These  images come from an old release on YouTube by the good people at Duke Video. It’s been out in the YT world for years, but only just wandered into my inbox.

It features Britain’s first F1 World Champion. Mike Hawthorn, running a restrained lap of the Le Mans circuit in 1956, in a D -Type Jaguar. The car is rigged with cameras, and Mike is strapped into some less than lightweight sound equipment to give you a running commentary as he tours the course. The public roads are open and our golden haired hero is confronted with laissez faire French cyclists, parked trucks and weaving Simcas and Peugeots.

Filmed the year after the horrific disaster of the 1955 event, when 83 spectators were killed, this may have been an attempt at some low key PR in the run up to the ’56 race.

Mike provides a BBC World Service, class commentary, relaying where bumps have been ironed out  curves straightened, and where is quick or slow. One large camera filming the ride is mounted above and behind him, providing a higher aspect than he would enjoy from the drivers seat. It also catches the tight cockpit and seductive curves of the D -Type, the car that, to me at least , most resembles a Spitfire on wheels. With his goggles, only slightly useful helmet, and the enormous, frame supported microphone strapped to his face, he looks the part of a steam punk aviator. Get an eyeful of his racing gloves. Where can a chap get a pair of those!

I must have watched this film a dozen times, finding it beguiling on a number of levels. From the views of the road course, to the random collection of cars and lorries of the day, including a lovely Mk 7 Jag, casually parked by the pit wall, and a 2CV pottering past. Mike scoots past a Traction Avant as he sets off. Vintage prewar cars pop up along the route.

The advertising around the course tells a story. From the Dunlop Bridge, to Castrol, KLG plugs, Lucas, Mintex, Energol, and Motul oil. Not a tobacco company in sight, but you can just spy a dash of Martini in the esses.

Glimpse that gorgeous Jag. Look at the wrap round screen, the tiny half door, ( more Spitfire vibes ) notice how the guages are framed by the drilled spokes and thin rim of that tiller of a steering wheel. The crowd provide great social commentary. Admire those manual wind cameras, and look at the clothes, No FCYUK or  DONKY in sight. Ladies skirts below the knee please! Shirts, sensible shoes, and belt and braces rule, even if they are a bit rumpled and threadbare. It’s a hot day, so gentlemen may remove their ties. Shorts are for small boys only. There’s a distinct whiff of Brylcreem and unfiltered Gitanes, and perhaps, a smouldering Lucas wire or two.

Period stereotypes are turned up to the max in this image.Chap in a beret? marvellous. Check out the Jaguar mechanic in his white overalls and super sharp side parting. The winner has to be the absolute legend with the knotted hankie firmly secured on head Well, what’s a 1950s chap to do when he’s left his titfer at home?

You can see the full clip here

Image credits Duke Video YouTube

About The Author

Steve Swanson

Steve turns any opportunity to write about cars into a roadtrip. It's seen him ride shotgun in a Bentley Blower with Clive Cussler, and cross paths with automotive YouTubers in Canada and the US. His work has been published in Magneto, Classic Cars, Classic American and some magazines that no MotorPunk reader has ever heard of. When he's not writing or driving you can find him kicking tyres at seedy auctions and hawking junk optimistically described as Automobilia

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