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Classic Art: John Lamm, Storyteller

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 7/16/2015 Edward Loh, John Lamm

After proving to be "the worst managing editor in the history of Motor Trend magazine" [ his words—Ed.], John Lamm reverted to writing and photography. Things generally improved. After six years with MT, he made the switch to Road & Track, where he managed to hang on for 37 years. What you see here is a sampling from his files and a few from Motor Trend 's archives.

Research

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in the 23rd issue of Motor Trend Classic.

After 45 years in the business, Lamm says he still enjoys his work and still loves to travel, but also likes being home in San Clemente, California, with his wife, Scheri. He also loves to spin a good yarn, usually involving a friend and titan of the auto industry. Here is one:

"Nuccio Bertone, patriarch of the famed Bertone design house, smiled and said, 'My answer will probably disappoint you.' The question had been, 'What is your favorite Bertone design?'

"I don't remember his answer, but have never forgotten his reasoning. The point he made is that sometimes a favorite isn't the most attractive result, but the one that for all its difficulties and problems turned out to be beautiful and effective.

"Take and savor your victories where you find them." - John Lamm

"Like children? Perhaps. But definitely like photos. From bad light to cars that overheat to equipment failures, photographing automobiles has its challenges. Overcoming the hassles and having kept the art director happy will color a photographer's opinion of what is his favorite work. Sometimes conquering the challenges involves hard work...and sometimes dumb luck. Several of the images you see here took hours to create and at least two were lucky grab shots."


Three Americans - Phil Hill, Carroll Shelby, and Troy Ruttman - were on the grid of the 1958 French Grand Prix. All drove Maserati 250Fs. Reims was the circuit. Phil and I returned in 1982 with Nick Mason, Pink Floyd's drummer, and his 250F. The track's pits were a mess, but a wonderful backdrop.


John Lamm Classic Art© Provided by MotorTrend John Lamm Classic Art Luca di Montezemolo is Ferrari’s chairman, but in 1975 he managed the Grand Prix team. In the photo he talks with Giovanni Agnelli, head of Fiat, at the Monaco GP.


John Lamm Classic Art© Provided by MotorTrend John Lamm Classic Art We've only had two American Formula 1 world driving champions and may never have another, but we have two of the best: Phil Hill for Ferrari (1961) and Mario Andretti with Lotus (1978).


John Lamm Classic Art© Provided by MotorTrend John Lamm Classic Art Carroll Shelby drove Old Yeller II at the first race I saw, so it was an honor to get to know him. He was a wonderful anomaly in a world filled with boring executives.


John Lamm Classic Art© Provided by MotorTrend John Lamm Classic Art Just say “Ferrari 330 P4” and you’ll get any of the Ferraristi smiling. The most famous win for these V-12-powered machines was a 1-2-3 at the 1967 24 Hours of Daytona. Phil Hill never raced a P4, but he did drive this one at Silverstone for a test.


John Lamm Classic Art© Provided by MotorTrend John Lamm Classic Art Photographing a Grand Prix race today is tough because of the concrete walls and tall fences. In 1971, you could walk down to Monaco’s Gazometre 180-degree corner and darn near lean out over the car, as here with Mario Andretti in his Ferrari 312B.


John Lamm Classic Art© Provided by MotorTrend John Lamm Classic Art We were proud of Motor Trend ’s Retrospect series, and this MG-TC is a favorite. These spreads had to be shot with a 4x5 camera on a tripod. I recall this one was done from the roof of a pickup truck...and I dented it. Sorry.


John Lamm Classic Art© Provided by MotorTrend John Lamm Classic Art Lotus’ Type 38 Indy car wasn’t just the first mid-engine automobile to win the 500, but may have been the most beautiful car to ever race at the Brickyard. Jim Clark drove that day and the four-cam Ford-powered 38 now resides in The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn.


John Lamm Classic Art© Provided by MotorTrend John Lamm Classic Art Porsche's Best? The 959 or the Carrera GT were automotive high marks for the brand in 1986 and 2004. Which would you rather drive, the flat-six 959 or the V-10 Carrera GT? I’d take the 959.


John Lamm Classic Art© Provided by MotorTrend John Lamm Classic Art Alfa Romeo created many of the greatest pre-World War II engines. This is the supercharged straight-eight in Ralph Lauren’s 1938 8C 2900 Mille Miglia.


John Lamm Classic Art© Provided by MotorTrend John Lamm Classic Art Bobby Rahal was driving a Brabham BT-44 Grand Prix car at Watkins Glen for this story, and no, I wasn’t running backward to catch the image. A camera mount on the car’s nose and sides plus a slow shutter speed handled the job. The view gives us a look at how vulnerable GP drivers were in the mid-1970s.


John Lamm Classic Art© Provided by MotorTrend John Lamm Classic Art Phil Hill and the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa he co-drove to win Le Mans in 1958. Of all the photos I took of Phil, this is my favorite...Herbert Johnson helmet, polo shirt, leather gloves, and his typical stance.

John Lamm Classic Art© Provided by MotorTrend John Lamm Classic Art
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