Historic Racing Cars 1907-1960

In 1963 the technical editor of The Motor magazine explained how these images were chosen: the 1960 Lotus would never win a Concours d’Elegance, but it is the fastest of all the cars selected whilst having the least power in the post-war period. The most powerful car, the BRM, was the slowest on a circuit. Other cars looked so beautiful! Each contributed to history. Mercedes in 1914 and between 1934-1939 executed design where expense was wholly disregarded in the search for reliability. Parts were machined from solids when it would have been more economic to use welded steel pressings. In the Bugatti, Cooper and Lotus the emphasis was on optimising limited power with stability and road worthiness. The BRM exaggerated power over handling and acceleration. The Vanwall achieved power without a super­charger (nearly equalling the super­charged Mercedes built twenty years earlier) but it was obtained at some expense of reliability. The Italian designs of Alfa Romeo and Maserati have splendid balance. The Alfa Type 158 achieved 100 per cent reliability in 1947 and 71 per cent in the four post-war seasons in which they competed. Average reliability was about 55 per cent, so this was a great achievement. They also won 94 per cent of the races they contested and the last season in which they appeared was fourteen years after the car had first run. The 1907 Itala had the least claim to inclusion but is a splendid (and splendidly preserved) example of the mid-point between the primitive cars at the start of the 20th century and the sophisticated 1913-14 GP cars which gave their owners good racing into the late 20’s.

The prints measure 43 cm wide x 25.5 cm high (17″ x 10″). Minor variation in size is possible based on the actual guillotine cut made by the printer over 50 years ago. Shown here are photographs which have been carefully corrected to remove most distortion. Published in 1963 by © Hugh Evelyn Limited, London; drawn by George A. Oliver.

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