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The Automotive Chronicles

Monthly newsletter published by McLellan's Automotive History. Dedicated to literature collectors, restorers, museums, publishers, manufacturers and investors who collect and preserve automotive literature
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December 2011 Issue
 
ARTICLE
They Started in MGs
Book review by Robert McLellan
Profiles of Sports Car Racers of the 1950s, by Carl Goodwin and foreword by John Fitch, 291 pages, soft bound, 278 photos. Published and sold by www.mcfarlandpub.com (800-253-2187)
 

The expression, "I guess you had to be there", implies that if you didn't experience something personally, you cannot understand or appreciate it. Most of the drivers in this book were virtually unknown outside of their racing circle and they disappeared not long afterwards. As I read this book, I entered a past which I experienced as did many others that watched, entered or participated in the Sports Car Club Of American events in the 1950s. Most of us just followed racing in magazines like Road & Track and Sports Car Illustrated, receiving only limited coverage of these events. This book provides most all of today's sports car enthusiasts with an exciting picture of the roots of post World War II road racing in America even if the names are not familiar.

The experiences of the 79 racing drivers are adventures that could not be duplicated today. Some of the participants went on to very successful racing and racing related careers: Briggs Cunningham, David E. Davis Jr., John Fitch, Richie Ginther, Phil Hill, Karl Ludvigsen, Steve McQueen, Ken Miles, Carroll Shelby and Dick Thompson are examples that you hopefully remember. Not only are their careers in MGs reviewed, but their progress from MGs to more exotic cars in the 1950s and later years are described and pictured. This is not a book about MGs as much as it is about how these amazing, affordable, light weight sports cars gave birth to the life of sports car racing after World War II and provided a conduit for the development of 79 race car drivers to development their racing careers.

Originally written as a series of articles for the Classic MG magazine, it focuses on the 1950s exploits of drivers whose first competing car was an MG. It is interesting that each of the 79 competitors who used essentially the same car approached their task differently and with success. Why did so many drivers of the 1950s choose an MG? The MG TC was really the first and initially the most widely available sports car after World War II. They were also much less expensive than a Jaguar, Alfa or Porsche. MG created more dealerships throughout the USA than their rivals, therefore providing better access to service and parts than other makes. MG also provided improvements in their cars and new models were frequently introduced. As the 1950s progressed, we saw the the TC, TD, TF and MGA.

Carl Goodwin, who raced for five seasons at many of the road courses covered in the book, has written an enjoyable book and he is thoroughly knowledgeable of the subject and a skilled author. For $35.00, how can any auto racing enthusiast with a quest to relive or learn about 1950s racing in America, pass this book up?

 
 
 
 
The Automotive Chronicles, December 2011
 
 
 
 
 
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