Historic racing will always hold a special place in my heart.
More than just about any event so far this year the Trans Am SpeedFest was the one I was anticipating the most. This would be the golden opportunity combine three of my favorite things: classic American cars, vintage racing, and taking photos.
First, my love for the muscle car, something that was seared into me in 1994.
I was four years old when my Uncle Troy purchased his 1966 Mustang. I’ve shared memories from the back seat on Speedhunters before, but it’s remarkable how vividly I can recall the experiences I had in that car. I’ve retained only a couple distinct stories where I can place our setting, the time of day, and so on, but the sensations are what stay with you.
The loping idle of the 289; the thundering roar of wide-open throttle; the intense vibrations through the chassis on a dodgy backroad; the sickeningly sweet smell of spent fuel at a stop light. The dash looked different than the dash in my parents’ car did, and the vinyl seats were unlike anything else I had ever sat in. I knew the Mustang was special, but I didn’t know why.
All I really know was that my uncle loved the car, so I did too.
Apparently, he also loved the attention he’d get from girls with his five-year-old nephew peeking through the window of his stunning first-gen Mustang. That’s a different story, but it should come as no surprise that my first proper car I bought, after a stint with a ’90 Honda hatch and a Mk2 Golf, was a matching ’66 coupe.
It was a project through and through, but after a year of working on it together my uncle and I managed to get the car back on the road for the first time in at least a decade. It drove like an absolute pile, but that didn’t stop me from exploring the boundaries of grip on the backroads at night.
Surprisingly, I survived all of the battles I had with the heavy, solid rear axle — which enjoyed travelling straight away from an apex rather than over it — and I learned a tremendous amount as I tweaked on the car over the years. It was a daily driver for three and has been sitting in a friend’s backyard for an equally long time now.
I’m sure my love affair with the ’66 will spark up again once I have the space to work on it, but for now I’m just one of a several million others across the world who have memories of driving or riding in an old muscle car.
Regardless of where your tastes lie, there’s no experience that can quite match a huge carbureted V8, archaic suspension, seats with no support, and the visceral sensations that come along.
Muscle cars are awesome, and the only way to make them more so is to put them on a road course. And why not throw in a taste of old cars from around the globe while you’re at it?
The 2017 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion marked the first time I mustered up a media credential and attended an event under the Speedhunters name. I’d never shot a vintage race with any sort of seriousness, but what I lacked in know-how I made up for in effort.
I was working a proper nine-to-five at the time which tended to start approximately two hours earlier and end an hour later, and I remember the long nights leading up to getting the story published in a reasonable timeframe.
Laguna Seca itself will always be a special place to me because of this, and vintage racing remains my favorite to photograph.
This time around, as you’ve likely gathered, I decided to present a bit of an extra challenge for myself over the weekend and opted to shoot some 35mm film.
It’s so fitting to see these old cars on a vintage medium, and I thought a black and white roll would push me to look at things a bit differently. I’d only ever shot one other B&W film, some Kodak T-Max, but this weekend I went with something I’d been saving for a while.
The photos here were taken on a test roll I received from Lomography back in March: Potsdam Kino 100. I think they would have preferred I do something with it sooner, but I wanted to wait for the right event and the Trans Am SpeedFest was ideal.
It’s worth pointing out that the chemical artifacts which appear on about half the roll seem to be due to an error at the lab, as they don’t appear on any other Potsdam Kino test rolls or the production stuff. Although I may be able to re-rinse and re-scan the film, I don’t mind the sort of period-correct effect this time around.
I shot the Lomography stuff as I would any other roll of 100, and I think it suits itself for racing quite well. You can shoot near wide open, and you can get away with a bit of panning, too.
The dynamic range is pretty incredible and the deep blacks produce a very nice contrast. There’s also a lot to get out of the greyscale Potsdam Kino in post as well. The quality of the film is a perfect match for the grittiness of a vintage race weekend and I’ll need to pick up some more soon.
While the photos are imperfect they capture a certain perfect and timeless beauty: decades-old muscle cars unleashed on an iconic course.
For me, there’s nothing better.