The sexiest motor race that ever was

The seventh running of the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1957 has a lot going for it as the best-looking motor race ever. For starters, the car and the man above: World War II hero John Fitch driving Zora Arkus-Duntov’s Corvette SS.

Then there’s the fortunate overlap between color photography and 1950s motor racing. Not a common sight: the color film available back then was very slow for photographing cars that were already very fast. It’s easy to forget on a diet of black and white that motor racing in the Fifties was a blur of primary colors, cars were still wearing monochromatic national racing liveries, and the drivers weren’t all tucked inside survival cells, they were halfway out of their cars, holding on to wooden steering wheels in colored t-shirts.

Sebring in 1957 was just a riot of color, a riot of the coolest racing drivers (a great many of whom would not live to see the end of the decade), a riot of Ferraris, Maseratis, Corvettes, early Loti, abandoned jets, Florida majorettes, yellow helmets, beaded straw hats, red sharkfins, unmuffled racing cars driven across town by mechanics, French racing girls, and there was also Juan Manuel Fangio in attendance, swapping his white gaucho boina hat for his brown leather racing helmet to drive a big red Maserati, and he drove faster than everyone else, as usual.

Motorsport photographer Lou Galanos has written a detailed piece on the race for Sports Car Digest, complete with a gallery of color photos by then-21-year-old Gene Bussian, a pit steward for Porsche. Go and soak it all up. Then go and find a Corvette SS and outrace all the Florida mosquitoes.

Note: video is mislabeled, it is in fact footage of the 1957 race and not of the 1956 race. Photo Credit: GM Media Archives