Get Lost In Old Home Movies of Races From The 1930s To The 1960s

Gif: US Auto Industry/YouTube

While I wait out my government mandated quarantine, I’ve been digging through YouTube for old archival race footage to pass the time. There’s something about a nice, homemade film of history’s coolest cars that just eases my mind and makes me forget about the absolute disaster that is the world at this exact moment in time.

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If you’ve found yourself with a lot of extra time on your hands lately, then I’ve collected some of my recent favorites for y’all to enjoy. First on the docket: a short little video about the automotive scene in Beverly Hills around 1935. It’s not strictly a race, but it’s still a lot of fun.

Another quick watch is a video of the French Grand Prix back in the 1950s. I love that the person filming the video moved to different places around the track: the pits, tight turns, and an uphill stretch.

I make a point of heading to Watkins Glen International at least once a year. It’s one of my favorite circuits for both modern racing and when watching old races. It’s the first track I ever went to just for its history, it’s the only track I go to just because the racing is always good, it’s where I’ve made an absolute fool of myself, and it’s also where I met my husband for the first time. To say the track has a special place in my heart is an understatement.

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Despite that, though, I’ve never actually driven the historic road course! For those who don’t know, the purpose-built circuit that we know as Watkins Glen today isn’t the original track. The Grand Prix used to just be run on the roads through and around town. This SCCA video from the 1950s walks you through the track and serves as a fascinating peek into American motorsport back in the day.

If you want to get a sense of what attending a race at the Glen was like back then, this next video is perfect for you:

And because I just love the Glen, here’s another educational video, this one taking place in the 1960s and featuring drivers like Mario Andretti and both F1 and sports cars (and also the Bridgehampton track). It is a wholly delicious video that makes me want to transport back in time ASAP.

I swear I’m not just going to post videos of four wheels. The next clip in the lineup is a great one of Grand Prix motorcycle racing during the 1960s, and it includes a little bit of everything: what tech looked like, what spectators got up to, and how the bikes handled trekking up precarious, rocky hills.

Here’s a great one for the people like me who love to watch the evolution of race tracks. The 1963 Monterey Pacific Grand Prix was a sports car even that took place at Laguna Seca in California, a track that looks madly different without barriers, catch fencing, or rumble strips.

I’m not forgetting the oval track contingent, I promise. This home movie from the Allentown Fairgrounds is a great one to give you a sense of the evolution of oval tracks. They weren’t always paved—some were straight-up dirt ovals, like this one, and others were covered with boards.

Watch your heart out, folks. And please share your favorite old videos with me in the comments. I still have a week of isolation to go, and I am desperate.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Freelancer. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

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DISCUSSION

That footage labeled “French Grand Prix” is not labeled accurately. That title implies it’s a Formula 1 race, but the cars are from the 1953 LeMans 24-hour race, which is an endurance race that has never been part of the F1 Calendar. There are pictures on the web, here’s a collection of some of the entries. The white cars with the high fenders are American Cunningham C4R’s, built by Briggs Cunningham, and the #60 car which is shown during a pit stop is the Panhard X85 driven by: Jean Hémard and Jean de Montrémy.

https://www.racingsportscars.com/photo/Le_Mans-1953-06-14.html

The 1950 Watkins Glen footage is interesting in that it shows another famous Cunningham, the Cadillac-based “Le Monstre” with the custom fabricated bodywork for better aerodynamics. It’s seen pacing the field at 4:01 into the video. The car still exists, it’s in a museum in Florida.