Legends of Motorsports by Dave Friedman

Legends of Motorsports by Dave Friedman
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Book Review by Richard Parks, Photographic Consultant Roger Rohrdanz

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Dave Friedman has compiled a pictorial book on road course and oval track racing called The Legends of Motorsport. It is a photographic delight and suitable to display as a coffee table book for those who would like a quick, but enjoyable look at famous race car drivers and their cars from the 1960's and '70's.  The Legends of Motorsport is a hard-bound book with cloth binding along the spine and with high photographic quality bond paper. The book measures 11 ¼ by 8 ¾ inches and is 1 ¼ inches in thickness, containing 336 pages. It comes with a hard cardboard book sleeve in black with gold leaf printing. The publisher is M.R.I. Publications with a copyright date of 1992 and the ISBN # is 0-9632751-0-0. The front page has 22 signatures from the greats of road and oval course racing and they are; Chris Amon, Mario Andretti, Derek Bell, Jack Brabham, Vic Elford, George Follmer, Dan Gurney, Jim Hall, Charlie Hayes, Phil Hill, David Hobbs, Denis Hulme, Jacky Ickx, Innes Ireland, Parnelli Jones, Stirling Moss, Lothar Motschenbacher, Brian Redman, Jody Scheckter, Jackie Stewart, John Surtees and Rodger Ward. The table of contents lists a foreword by Dan Gurney, Eoin Young, John Surtees and Nigel Roebuck. There are four chapters or subdivisions; Formula I, Trans Am/Stock Car, Sports Racers and Championship Cars. There is almost no textual material, except in the forewords and the captions are spotty and terse at best. There is no index and therefore the reader has to guess at what is in the book and may have to go back over the captions again and again to find a particular subject. Lacking an index makes this book difficult for historians and interested readers to do any research using The Legends of Motorsport as a research tool. The captions should try to explain the following; what, when, who, where and possibly why and how. Often the captions only mention the racer and that he is “adjusting his helmet,” or “sitting in his car.”  We know the name of the driver, but little else of the event.

The photographs are all in black and white, but they are stunning and representative of the finest in racing photography. There are 415 of them, most are full page and each one a collector’s print. The only drawback is that the reader needs to know his car racing history since The Legends of Motorsport isn’t going to give you much detail to work with. But for the fan of Formula 1, road and oval course racing, this shouldn’t be much of a problem and if the book is out of print The Legends of Motorsport will end up in the collections of aficionados over time. We can probably overlook the index and the captioning since this is a pictorial coffee table book and in that genre it is a major success. The look of the book and the quality of the black and white photographs is simply superb. Friedman lists in his acknowledgments the following names; Ernie Nagamatsu, Dick Wallen, Phil Harms, Kathy Weida, Evi Gurney and the editing and professional staff who assisted in the preparation of The Legends of Motorsport. I mention this in the book review because these people are special. Ernie Nagamatsu is a dentist by trade, but who loves car racing and has restored the Max and Ina Balchowsky Old Yeller II and the Spurgin/Giovanine LSR roadster. Wallen and Harms are excellent writers and historians of auto racing. Weida and Gurney are from All American Racers and Evi is the wife of Dan Gurney. Dan wrote the first foreword in the book and mentioned that Dave Friedman had his photography shop across the street from Gurney’s All American Racers. Friedman, according to Gurney, took all the photographs in the book, but there are no lists of credits. 

Eoin Young also credits Friedman for all of the photographs and ranks him among the best of the photojournalists. Friedman is one of the most unassuming writers I have ever reviewed, but I agree with Young in that these are some of the best photographs I have ever seen, both in action and still photography. Young gives an account of Phil Hill being arrested in New Zealand for cashing a check that is funny, though at the time Hill didn’t think so. Young tells us about the racing circuit and not all adventures were happy ones. John Surtees writes the next foreword and talks about the racing scene in the 1960’s and how much it has changed since then. Surtees also remarks on how fortunate it is that Dave Friedman had the talent to capture so many photographs of a period long gone. Nigel Roebuck pens the last foreword and tells an interesting story of Ayrton Senna telling him about the new fly-by-wire electronics then in vogue in the cars. “I don’t care for it,” said Senna, explaining that it somehow sapped the competitive streak in his driving ability. That was said in 1992 and 18 years later after a series of fatal crashes; the car companies are rethinking their technology. Dave Friedman adds a few pages and that is it for the text. And what a shame that is, to lose the words and memories of these automotive racing greats. I would have loved to hear Dave Friedman tell us how he took those photographs and how he positioned himself. I would have loved to hear some of the stories that he overheard. Friedman still is an active photographer according to his website, living in Newport Beach, California. He has taken over 600,000 pictures and has a huge archive of racing programs.


Since the book is a pictorial and makes no effort to hide that fact, it is unfair to insist that Friedman make it into something like a history or narrative. The Legends of Motorsport is simply one of the finest examples of a motorsports pictorial that you can find. I want it to be something else, but what it is will be good enough. Friedman has 25 other books to his credit, such as; Lola, Shelby GT40, McLaren, Trans Am, Corvette Grand Sport, Laguna Seca Raceway, Pro Sports car racing in America, Shelby Cobra, Remembering the Shelby Years, Chaparral Can-Am, Indianapolis Racing Memories, Shelby American, Daytona Cobra Coupes, Carroll Shelby Racing Cobra, etal. His impact on photojournalism has to be measured by the sheer output and talent that he brought to his work. For the serious student of road course, oval track and photojournalism in motorsports it is imperative to add the works of Dave Friedman to your collection. As a stand alone pictorial, even with some ineffective captioning and no index, this book on its photography alone ranks as an 8 out of 8 sparkplugs.

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I rate this book a 8 out of 8 sparkplugs.

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The book can be bought online at Dave Friedman’s website at
www.dfphotoservices.com

The Shelby American hanger at Sebring in March 1966. By this time, the Shelby effort was totally committed to the Ford Endurance program