Grand Prix Cars 1945-65 by Mike Lawrence
Published 1989 by Aston Publications Limited
Acquired in a lot from an independent book store liquidation.
In the group of books that included Jaguar: A Pictorial History and Never Complain, Never Explain: The Story of Henry Ford II was Grand Prix Cars 1945-65. I knew nothing about the book, and in fact, knew little about that period of Grand Prix racing. I am actually a pretty casual racing fan. Still, I am always to expand the limits of my library and knowledge.
Grand Prix Cars 1945-65 is an encyclopedic look at the cars and events of the period in Grand Prix and World Championship racing. Constructors are featured alphabetically, and author Mike Lawrence explains his criteria in his introduction…
The World Championship has played a major part in popularizing F1… the two are synonymous, but it has not always been the case… I have included cars which never raced in any WC event but which did (race) to contemporary Grand Prix Formulae.
There is little new to be written about… Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Lotus, or Maserati… (but a) fresh, critical look at some marques is anyway long overdue.
On the other hand there are a host of half-remembered marques which did little more than make up the numbers… Each one, however, represented someone’s best efforts… I have also included… projects which never actually made the start of a race.Mike Lawrence, Grand Prix Cars 1945-1965
The result is 85 manufacturer entries, and we can add a further 13 entries from the chapter ‘Cooper Variants’ and 11 ‘South African Specials’, for a total of 109 constructors. As the author writes, not all of these would have appeared in Grands Prix – some never even took the start line – but they all contribute to the history of World Championship and Formulae racing.
Lawrence arranged each constructor as a chapter, and details the development of cars and the results in a chronological order. In truth, that makes for a somewhat difficult read. Written completely in prose, Lawrence mixes car development, driver information and then various race results.
To be fair, there were an incredible amount of ‘moving parts’ in those years. Constructors often had multiple models active in the same season, while privateers also competed with chassis purchased from works teams, often with various engines. Drivers themselves ran in multiple racing series and sometimes drove for multiple teams. For example, Stirling Moss’ Wikipedia page shows that in 1960 he drove in at least 24 events, mostly for the RRC Walker Racing team, but also for Yeoman Credit/BRP team and 3 other non Formula 1 teams. He drove multiple cars, and even for RRC Walker he drove a Lotus-Climax 18, Ferrari 250 GT, Porsche 718 and a Cooper-Climax T51. And so in Lawrence’s book, there’s snippets of Moss’ career in multiple chapters but often without much context relative to the other chapters.
My unfamiliarity with that period likely didn’t help. I think the author assumes his reader is at least familiar with the era, and to be honest it would be helpful to have that knowledge to really get full enjoyment. To read that Driver A drove Constructor 1’s model X in one race and finished in whatever spot ahead or behind other drivers in other cars, and then the next page read a few races later that Driver B was driving Constructor 1’s model Y and finished ahead or behind Driver A who had moved on to Constructor 2… well you can see how it might make you stop and wonder if you’ve got it all straight.
Don’t mistake this as a necessarily negative critique. This is a really good book. It does indeed contain a wealth of detailed information about the cars, the racing seasons and teams. And, Lawrence is not adverse to adding in his editorial thoughts, the most critical of them seem to be saved for Ferrari. Furthermore, there are a great number of photos, and while many are black-and-white, they are clear and large.
All in all, this book might require either an intermediate understanding of Formula and World Championship racing for the years presented, or a lot of time to read slowly and even take notes, in order to be clear about the events described. Was there a better way to organize the book? Probably not. But as I consider it, I believe that Mike Lawrence’s book is likely best used to read each constructor one at a time. In this way, one gets some separation, and can focus on the events surrounding each without muddying the waters with other builder information. It’s a very good reference to have if you yearn to know more about the cars that raced at the top level from 1945-65.
Pros: Highly detailed; comprehensive coverage of F1 and World Championship racing; many good photos,
Cons: Likely requires some knowledge of the racing, cars and era.
Where to find it: Amazon, eBay, private collections (this book was re-issued in 1999).