Broadly speaking, sports cars are those in which performance takes priority over carrying capacity, but within these limits a tremendous variety of cars have been made over the past sixty years. This book begins by tracing the development of the sporting car from the tourer in pre-1914 days. The touring events that bred the sporting car, the Herkomer and Prince Henry Trials in Germany, the Alpine Trials of Austria, and the formidable Russian Trials are described, together with the cars that competed in them – such as the Austro-Daimler, Vauxhall, Rolls-Royce and Horch. After World War 1 the sports car flourished in every country, and the chapters in Part Two cover the famous Bentleys, Bugattis, Alfa Romeos and Mercedes-Benz, as well as the obscurer German sports cars and the spidery Spanish cyclecars developed from wheeled bobsleds. The American chapters in the first two parts run from the Mercer and Stutz raceabouts of 1912 through the Paige-Daytona, Jordan, and Dupont speedsters of the twenties to the classic Cord and Auburn. The chapters on the 1930’s (Part Three) describe the rise of the modestly priced sports car derived from the mass-produced saloon, such as the MG Midget and Wolseley Hornet, as well as the revival of the large sports car in France in the shape of the Delahaye, Delage and Talbot-Darracq.
In the years following World War 2 the export of MG’s and Jaguars and Ferraris to the United States of America sparked tremendous enthusiasm which in turn led to native American sports cars such as the Cunningham and Chevrolet Corvette. Despite overall speed limits in many countries, the sports car is as alive as ever in 1970, although there is a marked distinction between the road-going car and those used for sports car racing. The emergence of this distinction is discussed, and both types of car are described: the Austin-Healey Sprite and Shelby Ford Mustang on the one hand, and the Chevron, Porsche 908, and Ford GT40 on the other.