“Formula 1 Car-by-Car 1950-59” reviewed

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For enthusiasts of Formula 1 car design, Peter Higham’s “Car-by-Car” series has become an essential reference work. Having already produced books on the sixties, seventies and eighties, he’s now turned his attention to the dawn of the world championship.

The less rigid form of the early world championship presents a few questions and challenges for this kind of work. Should a book on Formula 1 cars feature the Formula 2 machines which contested the 1952-53 championships? And what of the cars which contested every Indianapolis 500, also points-scoring rounds but not F1 events, during this decade?

Higham has covered the F2 cars but not the IndyCars – a sensible balance, though it therefore overlooks Ferrari’s appearance with Alberto Ascari at Indy in 1952, which is not just a fascinating example of two worlds colliding, but also a topical subject given Ferrari’s apparent interest in racing Stateside again.

But Higham has more than enough on his hands in tracing the myriad machines and obscure entries which surfaced during this period. Assembling so many pictures of the different car/driver/team combinations which appeared during this time is in itself no mean feat.

A book which amounts to a list of which team participated in each season, plus descriptions of their cars, could make for a tediously dry proposition. But the text is crammed with revealing details and colourful touches. At times it feels the focus drifts more to the races the cars contested than the vehicles themselves, perhaps due to the challenge of finding information about some of the more obscure machines.

Like the rest of this series, it has the feel of a ‘coffee table’ book and the quality images to back it up, but is also a genuinely satisfying read, something one rarely gets to say of titles like this. (Don’t miss the extract from the first chapter published here last month.)

In the fifties the championship was more a collection of individual races than the well-defined series we know today. Teams came and went, cars changed hands, and the passage of up to seven decades must have made tracing who drove what and when a dauntingly complex task. The author has done a first-rate job of the research and presented it in the highly readable fashion we have come to expect of this series.

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Rating four out of five

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Formula 1 Car-by-Car 1950-59

Author: Peter Higham
Publisher: Evro Publishing
Published: 2020
Pages: 304
Price: £50.00
ISBN: 9781910505441

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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