Mystery Footage of the 1951 Watkins Glen GP

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.

A Treasure Trove of Reader Footage of 1950s & 60s Races

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
1967 Bridgehampton

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!

Ebay Spotting: 1954 Watkins Glen GP Press Armband

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


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?


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


1952 Watkins Glen

As precious and rare as it is for these types of videos to surface, it makes it all the more disheartening when they’re pulled from YouTube. Looking back through the archives, I was saddened to see the marvelous footage of the 1951 Watkins Glen GP that we featured in a post earlier in the year has been pulled.

In the interests of maintaining a consistent level of Watkins Glen video on the site, I felt compelled to dig into the YouTubes to find a suitable replacement. This home-movie of the ’52 race should fit the bill nicely.

John McFarland says, “Here is some really cool video shot back in 1952 (nearest I can figure from cars/numbers vs. program) by my Grandfather at the Watkins Glen Grand prix. The number 54 car at the end of the video is a Cunningham (sick!). The races were held on September 19-20 and my Grandfather was filming with experimental color film from Kodak. Color home movie footage of the racing in 1952 is extremely rare.”

Might want to consider hitting mute on this one as the 1952 footage and the 1979 soundtrack don’t exactly fit perfectly.

Seneca Cup. Watkins Glen, 1951.

I absolutely adore seeing little Cooper and Effyh 500s mixing it up with big Chrysler-Allards and Jags and Ferrari coupes in this brilliant footage from the 1951 Seneca Cup event at the Watkins Glen road races. Watch how that exhaust smoke just poured out of George Weaver’s Maserati when he got on the gas out of each turn with Fitch’s Ferrari nipping at his heels. Brilliant.

From the old Speedvision’s Victory Circle. Oh Speedvision, how I miss you.

Thanks to Michele Orsi Bandini for pointing me to it.