How they got there
- Bjørn Kjer
- October 24, 2007
What?Ecurie Ecosse transporter
Goodwood Revival Meeting (August 31, 2007)
The first petrol-engined cars on three or four wheels came in 1886. Less than ten years later a race which was more of a test came, in 1894 to be precise, and the first real race was run in 1895. The same year Peugeot produced a ”van”, and in 1896 the first car conceived as a lorry or truck was produced by Daimler and sold in London. From here on there was no looking back, the technical revolution was really on.
At first cars were driven to the races and these trips were often used as testing before the race. Soon however technology and laws made it nearly impossible for race cars to go by road themselves, and early on train was used for travelling, or perhaps for shorter distances a steam-engined truck.
Up to World War One in 1914 the lorry/truck as a race car transporter was probably not the best way for transports as roads were very few and poor and border controls as well as black markets were giving trouble too. The end of war in 1918 did bring a lot of surplus trucks but racing developed slowly and the trucks were mostly used for other rebuilding purposes. One of the very first purpose-built transporters was built by Daimler in 1924, a modified two-seater sport/touring car Mercedes 15/70/100PS.
The use and development of the racing car transporter followed the evolution of the lorry/truck in the world and by the end of the 20s many, though just tilted or boxed, had mods for carrying car and spare parts and even room for extra team members. Most common was to carry your racers on a flatbed or lowsided truck with canvas laid over or, when it was a private effort, an open trailer behind a sedan. Perhaps the first closed purpose-built transporters were Scuderia Ferrari's Lancia and Ceirano of 1929. Auto Union also used a two-wheel trailer behind a Horch sedan for their first transports in '33, but when they and Daimler-Benz really entered in '34 things started to change. Convoys of transporters and supply vehicles were seen and many smaller teams and private racers followed up with single trucks or with trailers and vans. It was not uncommon at the races to see five or six trucks from the big teams. Some of the private teams known to having had purpose-built transporters were Siena, Straight, Seaman, Howe and Dixon.
Railway was still used, however, but surely on the way to decline as they generally were, though BMW could have been one of the last users as in 1939 they sent their machinery by rail to Paris and then by truck to Monthléry. And that by steam-engined trucks!
Also worthy of note is that on September 1, 1940, there was to be a race in Rumania (Brasov). Practice was held, but the message of Hungarian troops crossing the border to the Soviet-occupied land made the organizers cancel the race. This threw the Germans in a disordered retreat, with transporters, road cars and racing cars mixing it as they ”fled”...
After World War Two, with a lot of surplus vehicles, the use of transporters grew and by 1950 new, bigger purpose-built ones came on to the scene, one of the ”big” names for special-build transporters being Bartoletti, which used truck or bus chassis from common Italian makes such as Fiat, O.M., Lancia, Alfa and Bianchi. Other Italian coachbuilders were on the scene too, but to a lesser degree.
Of course, these cars were not mass-produced. Seldom more than one was made at a time, so they varied from time to time, even if it was in the same year. This practice was very common all over Europe and even up in the 60s trucks and coaches were built by hand by garage owners or in smaller factories in their respective countries, Italy being the country with the most sensational examples. In the 50s the big Italian motorcycle manafacturers such as Guzzi, Gilera and MV also used such cars. I hope to be able to add a chapter on these special builders in time, it being quite difficult to find information on them. Other names than Bartoletti are Garavini, Rolfo and Viberti, some of them also doing special vans.
French teams also had special-build transporters built, as did the British, but here there was another well-used factor too: buses! A lot of common British buses were rebuilt and used especially by private teams, and in many cases they more or less ”just” had a door made at the back! Some of these transporters had a long life going from a works team to a private team or owner. Most of them have however long disappeared, but a few have been totally rebuilt and some others are awaiting money for restoration. Although just a small contingent is still with us today, it is amazing that so relatively many are still being maintained and in some cases coming back to life again as ”new”. But we must not forget the use of two-wheel trailers, all the way from the first years right up until today, perhaps only now in the guise of a four-wheeler.
In the 50s and 60s, as might have been the case in earlier years, several teams also rented a few normal open or tilted privately owned trucks, most common being those of Baricchi, who were much used by Ferrari. I'm also working on a chapter on these private hauliers.
The most astonishing development was perhaps when Ferrari and Maserati obtained their Bartoletti Fiat two-stage transporters in 1956/57. These were open-built, thus the racer would get all kind of weather right onto or even into it if not covered! Two of these cars are still with us today. Another special which had a long life was the open two-stage Bartoletti with quite a different look to the Ferrari/Maserati ones, it having been ordered and used by Scarab for their rather short F1 adventure in 1960, then idling before being modified to a 3-axle version and used by Cobra and Ford/Alan Mann and a lot of other teams. It is now being rebuilt totally in the USA as a Scarab transporter.
Up through the 60s removal vans or coaches continued to be used or specially built. By the end of this period all big teams and a lot of the smaller ones had their own transporters. At 1970 my interest ends. I do still look at the following years, but by this time money and sponsors were beginning to take over the racing scene and a few years after the tractor and semitrailer solution began to catch on.
- Part 1: Transports of delight, by Doug Nye
- Part 2: Formula 1 transport, by Denis Jenkinson
- Part 3: The 1957 Merrick Leyland Vanwall truck, from the Bonham's auction guide
- Part 4: Personal transporter memories, by Mike Argetsinger and Rob Ryder
- Part 5: Picture book, compiled by Bjørn Kjer
- More to follow...
- Renntransporter by Storz and Braun, Motorbuch Verlag
- racingtransporter.com by Jörg Fahn
- Scale drawing by Mike Sells
- Motor Racing, Reflections of a lost era by Anthony Carter, Veloce
- Those were the days, Motor Racing at Goodwood in the Sixties by Tony Gardiner, Veloce
- BRM, A mechanics tale by Dick Salmon, Veloce
- Mintex Man by Guy Loveridge, David Loveridge
A word of thanks
The author wants to thank all who contributed to this compilation.
A big thank you goes to The AtlasF1 Nostalgia Forum. It is simply unique, so much info on motor racing is to be found nowhere else. And even more important, to me at least, is the enormous amount of members kindly willing to help and share. It is a great pleasure for me to be involved, and I want to thank every contributor.
The best thread for transporters — and the reason for this compilation — has to be the epic 'Transporters' thread, but you can find info on other threads as well, such as 'Personal photos from the paddock' and 'Supply and Sponsor vehicles', as well as in many other threads where contributors found it convinient to place their transporter info. Long live TNF.