By the time I was old enough to get excited about auto racing, Team Lotus had become the media darling of the moment. With the introduction of the Lotus 49, they had successfully transformed the design of Formula 1 cars to what would become the basic design base used even today. Yes the technology has improved light years since the mid 60’s, but the transition from front mounted to rear mounted engines was huge.
My memories of auto racing in the late 60’s and early 70’s can be summed up like this; “All races were between Mario Andretti, and Jackie Stewart. All the cars in the race are a Lotus 49, although the colors are vary.” It’s kind of like memories of football games. They all have the Green Bay Packers playing what ever team, and it’s snowing.
The image below is a Lotus 49, piloted by Jim Clark at the 1967 Dutch Grand Prix. I never saw the race. If I had my memory of it would be so vague it wouldn’t mean anything, since I would have been 5 and a half. The race was watched by 80,000 spectators under over cast skies at Zandvoort in Holland. In my image, Jim Clark races under sunny skies, past a crowd of none. He doesn’t have a care in the world as he moves out at 165 miles per hour away from the pack.
The second image is one of the reference photos I pulled before starting this paining. Take a good look at that photo and take note of what is missing. That’s right seat belts. As late as 1967/68 seat belts were not required on racing cars that were averaging 160 miles per hour.
This morning I was searching for vintage racing photographs to use as a reference for an Illustration I am working on. As I was cruising through my Google results I came across the “Cahier Archive“. Even if you aren’t a racing fan, this is a fantastic site. It features some amazing photography that stretches back to 1951.
The photo collection covers the history of the Formula One Championships and the photos remain in the hands of its original photographers. There are 15 000 pictures currently available on the website which are part of an archive containing around 400,000 original photos.
The archive has been built and compiled by Bernard Cahier and his son Paul-Henri, with Bernard leaning more toward photojournalism, and his son taking a more artistic approach to his shooting style.
I have always been fascinated with the graphic elements on racing cars. Especially vintage racing cars from the 60’s and 70’s before massive product sponsorship trumped any sense of style with a gigantic marketing message. Gestalten has a new release coming out that is available for pre-order on Amazon. “Go Faster The Graphic Design of Racing Cars“, by Sven Voelker. and I am thinking this might be the next book I add to my collection.
Fast cars, anarchy, and graphic design collide on the pages of this book as it chronicles the history of race car graphics and the design behind them. Most people don’t know that racing giants from the likes of Porsche, Ferrari, Maserati, and Lotus developed their looks not by marketing strategists or graphic designers. In the early days it was by chance.
Go Faster is a collection of over one hundred examples of racing car design that documents the carefree racing world where they were created. Go Faster not only takes its readers on a breakneck ride through images of racing history, but each colorful racing car is featured next to a blank white model. The model shows the lines and shape of the vehicle in its unadorned state. This side by side placement helps the viewer see exactly how the graphics modulate the look of the car. And it gives plenty of room for the viewer to imagine their own possibilities for graphic design in motor sports.
In the book you can see how stripes, colors, logos, and numbers combine to help the car stand out from all others on the track as they go by at top speed.
The time and effort invested in the graphic looks of the race cars is a strange juxtaposition compared to the aerodynamic shape of the bodywork created by the engineer for car. But it is precisely this amateur quality, this anarchy and randomness that results in the irresistible attraction that racing cars and their graphics have on us.
Author Sven Voelker is a car enthusiast and graphic designer in Berlin. He is responsible for the global corporate design of the Suzuki Motor Corporation and other clients.