More than three years ago, I reviewed an old library copy of Cyril Posthumus’ Classic Racing Cars. I forgot a lot almost immediately after reading that book, but I remembered three things I read in that book that surprised the hell out of me:
(1) Peugeot built a twin-overhead cam engine more than 100 years ago,
(2) Miller built a front-wheel-drive car that dominated Indianapolis, and
(3) Posthumus’ book had amazing cutaway drawings.
Recently, I stumbled over the book on Amazon and its follow-up, Classic Sports Cars, for under $1 (plus shipping) so I ordered up a copy of each. And now you get to heard about Posthumus’ non-posthumous Classic Sports Cars.
From a modern perspective, the most interesting part of this book comes from that fact that Posthumus penned it in 1980. The English writer was 62 years old by that point and had seen many of the cars in the book in person. In many cases, he wrote of monstrously historic events from first-person experience, an awesome feat of perspective since few alive will remember things like the Delahayes and Talbots at Le Mans.
Classic Sports Cars gives a very good introduction to what sports cars even are, something about which people think very little. Primarily, lithe cars racing each other arose from voiteurette (something about “little cars” or something…who has time to google?) racing in the early 20th Century. By featuring cars from Hispano-Suiza up to the Porsche 935, Posthumus does a tremendous job covering the ways in which sports car racing grows.
The success of it, unsurprisingly, follows the model of his Racing Sports Cars about single-seater race cars: Explain the context of the car, detail its relevance or innovation(s), and then tell its racing history in brief or in detail, as the case merits. Posthumus augments the storytelling with some of the best damn cutaways and detail illustrations you will ever see, many of them lifted from Auto Sport, apparently.
Regardless, if you care at all about racing history or car design in general, this one’s a keeper for your automotive bookshelf. Like Classic Racing Cars, this has become a frequent reference item, but it stands alone on merit as an interesting book. I found mine for about $5 shipped and while prices vary, mine arrived in reasonably good condition.
[Photos: Eric Rood]