Gorilla decade

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Last updated on July 2nd, 2017 at 08:46 am

An extraordinary trove of 1970s Formula One shots from retired history and economics teacher Robert Murphy:


Ronnie Peterson in the mutant-looking six-wheeled Tyrrell; an earlier version of this curious device actually won a Grand Prix, in 1976 (the cockpit portholes shown in the linked shot allowed drivers to check if one of the four front wheels had deflated).


Stirling Moss (right, and still looking fit enough to race more than a decade after his crash-enforced retirement) chats with Graham Hill in 1974. As always, Hill’s helmet bears the colours of the London Rowing Club.


Never slow, frequently airborne, occasionally destructive and sometimes three-wheeled, Canadian Gilles Villeneuve employs sublime snowmobile skills aboard his race-winning 1979 Ferrari 312T. One year later the Ferrari was so unwieldy and uncompetitive that engineers sometimes resorted to carving deep grooves in its tyres to help build track-gripping heat …


Not the most famous Grand Prix driver of all time, Vittorio Brambilla nevertheless rejoiced in the sport’s finest nickname: Monza Gorilla. After winning his only Grand Prix, in 1975, Brambilla threw his hands in the air with delight (note: Italian) and immediately slammed into trackside barriers. He completed a celebration lap with the car in a shortened state. That busted nosecone was later mounted above the entrance to Brambilla’s home garage.


A few years ago, while covering the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, a polite old man gestured for me to join him for lunch in the crowded media dining area. It was French journalist Jabby Crombac, shown here with Francois Cevert (right) in 1972. Cevert would be killed in 1973.


Niki Lauda waits contentedly as his 1974 Ferrari is assembled around him. Two years later a Ferrari violently disassembled around Lauda in Germany, permanently scarring and almost killing him; his burn wounds still raw, Lauda returned to racing within eight weeks.


Jacques Laffite in 1979’s pretty little French-built, French-sponsored, French-driven Ligier. So efficient at this point were undercar ground-effects (outlawed in 1983) that no front wings were needed to generate downforce. Note, too, the shallow rear-wing angle – and the far-forward driving position, which contributed to so many leg injuries (Laffite himself retired after a leg-breaking 1986 crash). Modern F1 design laws require that the driver be set well back from the front wheels.


A very young James Hunt, then driving for the eccentric British Hesketh F1 team – an outfit perfectly represented by its racing teddy logo.

There are many, many more stunning images, right up to 2006 (Robert promises yet more from the 1970s). Please do visit.

Posted by Tim B. on 02/03/2008 at 10:05 AM
    1. Racing in teddies.  Only the British.

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 2008 02 03 at 10:51 AM • permalink


    1. Unrelated sports question:  You Australians are a day ahead of us.  Who won the Superbowl?

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 2008 02 03 at 10:52 AM • permalink


    1. We all know that the Blair mansion has four garages. In one of ‘em there’s a little dinged-up red roadster that Tim has had since he was a child. It’s the teddy bear of cars, all cuddled and squished.

      The other three garages are empty.

      When he’s not having fashionable surgical enhancements, Tim takes a taxi to work. Nadia parks her car out on the street where it’s safe from visiting motoring columnists who might feel the need to ‘zip out for a pizza’.

      But if you make your way around into the lane behind the trees you’ll find a fifth garage at the side of the house…

      Posted by splice on 2008 02 03 at 02:14 PM • permalink


    1. What do Nikki Lauda and Hotlips Hoolihan from MASH have in common?

      They’ve both been fucked by Major Burns.

      Posted by Dan Lewis on 2008 02 03 at 05:28 PM • permalink


    1. #2

      Unrelated sports question:  You Australians are a day ahead of us.  Who won the Superbowl?

      Not exactly. When it’s 2:30pm in New York, it’s 1987 in Sydney.

      Posted by Dan Lewis on 2008 02 03 at 05:30 PM • permalink


    1. No matter how hard I tried, I never got the knack of being a gear head.

      With that in mind, I wanna ask a question about the pic at the top.

      The double front axle seems to make sense. Double the surface contact for the steering and a single tire loss would seem to be slightly less cat-ass-trophic.

      Why didn’t it catch on? Guesses from my ignorant self would be…

      Too much additional weight from the additional axle and suspension?

      A tire blowout tends to shred the neighboring tire anyway?

      Wheels too small so the tires heat up too fast?

      Posted by Grimmy on 2008 02 03 at 05:34 PM • permalink


    1. 2 Giant Patriots or is that Patriot Giants?

      Posted by stackja1945 on 2008 02 03 at 07:09 PM • permalink


    1. Ducati or F1 who would win race?

      Posted by stackja1945 on 2008 02 03 at 07:21 PM • permalink


    1. My nickname at one stage was Stirling, for the cigarette I smoked and the way I drove. A mini. Traveller. 900 odd ccs of screaming power.
      Then I bought a Daihatsu.James Hunt………Mmmmmmmmmmm

      That French chap, Cevert, he was a good sort. I’da watched GP for him, too.

      Fast machines are good, but I’ve never wanted to own one. I just like to watch.

      Excellent photos, Tim.

      Posted by kae on 2008 02 03 at 07:22 PM • permalink


    1. What’s fit and grey and flies out of the linen closet at 210 mph?

      Stirling Moth

      Posted by geoff on 2008 02 03 at 07:26 PM • permalink


    1. Stirling Moss is now Roary the Racing Car®

      Posted by stackja1945 on 2008 02 03 at 07:41 PM • permalink


    1. But where’s the John Player Special?

      Posted by Tony.T.Teacher on 2008 02 03 at 09:08 PM • permalink


    1. I remeber seeing the Lauda crash on TV (after the fact, of course; F1 wasn’t shown live in the US that I remember back then).

      Reminds me of a couple of other crashes from back in that era:  Peter Revson and Swede Savage.  Both regrettably lost their lives.  It made Lauda’s return to racing all the more amazing to me.

      Posted by Tex Lovera on 2008 02 04 at 12:23 AM • permalink


  1. Was Lauda the one profiled in Car & Driver who was fined for “feathering” a racing official named Balestre in a press photo?

    Posted by Rittenhouse on 2008 02 04 at 06:53 PM • permalink