Magnificent moments from the Monte Carlo rally of old

We know the Monte Carlo rally today as a contest of high-horsepower, all-wheel-drive missiles streaking through French boroughs and up and over mountains. Throngs of spectators rush from stop to stop, and the major stages have all the noise and party atmosphere of Coachella. It wasn’t always this way.

The rally started in the winter of 1911 as an attempt to extend Monte Carlo’s tourist season and consisted of casual motorists stiffly puttering toward the French Riviera. The photos here, which we stumbled across while clicking through the Revs Institute’s digital archive, encapsulate the race in transition.

Amateurs could still run but struggled to keep pace with pros like Graham Hill and Pat Moss. Works teams like Lancia and big-buck sponsors like Marlboro raised the profile of the event, yet spectating was as intimate and dangerous as in the earlier days.

Hairpin trigger


The World Rally Championship, a series created by the FIA in 1973, eventually brought polish and organization to the rallying world, but its inaugural event, the Monte Carlo Rally, was an organizational Dumpster fire. A cluster of wrecked rally cars jammed the so-called Common Route. The roadblock prevented 144 cars from completing a stage, and those drivers were subsequently disqualified. Enraged, they rushed ahead to obstruct the next stage. The remaining drivers charged the protesters’ blockade or found a way around. In this madness, the Lancia Fulvia HF driven by 1972 winner Sandro Munari slid off the road. The Italian is pictured here pitching the front-wheel-drive coupe around a snowy bend prior to crashing.

vintage racing
The Revs Institute

Loose change


This year’s rally marked the arrival of the Mini Cooper S to Monte Carlo. The 10-foot-long Mini captured overall victory. Dieter Glemser and Martin Braungart (above) hustled to keep pace in their Mercedes-Benz 300SE but could only muster 16th place.



Ford entered eight Falcon Futura coupes in the 1964 event, and Ford of Europe added several more blue-oval bullets with its proven Cortina GT entries. Codrivers Fergus Sager and Bo Ljungfeldt are pictured here swapping rubber on their second-place-finishing Falcon. A sign to the right of No. 45 alerts pedestrians to the slick surface with an all-caps GRASSE (“oily”) in French.

Monte Carlo Rally
The Revs Institute

[This article originally ran in Hagerty magazine, the exclusive publication of the Hagerty Drivers Club. For the full, in-the-flesh experience of our world-class magazine—as well other great benefits like roadside assistance and automotive discounts—join HDC today.]

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