This page: Some tips on collecting motorsport-related programmes, including copies of pre-war race cards.
Motor Racing Programmes 1920s - 1960s
There are many different areas of collecting that relate to motor racing in day's gone by, some of which are described here. This page will concentrate on collecting motor racing programmes, pre- and post-war. Spectators attending even small, one-off, events organised by local motor clubs, could purchase a programme, or "race card", for a shilling or two, explaining in some detail the races that would take place that day, the drivers who would be competing, and of course the cars they would be piloting. Quite often the production of these programmes would be sponsored by firms local to the venue, their adverts featuring within the programme's pages. Whereas modern-day publications are often large, full-colour glossy affairs, up until the 1970s most programmes would be A5(ish) in size, and designed to fold in two and fit in the spectator's back pocket, or if it was a particularly rainy day, inside their old brown overcoat.
It wouldn't just be the circuit events that had a suitable programme printed for the spectating masses. Enthusiasts could also read about drivers competing in hillclimbs, speed trials, off-road trials, rallies, autotests and economy events simply by purchasing a programme on the gate.
Deciding on a collection.
Perhaps the first thing to ponder is what exactly do you want to collect? Possible criteria may be:
Events that one particular driver competed at, for instance Raymond Mays, Ken Wharton, Bob Gerard etc
A particular type of event, such as the original RAC Rally, or clubbie events organised by one particular club
Meetings of a certain type, regardless of venue, eg rallies, hillclimbs etc
Any or one type of event, by era, for instance focusing on events of the 1930s only
Personally my own interests lie in the 'golden' era of front-engined GP cars, or events that may have featured this type of competition car. This restricts my own collecting to anything from the 1900s upto the late 1950s, and I usually look for programmes sold at motor racing venues within the UK only. Trying to stick to this admittedly broad church, means I can usually walk by later programmes on sale, for instance 1960s meetings, or motorcycling events, but even then if something tasty turns up, I might buy it anyway.
The vast majority of race meeting programmes were bought, read at the event, and either chucked away or else stuffed in a drawer, then binned during a 'spring clean', perhaps by the younger enthusiasts' over-zealous mother. The net result is that few survive much beyond ten years of age, and those that do are often not stored particularly carefully. Creased covers, programmes missing the odd page and suffering with rusted staples, are all commonplace, and will usually affect the value of older programmes, although nearly all of the pre-war programmes I've seen have had some rusting to the staples - as time goes by, this is less of a worry, so long as the rest of the programme is present. Worse still, some have lost their covers altogether, and apart from being a historical record of the event and the entrants, are best avoided by the serious collector. However, if a race card exists for a truly historic one-off event, then poor condition matters less, but should still be recognised as an undesirable factor.
Scribbles or no scribbles?
Most programmes have a section where the spectator could pencil in the results as each race concluded. Some people will regard this as unfortunate, whereas others will accept this as inevitable and even of interest, again for historical reference if nothing else. Personally, so long as the rest of the programme hasn't been scribbled over, then it isn't a problem.
Other things to look for
As mentioned, certain meetings became landmark events for various reasons, good or bad, and programmes for these events can be worth a premium over similar publications. Race cards for the first ever meeting at a venue, such as Goodwood in 1948, are usually worth more than cards sold at later meetings. Likewise, stumble across a programme that has driver autographs within its pages, then it could be worth more than an un-signed copy, although a lot depends on who the driver is. Autographs by the 'big name' drivers such as Fangio, Gonzales and Clark will inevitably make a programme more desirable, so long as the provenance is unquestionable. Some drivers were much less inclined to give autographs, whereas drivers such as Moss and Mays often signed programmes and books.
In 2011 an interesting piece of ephemera turned up, in the shape of a design proposal destined to go inside the front cover of a motor racing programme. It advertised "The Motor" magazine. Both "The Motor" and "The Autocar" often featured in full page advertisements within programmes during the 1950s, so I'd be interested to know if this design proposal ever made it into print?
Examples of early motor racing programme.
Here are some cover scans for race meetings dating from the 1920s through to the 1950s. Both well-known and less well-known motorsport venues are featured, to give some idea of how broad this area of collecting can be. As time goes by I'll include more scans. If you have any old racing programmes that you wish to sell, then please drop me a line as I do occasionally buy old programmes, pre-1960 ideally.
RAC Tourist Trophy, Ards circuit.
In all, nine Tourist Trophy (TT) races took place at Ards in Northern Ireland. Three programmes, dating to 1931, 1933, and 1934, and information regarding the street circuit, may be found on the following page here at OldClassicCar: Ards Tourist Trophy races.
Blandford Camp, Dorset, 1949.
Organised by the West Hants & Dorset Car Club, a Road Race Meeting held at Blandford on 27th August 1949. Price One Shilling. Included are adverts for George Hartwell (distributor of Humber, Hillman and Sunbeam Talbot cars), Liberty Engine Oils, Fina and Henlys. Eight races were scheduled to take place, i) Sports Cars upto 1100cc ii) 500cc Racing Cars iii) Sports Cars (1101-1500cc and 1501-2000cc) iv) Blandford Trophy Race (2 heats) v) 500cc Racing Cars Heat two vi) Final of 500cc Racing Cars vii) Final of Blandford Trophy.
Bo'ness speed hillclimb, 1950.
Official programme for the June 24th 1950 meeting, one of the six potential points-scoring hillclimb meets for that season, run in the grounds of the Kinneil Estate. For more details on the contents of this programme, and the event itself, please visit the Bo'ness hillclimb page.
Boreham, Nr Chelmsford, 1952.
The Boreham meeting was organised by the West Essex Car Club, and held on Saturday June 21st, 1952. In later years it became the test track for Ford motor cars, but can trace it's roots to the war. The programme tells the story: "Here was once an orchard. A big orchard. Only the slow serenity of good farm-life encompassed it. A disruptive era brought the bull-dozer to nose out the many thousand fruiting trees. Long runways were laid from which bombers flew on fierce forays. And for the first time, speed came to Boreham. Peace brought quiet again and the runways lay idle. The land went back to the farmers, but the concrete rested, unproductive and wasteful. Then the farmers welcomed cars and motor-cycles that made it a testing place, and were happy to have the enterprising West Essex Car Club employ it as a racing track". Six events were listed, two Handicap races and four Scratch races. Boreham would only be a racing circuit for a short time, racing terminating in late 1953. Dennis Poore, in his 3.8 Alfa Romeo, holds the circuit record to this day I believe.
Brands Hatch, 1954.
Tunbridge Wells Motor Club organised this speed event at Brands Hatch for April 11th, 1954. In addition to a simple folded race card/programme, this also came with a speed certificate awarded to a driver of an Aston Martin competing on the day. To read more about the Aston at Brands Hatch, click here.
Brighton Hillclimb, 1948.
The Brighton and Hove Motor Club (BHMC) have been organising speed events in the town for many a year. In 1948 a one-off hillclimb took place in Stanmer Park, read more about it on the Brighton Hillclimb page.
Brighton Motor Rally, 1951.
Two programmes for BHMC events held over a weekend in July 1951. The first, a club rally, incorporating a series of regularity and driving tests, while on Sunday it was the turn of a Concours d'Elegance to occupy Madeira Drive. More details on both events on the Brighton Motor Rally & Concours page.
Brighton Speed Trials, 1946.
A popular event still taking place today, the speed trials held on the promenade at Brighton every year. This programme covers the September 7th event, 1946, as organised by the Brighton & Hove Motor Club Ltd. Many different types of competition car competed at this 40s event, one of the first pages shows Earl Howe at speed in his ERA, along with a photo of a competing 'Special'. The 500cc Specials lined up for the 1946 event included The Cooper Special (498cc), Tiger Kitten (496cc), Lightweight Special (747cc), plus larger engine specials such as Chatterbox (1098cc), Appleton Special (supercharged 1100cc), Westall Special (s/c 1089cc), and Bloody Mary (1962cc). The programme lists 161 drivers as booked to take part, with recognised names such as Parnell, Abecassis, Bira, Mays, Gerard, Poore, Allard, Issigonis, Wisdom, Salvadori, Fry, Walker, Emery, May, Ansell, Rivers Fletcher and Jenkinson all due to make timed runs.
British Racing Drivers' Club Exhibition.
Not a race meeting programme, but an exhibition of racing cars by the BRDC (British Racing Drivers' Club) to be held at Henly Hall, in aid of the Victoria League. Sadly this and another copy I have of a similar programme is undated, but dates to some time in the late 1940s I think. The cover shows a pre-war Auto Union GP car. Many top-drawer competition and land speed record cars were on show, including Sir Malcolm Campbell's Bluebird, Goldie Gardner's record car, various racing motorcycles, a privately owned Austin 750cc twin cam plus the second example still owned by the factory, a 1908 Grand Prix Austin, Roy Salvadori's Alfa Romeo 2900, Prince Chula's B Type ERA and his 2900cc Maserati, the E Type ERA, John Cooper's Cooper Special, the Strang Special, John Bolster's "Bloody Mary" special, R.J.W. Appleton's Appleton special hillclimb car, plus many other cars.
Brooklands motor racing circuit was a purpose-built banked circuit, built specifically as a home to British motor racing, prior to WW2. This particular Race Card was issued for the Monday August 3rd 1936 B.A.R.C. meeting. Wartime aircraft production put a halt to top-level motor racing at this venue, although happily the site continues to reverberate to the sound of pre-war racing cars from time to time, with both a museum and preserved sections of the original track still in evidence. Ten races were scheduled, as was (weather permitting) a special one-off event: An ".. attempt by Mr Oliver Bertram on Captain Woolf Barnato's Barnato-Hassan Special to beat the Brooklands Outer Circuit Flying Lap Record .. now held by Mr John Cobb on his Napier-Railton at a speed of 143.33 mph". A check on the excellent Brooklands site confirms that Cobb still has the outer lap record, at 143.44mph, so Mr Bertram's attempt was unsuccessful, despite having held the record himself briefly in 1935.
Brough Aerodrome Road Races, 1954.
This programme covers an event held by the Blackburn Welfare Motor Club at the company's aerodrome in Brough. Featuring 500cc racing cars, plus motorcycles and sidecars of varying capacities, it was a packed event with racing commencing at 12.30pm. A diagram showing the course that was laid out on this airfield location, and some information regarding the cars and drivers competing at this October 1954 meeting, can be found on the Brough Aerodrome Road Races page.
Castle Combe, 1950.
This race meeting, organised by the Bristol M.C. & L.C.C., took place on October 7th 1950, and featured the 1950 Hillclimb Champion R.D. Poore in his Alfa on the cover. The programme has some high-profile sponsors, with adverts for The Motor magazine on the cover, and The Autocar on the back. Nine races in all were scheduled to take place, with races for the smaller car such as 500cc Coopers and Kiefts, upto the big bangers such as the Allard, and Bentleys.
Castle Donington, 1937.
Many pre-war Donington race programmes feature evocative illustrations on their covers, and this programme, dating to the 200 miles race at Donington, held on August 28th 1937, is no exception. The race was organised by the Junior Car Club. This, the tenth International 200 Miles Race, featured some of the greats of the pre-war racing era, including Alfa Romeos (Ruesch etc), Maserati (Bira, Aitken, Dobson, Parnell etc), Riley, Triumph, ERAs (Mays, Dobson, Howe, Tongue, Pintacuda etc), and MGs.
Crystal Palace, 1937.
This small-format programme covers the International Imperial Trophy Race for cars, to be held at Crystal Palace in London, 9th October 1937. The cover features an illustration of an ERA at speed. The rear cover has an advertisement for Mercedes-Benz, including an artist's rendition of a Grand Prix car cornering in the 1937 Masaryk Grand Prix. Within the programme, some of the star drivers are described, as is the layout of the Crystal Palace course. In the interval, Dick Seaman was down to demonstrate a Mercedes-Benz GP car.
Eastbourne Car Rally & Concours d'Elegance, 1949.
The event was organised by the British Automobile Racing Club (BARC), and was held for a number of years in the 1940s and 1950s. This programme refers to the July 1949 meeting, which combined sprints and autotests on the Saturday, with a more leisurely concours d'elegance on the Sunday. Further details of this classic car meeting can be found on the Eastbourne Motor Rally page.
Happily, following a break in proceedings between 1966 and 1998, motor racing featuring vintage and classic racing cars still takes place at Goodwood every year. As with so many racing venues after the war, the Goodwood circuit was based on the perimeter track of a former RAF airfield, in this case RAF Westhampnett. The first motor race took place in 1948. Some early collectables relating to this track can be found on the Goodwood collectables page. This programme is for the B.A.R.C. (British Automobile Racing Club) meeting in September 1949. The successes of the 1948 meeting meant that it wouldn't be long before the track's facilities were developed further, with new fencing, gates, better car parks and an improved Lavant Straight enclosure all planned for the 1950 season. Eight races were planned for this meeting - the Madgwick Cup, Woodcote Cup, 500cc race, September Handicaps A, B, C & D, and the Goodwood Trophy. The programme was sponsored by the Daily Graphic newspaper.
Hednesford Raceway, 1971.
A programme for a "hot rod" race meeting supported by Car and Car Conversions magazine, held at Hednesford Raceway on Cannock Chase in the early 1970s. Read about the races, entrants and the cars on the Hednesford Raceway page.
Hoton Sprint, 1951.
The simple programme describes the entry list for the October 1951 Hoton Sprint Meeting, organised by the Loughborough College Motor Club. More information found in this publication can now be viewed on the Hoton Sprint page.
Mallory Park, 1957.
This is one of the more recent programmes in my collection, although it is still over 50 years old. Organised by The Nottingham Sports Car Club Limited, this meeting was held on Whit-Monday, 10th June 1957. A great variety of competition cars were down to compete at Mallory, including example(s) of Lotus-Climax, Lotus-Stanguellini, Cooper, Tojeiro, Elva, Healey Silverstone, Lister-Bristol, AC Ace, TR3, Aston Martin DB3S, Jaguar C Type, Cooper Bristol, plus a selection of 500cc racers such as the Cooper-JAP and Emeryson-Norton. This programme has the results penned in below each entry list.
Prescott Hillclimb, 1954.
Hillclimbing was still a very popular pastime in the 1950s, and continues to this day. Also still with us are the Prescott Hillclimb, and the Bugatti Owner's Club who own the course. This programme is for the September 19th 1954 Silver Jubilee meeting. Of 200 applications tendered, 125 entries were accepted. I don't know if it had been raining, but two pages of this programme have muddy marks over them, so perhaps the heavens had opened on the Friday, but cleared by race day, leaving the ground a little boggy? Some of the results have been pencilled in. There are also some fine adverts for Collier's (Aston and Lagonda dealers), Newton Oils (formerly Notwen Oils), Lucas car batteries, Mintex brake linings, Dunlop, Girling Service, The Light Car magazine, Ferodo Brake Linings, and Birso castings. A guide to identifying vintage Bugattis is also included at the back of the programme.
Shelsley Walsh, 1935.
Shelsley has been one of the best hillclimb venues in the UK for over 100 years (the 100th Anniversary meeting was in 2005, photos here), and is still going strong thankfully. This programme is for the September 28th 1935 meeting, and features Raymond Mays in his ERA blasting through the Esses, part way up the course. Note the lack of helmet. The Midland Automobile Club (MAC) were the organisers, then as now. Unusually the programme lists all the members of the MAC, along with their addresses. The status of the Shelsley meetings led to many leading names in the motor industry advertising in it's pages. These include SS Cars Ltd (Jaguar), SU Carburettors, The MG Car Co., Jensen Motors (coachwork), Talbot, Speed magazine, Riley (Kestrel-Sprite), Chempol Polish, Singer, Morris, and Alvis.
Original programme for the first meeting to be held at Silverstone, on October 2nd 1948. Two races took place, one an International Grand Prix, the other for 500cc racing cars. Read more here.
Silverstone was another circuit based on a former RAF airfield. This smartly illustrated race programme is for the 7th Annual International Daily Express Trophy Meeting, May 7th 1955, organised by the BRDC. As well as details of the races, there are a number of other articles which would be of interest to the keen spectator, while waiting for the first race to start. There is a Q&A with Moss and Hawthorn, an article by Pomeroy on racing car design, plus a look at the 1955 season by John Bolster, and some background information on certain drivers due to race, including Mike Hawthorn, Lance Macklin, Robert Manzon, Louis Rosier, Peter Collins, Reg Parnell, Ken Wharton, Paul Swaelens, Archie Scott-Brown, Dennis Taylor, Colin Davis, Tony Rolt, Jack Moor, Jim Russell, Duncan Hamilton, Donald Healey, Peter Whitehead, Dick Jacobs, Eric Fenning, Colin Chapman, J. Risely-Pritchard, Roy Salvadori and Ninian Sanderson of Scotland.
Staverton Sprint, 1954.
Held on what was at the time Staverton airfield (now Gloucestershire Airport), this programme covers the third Staverton Sprint organised by the CMC (Cheltenham Motor Club). Details of drivers competing at this meeting can be found on the Staverton Sprint 1954 page.
One of the rarer programmes shown here, for the International Ulster Trophy Road Race of 19th June 1937, price 6d. The Ulster Automobile Club were the organisers. The first race organised by the U.A.C. was in 1934, held in Donaghadee, County Down. The 1935 and 1936 meetings were held on the streets of Bangor in County Down. The '37 event was held in Ballyclare, Antrim. Familiar types entered into this road race include Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Maserati, MG, Austin, Riley, Aston Martin, Fiat, Morgan, Ford and Lagonda.
Other race programmes.
Some more old programmes that, while of interest, don't fit in with my main collection but are good examples of what is out there.
Belle Vue, 1966.
In case you ever wondered where many of the once-popular cars in Britain ended their days, then pick up a copy of a stock car racing programme, such as this one for a meeting at Belle Vue in Manchester, October 1966. A look through the entry lists makes for a very interesting read - there are lots of old Jaguars, Cadillacs, Buicks, Ford, Chevys and other large motorcars. One entry is down as the "Batmobile" - I wonder what car this was? There is even a "C Type Jaguar", entered by a Mike Huddart of Cheadle Hulme. Was this really a C-Type as we know it??? Some photos of 1950's/1960's stock cars can be seen on this page in the vintage photo gallery.
Manchester Wheelers' Race Meet, 1924.
Many years ago I found a programme for the Manchester Wheelers' cycle race meeting, held in Fallowfield, Manchester, in July 1924. While most of the content is, understandably, bicycle-related, there are also a few automobile-related items of interest to be found within it. Details regarding the contents of this rare programme may be found here.
Oulton Park, 1957.
Oulton is perhaps better know for the four-wheel racing that has taken place there since 1953. Here is a programme for a motorcycle race meeting in October 1957, namely the Cheshire Centre Championship Road Races. There were races for upto 150cc, 251cc-350cc (4 races), three wheelers upto 1200cc, 151cc-250cc (2 races), 351cc-1000cc (3 races), and a three wheelers Handicap race. It looks to be signed by Derek Minter, not a competitor appearing in the entrants list for this meeting, but a well-known racer of the day, including at the Isle of Man T.T., where he did the first 100mph lap for a single cylinder bike (a Norton).
Old Classic Car (C) R. Jones 2023. Content not to be reproduced elsewhere.