Formula 1: Car by Car 1950–59


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By Peter Higham

The formative years of the 1950s are explored in this next instalment of Evro’s decade-by-decade series covering all Formula 1 cars and teams. When the World Championship was first held in 1950, red Italian cars predominated, from Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati, and continued to do so for much of the period. But by the time the decade closed, green British cars were in their ascendancy, first Vanwall and then rear-engined Cooper playing the starring roles, and BRM and Lotus having walk-on parts. As for drivers, one stood out above the others, Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio becoming World Champion five times. Much of the fascination of this era also lies in its numerous privateers and also-rans, all of which receive their due coverage in this completist work. 

  • Year-by-year treatment covers each season in fascinating depth, running through the teams — and their various cars — in order of importance.
  • Alfa Romeo: these supercharged 1½-litre cars dominated the first two years, with titles won by Farina (1950) and Fangio (1951).
  • Ferrari: this new marque steamrollered the opposition in two seasons run to Formula 2 rules (1952–53), Ascari becoming champion both times, and took two more crowns with Fangio (1956) and Hawthorn (1958).
  • Maserati: the fabulous 250F, the decade’s most significant racing car, propelled Fangio to two more of his five championships (1954 and 1957).
  • Mercedes-Benz: the German manufacturer stepped briefly into Formula 1 (1954–55) and won almost everything with Fangio and up-and-coming Moss.
  • Vanwall: green finally beat red when the Vanwalls, driven by Moss and Brooks, won the inaugural constructors’ title (1958).
  • Cooper: the rear-engine pioneers signposted Formula 1’s future when Jack Brabham became World Champion (1959).
  • Over 600 photos from the superb archives of Motorsport Images show every type of car raced by every team and driver, presenting a comprehensive survey of all participants.
  • Publication date: February 2020

  • ISBN: 978-1-910505-44-1

  • Format: 280x235mm

  • Hardback

  • Page extent: 304

  • Illustration: 600 photos, including colour

    Peter Higham works in motor racing as a freelance writer and project manager. For nearly 30 years he worked for Haymarket Consumer Media, publisher of motor racing magazines and websites, and for half of that period he was director of LAT Photographic (now Motorsport Images), the world’s largest motor racing photo archive. A motor racing enthusiast since watching his first race in 1973, he has written six previous books, including the acclaimed International Motor Racing Guide and World Encyclopaedia of Racing Drivers. He has been a columnist for Autosport and Motor Sport and was instrumental in running the prestigious Autosport Awards for over 25 years. He lives in Twickenham, Middlesex.

    “This is a remarkably comprehensive reference, seething with facts and rich with perfectly chosen photos – witness the photographers practically leaning over Villoresi’s Ferrari as he chatters over the Monza cobbles.”
    Motor Sport

    “For enthusiasts of Formula 1 car design, Peter Higham’s ‘Car by Car’ series has become an essential reference work… the text is crammed with revealing and colourful details… 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.”

    “The price tag marks this large-format book as one for the completist, and it is indeed incredibly complete… one of the greatest joys of this series has been the ability to dip into the less well-known end of the grid. Among the fabulous obscurata is the Kurtis-Kraft midget in which Indy 500 winner Rodger Ward contested the 1959 US GP… one of the unlikeliest GP entrants of all time.”
    GP Racing

    “Higham is a motor sport anorak of the highest order so he really knows his stuff… a superb reference… terrific value.”
    Ferrari Owners’ Club magazine

    “Evro is one of the UK’s leading motor racing publishers and its access to one of the greatest photographic resources in the world, LAT Photographic, now known as Motorsport Images, ensures that every one of this decade-by-decade series of titles that covers all of the cars, teams and drivers can be illustrated to perfection… Over 600 photographs support this excellent tome, which is both reference book and an editorially strong record of the sport’s glory years.”

    “Documents the early Formula 1 days in great – and fascinating – detail.”

    “It’s thorough, encyclopaedic in approach, and the colour photography later in the decade is especially gratifying.”

    “Vibrant… terrific…” (Doug Stokes)

    “The author is clearly a completist, and it is always a pleasure to read of the privateers and grid-fillers. There are some wonderful images too…”
    Absolute Lotus

    “The 1950s was a fantastic era for motorsport and this fact-filled year-by-year volume with lots of great images brings it all home.”
    Best of British

    “A ton of research went into this literary effort.”

    “Evro’s ‘Car by Car’ series has been a delight for historic F1 fans… What’s been particularly refreshing is that the books are broken up into small sections on every car that took part, not only keeping it focused on the cars, when so many historians love to focus on the drivers, but also keeping it light and readable… an essential book.”
    Classic Car Weekly

    “Production values are high, with print and paper quality both excellent.”
    The Automobile

    “We all know that in Grand Prix racing money talks, but here in Peter Higham’s superlative reference work it seems nothing is further from the truth… simply outstanding, both in terms of production and content. It comes with the Retro-Speed Magazine ‘seal of approval’.”
    Retro-Speed Magazine


    “Impressive attention to historic detail… a compelling picture of the changing landscape in F1’s formative years… a truly impressive insight.” (Joe Saward)

    “Interesting text with many new bits of information written in an engaging manner; wonderful selection of photos, particularly of the lesser-known teams and cars. Great for research and study and an excellent value for the money. Highly recommended.” (Pete Vack)

    “This book is a pleasure… most enjoyable, educational and fascinating.”
    Victory Lane

    “Author Peter Higham is a knowledgeable and passionate motorsport historian, and his completist nature flows throughout this book… Fans of this period will indulge in the detail, while aspiring aficionados will find plenty to get their teeth into.” (Andrew van de Burgt)

    “A warning! These books can be habit-forming. Buy one and you will want the full set.”
    BRDC Bulletin

    “Lovingly documented and illustrated in a very entertaining fashion… Go out and get this book. I’m not kidding. No equivocations, no nothing.” (Tony Borroz)