Article header
Parts
Homepage. This page: Motor Racing collectables

Introduction to collecting auto-racing memorabilia

As well as the classic cars that I have lots of time for, my other main interest is historic racing cars. Originally it was the pre-1970s Grand Prix race cars that interested me most, but in later years I've also got into the later machines, especially the turbo era. Although I'm not in a position to lay out a bundle of cash on a real racing car, I pursue collecting the next best thing, namely motor racing memorabilia.

Categories of Motor Racing.

D Type ERA
Check eBay for racing memorabilia auctions:
1920s Motor Racing
1930s Motor Racing
1940s Motor Racing
1950s Motor Racing
Spotlight on some memorabilia:
1939 Latvia Rally badge & 1938/9 racing driver's licence - Georg Goetz
Dundrod Tourist Trophy (TT) 1953
Le Mans 1952 Guide
Links to more motor racing material elsewhere on oldclassiccar:
AC Cobra 289s
Art (ERA, Bugatti)
Atom 500cc racer 1955
Austin 7/Ford 1172 trials car
Austin 7 Twin Cam racer
"Babs" comic article 1927
BARC Gazette magazines, 1951
"Bloody Mary" hillclimb special
Bocar XP-5 & Stiletto
BRDC "Do's & Don'ts" 1950s
Collectors cards 1936
Competition car ads
Condor Formula Junior
Costin Nathan GT
International Cyclecar Race 1914
Dennis Poore's Alfa 8C-35
Donington Historic Festival
Duncan Hamilton game
Formula 3 500cc book by CAN May
Frazer Nash, pre-war trialling event
GP car bathroom tiles of the 1950s
Goodwood FOS
Goodwood memorabilia
Goodwood Nine Hours in Boy's Own
Goodwood Revival
Gordon Bennett, 1903 photos
Healey Silverstone book, 1951
Hoton Sprint Meeting, 1951
HWM Jaguar at Shelsley
Iota 500cc Half-Litre Club magazine
Jack Brabham Redex Special
Jackie Stewart in 'The Hornet'
Jaguar short-nose D-Type
Jaguar 'low drag' E-Type CUT 7
Jaguar Mk7 1952/1955 Monte
Jaguar XJ racing
Jersey Int'l Road Race 1948
Junior Car Club (Goodwood 1948)
Kart racing in Kuwait, 1960s
Lister Jaguar, Prescott, 1962
Loton Park hillclimb VSCC
Lotus 11 / Kelloggs promo
Malcolm Campbell / Dunlop promo
Marcos Fastback GT
Maserati 250F
Maserati 4CLT (L. Brooke)
Maserati 4CLT/48 (E. de Graffenried)
Maserati A6GCM
MG TD, ex-RAC Rally
Motor Racing board game
Motor racing programmes
Motor racing vinyl records
Nigel Mann's Alfa 8C 2600 Monza
O.R.M.A. (BRM supporters club)
Oulton Park, Cheshire
Pageant of Power 2009
Pluck comic, Racing Number, 1923
Racing artwork 1930s
Railton Mobil Special
Rare 1947-1951 b/w photos
Raymond Mays "Split Seconds"
Rest & Be Thankful 1952
Scalecraft kits
Shelsley Walsh screensaver
Speed Engines Ltd V8 engine
SS racer at Brooklands
Stirling Moss (trade cards)
Super Book of Racing Cars
The Modern Boy comic, 1936
Toy racing cars
Track days in 1963 (Brands Hatch +)
Tuning companies 50s/60s
VSCC Prescott hillclimb 2010
VSCC Prescott hillclimb 2011
Wolseley Hornet Special, hillclimb
My search for motor racing automobilia primarily revolves around Formula 1, which is the most popular form of racing followed here in the UK, most probably because many of the F1 teams have bases here in the UK - for example Williams, Mclaren Mercedes, Red Bull Racing, as well as Renault and Honda. Many foreign teams also have their engineering centres in the UK, for example Mercedes Benz, who actually get their engines built at the Ilmor facility in the UK.

Other popular forms of motor sport include the Touring Cars(the BTCC - British Touring Car Championship) and World Rally Championship (WRC). Interesting in the WRC is growing rapidly now, thanks not least to the latest innovations in broadcasting of the live event stages. Top teams from mainstream manufacturers are all vying for success in this high profile sport. Like the BTCC, WRC is beginning to show signs of a revival in interest following a few years of decline, partly through a shortage of top line works entries in recent seasons.

The best seasons of recent years were back around 1993 and 1994, when there were some epic battles between the works cars from Vauxhall, BMW, Toyota and Ford, with Cavaliers, M3s, Carinas and Sierras piloted by great names such as John Cleland, Andy Rouse, Steve Soper, Will Hoy (RIP) to name just a few.

The turning point in many ways came around 1994/5 when the works Alfa Romeo team wiped the floor with the opposition, earning Alfa the manufacturers title and their #1 driver Gabriele Tarquini the drivers Championship. Much of their advantage lay in their interesting interpretations of the regulations regarding aerodynamics and the rules deciding what was and was not legal. Alfa introduced the front splitter which caused a great deal of controversy back then, so much so that they were hauled over the coals at Oulton Park to an extent that Alfa packed up their bags and left the circuit before the race began, in protest at the stewards disagreements over the cars spoilers. Following seasons saw all the key rival cars from Ford, Mazda, Toyota and Volvo adopting similar methods to increase aerodynamic efficiency .. it may have done wonders for the cars grip, but many believe it lead to less exciting duels on the track, due to the problems of cars following too closely to those in front losing aerodynamic efficiency, and therefore having to drop back a bit into 'cleaner' air in order to maintain grip, but lose the opportunity to make an overtaking move. The other highlight of racing in the mid 1990s was the appearance of the TWR-run Volvo team with their mighty 850 estate cars. Some believed the shape was more aerodynamic, whereas others saw it as a marketing ploy to gain attention in the worlds motoring press. Either way the cars were mighty successful during their season of glory, although in the following year Volvo chose to run with the saloon 850 instead. Both years of competition helped Volvo shift their perceived image of producing sensible but fantastically dull road cars, into one of producing sensible yet high performing motor cars. This image has been maintained to this day, and the motor racing programme back then was the key thing that helped them succeed in altering the publics perception of their cars. There's an old saying that 'motor racing improves the breed' and in Volvos case this couldn't have been more true. Same went for BMW which although having a good brand already, found that the racing programme ensured that sales of the 3 series would secure that model as 'the' road car to have.

Of course there are lots of other formulae to collect memorabilia for, some of which are still around, others which have been and gone. There are plenty of collectibles that relate to single seater racing categories such as Formula 3, F3000, Formula Renault, Formula Palmer Audi, F5000 (popular in the 1970s) and others such as Formula Ford. Or if you look beyond our shores their are series such as the US Indy and CART open wheel series for which collectables are readily available. Prefer sportscars? Then you could concentrate on memorabilia relating to the Le Mans 24 hours endurance race, which has been running in varying formats since the very earliest days of motor racing. How about sticking to Can Am car material? Mille Miglia or Targa Florio collectibles? road races such as the TT at Dundrod in Ireland for example?, scene of epic dices between the D Type Jaguars and Mercedes SLRs for example in the mid 1950s, back when top grand prix drivers would often have more than one series of racing running in parallel.

Many people concentrate on collecting all memorabilia for a particular team. So someone who collects articles and items relating to, say, Jaguars racing exploits, will have a very broad spectrum of material to look out for. Jaguar have been involved with many forms of motor racing going back many decades, and even pre-war if you include the rally and speed trial exploits of drivers in the old SS (Standard Swallow)
Jaguar R1 F1 car
sporting machines, before they were named Jaguar after the war (something to do with SS having certain German connotations immediately after the war!). They have been active in most forms of motorsport, such as rallying, saloon car racing - driven by greats such as Stirling Moss, Graham Hill and Mike Hawthorn, sportscar racing - such as with the C and D Type Jags, the XJR sportscars in the 1990s, and more recently Formula 1, the team taking over the Stewart racing team that Sir Jackie Stewart and his son formed a few years ago, and run for a while by the former World Champion (for Ferrari & Mclaren) Niki Lauda.

Back in the 1970s, Jaguar supported broadspeed-prepared XJ12C saloon cars for drivers such as Derek Bell, run back then by the now-Arrows F1 boss Tom Walkinshaw, and had reliability been better they'd have beaten the 'Batmobile' BMW CSLs and V8 Rover 3500s. Also across the atlantic the Group 44 team ran a succession of Jaguars in the 1970s, from the wild open exhaust V12 E Type through the XJS and onto XJR sports cars in more recent years.

So choosing a collecting area may well depend to a large extent on the size of your wallet!! Collect Jaguar and be prepared to invest significant time and money in chasing those items, whereas if you specialise in collecting team memorabilia for a smaller concern such as BRM, ERA or later teams such as Prost GP, the extent of memorabilia available may be reduced and, in the case of Prost for certain, possibly more affordable through being less of a high profile team such as the Ferraris of this world, memorabilia for which can run to many thousands for the rarer sought-after items.

Another thing to bear in mind is that if you choose a current team, as with everything in sport there will be new memorabilia being launched every year, and it takes a disciplined mind to not get sucked into collecting everything and anything produced by or for a team!
And then there are those who collect everything they can find for a particular driver. In recent years, Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell have commanded a great following from fans of their motor racing careers in Formula One. Jenson Button is now gaining a similar following. Most current drivers, especially in F1, have fan clubs from which special memorabilia can also be obtained. The breadth of drivers, both famous and obscure, is vast, and often great cunning is required to track down those illusive driver items. Focus on say Colin Mcrae, who has piloted WRC & Dakar rally cars for a number of years and starting a collection will not be too difficult. However if pre-war giants of the race track are more your area of interest, then be prepared to hunt long and hard for items - popular drivers to collect for from before WW2 include Tazio Nuvolari (who drove for Auto Union and Alfa Romeo amongst others), Achille Varzi, Rudolf Caricciola, Richard Seaman and Hermann Lang.

Another popular collecting area, which comes under the general term of motor sport, is that of Land Speed Record (LSR) activities, whether it be drivers (such as Malcolm & Donald Campbell, Art Arfons, Craig Breedlove, George Eyston and Richard Noble to name a few) or their evocative 'cars', such as the various Bluebirds, Spirit of America, Blue Flame, Thrust 2 and Thrust SSC being some of the more well known examples.
go back to top..

Easy things to find.

Recent historic motor racing poster
Depending on the choice of collecting area, the selection of what you can quite easily find to add to your collection will vary.

If starting out with a new collection, the basis of the collection can be built fairly rapidly. Budget can play a large part in what you choose to buy, but the breadth of material available makes this hobby accessible to all ages and budgets. If spare money is tight, then stick to the more affordable things such as postcards, posters, small toys and models, and the like - some items may even be available free of charge from car dealerships that have an involvement in current racing series, though ask nicely! BMW garages have catalogues of F1 BMW Williams merchandise available (visit Motorsport Memorabilia and you'll find some interesting stuff), which in themselves are nice things to have and file away, and turn on the charm at larger Renault, Mercedes, and Toyota dealerships and see if any unusual items can be acquired, particularly after the season has ended and display items become obsolete.

Games are a popular collecting subject, as are jigsaws (some are 3D), and make nice display items in any room devoted to your hobby.

Such games and cheap toys can be found in the most unlikely of places - cheap "Pound" shops can turn up unusual little oddities sometimes. I recently discovered an unusual F1-style pencil sharpener in a local stationery shop, which made a different and quirky addition to the collection. Likewise wandering around a supermarket I stumbled across F1 style battery operated toothbrushes! OK they weren't in the style of any particular team, but they are different, and like all the best collectables, are things that generally won't survive for too long before normally being thrown away - thats what may make them a rare thing a few years down the line.

Freebies can sometimes be found at petrol stations and other high profile companies that sponsor motor racing in some way. Pop down to your Shell garage and its not uncommon to find some leaflets or promotional goodies relating to their support of Ferrari for instance, in fact there was an advert on the radio only recently for a competition to win tickets for this years British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Models of racing cars, both famous and obscure, can be found quite readily and cheaply in many places. The quality of models varies enormously, although quite decent represenations of race cars can be sourced quite affordably, from makes such as Corgi, Onyx, Vitesse and Minichamps, and in many different scales - 1/43 being a popular choice for large collections if space in your house is at a premium. For those with deeper pockets, specialist companies such as Amalgam with build you a 1:8th scale model of a classic Grand Prix car, such as the front engined Maseratis. You can read more about this company, their models, and the history of this Italian GP car, on the Maserati 250F page.

Programmes are another popular and usually affordable way of building up a motor racing memorabilia collection, usually available for a few pounds each for recent events, rising to 30 pounds+ a copy for prewar events at tracks such as
motor racing programme
Brooklands and Donington, with event Programmes for continental races often being priced well over 100 GBP per copy, Monaco being one of the favourites with collectors.

Items specific to racing drivers are sometimes a little more difficult to find, although books on well known contemporary drivers can usually be found in plentiful supply. If you have a particular favourite, join their fan club and take advantage of any special offers there may be for their own merchandise. Some retailers specialise in motorsport collectibles, and offer to add you to their mailing list, so that you can receive updates of any special offers they may be running. They buy in bulk and can pass on smaller items, or items from previous seasons, at greatly reduced prices. Baseball caps, keyrings, stickers, pens, photographs, postcards, books and videos can all be successfully amassed this way!
go back to top..

Tricky things to find.

European Minardi F1 car
Of course there may be times when you fancy indulging in something a little more rare or substantial, as and when funds permit. Toys and models are a personal passion of mine, and grand prix type cars are what I try and stick to (not always successfully though!). There is a huge variety of toy racing cars out there, so some focus is required if you want to avoid financial meltdown. And when you've chosen a type or subject to collect on, then theres the decision on whether to buy everything you find or items made from a particular material.

Diecast is the most popular material, and toys made from this have been available for a long time and usually survive reasonably (depending on how well they've been looked after!). Popular makes of die-cast toys include the classics such as Lesney, Dinky, Corgi, Matchbox, Solido, Timpo, Crescent, Zylmex and lots of other more obscure makers. Or you could decide to stick to the old tin plate toys. Beware there are many modern replica tin plate toys around, usually produced in China, which can be passed off as the 'real thing'. They are fine in their own way, but collectors of racing memorabilia always prefer the originals of any tinplate toy. Many were decorated with brightly colour paint scheme, often applied using a process called lithography, Early (say pre-1950s) toys can be fabulous display items, but in good condition can cost a small fortune!! Most are motorised in some way, either clockwork or battery, and some perform pre-programmed routine, twists and turns when you set them off across the floor. Most tin plate toys are highly prized and usually the preserve of the wealthy collector. Plastic and bakelite toys were also commonplace after the war and into the 1950s, although they don't often survive very well and as such are often very hard to find, certainly in the mint & boxed condition that your serious collector insists upon.

Early toys still in production can be a good way of bulking out your collection - just take a look at the vast range of clockwork racing cars available from the Schuco concern in Germany, still making Mercedes, Alfa Romeo and Auto Union racing cars to the original style and quality - when buying a so-called original 1940s item, make sure it is just that and not a later 1990s version of an earlier toy!

If toys are not your thing, then how about printed products such as early event posters and racing books? Most posters were thrown away following an event so finding surviving originals can take some perseverance, and paying for them can take some committment also!

Books on motor racing have been around from the year dot, although subject and not always the age of the book can dictate its collectability and therefore value. It is not uncommon to find a particular book from the 1980s that had a small print run commanding a few hundred pounds, yet pre-war books written by legendary drivers can often be found for around 20 GBP in good condition - subject matter counts for a great deal when valuing out-of-print motor race and racing books.

Then theres always the obscure desire to own actual parts of racing cars, F1 wheels and tyres being well known for making excellent coffee tables once their working life is over, and usually cost anywhere from 30 GBP for a normal 1970s Avon tyre, through to maybe 300 GBP for a nice recent Goodyear on a BBS alloy rim, with certified history. But collecting old racing car parts neednt be limited to items that could be pressed into another use, as theres a healthy market in dealing in crashed damaged suspension parts, front or rear wings, engine
Tin plate toy seen on ebay recently
components, seats, wing end plates, steering wheels and so on!! (you can find rare & obscure one-offs for sale here at Motorsport Memorabilia if interested) after all, an ex-Hunt M23 Mclaren piston would make a mighty fine paperweight if you could find one. I've got a few wheels and bits myself, but sadly the prices of the recognisable bits of bodywork have spiralled beyond the budgets of most, hence the popularity of more attainable items such as engine valves and pistons.

If your budget extends yet further then you could choose to invest in drivers helmets, many examples come on to the market and are priced in direct relation to the success of the driver and to a lesser extent the team they were with at the time. Find a Mclaren Senna helmet and relieve yourself of 20-30k, whereas find one for a less successful driver and maybe secure a helmet for 1% of the cost of a Senna example.

Obscure items relating to motor racing appeal to me, and probably the most interesting (and certainly largest!!) item in my collection is my ancient racing car transporter, as used during the 1940s and 50s to carry a prewar supercharged Alfa Romeo. OK it needs lot of restoration, but I suppose it still counts as motor racing memorabilia!

I'm interested in acquiring photographs of old race car transporters 'in action' during the 40s and 50s, so if you can help me with my research, please drop me a line.
go back to top..

Where to buy racing-related collectibles?

Motor sport memorabilia can be found in all manner of places, if you hunt hard enough. Local newspaper small ads can turn up things occasionally, although you might have to wade through endless adverts for display cabinets and electric fires before finding what you want!

A better use of time would be to subscribe to some of the free-ads only papers, such as LOOT here in the UK, as they categorise everything they sell, which will save you lots of time in searching for articles for sale. Perhaps a better bet is to advertise online, a new sister site to this one, part of free-ad.co.uk, allows anyone to advertise collectables for sale, or wanted, for free, so has to be worth a go - just click the link. If you want to find parts specific to a particular racing car, you can post a free Wanted ad in the Racing car ads section at Oldclassiccar. There are also specialist magazines dedicated to collecting also available, which may be worth a look, although they often concentrate on more mainstream collecting such as Beanies and bits of porcelain.

Collectors fairs and specialist toy fairs are excellent hunting grounds, and manys the exciting piece of treasure that I've found while rummaging around such fairs, and despite more stalls being occupied by hard nosed traders, it is still possible to purchase interesting motorsport items for remarkably small amounts.

Then there is the medium you are looking at right now, the world wide web! If like me you tire of watching lousy programmes on TV, spend your time hunting the internet for either dealers' websites or the online auction houses, such as eBay and yahoo auctions, off which I've acquired lots of interesting stuff.

If your wallet is indeed weighed down with surplus cash, then highly prized items can be bought at specialist motor racing auctions at race events such as those held at Goodwood by high-brow auction houses such as Sothebys.

Custom Search
www.oldclassiccar.co.uk (C) R. Jones. Content not to be reproduced elsewhere.
Website by ableweb.
Privacy Policy, Cookies & Disclaimers