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A French Christmas gift

Published in blog.hemmings.com

As the 24 Hours of Daytona approaches in a few short months, along with the Daytona 500 — the first race of the annual NASCAR season — chances are you might have wondered, from time to time, how the French racing press saw such things back in racing’s glory days.

No?

Well, here’s your chance to make good on that historical oversight.

Fifty-three years ago, in the mid-1960s, there was a titanic road racing battle between Ford — with its Daytona coupes, Cobras, and GT-40s — and Ferrari, with road racing cars of various sorts.

Whilst wandering through a local consignment shop in downtown Salem last week, I came across a copy of Sport Auto from April 1965. The front cover had a photo of a Daytona coupe, and inside was a longish discussion of the Daytona 24-hour race outcome of that year.

All, naturellement, in French!

Well hey — it would make no sense for it to be in English now, would it? It’s not all that difficult to come up with a copy of Road and Track from back then, and see what was written here about a race there. It’s altogether different to see what they were writing there about a race here in the U.S.

Translating (poorly) from my long-since unused year of high school French, it’s clear enough that the writers were quite taken with the scale of the Ford/Ferrari battle. The photos, though black and white, capture some early not-often-seen shots of cars that became far more known a few short years later.

And just to make the Daytona stories complete, there’s a couple of pages about the Daytona 500, won that year by Fred Lorenzen. Nearly as I can tell with my fractured French, the first paragraph discusses a contretemps between Ford and Chrysler over the eligibility of the “King Kong” hemis. It’s not quite clear.

Another short article about the Ford/Ferrari duel lists all 55 invitees to the 24 Heures du Mans.

Inside the magazine there are some period advertisements for various autos that have long since become “collector cars” if they survived any length of time. Things like the Matra Djet, the Triumph TR-4A and Spitfire. There are a few photos from the Salon de Geneve showing an Opel Diplomat, the Triumph TR4 A’s new independent suspension, a Ford-engined TVR, the two versions of the Fiat 850, a Lancia Fulvia and a Pinin Farina Ferrari LM.

A full page of the four available Glas models — the 1700, 1300, and the coupe and open version of the 1204 were across from a three-page article on the Isard Glas 1300 GT, which from the side bore an uncanny resemblance to a Porsche 912.

The back cover was an advertisement for “the new Ford Corsair” promising something like 0-100 kmh in 15 seconds, touting that as “performances sportives.”

How times have changed!

How this magazine survived a half century and ended up in a consignment shop halfway around the world in Salem, Oregon, is anyone’s guess.

Every reader of this group can’t have it as a Christmas present, so I’ve scanned some of it instead. I will present the actual magazine to Kurt Ernst as a gift for the season.

(Now it can be on his pile of magazines, rather than mine.)

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and all of the appropriate seasonal felicitations to everyone who celebrates Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, the Winter Solstice, and every other celebration marking the end of another year.

May our future years bring us even more interesting things to see and learn and experience in our shared hobby.

Be warm. Be dry. Be well. Be happy.