The wonderful discussions on the various topics we currently have going make me feel very good about the direction this Forum is heading. We seem to have a good mix of the general, the specific, the obscure, and the obvious along with a pleasant ambiance that encourages discussion.
I always hoped we would be able to attract a variety of folks to this watering hole. The casual historian -- an Enthusiast seeking more about the sport, and the dedicated Enthusiast turned hard-core historian -- with all the shades in-between as well as just the fan who is curious, need to co-exist and have a place to mingle easily. Oh, they can peel off into some arcane discussions about a particular subject -- the Ferrari F2 thread is an excellent example -- where much or little is accomplished, bit the focus always returns to the business at hand: discussing motor racing history in an open and friendly manner.
I have learned much from the many folks on this Forum. I have revised my thinking about something I thought I knew more times than I can recall!
The good Michael M has given me pause with the following which are from a discussion which just happens to be on the Ferrari F2 cars, however the topic could any number of issues:
Although Sheldon’s books of course are very valuable and informative is seems to be a fact that they contain a lot of mistakes, especially concerning chassis numbers. To fix chassis numbers by your own decision due to lack of any other reliable information only creates confusion, and in my eyes should be avoided. If such numbers are not known, then this should be accepted as a fact.
The chassis number game is not only difficult, but also dangerous. General opinion is that all 3 1948 Ferrari monoposti disappeared, but based on our investigations there are signs now that c/n 06C is still in existence today, although as F2 (it was in fact converted to F2 in 1949). If the “guess” that 06C was the prototype is spread publicly, it soon will be converted to “theory”, somewhat later the word “reasonable” is added, and next step is “probably is”. If such car will appear at an auction somewhere in future, catalogue then will read “many well known historians confirm that this is the first ever Ferrari monoposto built”, a statement which for sure will increase value. Therefore chassis numbers should only be published – and this forum is public - , if they are proven and confirmed.
Michael is, of course, correct in his concerns. Which is why I have the quotations from Wilde and Keynes on my signature. As an analogy, I used the characters from the wonderful TV series The Prisoner. Number 6 is always asking the question, "What do you want?" Number 2 is always stating the answer, "Information!" Indeed, that is what the Forum is all about: information.
Michael is 100% correct about the possible use and mis-use of information such as chassis numbers. Recall that at one point three different museums or collections claimed to possess the 250F that Fangio drove at the 1957 German GP -- and it turned out that none of the machines were the correct one!
While the issue of accuracy is always first and foremost among historians, the discussion is based upon the open and "free" access to the materials by those involved in the discussion -- or debate should it evolve in that direction. In motor racing, the problem is that much of the information is controlled by a relative few individuals or not generally available. Some of this has to do with commercial reasons, naturally: we are "free" to purchase information in the form of books or periodicals. This well and good and is as it should be -- even historians have to eat! However, when the ante gets upped to cover particular machines or the books are marketed for hundreds of dollars, then it becomes a slightly different kettle of fish.
I am an information radical to a larger extent than I thought. I fully agree with Michael and yet I also have to diverge slightly from his opinion on the matter. I happen to think that discussion -- even when the terms "probably" or "possibly" or (one of my favorite terms) "betcha" are used - is healthy, even if the consequences of that discussion may be misconstrued by those of the Gordon Gekko Gang.
Look at the case of the Maserati 250F. For many years, the chassis logbook of Denis Jenkinson was taken at face value and accept as gospel. However, as time went on some started to question these allocations. Barry Hobkirk is still working on his massive project of tracing every single solitary 250F from cradle to grave or garage as the case may be. He has amassed a huge collection of photos of the cars and uses this as the means to check the "shoulds" "coulds" "is" and "isn'ts" of the cars -- visual information compared to written information. I arrived at the many of same conclusions independently, but in a more modest manner, sticking to the GP/F1 events after the others drove me to distraction and nothing made very much sense -- and I had a day job to boot...
I was influenced to persevere because of the work Hobkirk was doing. I was frustrated and stymied most of the time I worked on the project, which spent as much time sitting on the shelf as being worked on it seems -- for almost the entire 10 years it was a real project and not to mention the previous 20 years that I thought about it.
My deepest thanks to Michael for surfacing this issue. While I may depart from some of what he says, it is only because I think that we should not hold ourselves hostage to those who seek only to use our information for the purchase of increasing their personal wealth. Yes, we need to hold ourselves to the highest degrees of accuracy, but that can only be truly achieved by open discussion.
Nothing is ever easy, is it?
For those of you who have little or no interest in chassis numbers or other such items, bear with us. Remember, most of us are the same types that watch movies and cringe in horror as we see how wrong the uniforms are that the soldiers are wearing and/or the weapons they carry or the used-looking '58 Chevy turning up in a movie set in 1955 or so forth and so on.
And one thing Michael and I fully agree upon: there are some things that will simply be mysteries. Period. We shall never know some things despite all our efforts to find an answer. But, then, out there on the Forum there just might be that someone with the clue...