Journal: This Film Archive Is The Holy Grail Of Motoring History

This Film Archive Is The Holy Grail Of Motoring History

By Michael Banovsky
December 16, 2015

Pathé News was a company that made newsreels and documentaries, at first in a business that was seen as direct competition for newspapers—this is was in the 1910s, mind you. The library of incredible clips captured over the years has been relaunched as British Pathé, a digital news archive available to license for film and other projects.

How many? More than 90,000—even for the ones we’ve chosen here, there’s often a few other clips of B-Roll to comb through, perfect if you’re trying to track the race provenance of a vintage sports car that may have been immortalized in film. 

Motorcycles are well-represented, as you’d expect, with clips ranging from an inventive way to float around—the “Sidecar boat”—to being used as a way to tow skiers precariously around an icy course.

The “Ton-Uppers” welcome a member of the clergy. Groovy?

Sadly, occasionally Pathé’s fact-checkers didn’t quite get things right, in this case, saying that it’s the “world’s first” propellor car—that would be the Leyat Hélica in the early ’20s. The second video here is of an Italian flying car that remains somewhat of a mystery to us. If you know more, please leave a comment.

The titles are sometimes incredibly accurate—yes, this a party for helicopter owners. And the next is the Concorde’s first flight, from 1969.

Ford Cortinas being shipped to the US—1,600 in total—which was said to have been the “largest order” as of 1967.

Don’t think that the filmmakers were stuck in the UK, here’s an awesome newsreel from Daytona Beach, FL.

There’s honestly no caption that can do the Aerotrain justice. Will you just look at that onboard footage in the second clip!

Car stuff? Yeah, everything from old news footage on past Grands Prix, to an intriguing look at how engineers designed, tested, and raced British cars on the European continent—a most enjoyable 16 minutes. Don’t worry, the horse stuff will give way to cars quickly…

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