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.

On the Curb at Watkins Glen, 1952

OSCAatWatkinsGlen

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?

Probably.

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

Absolutely.

More Unseen Racing Footage: March AFB 1954

In this installment of the John McClure archives, the November 7, 1954 running of the Orange Empire National Sportscar Races at March Air Force Base. It is a real treat seeing the racing action ahead of scores of aluminum planes in the background.

Unfortunately, the Briggs Cunningham team that swept the previous year’s race was a no-show. This race, however, was significant for Porschefiles as the first US race run by a 550 Spyder. Sadly, the car crashed and burned in practice with the driver escaping reasonably unscathed. Instead, Ferraris ruled the day, with 7 of the top 10 spots in the featured over-1500cc race. Also in the film is a parade lap of Historic cars (teens and 20s).

Cliff has race results over on Etceterini.

More Unseen Racing Film: Pomona 1956

Another installment from the John McClure archives, this time it’s the October 1956 Pomona Road Races. The particular turn that features prominently in this film looks particularly harrowing—and fun. Plenty of competitors overcooked it a bit, resulting in a whole lot of drifting, spins and oversteer. Great stuff!

Quite a few Austin-Healeys, Lotuses (Lotuses? Loti?), ACs, and the ubiquitous Porsche Speedsters and Spyders (I just love that there was a time when you could refer to Spyders as ubiquitous).

West Coast Sports Car Journal had this to say about the main event in their November 1956 issue:

At the drop of the flag, Bill Murphy was first through turn one, something he has perfected through the years. But right on his tail was Evans, Gregory, Hauser, Bob Drake in Joe Lubin’s DB3S Aston Martin, Miles, in that order. Following at a more leisurely pace was the rest of the pack led by Mike Kingsley in the Sparks and Bonney Special and Fred Woodward in his Jaguar Special…

On lap sixteen, the first three cars were running tail and nose, still at an incredible pace. They were lapping three and four seconds faster than the under 1500cc cars had; and this short twisting course is more suitable for small machinery!

I won’t spoil the finish for you here, but you can download a pdf of the complete article here. You can also download the complete results and race report from the November 2-9, 1956 Issue of MotoRacing here.

More Unseen Racing Film: Torrey Pines 1954

Here’s another Chicane-exclusive film from sportscar fan, San Diego Jr. Chamber of Commerce member (who helped create the Torrey Pines track), and a pretty darn good shot with a film camera, John McClure. This time it’s the track he was most intimately involved in for the November 1954 race. It was our Torrey Pines post in the Lost Tracks series that prompted Mr. McClure to contact me and offer up this brilliant footage.

The film starts with the LeMans syle running start of the 6 Hours endurance race. The race was ultimately won by Lou Brero in a C-Type, with the von Neumann Ferrari 500 Mondial finishing 2nd. The Ferrari is the #39 car that we see quite a lot of in this footage that looks pink in this film – I’m assuming due to the film processing and not the color sensibilities of the car owner.

Jags, MGs, Gullwing Mercedes, and OSCAs feature prominently in the film, along with Porsche 356s, and a few Ferraris. I don’t know what the story was with this tree, but it seems to be magnetic — lots of narrow misses overrunning the turn at what I’m assuming was a high-speed straight. I also like some of the footage of the spectators here. It wasn’t just the drivers that could get away with more than you can today—let’s see what happens when you try and start a small bonfire to keep warm at the corner of any track these days.

Factories at Work: Preparing for the 1953 Mille Miglia

We’ve had quite a bit of focus lately on the factories and workshops that turned out our dream machines. Winter has hit the upper Midwest and the garage must be calling.

These scenes were photographed in preparation for the 1953 Mille Miglia and the wrenches were spinning furiously amongst the Italian makers. The home race is always reason enough to turn up the heat a bit.

OSCA
OSCA Workshop - 1953

OSCA Factory - 1953

Maserati
Maserati Factory - 1953

And of course, the rather more commanding Ferrari floor.
Ferrari Factory - 1953

Here’s Mike Hawthorn checking in on the 250MM Spyder he’d be piloting for the race. He DNFed that year, but his car is still looking amazing 56 years later. The race would be won by the 250’s larger brother, Giannino Marzotto’s 340MM Spyder.
Mike Hawthorn's Ferrari 250MM SpyderMike Hawthorn's Ferrari 250MM Spyder Today