Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Automobile Racing History in the U.S.: Essential Reading in the Period Pre-1920

Hi folks -- this is the first of a series of posts on suggested reading on automobile racing history in the U.S.  Your suggestions for additional sources is always appreciated.

1. Russ Catlin, The History of AAA National Championship Racing, 1909-1917. Published as a series of installments in Speed Age magazine from December 1954 to August 1955. Russ put considerable effort and work into this first attempt to record the AAA's glorious past. While problematic, you should take a look at it. Of the nine seasons covered, only 1916 had an AAA National Championship.  the 1909-1915 and 1917 "National Championships" and their corresponding point distribution distribution charts were in fact later retains of AAA official Arthur H. Means during 1926-1928. Catlin did not know that when he did his work, and created a lengthy and detailed but totally anachronistic narrative.

2. Peter Helck, The Checkered Flag (1962). Coverage from 1894 to 1916. Mostly deals with Gordon Bennett series, the Vanderbilt Cup and American Grand Prize races. Carefully written with few errors. The first printing is an art book (Scribners).

3.  Griffith Borgeson, The Golden Age of the American Racing Car (1966). This was the book I started reading first when I got interested in the racing history topic. With a focus on the 1920s, the author can get plenty technical in terms of engine development. Important book without a doubt.

4. William F. Nolan, Barney Oldfield, the Life and Times of America's Legendary Speed King (2002, 2nd edition).

5. Gary D. Doyle, Ralph De Palma. Gentleman Champion (2005). Fine biography, excellent bibliography.

6. John M. Burns, Thunder at Sunrise. A History of the Vanderbilt Cup, The Grand Prize, and the Indianapolis 500, 1904-1916 (2006). No real technical information on the cars, but good, basic background study.

7. Jack C. Fox, THE INDIANAPOLIS 500 (1966, AND LATER EDITIONS).  One of the best books on the history of Indy 500.

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