Deadly Glamour


All photos Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine.

Came across today a beautiful photo essay for LIFE magazine by photographer Thomas McAvoy via one of our constant sources of inspiration The Selvedge Yard.

The essay documents the men, women and machinery of Scuderia Ferrari between the Silverstone race of 1956 and the Monaco Grand Prix. At the time the Scuderia included not only the totemic Juan Miguel Fangio (his first and only year with the team) – but talented English driver Peter Collins and Italian playboy racer Eugenio Castellotti.

What’s so fascinating about these images is that they capture a time of true artisan craftsmanship in motor racing – a kind of hand-wrought humanity that digital technology has ushered away (at least at the upper echelons of the sport).

But it’s impossible not to be captivated by the style and obvious dedication of the craftsmen at work in the Ferrari factory. Even the oiliest of rags carry themselves with certain kind of panache that make the garish indulgence of Red Bull Racing’s infrastructure appear vomit-inducing.

In the mid fifties post war technology had begun to raise the stakes greatly in motorsport. Speeds and lap times where accelerating rapidly – though there was little or no simultaneous increase in the introduction of safety measures. Against the backdrop to fifties austerity this lent these guys a truly deathly kind of glamour.

Castellotti perished in 1957 during testing at Modena autodrome and Englishman Collins died at the Nüburgring in 1958. And this also at a time when Enzo Ferrari himself was deep in mourning for the death of his son Dino. That any of these guys maintained motivation for this lifestyle in the face of so much danger is a strange kind of miracle – but indicative surely of the powerful passion racing generated.