Book review by Richard Parks,
photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz
Race Legends of the Fabulous Fifties is written by Art Evans, and features 51 road course racing legends in an easy to read format. There is a table of contents, preface and an introduction by Carroll Shelby. There are chapters on the highways and streets that were used to race on, and eight first class racing courses; Watkins Glen, Bridgehampton, Sandberg, Palm Springs, Elkhart Lake, Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines and the Pan-American Mexican Road Race. Art located old advertisements from magazines that bring back the nostalgia of the times. There is a description of the Fabulous Fifties Association, which isn’t a club at all. The Fabulous Fifties are road course racers who get together in an informal gathering, without officers or rules, to hold reunions and relive the glory years of road course racing. The book is 9 x 11 inches, hardcover with glossy paper, and 51 full-page black and white photos of the men and women honored within. There are 127 photos and 16 graphs, maps or posters in the book, and it is 136 pages in length. In addition there are 33 nostalgic ads, which bring back the aura of the times, and three pages devoted to memorabilia that one can purchase from the author. One drawback is the lack of an index.
Even without an index, the structure of the book is encyclopedic and alphabetical, so that the reader can quickly find what he is looking for. Evans gives each of the subjects two pages. On one side is a full-page black and white photo of the road racer as he or she looks today, with a few exceptions, like James Dean, who passed away in the 1950’s on his way to a race at Salinas, California. The other page has text and story with a small photo showing how they looked in their racing days. Those being honored include; Bob Akin, Max Balchowsky, Bob Bondurant, Lindley Bothwell, Jack Brabham, Jay Chamberlain, Tim Considine, Briggs Cunningham, Chuck Daigh, Mary Davis, James Dean, Bill Devin, Steve Earle, Juan Fangio, John Fitch, and George Follmer, and as you can see, many of them went on to fame in other racing leagues. Evans raced and knew them all, and wrote with feeling and passion. He also wrote and photographed; Jerry Grant, Dick Guldstrand, Dan Gurney, Jim Hall, Sam Hanks, Jim Haynes, Phil Hill, David Hobbs, Skip Hudson, Ed Hugus, Dennis Holmes, Jim Jeffords, Parnelli Jones, Bruce Kessler, Bill Krause, and Ruth Levy. That is only a portion of the road course racers given a quick write-up in Race Legends of the Fabulous Fifties.
Evans goes on to record even more legends; Pete Lovely, Jack McAfee, Ken Miles, Stirling Moss, Bill Murphy, Paul O’Shea, Augie Pabst, Scooter Patrick, Jim Peterson, Vasek Polak, Bill Pollack, Andy Porterfield, Brian Redmond, Lance Reventlow, Carroll Shelby, Bill Stroppe, Bobby Unser, John Von Neumann, and Rodger Ward. It is quite a list of those road warriors that took to road racing after the 2nd World War. Racing had come to an abrupt standstill while the nation redirected men and women into the war effort. After the war, the pent-up demand to go racing was indescribable. Records were set and re-set, and attendance at these events grew with each race. The 1950’s saw more interest in road course racing, but local development and zoning ordinances closed many tracks and courses. The country drifted off into the complex Vietnam war and civil disobedience, and the road racers moved on to new racing pursuits. Road racing still exists, and will never pass out of existence, for there will always be those who love the thrill of the race, the crazy turns and the heart pounding excitement. Its greatest heights were attained in the 1950’s, and Art Evans has given us a book to remember and savor those times.
From the Book
Dan Gurney Rodger Ward
– “Sandberg” was a course that use the old Ridge Route and it is just one of eight first class racing courses detailed in the book.
“Race Legends of the Fabulous Fifties” is for those who love the thrill of the race, the crazy turns and the heart pounding excitement. CLICK HERE TO ORDER THIS BOOK