Feb 22, 2008
Book review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz
Review By Richard Parks
7.5 out of 8 Sparkplugs
Vintage American Road Racing Cars 1950-1970 is a hard-cover book by Harold W. Pace and Mark R. Brinker, published by Motorbooks International, an MBI imprint company, based in St Paul, Minnesota. The publication date is 2004 and the ISBN number is 0-7603-1783-6. Vintage American Road Racing Cars 1950-1970 is another excellent book from Motorbooks, which has a reputation as a publisher for putting out works that are of high quality. This book is no exception to their rule. Vintage American Road Racing Cars 1950-1970 measures 10 ¼ by 10 ¼ and is an excellent reference book on road racing as well as a fine coffee table book. Vintage American Road Racing Cars 1950-1970 has 304 pages, on heavy waxed paper, a cloth spine binding and an attractive dust cover jacket.
The book is bound and not glued and the acid-free, waxed paper should last several lifetimes. The dust cover jacket is eye-catching and enhances the value of the book. You should always take care of the jacket, because the value of any book diminishes when they are torn or lost. There are 242 black and white photographs, 200 color photographs and 308 additional aids, including maps, insets, diagrams, ads, programs and drawings. The photographs and miscellaneous aids are outstanding for the most part, though some of the photos are old. The captions are clear, but short and you need to read the text to fully understand the intent of the photographs. There are insets which give specific details on each type of car. Vintage American Road Racing Cars 1950-1970 has a table of contents, acknowledgments, introduction, seven chapters, a five part appendix, bibliography and an index. The appendix was very helpful and gave a breakdown of the cars by year, constructor, body builder, powerplant and racing class. The bibliography was informative, thorough and complete. The five page index was accurate and complete and makes this book a serious historical and encyclopedic work.
The first chapter is entitled The Way We Were and gives a short history of amateur road racing in the United States from 1950 through 1970, the heyday of American road racing. Road racing in Europe began in the 1890’s or a little thereafter. Americans were quick to enter road racing and imported European cars to compete against some of the early domestic cars. The Vanderbilt Cup, Indy 500, Corona and Santa Monica road races all began prior to World War I. Hill climbs, road courses, rallies, time trials and road races were well entrenched and favorite sports of Americans after WWI ended, but the heyday of road course racing occurred after the end of World War II in 1945. GIs returned from the Eastern Theatre of War with a love of English, French, Italian, German and other European sports cars and with our currency strong and vibrant, brought many cars with them. Road racing had an air of excitement and charm. Many of the drivers were rich, or aspired to be, and the parties after the races were sometimes lavish. The authors describe the racing categories and the associations that sanctioned the races. In Chapter Two, the authors break down each and every car that they could find that raced from 1950-70 by manufacturers. Vintage American Road Racing Cars 1950-1970 is encyclopedic in nature and the index and table of contents make it quite easy to find what you are looking for. This book would be a great addition on American road racing in conjunction with those books written by Art Evans and Michael Lynch. The list of manufacturers is alphabetized, in fact everything is alphabetized and very easy to find. The insets give the names, addresses and breakdown of the various makers.
Chapter Three is called American Specials and contains about one-third of the book. These are the cars that were individually built by hot rodders, racers and mechanics. They represent some of the most famous race cars, such as Ak Miller’s El Caballo de Hierro and Thatcher Darwin’s Beetle. Miller’s car is on display at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, in Pomona, California. Darwin’s car has been restored and is still in use as a road course racer. Some of the most unique and interesting sports cars are listed in this chapter. Max Balchowsky’s Old Yeller is placed in another chapter, but if there is a car anywhere that can claim the title, ‘Junkyard Dog,’ it was the Old Yellers. Max would claim that his cars were the throwaway parts that no one wanted, yet his racing cars had the ferocious bite on the road courses similar to the bite of those dogs that patrolled the junkyard premises. Chapter Four is named Engine Swap Specials and lists all those cars with recognizable chassis and bodies, but whose owners swapped out the engines for ones that they felt gave them more power and control. Chapter Five is titled American Kit Car Manufacturers and lists firms like Ambro, Bocar, Byers, Devin, Kurtis, Glasspar, Victress and others. These manufacturers would sell you a good looking fiberglass body, chassis and other parts. Chapter six is called American Racing Engines and tells us about the motors that were available. The usual Detroit engines were sold, such as Buick, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Cadillac and Ford. But there were other engines available, such as Crosley, McAfee, Meyer & Drake, Taylor Super Sport and others. The Crosley was popular in boats as well and the clones of the old Miller and Offenhauser engines were very strong up through the early 1960’s. Chapter Seven is named Racing Classes and gives an overview of the classes that cars raced in under different Associations. Vintage American Road Racing Cars 1950-1970 closes with five appendices and a great index. Each of the appendices holds a great deal of information. If you are newcomer to road racing and would like to learn more, or a seasoned veteran who just wants to have some information at hand, Vintage American Road Racing Cars 1950-1970 will fit the bill. I give this book a 7.5 out of a possible 8 sparkplugs and heartily recommend it.
Gone Racin’ is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM.
You can pick up a copy at most book Stores or buy online @
www.amazon.com for 37.80