands fascinating growth and her early dominance by a young Stirling Moss.

Unseen 50s Racing Footage: San Diego’s Fiesta del Pacifico, 1956

The Fiesta del Pacifico road races held in July of 1956 mark an interesting moment in California—particular San Diego—racing. Torrey Pines held their last race a mere 6 months before, but San Diego (and far beyond) racers were undeterred and assembled a track on the runways and service roads of Montgomery Field.

This largely unseen footage sent in from John McClure is a treasure. Sure, John’s thumb may have drifted into a few of these shots, but they’re absolutely priceless. From setting up in the pits, to onboard touring laps, to the race action itself, John used the access afforded him as a member of the San Diego Junior Chamber of Commerce (a co-organizer of the event) to hit every corner of Montgomery field that weekend.

The two main events of the weekend are well represented here, with the 1.5liter plus race and small displacement races getting some quality footage. Bill Murphy had luck on his side in the large bore race in his Kurtis-Buick, winning after Harrison Evans’ Ferrari Monza had a shift fork failure after leading for 21 laps. Murphy didn’t just inherit the win after poor performance, however. He had a great start that gave him the lead until a spin on turn 7 of the first lap. He then fought back from fourth to take the lead from Evans a second time, but spectacularly spun again on the 11th lap. His win was as much a victory in making it to the finish as it was to come in first. Bill Krause wasn’t far behind in a D-Type, while Ken Miles in a Porsche 550 (giant-killer indeed in this much larger displacement company) and Fred Woodward in his Jaguar Special had a fantastic duel for 3rd place—ultimately finishing within a second of each other.

The small bore race was equally thrilling with an heroic roster of CalClub racers: Ken Miles in his 550 again (He had a very busy weekend, didn’t he?); Bill Pollack in the #4 Alfa Giulietta; Lance Reventlow in a Cooper T39—there’s a marvelous shot of him in the silver #16 car about 7:10 into this clip.

Other drivers of note to keep an eye out for in this clip: Bob Bondurant in the #19 Morgan Plus 4; Jim Peterson in the blue #83 Corvette; Bruce Kessler in the white #23 Aston Martin (beautiful); and Dan Gurney’s #113 Porsche 356.

Here’s a glimpse of the race report, from the August 3, 1956 issue of MotoRacing.

San Diego Fiesta del Pacifico Race Results. 1956

Keep those old film cans, coming in—I’d love to share more these kinds of videos with Chicane readers. More from the McClure Archives here.

Reviewed: SportErfolge

Tony Adriaensens' SportErfolgeThere aren’t a lot of people that own just one Porsche book. Just like there aren’t a lot of people that own only one Ferrari book.

That’s the thing about automotive books in general. People who buy them tend to buy a lot of them. And don’t think for a minute that publishers don’t capitalize on our habit every chance they get. The problem with a lot of books, particularly books that focus on a single make, is that they start to get repetitive in a hurry. Nowhere is this more evident than at the photo editor’s desk. We tend to start seeing the same iconic images again and again.

You are not going to have that problem with SportErfolge.

Tony Adriaensens’ work with his Corsa Research imprint has, in my opinion, brought a sense of discovery back to the world of sports and racing book publishing. His commitment to sourcing amateur and largely previously unpublished photography is remarkable. It gives a fresh new perspective on not just eras of motorsport, but individual races that we’ve read about for years and thought we knew.

This moment from early in the book captures that sentiment well and also gives some insight into both the process of producing SportErfolge and the philosophical approach of the author:

Carrera Panamericana in Tony Adriaensens' SportErfolge“My decision to make this book came about when I found the Kodachrome slide opposite, out of the late Bob Lytle’s collection from Phoenix, AZ. Bob drove his Jaguar XK120 from California all the way up to the Tuxtla Gutierrez on the Mexican border with Guatemala to see the start of the Carrera in 1953 and 1954. In ’53 however, when returning to his hotel room after dinner, he found all his equipment stolen; cameras, films .. all gone. He only had one single roll of exposed Kodachrome film left in his pocket. This was the last film he had shot and he had captured JosĂ© Herrarte’s class winning Porsche after the finish of the Carrera.”

That quote does a few things that I think are central to why SportErfolge is so successful as a work of early Porsche racing storytelling. It gives us some perspective on why this topic begged to be covered—after all, let’s be honest; there’s no shortage of Porsche books out there. More importantly though, it highlights in a very real way how precious these photographs and the stories that they tell truly are. In this case, Bob’s photograph is a rare survivor when he lost the bulk of his captures of the event. How many other photos from this era are metaphorically stolen as they languish away forgotten in closets or attics—slowly deteriorating in their albums? Are they not just as lost? This is why I so admire Tony’s efforts to source amateur photography for his work. It is the same motivation that has prompted me to find these kinds of forgotten amateur archives for this site. It is so much more arduous a task than phoning up the major photo houses and having them send over the usuals. It’s a task that pays off again and again in SportErfolge.

Liege-Rome-Liege in Tony Adriaensens' SportErfolgeCorsa Research calls SportErfolge a “photo essay” and I think the description is apt. The captions that accompany each photograph (the vast bulk of which are presented in full-page glory) are as vital as the book’s main narrative in telling the story of Porsche’s racing efforts starting with the 1951 Coupe du Salon at MontlhĂ©ry through the effort at the 1963 Le Mans 24 Hours Race.

SportErfolge also excells at highlighting some of the races you haven’t read much about. It would be easy to just rely on major international events and championships to tell the story of Porsche’s racing heritage. It’s the lesser known events like Switzerland’s National Slalom of May, 1956 or the Flying Kilometer of Antwerp in July, 1959 that are just as pivotal to Porsche’s early racing heritage as the Mille Miglia. These amateur events, presented alongside the biggies in chronological order, do a great deal to show how Porsche entered, astonished onlookers, and established itself as central to global sports car racing. I also appreciate that this puts the privateer and gentleman entries right up there with the factory efforts in the story of Porsche’s rise to the international stage. That’s not to say that iconic Porsche-centric events like the Carrera Panamerica and Targa Florio are neglected—they are decidedly not. It is refreshing, though, to see these much-storied and gloried races (and drivers) have to give up a little spotlight to regional events like the Santa Barbara Road Races and Grand Prix of LĂ©opoldville, Congo.

Graphic details in Tony Adriaensens' SportErfolgeIn addition to the photography, the inclusion of small graphic details like the specific race logos that adorn the slipcover or the inset Liège-Rome-Liège rally stamps are a welcome glimpse into the visual ephemera of the era. This does not give the book a scrapbook aesthetic, but are presented as a tasteful graphic that enhances the typography and overall design. That level of detail makes me believe that Tony’s choice of photos to bookend the piece is deliberate. Within the foreward for the book and among the first photos in the volume is a 3/4 rear shot of Carrera Abarth #1010 in the pits at LeMans in 1962. The very last photo of the book is a shot of Carrera Abarth #1009 at the 1000 km of Paris. Taken under different circumstances at virtually the same angle. Whether the author intended to let this juxtaposition reflect Porsche’s stability and permanence in sports car racing, or whether he just likes the Abarth’s rear (who doesn’t?); I don’t know. But it’s little touches like this that make SportErfolge such a joy to repeatedly dig into and find new details to absorb.

A lineup of Spyders in Tony Adriaensens' SportErfolge

Tony’s books ain’t cheap, but I think they’re worth much more than their cover price. More information at Corsa Research. SportErfolge is an absolutely beautiful, well researched, masterfully photo-edited book.