ATLAS F1   Volume 6, Issue 49 Email to Friend   Printable Version

Atlas F1   Rear View Mirror

Backward glances at racing history

Fast reading:
Items from The Scribe's Bookshelf
by Don Capps, U.S.A.

Considering that it is that time of the year, I decided to pull a few books off the bookshelf and say a few nice words about them so as to keep these sorts of books coming to a bookstore or virtual bookseller near you. I selected items from the American section since that is where I have been spending a great deal of time lately.

One book I will mention has been out of print for awhile, but still pops up in stores - real and virtual - dealing in used books. In 1946, Floyd Clymer published Floyd Clymer's Indianapolis Race History. Back then it cost a whopping $3.50 in the softcover edition and $5.00 in hardcover. It is a compilation of magazine articles covering the Indianapolis 500 races (including those prior to the 500 in 1909 and 1910) until 1941. For a number of years Clymer also published an annual covering the race. Recently, Carl Hungness picked up the torch from Clymer on the annual. The reason I mention this book is that was one of the first racing books I ever owned. Even today, I still find it an interesting book to sit down and read.

Two books from Griffith Borgeson that are good reading. In 1966, The Golden Age of the American Racing Car was published. It cover the American racing scene until the late 1920's. It does an excellent job of painting just how exciting the period of the 1920's were when men like Fred and Augie Duesenberg, Harry Miller, and Louis Chevrolet developed the wonderful machines that are still marvels of engineering and craftsmanship today. It was recently re-issued and should be snapped up if at all possible. Griff Borgeson wrote a book several years ago (1993) with the simple title Miller. It is a good look at Harry Miller and his work. It is a good item for your bookshelf if you ate interested in American racing cars.

It is a blessing that some books are revised and are published in a second edition. The Miller Dynasty by Mark Dees is one of those blessings. When it originally appeared in 1981, it was a true work of art and a staggering wealth of detail on Harry Miller and his cars. The second edition is even better, if possible. I am not a very technical type and so often donít all that worked up about that sort of "stuff," but somehow Dees managed to get me to read wonderful book and truly enjoy it. This is one of my reasons for having my interest in American open-wheeled racing rekindled.

Right along with the Dees book is a wonderful book by Dick Wallen, Board Track: Guts, Gold & Glory. This wonderful book covers the rise and fall of board track racing in America. Each of the 24 board tracks gets a chapter written by writers such as Phil Harms, Russ Catlin, Robin Miller, Wallen, and many others who have a true passion for their subjects. As can be imagined, the photographs are just extraordinary. And the era is reflected not only in the images of the cars and drivers, but the programs and other items as well. I really cannot rate this book high enough. It is simply superb.

There are two other books by Wallen that I have to recommend just as highly as Board Track. They are Fabulous Fifties: American Championship Racing and Roar from the Sixties: American Championship Racing. In each book, Wallen once again assembles a team of writers who are knowledgeable and passionate about the subject. In Fabulous Fifties the yearly chronicles are written by Bob Schilling and the photographs are just staggering in both their quantity and their quality. One article in particular I enjoyed was the one on Jimmy Bryan, one of my favorites.

Roar from the Sixties follows the same format as Fabulous Fifties and is just as amazing. Once again Bob Schilling handles the yearly reports. The one for 1963 is entitled, "Enter Colin Chapman, Armed and Dangerous." That should give you an idea that this book is anything but staid. There are some wonderful shots of Lloyd Ruby in the J. Frank Harrison Lotus 18 at the Trenton race that Spring. In the 1964 section there a great picture of a very young Mario Andretti sitting in a roadster at the Du Quoin race. Later there is another great picture of Andretti in action at Phoenix. These are simply "must have" books if you are interested in the history of the National Championship.

This leads to several other books that cover the period of the 1950's and 1960's.

  • Indy Cars of the 1950s is from the Ludvigsen Library and a wonderful collection of photos of exactly what it says, Indy Cars. I really like this collection of photographs since many are sources of information for the times as well as the cars themselves. The road cars, the pits, and the people themselves are well-represented in the images selected and add a dimension to the book not often in similar collections. I really liked this book so much I even bought it! Now if Karl will take a hint....

  • Indianapolis Roadsters: 1952 - 1964, by Joe Scalzo, is a good history of the Indy roadster and its rise and fall. It is an often pithy tale of a time long ago and an era far removed from today. It is wonderfully illustrated as well. While many might be tempted to just gaze at the photographs, the text is just as illuminating. An excellent addition to your bookshelf.

  • Photographer Dave Friedman has a wonderful book out titled Indianapolis Racing Memories: 1961 - 1969. Like the other books that Friedman has authored, it is primarily a collection of photographs, but with very well-written and informative captions. It contains one of the few pictures of Jim Clark and the Lotus 56 at Indianapolis. A really nice book to have on the shelf.

  • In Rumblin' Ragtops: The History of NASCAR's Fabulous Convertible Division, Greg Fielden devotes a chapter to the forgotten attempt by NASCAR to run its own open-wheeled series, the Speedway Division. The division was only in operation for one season - 1952 - and this is about the only place you will find anything on the series. I also heartily recommend the series that Fielden has written entitled "The Forty Years of Stock Car Racing," which was up to four volumes the last time I looked. Say what you may, but this series is top notch work by a man on a serious mission. I find myself reading through my volumes quite often. Now id he would add a volume on the Grand American series....

  • When I first heard of Kurtis - Kraft Midget: A Genealogy of Speed by Bill Montgomery, I had to have it. Not solely due to the fact that is simply a fascinating book on its own, but in hopes that it might solve a few mysteries for me. It convinced me that I finally found the identity of the midget that Rodger Ward drove at Sebring in 1959. This book also has me plugging another book due to someone being in the book - follow me? Don Radbruch was the proud owner of chassis 1947-90. Radbruch is the author of Roaring Roadsters #2, which is another great book. This is great stuff!

  • When I first read Offenhauser: the Legendary Racing Engine and the Men Built It, I was impressed. Wow! Well, Gordon Eliot White has managed to at least equal if not top that book with his latest. Indianapolis Racing Cars of Frank Kurtis: 1941 - 1963 Photo Archive is another book that is simply superb. I have yet to tire of reading it and marveling at the effort that went into this book.

    I think that these books give you a window into a world most have little idea about, American racing in decades past. I think that if you take the time to read any of these you will be rewarded for your efforts. I will look at another section of my bookshelf soon. See you!

  • Don Capps© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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