Archive for the ‘Historic Racing Photos’ Category

Reader Photos: Joe Sheppard’s Dunnellon FL, 1958

Joe Sheppard. Dunnellon, FL. 1958.

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.

Joe Sheppard. Dunnellon, FL. 1958.

Joe Sheppard. Dunnellon, FL. 1958.

Many thanks to John Shea for sending these.

Got some old slides or prints gathering dust in your closet? Send ’em in!

Previously: Joe with team Camoradi at the 1960 Sebring in photos and video.

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Late Night Tinkering

Maserati 250F in the workshop

Edit: Not that I look at this again.. it’s probably not late night. Oh well.

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Reviewed – Klementaski: Master Motorsports Photographer

Master Motorsports Photographer Klementaski

By now you’ve heard me extoll time and time again the need to expose the untold treasures of motorsports photography laying undiscovered in basements and closets the world over. The very idea that there are thousands of photographic slides sitting unseen in their carousels stacked under old tourist trinkets or forgotten wigs drives me absolutely crazy. In expressing my desire to see more previously unpublished racing photography, I’ve frequently decried the lazy practice of just publishing the same well known images over and over. Given that history, you would probably expect me to be nonplussed—even offended—by this collection of Louis Klementaski’s photography. After all, is there a racing photographer that has been more widely published than Klementaski? By that measure alone you should believe that I would hate it, right? Right? You would be wrong.

Jenks in Master Motorsports Photographer Klementaski

Call me inconsistent, but in the case of Louis Klementaski, there is damn good reason we’ve seen some of his images again and again. As I thumb through Paul Parker’s volume, Klemantaski: Master Motorsports Photographer, I am just as happy to see those iconic images as I am to see little-published examples of his work. This text is aptly named. Can you think of any other motorsport photographer more worthy of the moniker “Master Motorsports Photographer”? I submit to you that there is none. Certainly his work stands above even the greatest motorsports photographers, perhaps even above all sport photography.

When I see images like his shot of Norman Wilson piloting a ERA R4A at Brooklands in 1939 (page 54), it’s easy to see why it has been called the best racing photograph ever taken. You can just imagine a young Louis sitting at the infield corner peering through the viewfinder of his Leica as Wilson looks past him and into his racing line. The emotion of the shot is more than just racing eye candy, it is unequivocally as high art as any photograph.

Master Motorsports Photographer KlementaskiKlementaski is so associated with the warm black and white hues capured through the lens of his Leica or Box Brownie or Ermanox Press camera that it is almost jarring to see his color work—some as early as 1938. Each photograph has an associated caption that helps tell the story of the era, the driver, the race, and the surrounding history. It is here that my one real complaint about the volume is highlighted. While I do appreciate this context for the subject of the photo, I do wish there was more information about the artist in these captions. It is good to know, for example, that Ascari was preparing for an already difficult race when the rain started to fall—but what I would love more would be to know more about how Klementaski captured this image, what equipment was used in each shot. These photographs should be treated with the same reverence any art museum would treat them, and that has to include more information about the artist alongside the already well documented subjects.

Master Motorsports Photographer Klementaski

Each chapter does, however, include vital information about Louis Klementaski and his relationship to racing in the era discussed. I particularly like the validation from him for the same sense that I have often felt when looking at later racing photography. As he started to move away from race photography, he describes his disillusionment with the racing world: “Several other factors contributed to my decision: the more horizontal the drivers became in their cars the less you could see of them and so one’s pictures became more impersonal. The big disappointment, however, proved to be the gradual restriction of viewpoints afforded the photographer, which took the fun out of the job…” This only reinforces what I have long believed about Klementaski: he wasn’t a racing photographer, he was a portraiture artist that happened to capture racing driver’s portrait in the most difficult circumstances possible. The strongest of his photographs have always captured the driver’s face so beautifully and with such intent that the surrounding race happening became almost incidental.

This is a fantastically assembled volume of some of the very best racing photography ever captured. If you have just one spot on your coffee table; just one book that you can point out to your guests, have them open to any page, and better understand your obesession with racing; you couldn’t do much better than Klemantaski: Master Motorsports Photographer.

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Sitting on the Corner in Sicily

Alpine A110. Targa Florio. 1970.

Will there ever be a way to make the motorsport viewing experience as visceral as it was in this photo from the 1970 Targa Florio? I tell you what, will you let me watch the race from the kerbs if I wear one of those Hurt Locker suits?

Via Vintage Road Racing Archive

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Factories at Work: Lamborghini

Miura line

This actually looks more “mass production like” than I would have imagined.

Engine room

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Firing up a 28.5-Litre Fiat After 100 Dormant Years

After 100 years of sitting idle, Duncan Pittaway and his team have breathed life into this former Landspeed Record Fiat S76. More than 100 years after the two S76s were built by Fiat to take the flying mile and flying kilometer records away from the Blitzen Benz, this fearsome hellbreathing dragon has spun up her four valve-per-cylinder, multi-spark, overhead cam 28½ Litre (!) engine and it. Is. Staggering. Without exhausts fitted, this view of the combustion chambers spitting the remains of burning fuel straight into the camera lens makes me feel like Gandalf staring down a Balrog in Moria.

Fiat S76

Modern engines are absolutely pushing envelopes. The sophistication of engineering and artistry that powers contemporary racing machines is very, very impressive. But none of them have the Earth shattering brutality of this 104-year-old Fiat. Terrifying. And Gorgeous.

Hat tip to Stefan Marjoram on this one. More to come in the new year, it seems. I can’t wait for more of the Beast of Turin.

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A Precariously Perched Silver Arrow

Mercedes W154 being unloaded at Tripoli

I’ve been reading Sandro Martini’s wonderful novel Tracks: Racing the Sun about the golden age of Grand Prix racing and the exploits of Tazio Nuvolari, Achille Varzi and other (mostly Italian) heroes of the 1930s racing scene and the worrisome political climate of the era (full review to come—short version: I love it).

The passages that take place during the contentious and controversial Grands Prix of Tripoli are so evocative and romantic that I couldn’t help trying to dig up some photos of the era. This dockside image of the Mercedes W154 so perfectly captures the clash between the huge technological leaps that racing machines were making with the almost quaint simplicity of the rest of society. These ropes and cables jerkily transferring this rocketship of a car to the docks must have been as much a test of nerves as the race itself. You think about racing teams having to trust their drivers but rarely do you consider the faith being placed in the longshoremen.

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A Vintage Racer Vintage Racing

Jimmy Clark in Ford Model T Sprint Car

This photo of Jim Clark in a Model-T Sprint Car almost breaks my brain. It only makes sense for Jimmy in the context of the celebrations surrounding the Indianapolis 500.

This photo was included in a Ford press release for the race and their 495 horsepower V8 that would power the Lotus-Ford in the race. What better way to showcase Ford’s history with the 500 and demonstrate 48 years of automotive engineering maturity than to contrast these two racing machines—each at the pinnacle of technology for their time. Magnificent.

More at Auto Gift Garage.

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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.

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The BARC Boys Visit the ’57 Sebring

Corvette at Sebring - 1957

I’ve been re-listening to the “Sounds of Sebring 1957” album I posted about last week and all this talk up and down the pit lane about the Corvette entry made me want to see them again. And the Maseratis. And the Lotuses.. And so on.

If you’re familiar with the BARC Boys (Binghamton Automobile Racing Club, that is) at all, you’ll know that if there was a race in the mid-century anywhere on the East coast, there’d be more than a few members there. The group of enthusiasts always had cameras in tow and became chroniclers of the East Coast SCCA scene. Naturally, they were at Sebring in 1957 and had these wonderful photographs to mark the occasion.

Now that I see these photos, I can understand why the racers were abuzz about the new ‘Vette. Sure, the interviewers were asking some questions that were… slightly leading, but you have to remember the context of the arrival of the new Corvettes. After a jittery start, the Corvette program looked like it might actually be ready to take on European road racing stalwarts.

The power and performance of the home-grown sportscar—from the largest carmaker in the world, no less—must have been a thrilling prospect for American racing fans. Perhaps it was even moreso for the American drivers that were scraping together a career on European racing circuits, they must have hoped for a real American racing program that might bring them on. This was always my favorite styling era for the Corvette and it’s marvelous to see her in action at Sebring… and a few more from the more traditional pits for good measure.

More at BARC Boys’ 1957 Sebring page.

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