The history of race car development shows a clear evolution in styling and technology. Material performance enhancements in everything from rubber, fuels, lubricants, framing, computer controls, and aerodynamics made cars faster and safer. Still, a race car needs a fearless driver who can see just a bit into the future and make the perfect move at the perfect time. This is something that hasn’t changed since vehicles with wheels were first invented.
PHOTO 1, 2: The Miller 91, circa 1927, named after its designer/builder Harry A. Miller, perfectly embodied his aesthetics and sense of showmanship related to race car building. His cars were artistic masterpieces of sculpture and technically advanced, rivaled only by Duesenberg. This car was no slouch on the track either, setting international records at Montlhéry and the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
PHOTO 3, 4: The Bentley, circa 1929, known as “Old Number One”, was a racing legend. Its storied past includes a collaboration between Tim Birkin and Woolf “Babe” Barnato, a South African diamond heir and playboy who had bought Bentley. While visibly enormous compared to its contemporaries, this racer won the 24 Hours of Le Mans two years in a row.
As time progressed, race car building, and car design in general, began to move towards a “purpose” aesthetic. Gone were the sculptural elements and attention to details. Just look at the gas cap of The Miller and Bentley. They were masterpieces of art. Compare these to the cap on the green Jaguar C-Type, top speed 160MPH, built in 1953 (PHOTO 5) and the minimalistic design of the blue Mk1 Scarab, top speed 170MPH, built in 1958 (PHOTO 6) named after the Egyptian Dung Beetle. How’s this for design inspiration? As a side note, crazy rich Southern CA designer Lance Reventiow built the Scarab which to me shares design elements of the Jaguar E-Type.
PHOTO 7: The star of the 2019 film Ford vs. Ferrari is the Ford GT40. This particular model enhanced the 1966-67 24 Hours of Le Mans winning design advances of Carl Shelby’s team. John Wyer’s team created this GT40 chassis 1075 which won again in 1968-69. This is one of the most celebrated cars in the history of racing.
PHOTO 8: World famous driver A. J. Foyt earned his first win at the Indianapolis 500 in this 1961 Trevis Offenhauser “OFFY”, top speed 170MPH. A.J. Watson made his design available which was taken up and modified by George Bignotti.
PHOTO 9: This 1967 Gurney Eagle F1, top speed 190MPH, was purpose built by Dan Gurney and Weslake & Company to race Formula One. The car had titanium and magnesium components which cut the weight (1,192 LBS) but were also highly flammable. Gurney piloted this car to the fastest lap at the Belgian Grand Prix.
PHOTO 10: Carl Shelby, the force behind the Ford GT40, also designed and raced his own cars. The styling of this 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe developed by Peter Brock preceded and is in stark contrast to the GT40. Shelby’s success in the 1964 racing season where Daytonas set records at many of the world’s top races led to his hiring by Henry Ford II for the GT40 project.
"A photograph is a fragment of reality unhurried by time."
- Michael Krozer
HOT CARS - A Recent History