24 minutes of Fangio footage… No clever title nor caption needed.
These weren’t little GoPros hanging off of the Maestro’s Lancia. Each of these cameras had to be loaded with film, started up, and run a few laps. Then they had to do it again and again so that you don’t see the giant camera in the other angles. It’s easy to dismiss the complexity of these earlier onboard films when we can easily toss a half-dozen or more digital video cameras on a car at every possible angle. It’s part of what makes early onboard footage so precious.
Looking through the slow motion montages in this clip, I have to believe it was part of the inspiration for Saul Bass’s racing sequences in Grand Prix.
via Retro Formula 1
I can’t speak Italian, so I’ll just assume that this video’s voice-over commentator is just repeating “The Best” over and over and over.
Diving back into the wonderful bounty of Life Magazine images hosted by Google, we find this puzzling shot. The Life caption says this is the winner of the Carrera crossing the finish line—which isn’t true. That’s Jean Behra, crossing the finish line, but he didn’t win. His #7 Gordini T24 was ultimately disqualified from the official standings because he exceeded the maximum allowable time. Even after finishing so far behind the overall winner that his time is irrelevant, I’m impressed that there’s still quite a crowd gathered at the finish line to welcome him home.
I don’t point out this captioning error to diminish Behra’s achievement. Simply finishing the Carrera was an incredible accomplishment. We often hear of the difficulty in learning the 45 mile Targa Florio circuit. We’ve long been regaled with tales of the twisting motorways of the Mille Miglia. The Carrera Panamericana, however, looks like it was something else entirely. It dwarfed all of these epic races with a run distance of 2,176 miles. Two Thousand Miles. So you can see, despite the disqualificiation, Jean Behra should be immensely proud of crossing that finish line at all. Google has more of the Life photos from the Carrera that year, oddly they largely focus on portraits of a competitor’s wife – maybe the photographer had a crush.
1953, of course, was Lancia’s year at the Carrera. Fangio and Bronzoni piloted the winning D24 Pinin Farina to a winning time of 18 hours: 11 minutes. That’s an absolutely astounding 120 mph average for 18 hours!
Here’s a quick video recap of the short life of the Carrera Panamericana (before it’s contemporary resurgence as a rally, that is).
also, Replicarz offers a 1:18 scale reproduction of Behra’s Gordini for your desk.
See more of our selections from the Life Vaults here.