Brush or camera?

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The camera can lie. But I rate it more dependable when researching motoring history than an artist’s impression. It is true that DSJ and I once puzzled over a photograph which showed two identical 2 1/2-litre Maseratis taking the Fork corner at Brooklands. We knew only of Whitney Straight’s car of that type. Years later I discovered that some joker at Speed had superimposed two prints of the Straight car on the background picture. and rephotographed it . . . I recall a 3.3 Bugatti in a French GP with its number altered from that on the original photograph, so that it could be used as the car of another driver in someone’s book. And I know that a reputable weekly motoring journal was not above sticking cut-out photographs of racing cars on a background of the Brooklands bankings in the 1920s and using the results in its race reports. Such a fake is consequently misleading for any historian describing how high up the banking the cars were travelling or how closely matched they were.

Having said that, over to the artist’s work. Sometimes they ring me to ask if I can look-up the colour of a racing car they are painting. I do this and tell them the car’s colour. “But,” I say, “how do you know whether it is a dark, light. or medium red?” (or whatever the colour may be). “Oh,” says your artist, “that doesn’t matter, all I need to know is the car’s colour.Yet we all know that Napier British racing green is very different from Vanwall or BRM green in later years.

And look at those splendid impressions of Georges Boillot racing for Peugeot, which our art-chap rustled up for last month’s piece on this great driver. The one purporting to be of the 1913 GP actually shows a Peugeot in the 1912 race and its number is not that of Boillot, but of Jules Goux. That may just be careless captioning. But the 1914 drawing, although of a Peugeot, carries number 10, whereas in that epic race Boillot had number 5. Number 10 was on Jean Chassagne’s Sunbeam. I somehow think a camera would have spotted this!

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