Thursday, October 18, 2018

U.S. Grand Prix and Formula 1

Formula 1 returns to the United States at the Circuit of the Americas


After decades of trying, Formula One may finally be growing in America


written by Sophie Bearman and Mike Larson, edited by James Karthauser



For over 70 years, Formula One has been a premier global sport, with opulent, multi-day races held in countries across the world.

Formula One’s events are wildly popular — everywhere, that is, except for the United States. But that could be changing sooner than most think.

European roots


Italian racer Giuseppe Farina wins the world’s first Formula One Grand Prix in 1950. Photo courtesy of CNBC
Italian racer Giuseppe Farina wins the world’s first Formula One Grand Prix in 1950. Photo courtesy of CNBC


Since its founding, Formula One has been an international organization.

The first world championship was held in 1950 at Silverstone in the United Kingdom. The winning driver, Italian racer Giuseppe Farina, drove a supercharged Alfa Romeo in front of 120,000 cheering spectators — including England’s reigning monarch, King George VI.

That European race set the stage for Formula One’s global presence, excluding America.

Headwinds in America


Formula One has a storied history in the United States. Mario Andretti sat on the pole for his first F1 start at Watkins Glen in 1968
Formula One has a storied history in the United States. Mario Andretti sat on the pole for his first
 F1 start at Watkins Glen in 1968. Photo By Lat Photographic

Logistically, it’s hard to be a Formula One fan in America. Most of the races take place in Europe, so watching live events often means waking up at the crack of dawn. The U.S. also has its own motor sports to watch like IndyCar and NASCAR, which has been around since the 1940s.

Peter Habicht is the founder of Formula One's largest fan group in America, located in San Francisco. The group has about 2,500 members.

“We have a difficult time following a lot of the European races because they go on at about five in the morning, so it’s a challenging proposition to get a group together, usually at a sports bar, to watch a live start of a race,” said Habicht.

Unlike basketball or football, Formula One racing provides very few American drivers to cheer on: The last American to win a race was Mario Andretti, and that was at the Dutch Grand Prix in 1978.

“The sport, under prior stewardship, began to move wherever the money was the highest," said Leo Hindery, InterMedia Partners managing partner and a former race car driver.

"And that left Formula One in places like Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Shanghai, none of which is bad for the sport except for in the process of doing that, they neglected to maintain a footprint here in the United States,” said Hindery, a Formula One promoter.

In 2005, the U.S. Grand Prix didn't turn out as Formula One might have hoped. Media reports at the time called it a disaster. At the very last minute, fourteen cars were forced to withdraw due to safety concerns. Most fans left the event feeling disappointed and cheated of their money. The race they’d come to see didn’t deliver.

“It was a low point, for sure, in American Formula One history,” said Habicht.

Improving relations with the US


Ayrton Senna leads the field at the United States Grand Prix at Phoenix in 1989.
Ayrton Senna leads the field at the United States Grand Prix at Phoenix in 1989. Photo By Lat Photographic


Still, the future of Formula One in America may be getting brighter. Competitor NASCAR has had an undeniably rough few years, which could be a boon for Formula One. More importantly, Formula One has had a significant change in leadership: In early 2017, it was acquired by Liberty Media, a U.S. company, for $8 billion.

Formula One’s new CEO, Chase Carey, has high hopes for the sport in America, telling CNBC at the time of the acquisition that he wanted to make the races feel more like Super Bowl events with mobile content, and behind-the-scenes access available for fans.

“Put an organization in place that lets us make these events everything they can be, reaches out across digital media that we're not connecting to today [and] build a marketing organization that connects to fans [and] enables fans to connect to the sport,” said Carey.

One year later and expansion in America is already happening: a new Miami street circuit Grand Prix will be added to the calendar in 2019. The race would be in addition to the U.S. Grand Prix. Hindery predicted there will be a race in the Northeast, possibly New Jersey, within the next two to three years as well.

America's untapped market


Fans greet racer Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Great Britain during the United States Formula One Grand Prix in 2017.
Fans greet racer Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Great Britain during the United States Formula One
Grand Prix in 2017.  Photo courtesy of CNBC

There’s a lot of money to be gained from ticket sales, advertisers and sponsors in America. U.S. consumers shelled out $56 billion to attend sporting events in 2016, according to a study by CreditCards.com.

“You have 325 million people in the United States which, just in sheer numbers, is an audience you shouldn’t leave behind,” explained Hindery.

Formula One could use the economic boost. In 2012, FinanceAsia, a Hong Kong-based financial news publication, reported Formula One's valuation was $9.1 billion. That means over the four-year period between that valuation and the subsequent $8 billion purchase, it lost 12 percent of its value.

However, it’s not a sure thing that Formula One will catch on in the States. U.S. Grand Prix attendance fell in 2017 by 4.4 percent from the year prior. And there are no American drivers racing in Formula One this year.

But if there’s ever a time for Formula One to capture America’s hearts, it’s now. With NASCAR struggling and new American F1 leadership, it’s possible the pastime can make a permanent mark on U.S. soil.

U.S. Grand Prix history review as Austin prepares for Formula One


Stirling Moss at the 1960 United States Grand Prix at Riverside.
Stirling Moss at the 1960 United States Grand Prix at Riverside. Photo By Lat Photographic


On Sunday October 22nd, Formula 1 returns to the U.S. for the first time with the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, at the brand new, world-class race track, the Circuit of the Americas.  Having resumed Formula 1 racing in 2007, bringing the sport back to the U.S. for the first time since 2007 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this race should be an enormous boon to the push for the sport in America.

Although F1 has had a long and at times troubled relationship with the American market, the sport also has a rich history here. Since 1950, the U.S. has hosted 62 F1 events, including races at Watkins Glen, Sebring, the streets of Detroit and several others. As some F1 fans prepare to head to Austin while others plan to watch the U.S. Grand Prix on television, here's a quick recap of F1 racing's American history.

1950-1960—Indianapolis 500: OK, technically this was not a traditional Formula One race, let alone a road-course race. But 11 times from 1950-1960, the Indianapolis 500 counted as a round of the world championship, with points scored at Indy adding to F1 drivers' season tally.

1959—Sebring: In 1959, the U.S. hosted two F1 races for the first time. In addition to the Indy 500, F1 added the United States Grand Prix to its schedule. The race, held at Sebring International Raceway in Florida, was the ninth and final round of the 1959 season.

1960—Riverside: In 1960, the United States Grand Prix moved from Sebring to the famous—and today much missed—Riverside International Raceway in Riverside, Calif. Promoters had a difficult time drumming up interest for the Sebring race the previous year, and had similar problems with the Riverside race. It wasn't until the following year when F1 moved to Watkins Glen International in upstate New York that American fans started to embrace Grand Prix racing.

1961-1980—Watkins Glen: After running the United States Grand Prix at two different venues in 1959 and 1960, the event finally found a somewhat permanent home in 1961. Originally, Daytona International Speedway was supposed to host the 1961 event, but an agreement couldn't be made. In the end, F1 went to Watkins Glen, where it remained for almost 20 years.

1976-1983—Long Beach: After a 16-year hiatus, F1 returned to the West Coast in 1976. Dubbed the United States Grand Prix West, the race found a home in Long Beach for seven seasons. The Long Beach races also marked the first time a city street circuit was used in the U.S., and the event is credited with having a major impact on turning the city around and increasing its desirability as a place to live. Of course, when F1 left after the 1983 race, Long Beach continued to host the CART World Series, and today hosts the Izod IndyCar Series and American Le Mans Series. But it was F1 that started the city's ongoing affair with auto racing.

1981-1982—Las Vegas: F1 left Watkins Glen after the 1980 running of the United States Grand Prix. The U.S. did continue to host the final race of the F1 season, but in Las Vegas. For two seasons, F1 participated in the Caesars Palace Grand Prix, which featured a surprisingly decent—if rather flat—track layout in the parking lot of the famous Las Vegas hotel. When F1 did not return to Las Vegas, the CART World Series added the race to its schedule in 1983 and 1984.

1982-1988—Detroit: The year 1982 marked the first and only time that three F1 races have appeared in the United States during a single season. In addition to races in Long Beach and Las Vegas, downtown Detroit hosted its own street race. The circuit was bumpy—no surprise to Michigan drivers—tight and demanding. Alas, F1 could not come to an agreement with the host city for 1989, whereupon CART once again added Detroit to its schedule.

1984—Dallas: Although this weekend's U.S. Grand Prix marks F1's first visit to Austin, the series is no stranger to Texas. In 1984, Fair Park in Dallas was converted to an F1 circuit to host the Dallas Grand Prix. The race turned out to be a one-off event, and it was plagued when high ambient temperatures caused the track surface to break apart. Drivers said it was the roughest circuit they had encountered, and the race was a significant physical challenge for the Grand Prix aces. Keke Rosberg won the race, but Nigel Mansell put on a memorable show by hitting a wall on the final lap, coming to a stop and attempting to push his car over the finish line. Instead he collapsed, exhausted by the heat on the rough circuit.

1989-1991—Phoenix: After the final race in Detroit in 1988, F1 wanted a new venue. It came down to either Laguna Seca in California and the streets of Phoenix, and Phoenix got the nod. From 1989-1991, the United States Grand Prix found its home in Arizona, and the first event, held in June, roasted drivers and spectators with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees. The organizers learned a lesson; Phoenix's next two races were held in March.

1992-1999—Hiatus: There were no F1 races held in the U.S. during this time period, and some began to wonder if the sport would ever return. And then along came Indianapolis . . .

The 2007 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Photo By Lat Photographic


2000-2007—Indianapolis: After a nine-year absence, F1 came back to the U.S. in a huge way and to much fanfare in 2000. The series returned to its American roots, racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, after then-Speedway boss Tony George invested millions to build a road course inside the world-famous oval. Not only that, but George dropped millions more to construct modern F1-spec garages, offices and a new pagoda and media center on the oval's front straight.

That first year, in 2000, the venue offered the largest F1 crowd in history as more than 250,000 fans flooded the giant facility, and it looked like a smash hit that would cement the series in the U.S.

However, the race—and F1 in particular—suffered major backlash in 2005 when cars using Michelin tires were forced to withdraw due to concerns their tires would fail on the Speedway's banking. With 14 entries using Michelins, that left only six cars on Bridgestone tires to start the race. Fans were not impressed.

Still, Indy hosted two more races, and though the crowds fell off significantly, the attendance was still strong compared to other F1 events around the world. Nevertheless, George found F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone's financial demands for 2008 too high to make a profit, and the U.S. bid goodbye to Grand Prix racing yet again.

U.S. Grand Prix Winners

2007, Indianapolis: Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes

2006, Indy: Michael Schumacher, Ferrari

2005, Indy: Michael Schumacher, Ferrari

2004, Indy: Michael Schumacher, Ferrari

2003, Indy: Michael Schumacher, Ferrari

2002, Indy: Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari

2001, Indy: Mika Häkkinen, McLaren-Mercedes

2000, Indy: Michael Schumacher, Ferrari

1991, Phoenix: Ayrton Senna, McLaren-Honda

1990, Phoenix: Ayrton Senna, McLaren-Honda

1989, Phoenix: Alain Prost McLaren-Honda

1988, Detroit: Ayrton Senna, McLaren-Honda

1987, Detroit: Ayrton Senna, Lotus-Honda

1986, Detroit: Ayrton Senna, Lotus-Renault

1985, Detroit: Keke Rosberg, Williams-Honda

1984, Dallas: Keke Rosberg, Williams-Honda

1984, Detroit: Nelson Piquet, Brabham-BMW

1983, Detroit: Michele Alboreto, Tyrrell-Ford

1983, Long Beach: John Watson, McLaren-Ford

1982, Detroit: John Watson, McLaren-Ford

1982, Las Vegas: Michele Alboreto, Tyrrell-Ford

1982, Long Beach: Niki Lauda, McLaren-Ford

1981, Las Vegas: Alan Jones, Williams-Ford

1981, Long Beach: Alan Jones, Williams-Ford

1980, Long Beach: Nelson Piquet, Brabham-Ford

1980, Watkins Glen: Alan Jones, Williams-Ford

1979, Long Beach: Gilles Villeneuve, Ferrari

1979, Watkins Glen: Gilles Villeneuve, Ferrari

1978, Long Beach: Carlos Reutemann, Ferrari

1978, Watkins Glen: Carlos Reutemann, Ferrari

1977, Long Beach: Mario Andretti, Lotus-Ford

1977, Watkins Glen: James Hunt, McLaren-Ford

1976, Long Beach: Clay Regazzoni, Ferrari

1976, Watkins Glen: James Hunt, McLaren-Ford

1975, Watkins Glen: Niki Lauda, Ferrari

1974, Watkins Glen: Carlos Reutemann, Brabham-Ford

1973, Watkins Glen: Ronnie Peterson, Lotus-Ford

1972, Watkins Glen: Jackie Stewart, Tyrrell-Ford

1971, Watkins Glen: Francois Cevert, Tyrrell-Ford

1970, Watkins Glen: Emerson Fittipaldi, Lotus-Ford

1969, Watkins Glen: Jochen Rindt, Lotus-Ford

1968, Watkins Glen: Jackie Stewart, Matra-Ford

1967, Watkins Glen, Jim Clark, Lotus-Ford

1966, Watkins Glen: Jim Clark, Lotus-BRM

1965, Watkins Glen: Graham Hill, BRM

1964, Watkins Glen: Graham Hill, BRM

1963, Watkins Glen: Graham Hill, BRM

1962, Watkins Glen: Jim Clark, Lotus-Climax

1961, Watkins Glen: Innes Ireland, Lotus-Climax

1960, Riverside: Stirling Moss, Lotus-Climax

1959, Sebring: Bruce McLaren, Cooper-Climax



At l'art et l'automobile, we are Formula 1 fans of a ravenous nature, and wish to celebrate our love of the sport with you, as well as to assist you in your collecting of Formula 1 artwork and memorabilia.

Enjoy looking through the collection and tell us which ones you would like to own. Please Tour the gallery at arteauto.com, and perhaps add a piece to your collection.

Enjoy the Race,


Jacques Vaucher

For more great automotive artwork and memorabilia, don't forget to browse the many other categories on our WEBSITE. Remember we also have many more items in our gallery, do not hesitate to contact us if you are looking for something in particular.

And as always, be sure to Like and Share on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, share a photo on Instagram and read our Blogs.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

They're Silver Arrows, Right...?

Jochen Mass in a W25 at Goodwood. Photo by Bahnfrend.

So that story you’ve heard about how silver became Germany’s national racing color? Not really true.

Daniel Strohl of Hemmings on Jun 4th, 2018, edited by James Karthauser


Pop open any book discussing Mercedes-Benz racing history and guaranteed that book will include the story about how, faced with overweight W25 racing cars, the Mercedes-Benz racing team decided to strip all the paint from the aluminum-bodied cars, thus setting the precedent for silver to become the German national racing color. Except, according to a handful of historians fighting corporate PR and decades of tradition, it’s all hokum.

“It’s a great story, and it would be nice if it were remotely true,” said Don Capps, a longtime member of the Society of Automotive Historians who plans to discuss the German racing silver origin myth in an upcoming talk at the International Motor Racing Research Center. “But one of the problems with auto racing history is that once these things become established, it gets really difficult to bother people with the facts.”

So let’s start with the facts. In October 1932, the directors of the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus – the forerunner to the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile – decided that Grand Prix racing had become too fast and too dangerous so, rather than limit the size of competitors’ engines, they decreed a new formula for the 1934 season, essentially unlimited save for the 750 kilogram maximum weight, or about half the weight of most competitive race cars.

Theoretically, according to Louis Sugahara, who wrote and illustrated “Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Race Cars, 1934-1955,” reducing vehicle weight meant reducing engine size in an era before widespread use of durable lightweight alloys for engines; AIACR officials had hoped the weight limit would cap engine sizes at about 2.5 liters. That size instead became a basement for engine displacement among the various competitors.

At first, Mercedes-Benz had no intention to join the fray. The automaker officially suspended its racing program in 1930 as the Depression took hold and as its SSK cars were nearing the limits of their potential. Alfred Neubauer, who helmed the racing program, reportedly considered leaving Mercedes-Benz to join his old colleague Ferdinand Porsche at Auto Union, but remained after Mercedes-Benz board chairman Wilhelm Kissel promised the company would soon return to racing.

That return came in 1933 after Jakob Werlin, who served as Mercedes-Benz’s liaison with the Nazi party, convinced the German Ministry of Transport to subsidize the company’s Grand Prix efforts to the tune of half-a-million Reichsmarks per year. Though that money would later be split between Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union, it still provided sufficient incentive for Mercedes-Benz engineers Hans Nibel and Max Wagner to begin work on a modern aerodynamic racing machine, the W25, powered by a 3.36-liter 32-valve supercharged double overhead-camshaft straight-eight located ahead of the driver.

As before, Neubauer led the racing team, and while he couldn’t get Rudolf Caracciola to immediately return to the team due to an injury, he did get Manfred von Brauchitsch, another proven Mercedes driver, to sign with the team again. Despite promising early tests, the W25 wouldn’t be ready to actually start a race until June 1934, when Neubauer and his team showed up at the Eifelrennen at Germany’s Nürburgring.

For purposes of illustrating the myth, here’s what Sugahara had to say about what transpired there:

On the eve of the race, the Mercedes team discovered that the weight of the W25 was one kilogram above the 750 kg regulation. Apparently, weight control had been neglected somewhat during the repeated modification work. On the night before the race, everyone was in a somber mood, as they all knew it would be almost impossible to shed one kilogram. It was then that von Brauchitsch shouted in desperation, “How about filing down the paint?” This inspired Neubauer, and the team worked throughout the night, carefully filing off and polishing the aluminum skin until they had barely succeeded in reducing the weight by one kilogram.
From then on, the factory color of Mercedes became metallic silver, and the race cars were nicknamed “Silver Arrows.” Auto Union, too, decided on the same silver color, eventually making silver the national racing color of Germany. After the war, Porsche painted its race cars silver, too.

(Other passages recounting the story often give sole credit to Neubauer for the idea, which is not surprising for reasons we’ll see shortly.)

A critical reading of that passage should raise all sorts of red flags. If the team had indeed neglected weight control on the cars, it shouldn’t have caused them much consternation to find a kilogram here or there. And if it were up to the racing teams to decide their nation’s racing colors, it’s far from likely that Auto Union, furiously competing against Mercedes-Benz for Nazi Reichsmarks, would just go along with whatever color Mercedes-Benz haphazardly chose.

Alfred Neubauer directs driver Manfred von Brauchitsch 
(piloting a W125 Mercedes-Benz “Silver Arrow”)
during a pause at the 1937 Grand Prix of Germany
at the Nürburgring. Photo courtesy the
IMRRC Werner Winter Collection.
Instead, as Capps pointed out, AIACR assigned racing colors to the various countries in 1908 or thereabouts: France got blue, Belgium yellow, Italy red, the U.K. green, and Germany white. However, due to white and silver sharing the same heraldry tincture, Mercedes-Benz had a long history of using the colors interchangeably on its race cars.

“We have photos back to 1924 of cars raced by the factory painted silver,” Capps said. “And we have photographic evidence directly from the Mercedes-Benz archives that shows the W24 cars were painted silver before the June 1934 race.”

Indeed, as historian Doug Nye pointed out, von Brauchitsch’s silver-painted Mercedes SSKL was described as a “Silver Arrow” in 1932 and a Mercedes-Benz press release from March of 1934 used the same terminology to describe the W25.

The story about sanding off the paint prior to the Eifelrennen, according to Capps, likely originated with Neubauer himself, who published his biography in German in 1958 and again in English in 1960 (as “Speed Was My Life“). “Prior to that, there was no mention of the story anywhere,” Capps said. “Then after 1960 or so, the story pops up all over the place.”

Neither Capps nor Nye are the first to call the story out. In fact, Daimler-Chrysler convened a symposium in 2007 to discuss that era and to open up the company’s archives to historians. However, despite the evidence to the contrary, Capps said the company – which celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Silver Arrows in 2009 at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – still includes the Neubauer myth on placards at its museum, and the company continues to repeat the myth in current press and promotional literature.

Correcting the historical record is “easier said than done,” Capps said. “Mercedes-Benz has made it very clear that they enjoy the myth and don’t bother them with the facts.”

Which is not to say Capps concedes. Instead, his talk at the IMRRC, which he describes as a followup to the 2007 symposium, will delve into the evidence that debunks the myth and show how automotive historians go about researching such topics.

At l'art et l'automobile, we have followed every kind of auto racing for decades, and a shining silver star crowning most of the Auto Racing Circuits has to be the racing teams of Mercedes-Benz.  Their power, technology, teamwork and that iconic silver paint shine so brightly on the racing world, that many teams and manufacturers are forced to do everything they can just to pull themselves from that shadow.  In honor of the Manufacturer's prowess, we have gathered all of our Mercedes Artwork and Memorabilia into one collection, and present them here to you.

Enjoy looking through the collection and tell us which pieces you would like to own. Please Tour the gallery at arteauto.com, and perhaps add a piece to your collection.

Prost!

Jacques Vaucher

For more great automotive artwork and memorabilia, don't forget to browse the many other categories on our WEBSITE. Remember we also have many more items in our gallery, do not hesitate to contact us if you are looking for something in particular.

And as always, be sure to Like and Share on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, or share a photo on Instagram.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Razzia’s Niche

Louis Vuitton China Run 1998 large original poster by Razzia


A Talented Artist Finds his Niche

by Jacques Vaucher


In an age when most poster art is computer generated, Razzia is one of the world’s only modern day “poster artist”. During the Golden age of posters, late 1800’s and early 1900’s, before television and certainly computers, advertisers employed the best artists they could find to make interesting and unique renderings of the product they wished to sell or advertise. This was done in order to impact the market and stand out from their competitors with a strong image. In most cases the artist would produce a painting which when approved would be lithographed in a larger size with the appropriate text. Razzia still conceives his posters from an original painting, a technique not common in this day and age. Razzia lives and works outside Paris and has done numerous posters for Louis Vuitton worldwide including the Bagatelle Concours of Elegance and the America’s Cup Challenge. Producing poster images for them established Razzia as an automotive artist to much of his delight as he is an automobile and Formula 1 enthusiast who owns and has owned a few Porsches, Mini Cooper and Triumphs. Since 1985, Razzia has created close to 30 different automobile images for the Louis Vuitton sponsored rallies and Concours d’ Elegance they have organized around the world.



Other clients for which he has worked include Stetson hats, Lancia Automobiles, L’Oreal, International Prêt à Porter Feminin (France), Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s in the U.S., Harrods in the U.K., the Nice Jazz Festival, the City of Deauville, several brand name Champagnes and several restaurants in Paris and New York. Among collectors around the world are Elton John, Jackie Collins and Michael Caine. His work has been shown in every major city around the world and is highly collected.

Louis Vuitton Classic 2004 Waddesdon Manor Concours d'Elegance U.K. large poster by Razzia
Louis Vuitton Classic 2004 Waddesdon Manor Concours d'Elegance U.K. poster by Razzia


Possibly the best description of Razzia’s work, as well as his contribution to posters and the art world is this excerpt from the forward of the book: Razzia; 25 Years of Poster Art

Razzia’s Posters embody perfect communication with modern cool in an elegant, crisp style. In his somewhat surreal, stylized brevity we find a technique that is uniquely his own, although ripples of past master can be observed throughout. Cappiello, Erte and Broders are incorporated into Razzia’s works as stylistic touches without resorting to mimicry.

I see razzia’s work as divided into two groups. The first is best described as illustrative, with outstanding examples being the Café de Flore and the Bistro du Nord posters, the stetson design and his many Louis Vuitton images. All are persuasive and decorative visions.

The second group - in my opinion the most compelling - is comprised of posters that attract viewers with their graphic simplicity and unflinching clarity: images such as the Cigar advertisement, the Pasta poster (without a doubt Razzia’s signature piece), Prêt à Porter, the Deauville swimmer, the Bugatti Atlantic and the Lancia (which I fondly remember also having been hand-painted on the side of a ten-story building off the Périphérique road that encircles Paris). I believe that it is in these bold, concise, focused images that we see the strength and graphic through-line of Razzia’s promotional narrative.

Razzia's Famous "Pasta" Poster, available in the collection at arteauto.com
Razzia's Famous "Pasta" Poster, available in the collection at arteauto.com


But make no mistake about it: Razzia is the last of a dying breed. Quite possibly, he represents a glorious Art Deco conclusion to the contemporary possibilities of the poster. To look at his work is to be mesmerized by his graphic inventiveness and yet one cant quite ignore the fact that in his creations we see the work of the last artist who, at present, can legitimately be called a posterist.
Sadly, the poster as a viable marketing tool has been in a steady decline. From magazine and television ads to the advent of internet advertising, it’s not hard to see the writing on the wall. Today’s global firms hire the finest artists and craftsmen to make 30-second commercials; they don’t commission posters to be dispersed with their anachronistic distribution system. And on the odd occasion a poster is actually commissioned by advertisers, instead of hiring a top graphic artist to do the job: they hire a fine-art painter in an effort to produce “arty” promotions. Look no further than the yearly French Open (Roland Garros) posters to understand their irrelevance. But compare these designs with Razzia’s poster for that event in 1984 and you’ll quickly comprehend the opportunities squandered by not utilizing a posterist to create - well, posters.

It’s ironic, however, that the popularity of vintage poster art - the true “people’s art” - is reaching an all-time zenith at the exact same time that new poster production appears to be heading the way of the dinosaur. But it’s important to note that rare and vintage posters have achieved this recognition as collectables and decorative items that have nothing to do with the function for which they were originally conceived: widely-disseminated advertising, absolutely necessary for the promotion of products or events.

With that in mind, this book serves not only as a testimonial to Razzia’s graphic flair, but also to his tenacity and ability to straddle the precarious line between the artistic and the commercial. Not only did he carve out a posterist’s career by getting important commissions from top companies, he also managed to retain the publishing rights to his designs, reprinting them and marketing them in galleries throughout the world. This is proof of Razzia’s savvy comprehension of the contemporary marketplace, both in terms of a realistic business acumen as well as his adherence to a personal vision.

I’ve known Razzia for many years. In 1992, I chose him, from a field of renowned worldwide posterists, to create the inaugural poster for my auction enterprise - Poster Auctions International. I also commissioned him to design the poster for my daughter’s wedding. Obviously I was very happy with the results of the artistic endeavors that he undertook on my behalf and I’m pleased that he decided to include them both in this book.

Whatever the future holds in store for the poster medium, one ting is perfectly clear: Razzia’s most striking contribution to graphic art is a personal clarity of vision, a playful freshness that hold the eye of the viewer as if it’s the first time that they’ve come across a design - even if that’s far from the truth. And that, without question, is a contribution well worth celebrating.

Jack Rennert
Director
The International Poster Center
New York City
2007

Louis Vuitton Vintage Equator Run 1993 Large event poster by Razzia
Louis Vuitton Vintage Equator Run 1993 event poster by Razzia


Razzia with an example of his work.
Razzia with an example of his work.
We are proud to have been working with Razzia for the last 20 years. You can see most of his images on our website at www.arteauto.com. In 2007, with the help of Mickey Ross, Razzia produced a beautiful book; “25 years of Poster art” about his work. It shows his complete production of paintings and posters he has created.

Razzia has found his niche by creating compositions which blend perfectly with vintage advertising posters.

At l'art et l'automobile, we have always held artists and their work in the highest regard, so much so that we call many of these luminaries friends. Razzia (left) is one of those, and to celebrate a partnership that has lasted for more than 25 years, we have gathered a good selection of our best work by Razzia and are ready to present them to you.

Enjoy looking through the collection and tell us which ones you would like to own. Please Tour the gallery at arteauto.com, and perhaps add a piece to your collection.

All our best from the staff at l’art et l’automobile,

Jacques Vaucher

For more great automotive artwork and memorabilia, don't forget to browse the many other categories on our WEBSITE. Remember we also have many more items in our gallery, do not hesitate to contact us if you are looking for something in particular.

And as always, be sure to Like and Share on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, or share a photo on Instagram.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Remembering James Dean

James Dean, 63 Years After His Death


James Dean Photo courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

written by Bio Staff and the LA Times, edited by James Karthauser


On September 30, 1955 James Dean died in a high-speed car crash at the age of 24. Even today, 63 years after his death, he continues to be immortalized around the world.

"If a man can bridge the gap between life and death, if he can live on after he's dead, then maybe he was a great man," James Dean once said. It appears the world thinks Dean was a great man.

James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause."
James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause." Photo courtesy of AP Photo

After the actor's death in 1955, Dean was immortalized as a Hollywood icon — a symbol of brooding, restless rebellious youth in post-war America. He had been filming Giant at the time his Porsche 550 Spyder (nicknamed Little Bastard) fatally collided with another car off a California highway. The driver of that car, as well as Dean's mechanic, who was accompanying him to an auto race in Salinas, both survived the crash. Dean had only completed two other films, East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause, both released the same year he died.

The following obituary ran in the LA Times the next morning:

Film Star James Dean Killed in Auto Crash

OCT 01, 1955 | 2:00 PM
James Dean, 24, one of Hollywood's brightest new motion-picture stars, was killed early last night in a head-on collision at the rural town of Cholame, about 19 miles east of Paso Robles, the California Highway Patrol reported.
The young actor met death in his German-built Porsche sports car while en route to road races at Salinas. Patrolmen said Dean was dead on arrival at the Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital following the crash at the intersection of State Highway 41 and U.S. 466.

Mechanic Injured

His mechanic, identified by the CHP as Rolph Wuetherich, about 27, of Hollywood, suffered a fractured jaw, fractured hip and body lacerations. He was described as in "moderately serious condition."
The CHP office at San Luis Obispo said a car driven by Donald Turnupseed of Tulare made a left turn on Highway 41 while traveling east, colliding almost head on with Dean's tiny sports car. Investigators said Turnupseed suffered minor injuries.
An attending physician was quoted as saying Dean died instantly at about 5:30 p.m. from a broken neck, numerous broken bones and severe lacerations over the entire body.

Completed Role

The Indiana-born star left Hollywood with Wuetherich several hours before the fatal crash for a week end of racing at Salinas. He had just this week completed a role in "Giant," the film version of Edna Ferber's book about Texas.
He became a sports car racing enthusiast only last spring, shortly after he rocketed to stardom in "East of Eden," made from the John Steinbeck story of early days in the Salinas Valley.
Under contract to Warner Bros. studios, the intense young star frequently had been compared to Marlon Brando and both were products of Director Elia Kazan’s school for amateur actors. Dean’s activity in television earned him his first motion-picture role, plus parts in two New York plays: “See the Jaguar” and “The Immoralist.”

Attended UCLA

Another film still unreleased in which Dean has the starring role is "Rebel Without a Cause," made at Warner's last summer.
Born at Marion, Ind., in February, 1931, Dean attended Santa Monica Junior College, later transferring to UCLA, where he majored in dramatics.
He left UCLA to seek an acting job in New York and won the David Blum Award for promising newcomers several years ago, the accolade helping him to starring roles in such television dramatic programs as Studio One, You Are There and Television Playhouse.
George Stevens, who produced and directed Dean's last picture, termed the young star's death a "great tragedy . . . he had extraordinary talent.”
One of Jimmy's co-stars in "Giant," Elizabeth Taylor, broke down when the news reached her: "I can't believe it; I'm just stunned," was all she could say.
Stevens and Warner Bros. said Dean had been forbidden to enter any sports car races while the picture was in production.

Just Got Car

A studio photographer, Sanford Roth, a few miles behind the Dean speedster, told the CHP Dean had just received delivery on the new car and was anxious to race it following the enforced studio layoff.
Ironically, Dean decided at the last minute to drive the sports car to Salinas. Stevens said the actor originally planned to travel north in his station wagon but changed his mind in favor of driving the small car just before departure time.
Dean was unmarried. He leaves his father, Winton A. Dean, a dental technician at Veterans Hospital, Sawtelle.


James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor on the set of "Giant."
James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor on the set of "Giant."
Photo courtesy of Screen Icons, Inc./Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc


Dean's funeral was held at a church in Fairmount, Indiana on October 8, 1955 with 600 hundred mourners in attendance. Another 2,400 fans gathered near the procession to pay their respects.

Fans gather at the crash site where James Dean died at Intersection 41 and 46 H.
Fans gather at the crash site where James Dean died at Intersection 41 and 46 H.
Photo courtesy of Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Even today, passersby leave beer bottles, sunglasses, cigarettes, and other paraphernalia at the spot where he died as homage to the actor. The area has been renamed James Dean Memorial Junction, but local authorities say they have issues with the signage repeatedly being stolen.


We here at l'art et l'automobile have always been avid fans of James Dean, a true Hollywood Hero.  We lost an Icon that day in 1955, and every time I go to the Monterey Peninsula for Carweek, I always pass by that particular spot, which reminds me every time about this champion of the silver screen and great Porsche Enthusiast.

In 1954, Dean became interested in developing an auto racing career, as well as developing a deep fondness for Porsche Automobiles. He purchased various vehicles after filming for East of Eden had concluded, including a Triumph Tiger T110 and a Porsche 356. Just before filming began on Rebel Without a Cause, he competed in his first professional event at the Palm Springs Road Races, which was held on March 26–27, 1955. Dean achieved first place in the novice class, and second place at the main event. His racing continued in Bakersfield a month later, where he finished first in his class and third overall. Dean hoped to compete in the Indianapolis 500, but his busy schedule made it impossible.

His brief career was put on hold when Warner Brothers banned him from all racing during the production of Giant. Dean had finished shooting his scenes and the movie was in post-production when he decided to race again. But his racing aspirations were cut short by his tragic death in his brand new Porsche 550 Spyder.

To share our memories of this Legendary figure, we have gathered a special collection of all our James Dean and Porsche Artwork and Memorabilia and present them to you.  Please take this opportunity to tour the Gallery and perhaps find something there that will embody your memories of the true american rebel, James Dean.  

For more great automotive artwork and memorabilia, don't forget to browse the many other categories on our WEBSITE. Remember we also have many more items in our gallery, do not hesitate to contact us if you are looking for something in particular.

And as always, be sure to Like and Share on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, or share a photo on Instagram.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Man Who Would Have Every Name (Signed)

102nd Indianapolis 500 field begins to take shape.  After Danica Patrick's announcement of joining Ed Carpenter Racing for the 2018 Indianapolis 500, this year's field for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing is beginning to settle.

Indy 500 autograph collectors find friendship and rivalry


written by Jordan J Wilson, edited by James Karthauser


Mike Thomsen and some of his Collection. 
 Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar
Mike Thomsen approaches his title as the No. 1 autograph collector of Indy 500 drivers with an admonition.

You see, Thomsen’s 594 signatures only became the largest publicly known collection when the previous leader, Dr. Harlen Hunter, started auctioning off the 597 signatures he had last year.

“I really won’t consider myself No. 1 until I pass 597 because that’s where he got to,” said Avon's Thomsen, who won't divulge where he keeps his collection. “I picked up a rare one this month that made it 594, then I should be getting another one to make it 595, then all five rookies (this year) will make it exactly 600.”

Thomsen already belongs to “The 500 Club,” a self-appointed tag pinned to the highest-end collectors who have amassed autographs from at least 500 of the 758 starting drivers to have ever competed in the Indianapolis 500.

To his knowledge, Thomsen is one of just seven collectors in the world to eclipse 500. As far as anyone can tell, he would also be the first to reach 600 — though, he admits, there could be others “flying under the radar” elsewhere in the world.

This is in Mike Thomsen's collection of Indy 500 drivers' autographs, Friday, May 27, 2016. He has the most autographs from different Indy 500 drivers, in the world. After the green flag waves, he says will have autographs from 600 of the drivers who ever drove in the race. This photo is of Barney Oldfield in the "Blitzen Benz" car. Oldfield set the world's speed record of 131.75 mph in 1910, in this car.  Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar
This is in Mike Thomsen's collection of Indy 500 drivers' autographs, Friday, May 27, 2016. He has
the most autographs from different Indy 500 drivers, in the world. After the green flag waves, he says
will have autographs from 600 of the drivers who ever drove in the race. This photo is of Barney
Oldfield in the "Blitzen Benz" car. Oldfield set the world's speed record of 131.75 mph in 1910, in
this car.  Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar


Otherwise, Thomsen knows most big-time 500 collectors and considers several to be close friends after working together over the years. For those he knows best, he tries to keep their “want lists” handy so that if he comes across a piece already in his collection that another collector needs, he can pass along the details.

“It’s kind of a little bit of camaraderie, but there’s competition, too,” Thomsen said. “There are guys in this industry that are willing to work with you, help you, share their knowledge; and then there are some guys who are willing to cut your throat to get the piece.”

This photo is of Frank Lockhart, from about 1927. Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar
This photo is of Frank Lockhart, from about 1927. Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar


A cutthroat approach never suited Thomsen. For him, forming connections and friendships, and sharing his knowledge has always been part of the fun.

“That’s what I enjoy about it,” said Knightstown's Jim Vogel, who owns 513 signatures and considers Thomsen a friend. “It’s nice going to the track, and no matter what track I go to, I find somebody that I talked to or got autographs with. Everywhere you go, you’re seeing people (you know).”

Whenever he can, Thomsen stresses to new collectors the value of strong networking with previous generations, if simply for the invaluable knowledge veterans can pass along from their experiences.

Thomsen still credits much of his success as an established collector to his personal mentor, Jack Mackenzie, former caretaker of the Borg-Warner Trophy. As Mackenzie once told him, the biggest mistake new collectors make is trying to do too much. That’s to say, trying to collect every program, pit badge, autograph and everything in between. So, Thomsen focused exclusively on being the top guy in driver autographs.

This is a photo of Pat O'Connor, 1958, Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar
This is a photo of Pat O'Connor, 1958, Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar


Veterans can also educate newcomers on the factors that make certain pieces more valuable: condition and quality, supply and demand, popularity of the driver. Without help, rookies might unknowingly pay more for a common autograph or pass up a lesser-known driver’s signature without realizing its value.

“Learn from everybody that made a mistake,” Thomsen said he tells new collectors. “There are so many mistakes you can make, and if you do your homework, you won’t make those mistakes.”

Mackenzie and Hunter, a retired orthopedic surgeon from Bedford, would be what Thomsen considers first-generation 500 collectors: people who spent time in the '70s and '80s building collections of autographed memorabilia ranging from programs and pennants to old autograph books.

“It was the time to get those guys from the '30s, '40s, '50s before they died,” Hunter said.

When it came to hunting down missing pieces, Hunter avoided websites like eBay for issues of authenticity. He recalls once seeing a listing that claimed to have the ballpoint pen of Gaston Chevrolet, who won the 1920 race and died in November of that year. Modern ballpoint pen designs, like the one in the listing, weren’t made commercially available until the 1940s.

This photo is of Ralph Mulford, the second place winner of the first Indy 500 race. Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar
This photo is of Ralph Mulford, the second place winner of the first Indy 500 race.
Photo Courtesy of Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar



Instead, Hunter cut out the middleman and purchased official documents that guaranteed authenticity, such as track licenses, check or entry forms that already contained drivers’ signatures. Or he would seek out drivers’ addresses and personally mail them memorabilia to sign.
Mike Thomsen shows some of his many
Indy 500 drivers' autographs and photos.
This photo is of the first two-time winner
Tommy Milton. Photo Courtesy of
Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar

“And I always wanted to talk to (the driver),” Hunter said of a request he sent along with any mailed memorabilia. “Then, it becomes real, and you’re a real person to them.”

At 13, Thomsen discovered a similar sentiment when he wrote John Paul Jr. asking to have a photograph signed shortly after seeing him win the 1983 Michigan 500. Not only did Paul Jr. sign the photo, he also hand wrote Thomsen a two-page letter in appreciation of his interest.

“What if he wouldn’t have said anything back?” Thomsen wondered decades later. “It wouldn’t have set me on this path. But because he was so interested in it, he helped spur me into the interest.”

Oftentimes, seeking out the lore and history of 500 drivers matters more to collectors than the monetary payoff. Thomsen and collectors like him want to downplay the money involved — though some rarer autographs have been sold for upward of $1,500.

For Thomsen and most serious collectors, though, nothing quite compares to getting a new autograph and calling up friends to learn more about who the driver was.

“We’re not doing it because we’re going to be the Rockefellers or Bill Gates because of it,” Thomsen said. “To me, the cash at the end is learning about these guys.”


Top Five Collectors:


Mike Thomsen (594), Avon, Ind.

Dr. Steven Clinton (576), Dublin, Ohio

Stu Slifkin (564), Murrells Inlet, S.C.

Dr. Allen Hanson (553), Centuria, Wis.

Jim Vogel (513), Knightstown, Ind.


If you collect autographs, at l'art et l'automobile, we have a good selection of photographs, prints, trophies, paintings, programs and other memorabilia that have been autographed by some of the most successful drivers, team owners, manufacturers and famous celebrities of the 20th century. Enjoy looking through our collection and tell us which ones you would like to own. Please Tour the gallery at arteauto.com, and perhaps add a piece to your collection.

All our best from the staff at l’art et l’automobile,


Jacques Vaucher

For more great automotive artwork and memorabilia, don't forget to browse the many other categories on our WEBSITE. Remember we also have many more items in our gallery, do not hesitate to contact us if you are looking for something in particular.

And as always, be sure to Like and Share on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, share a photo on Instagram and read our Blogs.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Remembering Burt Reynolds, 1936-2018


An Interview with a Legend







Burt Reynolds in 2016. Photo courtesy Christoper R. Phillip.


[Editor’s note: Burt Reynolds, perhaps best known for his role as Bo “Bandit” Darville in 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit, died on Thursday, September 6, at age 82. The cause of death was an apparent heart attack. We thought a fitting way to remember Reynolds would be to republish Tom DeMauro’s detailed 2016 interview with the star, which first appeared in the August 2016 issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines.]

Had Burt Reynolds’ life adhered to his plan, he would never have starred in popular car movies like White Lightning, Smokey and the Bandit I and II, Hooper, The Cannonball Run and the rest. Nor would he have amassed hundreds of other movie, stage, and TV credits, been the top box office draw from the mid-1970s into the early 1980s, a Golden Globe and Emmy winner or an Oscar nominee. That’s because young Burt, then known as “Buddy,” had his eye on a pro-football career.

Burt was born in Lansing, Michigan, in 1936, but raised in Palm Beach County, Florida; his father, “Big Burt” Reynolds, was an authoritarian and the local police chief. His mother, Fern, a former nurse, doted on Burt and his sister, Nancy Ann, who was six years his senior.

He was a strong-willed child, who by his own admission courted trouble. By the early 1950s, however, Burt had channeled his energies into football. After making First Team All State and earning an All Southern Honorable Mention in high school, he fielded various college offers. He ultimately accepted a scholarship to Florida State University (FSU) in 1954, and played halfback for the Seminoles.

According to Burt’s recent memoir, But Enough About Me, an on-field knee injury in his sophomore year that required surgery, followed by further damage sustained in a life-threatening car accident some time later, conspired to end his football career, and his time at FSU. At Palm Beach Junior College, an English professor, whom Burt would soon view as his mentor, convinced him to act in a play he was producing. Acting became Burt’s new calling, and he immersed himself in the craft.

After graduating in the late 1950s, Burt played supporting roles in TV shows like Riverboat and Gunsmoke, and appeared in episodes of other programs into the mid-1960s. His talent earned him progressively better roles, and his athleticism enabled him to do many of his own stunts.

Lead roles in TV series followed, as would more stage work and an illustrious movie career, all of which has now spanned six decades. Given his collaborations with stuntman/director Hal Needham in the 1970s and ’80s, some (but not nearly all) of Burt’s more famous movies included high-speed car chases, jumps and crashes–the latter, ironically, the same circumstance that ended his football career and led him to acting.

At 80 years old, Burt is as busy as ever. He’s still acting, teaching, and making guest appearances at various events. His memoir, written with Jon Winokur, was released in late 2015 and it’s a riveting read. HMM contacted Burt to learn more about his contributions to the car-movie genre. What follows are his personal recollections.

HMM: Over the years, you’ve played many characters who drive and appreciate fast cars. Have you cultivated that same admiration for them in your private life?

BR: I do admire them, but it had to develop over the years. Growing up the son of a police chief, the idea of a fast car was not a romantic one–when a cop drives fast it might turn out pretty bad–plus we couldn’t afford one; our family car was a secondhand Buick. I was never big on fast cars personally–that was Hal–he had a Ferrari that I would borrow from time to time. I’ve always liked something a little more upscale, but they can go fast too! I used some of my Navajo Joe paycheck to get my first brand-new car: a European Mercedes 230 SL that I had imported. Later, I had a Rolls. I’ve had Caddies over the years, and drive one now, but my all-time favorite was the 1955-’57 T-Bird.

HMM: You’ve starred in several movies that employed car chases, stunts and/or racing and even a speedboat chase–White Lightning, The Longest Yard, W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings, Gator, Smokey and the Bandit, Hooper, Smokey and the Bandit II, The Cannonball Run, Stroker Ace, Cannonball Run II, The Dukes of Hazzard and Driven, etc. Were you enticed by these roles at least partly due to your appreciation of cars?

BR: One of the things that few people realize is that cars all have unique personalities; I know your readers understand that. The Oldsmobile Anniversary Edition we had made up for W.W. was as critical to that film as was the General Lee in Dukes, but neither one could have played the part of the Bandit car, and it could not have worked in Driven. Why did I get “enticed” to do the parts? Probably more due to my background in stunts on the pictures you mentioned–in The Longest Yard, the Maserati [a Citroën SM with a Maserati engine] was only a minor role, but a great car. I chose that picture because I had played halfback for FSU, and wanted to get paid to play football. Chase scenes are a good addition to any picture, whether it’s the speedboats in Gator or the chariot in Hooper, and I always had fun doing them, so that’s what it’s really about–the fun!

HMM: When you met Hal Needham, what was your first impression of him?

BR: He was doubling Richard Boone, on Have Gun Will Travel, and we crossed paths when I first went to Hollywood in the fall of 1958. He doubled me on Riverboat prior to Gunsmoke. I liked him immediately, and thought he was fearless, but not in a crazy way. He had a quiet confidence and was what they call “handy” in the stunt biz.

HMM: Hal had told me in a 2007 interview that when he approached you for feedback on the Smokey and the Bandit idea, he’d assumed the role of Bo “Bandit” Darville would be played by Jerry Reed. You’ve said that the original Smokey and the Bandit script was the worst that you have ever read. Despite the fact that Hal was your good friend and was living in your guesthouse at the time, even he admitted he was quite surprised that you, a top box office draw, decided to star in his movie. What convinced you to do it?

BR: This is a good question, and I wish I had a better answer–a more complex one. It just seemed like it would be fun–there’s the ‘fun factor’ again. I knew if we got Gleason, it would really be something. They couldn’t get him without me, so I said okay. Then I wanted Sally, but nobody wanted her–they all said, “Gidget? For this picture? Are you kidding?” and I said, “She’s sexy–talent is sexy!” She proved them all wrong with the Emmys and Oscars she received later on.

HMM: You and Jackie Gleason had a definite chemistry while the cameras rolled. Did it carry over off camera as well?

BR: Funny you should say that–it was actually all off-screen until we were almost done. We were sitting at lunch one day and realized that we didn’t have any scenes where we were actually together. We found the diner and improvised the whole thing, our only scene together in the whole film. Gleason was called “The Great One” because that’s what he truly was. When we shot the scene, nobody knew what he was going to do; Hal just said to keep the camera on him. And to this day, nobody knows what a “Diablo Sandwich” is!

HMM: Jackie Gleason said that you could easily be a great comedian. Do you view yourself as a dramatic actor first and a comedic actor second or vice versa? Do you feel that one is more difficult than the other?

BR: I am touched to hear that. I’m an actor. People are complex, so a character needs to be as well. When I teach class, I always tell the kids to use a lot of colors–nobody is serious all the time, you have to have humor in your life. Comedy is tougher, with timing and the pauses, but to be playing Lewis in Deliverance is just as tough as Phil Potter in Starting Over. The scene when W.W. torches his beloved car is a dramatic turn in an otherwise lighter picture, and it was just as difficult to show his joy when Art Carney fixed it to snare him at the end of the movie.

HMM: How did you and Jerry Reed become friends?

BR: I met him in Nashville, hanging out at a club in 1971. I’ve always enjoyed live music, usually jazz or country. He was such an amazing guitar player, he really deserves to be in the Country Music Hall of Fame. He did it all, from playing on Elvis’s records, to writing and singing his own stuff. What you saw onscreen was exactly like he was off-screen–talking slow and laughing. And that “Son!” thing of his was really his own–just a great, talented friend. I miss him a lot. So do many others. He seemed like one of those “nice people” you hear about, but later find they were not that way, but Jerry Reed actually was!

HMM: Smokey and the Bandit came across as a group of actors having a great time making a movie. Since that’s not always the case during the making of a movie, how was that atmosphere fostered on the set?

BR: Gleason, Jerry, Sally, Mike Henry, Hal, and we had a bunch of friends like Alfie Wise, Pat McCormick, and Paul Williams, and for Part II we added Dom DeLuise and Terry Bradshaw. With a group like that, how could the atmosphere be any other way?

HMM: How did making Smokey and the Bandit II differ from the original? Was there added pressure from the studio to produce another hit?

BR: Nobody expected anything from the first–only Star Wars was bigger that year–plus I was “falling in like” with Sally. Part II was just as much fun, and we knew we had something, but the studio still wasn’t convinced.

HMM: Was additional support evident from the studio to facilitate the process of making Smokey and the Bandit II, based on the success of the first movie?

BR: Not really. The budget was bigger, but they just thought it was a payback for the first one being done so cheaply. We did get to shoot it in Florida, though. I’d been trying to do that for a while, but the governor wasn’t a fan, so we had been going to Georgia. I now call Georgia my “Lucky State”–I’ve made more pictures there than anyplace else. My last one, Hamlet & Hutch, was made very close to where we shot Deliverance, and I was just presented with the “Georgia Film Legend” award by the Macon Film Festival.

HMM: Do you prefer one Smokey and the Bandit movie over the other?

BR: The first: Sally. In the first one we were getting to know one another and “falling in like.” Part II was a rough patch–if you remember that scene when she leaves the bar and we go walking and she is berating me? That was all real, we had just had a big argument and I told her to get it all out. She did, and it was therapeutic. We made up, but there was some tension on the set. Sequels are just never quite as good.

HMM: Can you recall any happy accidents that made it into Smokey and the Bandit or some of your other movies?

BR: The football field spinout was almost a disaster in Smokey [the Trans Am wasn’t supposed to go through the dugout, but the wet grass caused it. No one was injured.]. In Hooper, the “Ca-Ca Dancer” stunt [Sonny (Burt) tells his horse Dancer to relieve himself in Ski’s (Jan Michael Vincent) El Camino and the horse obliges] was based on a real prank on the set of 100 RIFLES. During the filming of Smokey and the Bandit II, anything with Dom was pretty much an accident. He was nervous I’d be mad when he screwed up, and I let him think that, so it just fueled the fun! In the Cannonball Run, Farrah and I weren’t acting. In Cannonball Run II, watch the orangutan–the same one Clint used in Every Which Way But Loose–he had entered puberty and was “unruly” at times.

HMM: Can you recall any funny and/or interesting behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the movies mentioned above?

BR: Snowman’s dog was mine. The search for Fred was a publicity stunt and none of the dogs worked out–we used mine and always knew it was a fallback. Hal loved the dog, and since he had been the inspiration to begin with, we finally figured why not just use him? He wasn’t the smartest dog on the block; he only had one trick. God love him, he’d be walking along and I’d call him; he’d look back at me but still keep walking, and he’d walk into the wall. He gave me a lot of love and a lot of laughs.

HMM: What are your impressions of driving the movie-prepped Trans Ams on the set of Smokey and the Bandit versus those of Smokey and the Bandit II?

BR: In the second, the cars were faster [it was reported at the time that they were fitted with nitrous systems] but heavier and didn’t handle as well.

HMM: Describe your relationship with Pontiac following Smokey and the Bandit. Was it on-again off-again?

BR: Ha! It was on and then it was just off! They told me they’d give me a Trans Am every year, and they did for a few, but then they just stopped. No note of thanks or anything, so I called to see what was up. They said there was a new president of the company and he didn’t like my pictures!

HMM: You limited your role to a cameo in Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 and Hal chose not to work on that film at all. What was your reason for not accepting the starring role, given the successes of the previous two films?

BR: That was pretty much a scheduling thing: Hal and I were finishing Cannonball Run, and going right into Stroker Ace, so he couldn’t direct it, and I couldn’t be in it. Gleason was hot, so he ran with it.

HMM: Did your previous experience of doing stunts yourself provide an advantage to you while making the Smokey and the Bandit movies and Hooper?

BR: No question. I was like a little kid with Hooper. We had Yakima Canutt gaff the chariot race just like he did for Spartacus. Working again with Sally, Hal behind the camera, along with Jimmy Best and Bradshaw again! I loved every second of making that one.

HMM: Can you recall any notable stunts that you performed yourself in those three films that normally would not be attempted by the lead actor?

BR: “No second takes!!” The chariot race and the falls in Hooper would never be done by a lead actor today. Nor would the helicopter jump, which I also did! Glenn Wilder and I were in the Trans Am in Alabama when the smokestack went down. We just did a short film called When The Stack Fell–it played at a film festival. Glenn’s twin daughters, Myja and Kyja, were the writer and director.

HMM: What do you feel was the most dangerous stunt you ever performed in any film, and why?

BR: The rapids in Deliverance–I broke my tailbone. You can’t control nature, I was lucky to get out of that one. The helicopter jump in Hooper and Dom shoving me out on the ledge in The End were both dangerous simply due to the height. In Shamus, I just missed the branch in the tree I was trying to grab and fell four stories and landed on my upper back–the shoulder blade region. Had the impact been one inch higher, that would have been it.

HMM: Given your vast body of work that includes dramatic and comedic roles, does being remembered by many as the Bandit remain a virtue or has it at times been a vice?

BR: It’s just great to be remembered! Given a choice, though, I’d rather be remembered as a triple-threat–actor, teacher, stuntman, and I’d rather be thought of as a teacher than an actor.

HMM: Which cars have you found to be the most enjoyable to drive over the years and why?

BR: Usually Caddies, T-Birds, or ‘Vettes. Handling, comfort, and power. In film, the T/A was tops.

HMM: In your opinion, could Smokey and the Bandit be made today and be as successful as the original was?

BR: Probably not. It just happened. It wasn’t trying to be a “big” picture. There’s one of those every year and they usually fall flat. We got away with having fun, and it all transferred to the screen. That doesn’t always happen. It’s a rare blend of chemistry that holds up. There’s no way you could get anyone to do what Gleason or DeLuise did either. Who could ever fill their shoes? Alfred Hitchcock’s daughter confirmed that he said Smokey and the Bandit was his favorite film–his secret pleasure.

HMM: Over the span of your legendary career, which three performances are you most proud of and why?

BR: Deliverance–four guys literally bonded on the river in a remarkable picture that was so well cast, everybody was superb. Starting Over–the role that is closest to me in real life. I felt vulnerable and exposed on screen. For the third, I have to say it is a toss-up, roles that are more complex than I’m usually offered–Breaking In and Physical Evidence. The characters aren’t very nice, but the performances are.

HMM: What current projects are you enthusiastic about?

BR: Hamlet & Hutch. I play a New York actor with early onset Alzheimer’s. Shot in my “lucky state” of Georgia, Hutch moves in with his granddaughter in the Blue Ridge Mountains and brings the family together. This family film also focuses on greyhound adoption and has been awarded the Dove Foundation Seal of Approval. Teri J. Vaughn costars and produced. I got to do some scenes from Hamlet onstage. I’d love to get back on Broadway, and this was a little taste for me. They say you’re not supposed to work with children or animals–well, I do both, and loved it. There’s a Trans Am cameo, too!

The author would like to thank Christopher R. Phillip and Gene Kennedy for their efforts to facilitate this interview, and Burt for his candid responses.

This article originally appeared in the August, 2016 issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines.

At l’art et l’automobile we have had a long and lasting love for the films and TV shows that highlight and celebrate automobiles, the heroes who drive them and their influence on our culture, but the works of the legendary Burt Reynolds stand alone. The loss of this mountain of machismo will leave a sorrowful shadow in every car guy’s heart, and probably his ego…  To celebrate the life of one of the all time classic Auto Actors, we have republished this article in memoriam.

Ten-Four Burt,


Jacques Vaucher


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