Good History of Sports Cars book?

05-17-2010, 08:34 AM
Hi, all... I recently bought a book called "The Chequered Flag - a history of motor racing", which is quite an interesting read, but...

1) It only covers what became Formula One and the Indy 500, not Le Mans or endurance races, nor rallying, not GT racing or DTM
2) It's really only about seasons, drivers and results (and a LOT of crashes and deaths!) - there's very little about the development of the racing cars, or engines, and the way they are optimised for different kinds of motor sports.

So, can anyone recommend me a book about the history and development of the racing sports car, in its different specialised forms? Ideally one that's a bit easier to read than the very technical descriptions in Hans Tanner's Ferrari book, which assumes you already know what different kinds of suspension or valve arrangements are called, rather than explaining the innovation the first time it happens!



05-17-2010, 01:04 PM
Hi Matt,

Sportscar racing always seems to be overshadowed by Formula One when it comes to the 'history' books. I guess it doesn't help that where F1 has a clear line of development from 1950 (or earlier, if you call it Grand Prix racing!), the history of sportscar racing is much more fragmented and inconsistent. So, maybe we have to specialise a little in order to find what we want!

From my collection, I can certainly recommend 'Inside Imsa's Legendary GTP Race Cars' by Martin and Fuller. The emphasis is certainly on the design and development of the cars, with plenty of photos of cars in-build as well as on-track. There's plenty of text, too, and although it's not an out and out 'history of GTP' book, there's enough to give you a flavour of what was going on.

'Anatomy and Development of the Sports Prototype Racing Car' by Ian Bamsey is heavier on the text and has more of a Group C bias, but is still worth tracking down if you want to know about the design and technology involved.

'Sports Car Racing In Camera 1970 - 1979' by Paul Parker is obviously much more photo-orientated than the previous two books, but certainly covers a wide variety of makes and models - the big 5-litre Porsche and Ferraris from 1970 and 1971, the smaller open prototypes in 72 - 74, Group 5 and Group 6 from the mid-70's, and by the end of the decade you've got all sorts of weird things going on before Group C was introduced in 1982.

Finally, see if you can get a look at copies of 'Spyders & Silhouettes' and 'Monocoques & Ground Effects' by Janos Wimpffen. Between them, these two volumes cover sportscar racing in Europe and the US from 1972 though to 1992 (there are also two earlier volumes - 'Open Roads & Front Engines' and 'Winged Sports Cars & Enduring Innovation', but I don't have these). They're not cheap, and they'll certainly put a strain on your bookcase, but they'll tell you who did what and when, with plenty of photos.

Beyond these, it's probably a case of finding books that are more event or marque-sepcific, depending on where your interest lies. For me it's Porsche, so that opens up plenty of options! I doubt you'll find a single volume that covers everything in detail from the Bentley Boys and D-Type Jaguars through to the modern LMP and GT's, though, it's just too wide a subject. Probably the best way to cover this range would be some of the Le Mans books - maybe 'Le Mans 24 Hours' by Brian Laban, or 'The British at Le Mans' by Ian Wagstaff'. Have a look on the Chaters website, or Collectors Carbooks - there might be something out there!

Best of luck!


05-17-2010, 02:12 PM
Thanks for the suggestions! The Wimpffen books look awesome, but $500 for a full set is a bit rich - not to mention nearly $2000 for one of a special limited edition of 250! The Paul Parker books look great, and I've got those on my wish list.

I should point out that I'm not specifically looking for "sports cars", what I'd really like to see is how the "family tree" of racing cars branched over the years and evolved differently. In 1913 there were only bigger, more powerful engines, then you get a split and the arrival of the voiturette, and over the years you get more and more specialised until you end up with todays F1 (and "lead in" formulas); LMPs and the GT classes; WRC, Indycars; DTM; and the SuperGT that the Honda HSV-10 and Lexus LFA are destined for - and probably lots more that I don't know about.

I'd like to know what engineering innovations were common, and adopted across the board (eg turbocharging or carbon fibre bodies, I guess), and which were special to particular kinds of racing. I'd like to know how the particular requirements of different kinds of racing influenced the design and layout the cars, and why the aerodynamics of an F1 car are different from and LMP. Why were all the Can Am cars that peculiar boxy shape; why did Le Mans contenders get steadily "longer-tailed" in the 60s and 70s? What are different solutions tried in different race types to increase downforce within their own regulations?

... with lots of pictures and diagrams, and not more than 50!

There are quite a few one-volume books like this about the history and development of aircraft; surely there must be ONE about racing cars...?


05-17-2010, 04:09 PM
I'm sure all the answers are out there, I'm just not sure that they're all in the same place! I'm looking at a Chaters catalogue - six A4 pages of titles, and I don't think there's anything here that would cover all the different classes and formulae to the level of detail we would like.

I think most racing books are always going to be aimed at a fairly specific market - die-hard F1 fans don't necessarily want to read about Group 6 sports cars, rally fans don't want GT3 cars in with the forest stages, etc. I see a similar thing at club race meetings here in the UK - spectators go out to watch the FFords, then wander off when the saloon cars start, and vice versa. For many people motor racing is all about the F1 they see on telly and nothing else exists.

Yes, some of us would be quite happy with such an all-encompassing book, but it probably wouldn't sell too many copies.

If I find anything that comes close to answering all the questions, I'll let you know! Or I'll just have to write the book myself...


05-17-2010, 04:41 PM
The Tanner Ferrari book covers the kind of things I'm interested in, within the Scuderia, but with three drawbacks, in terms of what I think I'm looking for:

a) as I mentioned, too much automotive engineering knowledge is "taken as read", so it talks about "the first appearance of a double wishbone" for example, without explaining what it is and why it's innovative (that one I know, as it happens, but you get the idea)
b) There are many, MANY occasions when you think, "this would be much easier to understand with a picture of the car, or the bit of it in question...", and even when there is a picture, it's often pages away!
c) The structure of the book reflects what you said above - it separates F1 cars from Le Mans cars (and other sports racers) from road cars, so you never really discover how one led to another led to another, either for the cars or their engines...

I think we will just have to write one -- I'm a newbie to race cars and car modelling, but I spent a long time as a science and technology journalist explaining black holes and hypersonic flight to anyone who cared to read Focus Magazine! ;-)


05-17-2010, 05:40 PM
H Matt

I have to agree with ScratchBuilt. That "one" book that has it all as you described simply doesn't exist. It doesn't even exist for just one racing category. And as far as i can tell all the attempts at doing one, like many examples of "The History of F1" or the likes are never great books. You'll always have books with a certain bias. Sometimes the technology, sometimes the racing and other times mainly pictures. If you want it all you'll have to start building a library :-)
Just as an example i think by now i have 5 books just about the Porsche 917 and each has it's pros and cons. There's no perfect example....and this is just one car!

05-18-2010, 09:12 AM
When I was about 12 I think, I wandered past the bargain bin within a bookstore and saw an enormous coffee table sized book titled "The Lore of Flight". It was richly illustrated with line drawings, cockpit views, aerial maps - all kinds of crap. I latched onto it and lugged it home. Over the next several months I read about ailerons, service ceilings, reduction gears, pilot hypoxia, wartime induced innovations, and on and on. To this day it's one of my favorite technical reads of all time.

I personally haven't come across such a book about cars but that doesn't mean one doesn't exist. You might get close searching something like "automotive technical history" or "motor racing technical history" on Googlebooks or Amazon. The folks at Motorbooks International may know a title off-hand. Also, check the on-line used book networks like Abebooks. Some of the book dealers within the network specialize in automotive books and know thousands of titles (and they answer their email). Focus on obtaining a title first. Then worry about finding the book because it's probably out of print.

In the end I agree with what everyone else has said. A book like this is going to be so large and rambling that few people would buy it. (Recall I mentioned my airplane book was in the bargain bin....) Most car books I buy tend to be a mile deep and an inch wide, not the other way around.

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