This film would surely have disintegrated in its can if Fred Weinberg had not picked up at a yard sale. I like to imagine the thrill of discovery as Fred held that film reel up to the light and unspooled a few feet of film. That slow realization that those tiny shapes are racing cars; then taking it home and loading it into the old projector and beginning to recognize the streets of Watkins Glen. Then there’s trying to catch glimpses of racing numbers as he poured over archives of race results trying to figure out which running of a race this was. The ultimate realization that there’s footage here from the Queen Catherine Cup, the Seneca Sup, and the main event. Magnificent. Despite all of this archeology the original photographer is still unknown, but at least we can all appreciate his or her contribution to our precious little media of early American road racing.
Ice racing still happens on the frozen waters near St. Paul, Minnesota. But seeing Siatas and 356s and Allards wheel to slipping wheel is no less a tremendous sight out on the ice in this film of the St. Paul Winter Carnival Winter Ice Races of 1954.
As with many of the races of the period, I’m always astonished to see the variety of machines out there mixing it up. Not just sportscars of various sizes, but several American hot rodders joining the race as well
Worth watching just for the onboard from director Tom Countryman—who was a fixture in the upper-midwest vintage racing scene for decades. It really shows the delicate balance required for this very different kind of off-road racing. Glorious.
Thanks for sending this in, Paul!
Excitement is standard equipment!
The small blue car lurking behind that ’61 Corvette is a 1927 Bugatti. It was as exciting as any car can be, but it was a little short on creature comfort and only the best coordinated and most sinewy could hope to drive it. The Corvette, on the other hand, guarantees unstinting devotion to all the details of driver-passenger comfort and accommodation with no sacrifice in flashing performance or impeccable handling. Anyone who can drive well can drive a Corvette; the only thing that really sets is apart from today’s automobiles is the absolutely ecstatic way it goes down the road. Build into every Corvette is a lifetime supply of pure sports car excitement such as you’ve never known before.
Corvette by Chevrolet
Chevrolet Division of General Motors. Detroit 2. Michigan
Can you imagine what people would say if you suggested that Chevrolet show another car company’s product in their ads today? I almost can’t believe this happened.
Rudi wrote in with his footage from a variety of drag races saying, “Don’t know if you are into drags, but I just posted what I shot way back then”. I have to admit that I never really ‘got’ drag racing. But after attending my first drags as a spectator last summer—and starting to learn some of the weird intricacies of the sport—I have a much greater respect for drag racers (who are some of the most colorful and compelling figures in American motorsport today). I’ve also started to realize that much of what I love about classic racing, the grassroots everyman spirit, never really went away in drag racing. You’re just as likely to see a hotted up Ford Focus or GTI as a top-fuel dragster on any given weekend at the drag strip. That alone makes drag racing fantastic.
For those that live their lives a quarter mile at a time, this is absolute gold. The 1959 Nationals at Detroit are particularly great here… Not to mention the Gullwing Mercedes and the Corvette vs. Corvette grudge match starting after the 4 minute mark.
Great stuff here from the 1956 running of the Santa Barbara Road Races, Torrey Pines, and Pebble Beach.
With an amazing array of classic Mercedes Benz GP Cars brought up by the Revs Institute it was already going to be a fantastic weekend. Having Jochen Mass on hand to pilot the W-154 doesn’t hurt either.
Nestled in the Berkshires, Lime Rock has beautiful views from practically any vantage point on the track. Which is good because in addition to an all-around magnificent field, Lime Rock seems to draw an absolutely astounding Pre-War group. It seems that New England has as many Bugattis and pre-war American racing specials on the track as most tracks have 911s or MGs. They draw what is probably the country’s best Pre-War group—and they do it year after year… and that’s just one of the remarkable groups of racers that flock to the weekend to close out every summer.
Friend of the Chicane Robert Ristuccia was in the stands and walking to pits and captured a glorious series of shots of the action.
Rudi Markl wrote in with this wonderful film compiling his old 8mm film cans chronicling visits to venerable races across the Eastern half of the country between 1957 and 1967. Spectacular stuff.
Represented among this film is footage from a variety of East Coast races, including:
1957 & 1958 Kentucky State Fairgrounds (Louisville)
1964 Watkins Glen U.S. Grand Prix
1964 Vineland, NJ
1964 Lime Rock, CT
1965 Bridgehampton, NY
1966 Lime Rock
Plus bonus footage from the 1968 Dutch Grand Prix!
Cobra fans be sure to check out the segment of the 1964 Vineland race. Fantastic moments in the pits with those smart looking Cobra team jackets.
Like all great collection of racing footage, this one also comes with a mystery. Rudi asks: “I’d love to know about the quick dark blue car in the Vineland, NJ races at 10:00, 10:36 and 11:52 (ed: I believe he’s referring to car #44 with those trumpets sticking out the bonnet). No hood, stubby rear and wide front fenders that slope inward (unlike any car I know of). Last year I spent a couple hours online trying to find it on old films. I did find some history and old racing footage from the Vineland track (which I only went to that one time), but none of that car. It must be a ‘special.’ Someone out there must know who built and drove it. I’m 79, but if I knew where it is now I’d be interested in buying it.”
Anyone know anything about this car, who built her, or where she might be today? Let’s hear about it in the comments!
Let’s walk among the trumpets and crazy wide slicks of the 1972 Can-Am paddock at Road Atlanta. Maybe I over-romanticize the history of motor racing—okay, definitely—but wandering among the teams here looks much more like any amateur vintage race happening this weekend than the velvet-rope, VIP charade of top-shelf racing in the modern era. You can argue safety and engineering advances, but you’ll never make me believe that fan access is better now.
More at Mac’s Motor City Garage.
Great shots from the pits of “the Tampa Hotshoe”, Joe Sheppard at the 1958 Dunnellon, Florida race. Wonderful sequence of the LeMans start with a leap into a Porsche 550 and a later (or perhaps an earlier practice session?) stop in the pits. Sheppard was a well known racer in the Southeast and podiumed many late 50’s/early 60’s races in Florida as well as on jaunts into the Caribbean for Nassau Speed Weeks and the Cuban GP.
Many thanks to John Shea for sending these.
Got some old slides or prints gathering dust in your closet? Send ’em in!
Thick in the early salvos of the Cobra Ferrari Wars and the Fords were in prime shape. This one, though, wasn’t just about the big boys. There was a healthy field of Porsches, Elvas, Lotuses, a lone Stanguellini, and even one of the ultra-rare Echidnas.
I love seeing old footage of Road America because you can immediately see how little it’s changed in the intervening years: Turn 5 is still tricky and prime viewing; the blind turn into 6; Canada corner managing to get the best of more than a few drivers.
The invaluable database at Racing Sports Cars has more details.