I grew up in rural Connecticut and my passion for motor sport began at a young age when my neighbor set about converting a 1934 Ford pickup into a hot rod. I spent hours watching him work, sitting in the car asking question and reading his collection of Hot Rod magazines. In the early sixties, hot rods, drag racing, and the Indianapolis 500 were the focus of interest. In the early-60s the Ford Motor Company got involved in racing in a big way. The company supported most forms of racing, including NASCAR, drag racing, sports cars, rallying, Indy, and Formula 1. With Ford’s involvement came lots of press and TV coverage. Hot Rod magazine was a reliable source of Ford’s domestic activities and as Ford expanded to sports prototype racing, regular newspaper coverage grew.
I soon discovered the world of sports cars and the earnings from my paper route were used to pay for Road & Track and Sports Car Graphic magazines. In the sixties, slot car racing was a popular hobby and Friday nights were spent at the local hobby shop racing our cars. One evening while waiting for track time I wondered into a bookshop and found a copy of “Cars at Speed”. I set down $0.95 of my hard-earned paper route profits and my portal into the world of European motor racing was opened. I learned of races like the Mille Miglia and the early days of motor racing. I bought a map of Europe so I could mark the locations of the great circuits like the Nurbürgring, Reims, and Spa-Francorhamps.
As a 15-year old I had the chance to go on a road trip from Connecticut to Sebring for the 1967 12-Hour race. It was my first international motor race. The Ford MkIV made its debut against the Chaparral 2F. Unfortunately Ferrari declined to send its Daytona winning 330P4s, but for a motor racing mad teenager it didn’t matter. Trips to SCCA races at Lime Rock and Thompson soon followed. In 1970, there were road trips to the Indy 500, Watkins Glen for the 6-Hours and CanAm and Lime Rock for TransAm racing. I started to take the family Kodak Instamatic along to document my adventures.
In 1971 I enlisted in the US Air Force and after training in Texas I was posted to Lindsey Air Station in Wiesbaden, Germany. For a motor racing mad kid it was heaven. I was an hour north of the Hockenheimring, an hour south of the Nurburgring and a couple of hours from Spa. Over the next 3 years I was fortunate to attend many races around Europe. I also bought my first 35mm camera.
I started with a Minolta SRT-101, but soon moved to Nikon and I’ve remained a loyal Nikon shooter for going on 5 decades. In the beginning my photography was just to document my adventures. I soon realized that motor racing and photography were passions and I was off.
I returned to the states in the mid-70s and was a regular at Watkins Glen, Lime Rock, Mosport and Trois-Rivières. In the late ‘70s I moved to Portland, Oregon. After a visit to Long Beach for the 1980 Grand Prix, my interest in Formula 1 declined. After circuits like Spa and the Nurburgring, Long Beach just didn’t cut it. Fortunately historic motor racing was starting to expand and soon became my primary focus.
Bill Wagenblatt Photography is the result of my decades long passion for motor racing and photography.