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American racing 1894 to 1920


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#151 john glenn printz

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Posted 03 December 2008 - 16:18

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-67) I would assume since the running of the 1919 Indianapolis 500, that Milton just continued to use exclusively the new straight 8 model Duesenberg racers rather than make any use of the older Duesenberg 4's. Milton gets a great deal of attention with regard to the design and development of the new 183 Miller straight 8 motor in 1921, but is seldom mentioned in connection with the new Duesenberg straight 8 engines of 1919 and 1920, but he was certainly in the thick of things here! The first major win for the Duesenberg 8 is the Elgin 301 mile road race of 23 August 1919 by Milton; now seconded by Murphy's victory in the Los Angeles 250 of 28 February, 1920. It is unfortunate that the contemporary race reports on the 1919 AAA season are often so uninformative.

During 1919, at Elgin, Ira Vail began using a "Philbrin" sponsored special. The Philbrin company was a manufacturer of ignition systems. The actual make of this "Philbrin" is generally not specified in the 1919 source material. After Vail's adventures with the Hudson marque (1916-1919), he switched to the Philbrin which I have always thought was a Duesenberg car. Certainly the Philbrin that Vail drove at both Ascot (Nov. 27, 1919) and at Los Angeles (February 28, 1920) was a No. 14, 4 cylinder Duesenberg. Duesenberg authority Don Butler (1911-1990?), thinks this Philbrin to be Arthur Thurman's wrecked Duesenberg used at Indianapolis in 1919, as now repaired and rebuilt by Vail. Consult Butler's AUBURN, CORD, DUESENBERG book (Osceola, WI, 1992). Don's idea here seems very possible to me, and if so, then Vail's car at Sheepshead Bay (Sept. 20, 1919), was a Duesenberg rather than a Hudson. To confuse the situation even further, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES (Nov. 14, 1919, part III, page 1) and THE OAKLAND TRIBUNE (Nov. 23, 1919), both state that Vail's "Philbrin" Duesenberg had an 8 cylinder motor.

(ADDENDUM OF DECEMBER 4, 2008!!! I have just noticed that the LOS ANGELES TIMES, Feb. 15, 1920, part 6, page 2, avows that Vail's Philbrin had a 4 cylinder Duesenberg motor. And further the "White Special" driven by Bennett Hill was owned by John White, and was a Delage chassis with a Duesenberg engine installed in it, Source: LOS ANGELES TIMES, Feb. 22, 1920, part 1, page 8!!! The LOS ANGELES TIME also states that Arthur and Louis Chevreolet did not enter the Los Angeles 250 of February 22, 1920 because they both had the flu.)

The new Los Angeles Speedway also staged three 50 mile sprint races, under the 301 cubic inch class limit, on March 28, 1920. This was an invitational program with two heat races and a final. Here the Beverly Hills track invited 14 contestants to take part. The 14 car/driver combinations were divided into two groupings and these two separate entities would compete in their own heat race or qualifying preliminary; i.e. with the top four finishers in each heat going into the 50 mile final.

These three 50 milers gave no AAA Championship points as Edenburn (DETROIT NEWS, March 7, 1920, Autos, page 5) points out (quote), "It will have no bearing on the A.A.A. season's championship." This three contest sprint meet was scheduled for March 21, 1920 but was rained out and was staged on March 28, 1920. The fact that it was an "invitational" and thus not open to all possible qualified competitors was probably one reason at least, why it had a non-Championship status.

Heat I was won by Art Klein driving a EX5 Peugeot, with a 110.769 mph average. Seven years after its construction the Grand Prix 1914 Peugeot was still capable of a win! This same EX5 design had won at Indianapolis in 1916 and 1919; at both the 1916 Vanderbilt Cup and American Grand Prize events; and placed 1st and 2nd in the 1916 AAA National Championship Title with Dario Resta and Johnny Aitken as its chauffeurs. In Heat I Milton (Duesenberg) placed 2nd, Boyer (Frontenac) 3rd. Jimmy Murphy won Heat II in a Duesenberg 8, at 110.399 mph; with Pullen 2nd (Richard's Hudson); and DePalma 3rd (Ballot). Tommy Milton won the final with his Duesenberg 8 by posting a 50 mile average of 111.649 mph; followed by Klein (Peugeot) 2nd and Pullen (Richard's Hudson) 3rd.

THE 1920 INDIANAPOLIS 500. Now everyone had approximately two whole months to prepare for the second 1920 AAA Championship contest of the year and the most important of all, the Indianapolis 500 (May 31); which would require the all new 183 cubic inch class motors in the cars. As the 1920 edition of the French Grand Prix had been cancelled in Nov. or Dec. 1919, the "500" would be again as in the previous year; the world's most important motor race and now for the second straight year.

Edited by john glenn printz, 21 September 2010 - 18:45.


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#152 Jim Dillon

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Posted 04 December 2008 - 02:43

Although John Printz has moved on from his earlier summation of the Premiers in the above post, if I may digress the LA Times article (4/30/16 p8) when I read it originally I never associated it with the three or whatever # of Burman cars in the Miller shop. I credited it to the possibility he may have been slated to drive one of the Premiers and the rest of the article was paying tribute to the death of the speed king with maybe a slight exaggeration. Motor Age (2/10/16 p20) stated that Burman would be at the wheel of one of the 2 Premier Specials, the construction and campaign of which is being financed by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway... that he had already signed a contract to drive and will come to Indianapolis to assist in building the 2 mounts after participating in the 2/22 LA event and Corona Grand Prize. It went on to state he just finished the reconstruction of his Peugeot. The May issue of Motor on the same page announcing his death, stated he would split his time between his Peugeot and one of the two Premiers which the Hoosiers control-the second driver has not been announced.

I never thought of the Premiers being built in the Miller shops. There is enough confusion in the Miller shops in 1916 and 1917 to make your head spin without adding Premiers in my estimation. I don't believe this changes anything that John Printz has stated but maybe bolsters it in a way. -Jim

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Posted 04 December 2008 - 21:45

:clap: Fabulous new info comes to light! :clap:

Welcome Jim Dillon, and thanks for these phantastic posts! :up:

Also, thanks to John Printz we now know that the White Special was not connected to Bill White, and the bit about the Duesenberg engine is also interesting: recently, I tended to think in that direction once I realised the engine could hardly be a Miller because of the exhaust location!

About the Philbrin, already Griff Borgeson told us it was the Thurman wreck rebuilt, but since that information is now two generations old, it's good to have newer opinion. I also happen to think the car received an 8-cylinder engine later, but can't be sure - anyway, in the early twenties Vail's Duesenberg is mostly described as an Eight, and sometimes the name Philbrin is still mentioned!

#154 Jim Dillon

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 02:28

Thanks Michael, my research is pretty limited to the 300 cubic inch period although I have read a little before and after. My files may be a bit dusty and my filing system borders on pitiful but I will try to contribute here and there. Good to run into people that appreciate this era. The Philbrin has always kind of thrown me(kind of ironic I suppose because it literally threw a couple of the drivers) because it was reported at Indy to be of Thurman's own design. The bore and stroke appears to be Dues but in the specifications for Elgin it has two overhead shafts but has 16 valve in head and the other Duesenbergs are listed a bit different. I never researched Duesenbergs per se so my lack of knowledge may get me in trouble.

Here is Vail airborne at Ascot at the turkey day celebration in 1919 (11/28/19) hitting Dutton's Stutz-both cars were reported destroyed. Vail was severely injured as well. My picture has always been fuzzy almost looks like someone drew it instead of photographing it.

The other pic is an ad for the Premiers. Not a bad price-I would give em $10,000 for it-Jim
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Posted 05 December 2008 - 10:49

Hmm. I would guess the Elgin specifications to be in error: Thurman's Duesey should have been a 16-valve "walking beam", meaning two camshafts top of the crankcase, and 4 valves per cylinder horizontally - this valve arrangement was, at the time, also called "valve in head". How are the other Duesenbergs listed? Is it possible for you to post a scan of these Elgin specs here, as I for one would definitely be interested in the other cars as well!

As for the Ascot crash picture (as an aside, I have the date as Nov 27!), this is one race for which I have the car down as an 8-cylinder, though I can't at the moment say from which source. A bit strange that the Stutz has the long-distance tanks at the side of the frame rails, for a 50-mile race!!

Following the trail of the Philbrin, it was apparently rebuilt during the winter (as was Vail), and both appeared back in action at Beverly Hills three months later. The car was also entered at Indy that year, for which race Vail apparently hoped to get a new 3-litre Duesey engine, but that never materialised as far as I can tell. He continued to run the car for several years, and eventually passed it on to Charles Ganung (Genung?) to drive in 1924, when he got his Miller 122.

The last time I can find the name Philbrin attached to the car appears to be 1921, August 20 at the Orange County Fair in Middletown (NY). The colour was described as brown, and I'm sure I have a very low quality pic of it someplace on my 'puter, will need to find it (my filing system is not up to scratch! :). It was still described as an Eight at the 1922 New York State Fair (Sep 16).

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 21:57

Originally posted by Jim Dillon
(snip) Bill Castle the owner of the Baby Chevrolet (snap)

Missed that, first time: Jim, what can you tell me about the history of the Baby Chev? Wasn't it rebuilt as the Durant Special, crashed and burned at Kansas City in 1922? :confused:

#157 Jim Dillon

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 22:38

Michael, sorry for the lack of speedy reply-work has a habit of getting in the way of my having fun-will post a little later when I can whittle the pile down on my desk.

Got a bit of work done so back to more enjoyable matters.

As to the Elgin stats I include them here. You will note that the two Roamers were listed as horizontal in re to the valve location. I am somewhat familiar with the old walking beams as we had two Reveres with the Rochester Duesenberg walking beams in my grandfathers car collection (one burned and was destroyed and I watched the other as a no sale at $80,000 at RM a couple of years ago). I would have presumed that the writers of the day had referred to them as horizontal and not "in head", as it was such a unique design. To have three Duesenberg fours in the Elgin contest it struck me as strange to refer to the Philbrin in a different manner-especially in light of the 1919 Indy reports (thin at best) that Thurman's car was of his own design. I guess I have tried to keep from sticking my foot too far in my mouth when trying to solve these old mysteries. Somewhere I believe I have an old photo of what I believed to be the Philbrin with Vail with some Hollywood starlet-poor quality although I believe Jerry Gebby sent it me. Will keep looking for it and I am sure I will find it when I least expect it. I thought I may have a pic of the Philbrin in an ad for Philbrin but all I can find is the Darco Special.

As to cars showing up with Duesenberg eights later in the year is not overly surprising. Motor Age late in 1919 had a little blurb that Fred D had planned to put together a new team for 1920 and was offering to sell any one of his latest 3 racecars with either the 300 or the 183s. Not hard to believe when you think these guys were always looking for the next satchel of dough.

As to the turkey day date you are probably correct as I more than likely used the dateline-probably was the 27th.

Onto the Baby Chevrolet. Dees was a little off on his history on some of the early stuff including the Baby Chevrolet. He was way off on the engine he thought they put in the car. Bill Castle is the owner of the Baby Chev and he lives a stone's throw from the Speedway. Bill is a retired engineer who back in the forties was a crew chief on one of the Indy efforts and he went on to work for Allison. He is in his eighties and he is extremely talented. I only hope at his age that I have his drive and ability. If you saw the molds he made for this car-absolute works of art, it is no wonder the car has come out so well. Even the triumpharate of Miller, Goosen, Offenhauser and Stevens would be most impressed. The pic is of Bill next to the engine I took when he had the engine in his basement. Then with the engine apart was during some of the progression and then as it was last summer partially complete in time for the Miller Meet. To give credit where credit it due, the sheet metal fabrication was done by Denny Jamison of Autohammerart.com. As you can see it is not too shabby-quite the opposite. For all of us that have at one time or another worshiped at the Speedway, it is not hard to distinguish this as Gasollne Alley.

The Baby Chevrolet was built for $17000 in the latter part of 1919 and finished in early 1920 with Cliff Durant as the money guy. It was named Baby to distinguish it from the Stutz powered Cliff Durant 1919 Chevrolet. The original engine according to Bill was a T4 and although they tried to get it done for the 1920 Beverly Hills inaugural such was not to be. They continued to work on the T4 but it proved fruitless and Durant handed the car over to Milton. Milton put in a Duesenberg 8 for the balance of 20 and 21 where it had a measure of success scoring some impressive finishes (according to Bill). For the 22 season it was turned back over to Durant and one of the early 183s was installed in the car. The first two 183s had detachable cylinder heads. This particular engine and then the second car for Ira Vail. To distinguish between the two, Vail's car had the dual exhaust pipe and this car had a single pipe (the exhaust pipe on this car is the original). It was somewhat competitive and finished 12th at Indy in 1922. In September of 1922 Roscoe Sarles lost his life in the car at Kansas City after tangling with DePaolo. He drove it thru the upper guardrail and plunged 50' where it started on fire. The back half burned up but the engine and front half was saved. Bill does not believe the Vail car ever survived. A pretty neat piece and I always feel I am in the presence of greatness when I am around it (in fact looking forward to going back and looking at it again in the near future). If you consider that the only earlier piece is the Buck Boudeman Golden Sub (a car that I am a huge fan of as it was the arch rival of my racing engine and Buck's Sub engine although very similar to the original Sub motor, never tuned a lap in anger), this engine is the oldest surviving Miller racing engine that actually competed. Great piece.-Jim
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#158 fines

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Posted 07 December 2008 - 23:29

Jim,

thank you for the Elgin scan, the Baby Chev update and the nice pics! :up:

I'm not sure what to think of the Philbrin now, but I'd still think it was a standard 16-valve "walking beam". Maybe the compiler of the Elgin table just asked the entrants for specs, and Vail gave him the details as he saw them - it really wasn't that unusual to call the "walking beam" valve-in-head. On the other hand, maybe Thurman really had a rocker arm conversion made for the Duesey, maybe even a DOHC (less likely). :

Originally posted by Jim Dillon
As to cars showing up with Duesenberg eights later in the year is not overly surprising. Motor Age late in 1919 had a little blurb that Fred D had planned to put together a new team for 1920 and was offering to sell any one of his latest 3 racecars with either the 300 or the 183s. Not hard to believe when you think these guys were always looking for the next satchel of dough.

Well, yes... except that there were only three of these engines (as far as I can tell), and all three were still with their original cars in early 1920! Two of these cars were indeed sold off with 183 engines, with the 300s going into the Milton record car, while the third was destroyed in an accident not long after - I don't know what happened with the 300 engine of that one. The record car, it seems, reappeared as a dirt track racer a few years later, in the New York area (i.e. in Vail's territory!), though whether it still had (both) the 300 engine(s) I don't know. Norm Batten is said to have driven it.

#159 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 06:40

Originally posted by john glenn printz
...For its 1919 renewal the Elgin classic had 15 entries and 13 actual starters. Cliff Durant, in his 1915 Stutz, and trying very hard to equal and emulate his earlier March 15, 1919 win at Santa Monica, flipped over three times on the very first lap! Durant had been hit by a stone thrown up by a tire, when trying to overtake another car and the rock had temporary stunned him. The Stutz knocked down three telegraph poles in its plunge and landed upside down, but neither Durant nor his mechanican, Fred Comer (1893-1928), were seriously injured...

My sincerest applause goes to Mr. John Glenn Printz as the protagonist of this fascinating thread, one of the most worthwhile left at TNF. I follow with great interest and admiration from the back rows of the arena. Best holiday wishes from the Mid-Pacific where Santa Claus visits on a large surf board pulled over the vast ocean by a group of dolphins.

In reference to post 141 about the 1919 Elgin race, I can provide additional information about the "Elgin Classic" (Cobe Trophy) on Saturday, August 23, 1919. The information below was gathered in 1999 from microfilm in the Gail Borden Public Library of Elgin. Helpful advise came thanks to E. C. (Mike) Alft, former Mayor of Elgin, one of the founders and a past President of the Elgin Area Historical Society, former teacher at the Elgin High School and Community College, author of several books, a walking encyclopedia indeed.

The 1919 race went over 36 laps, counter-clockwise around the old unchanged 8.384 mile dirt circuit, a total of 301.824 miles. The cars had to conform to the 300 ci formula and comprised the following 15 entries by number/driver/car/color/mechanician/entrant:

1 --- Cliff Durant (Chevrolet, gray), mechanician L.G. Comer, entrant R. Cliff Durant
2 --- Percy Ford (Haynes), mechanician Ralph Brownell, entrant Exide Battery Company
3 --- Paul Harvey (Peugeot, black), mechanician Harry McGrath, entrant Exide Battery Company
4 --- Ira Vail (Philbrin Spl., gray), mechanician E.W. Olson, entrant Exide Battery Company
5 --- Ed Schillo (Mercer, yellow), mecanician C.E. DeBolt
6 --- Joe Thomas (Mercer, yellow), mechanician John Harloe
7 --- Arthur Morris (Hudson), mechanician E.G. Whalen
8 --- Roscoe Sarles (Roamer Spl., black), mech. Louis Nelson or Wilson, entrant Roscoe Sarles
9 --- Tommy Milton (Duesenberg, brown), mech. Jimmy Murphy), entrant Duesenberg Brothers
10 – Ralph Mulford (Duesenberg, brown), mech. L.J. Eastman, entrant Duesenberg Brothers
12 – Kurt Hitke (Roamer Spl., white), mech. Harold Dachsteiner, entrant C.Y. Kenworthy
26 – Tom Alley (Bender Spl., red), mechanician Raymond Curley, entrant Tom Alley
28 – Waldo Stein (Oldfield Spl., gold) mech. Joe Chessman, entrant Barney Oldfield
29 – Art Klein (Peugeot, black), mechanician James McAllister
35 – Al Cotey (Ogren, black), mechanician W.G. Richardson, entrant W.B. Baker
The entry list was closed on Saturday, August 16 at midnight, with Wilbur D’Alene still a probable entry, mailed in at the eleventh hour and would be allowed to start. Possibly another entry was expected through the mail: Joe Lewis (Mercer), entrant Ed W. Schillo.

Previous course record was established by Ralph DePalma in 6m15s.
Time trials for practice were on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM; the race on Saturday.
Fastest practice lap was established by Ira Vail in 6m15s.
Tommy Milton 6m16s
Kurt Hitke 6m17s
Ralph Mulford 6m21s
Tom Alley 6m22s
Waldo Stein 6m23s
Joe Thomas 6m27s
Cliff Durant 6m36s
Art Klein 6m46s
Paul Harvey 7m28s
Ed Schillo 7m37s
Roscoe Sarles 8m31s
Earl Nofits and Roy Landwehr, both of nearbyBarrington, made a lap in 9m20s in their Ford but race officials were undecided to place this car in the race.

Cliff Durant, California millionaire, expressed dissatisfaction with the conditions of the track, saying "It is a harder course to travel than the Santa Monica track and will require greater skill." Other drivers, however, expressed their satisfaction with the Elgin track.

Purse: $8,000
First prize: $4.000
Second: $2,000
Third: $1,000
Fourth: $600
Fifth: $400

Tacks scattered over the course found in time.
"In the belief that some fanatic responsible for a series of circumstances, which harried drivers and officials at the races late Friday and early Saturday, special police were placed out on the course in civilian clothes to block any attempts to interfere with the races while in progress.
The climax came at 9:00 o’clock Saturday morning when scores of tacks were found scattered over the course near the Country Club. Spectators, who made the discovery, reported the incident to officials immediately and the track was cleared within a few minutes.
If the tacks had not been discovered before the race started, it is probable that the tires of every racing car would have been cut to pieces.
The scattering of the tacks is believed to be the work of the man who Friday night slashed the tire of Ralph Mulford’s Duesenberg car [the favorite of the race].
Two days after the race, on Monday, the racing association announced that it would give $500 for information that will lead to the arrest of parties responsible for scattering tacks on the course last Friday night.
"We have heard more complaints about punctured tires than anything else” declared John A. Logan Sr. "More than half the tire changes made by the pilots at the pits were due to punctures from tacks."
It was explained that methods of combating the tack nuicance, an almost annual occurance, will be taken next year. Plans are being made to drag the entire course with a 3,000 pound magnet.

Attendance: 20,000 to 25,000, also quoted were 50,000.
Race start was Saturday at 12:00 Noon over 36 laps.
Starter: Fred J. Wagner; “Mayor Frank B. Wood was giving the boys the red flag.”
Friday afternoon meeting was held for drivers and mechanicians. "Pilots would draw for places [at the start]."

Starting order of the 13 racecars, in groups of four, in 20 seconds intervals, as follows:
Group 1 --- Mulford – Klein – Schillo – [Ford did not start]
Group 2 --- Alley – Sarles – Vail – Stein –
Group 3 --- Thomas – Durant – Milton – Cotey –
Group 4 --- Hitke – Harvey – [Art Morris did not start]
Because Art Morris (Hudson Spl.) entered by E.J. Whalen and Percy Ford (Haynes) did not get their cars ready in time for the race, they were unable to start.

Mulford went into the lead, going at a merciless speed.

"Cliff Durant, millionaire race driver, and F.G. Comer, his mechanician, had a narrow escape from death when his car rammed through a fence and turned over three times. He was rushed to Sherman Hospital, where his hurts were quickly dressed and his injuries were not believed to be dangerous.
"Cliff Durant turned over three times on the back stretch, smashed four telephone poles, and was bruised and cut about the face on his first lap around the course. The accident occurred on the road adjoining the George Patchen farm on the north leg.
"Durant attempted to pass another car at station No. four, the “camel back” hill, when the first car threw a stone from its tire, striking Durant in the face. Durant lost control of his machine and jumped the track.
"When the car finally stopped, the Chevrolet pilot and his mechanician, Fred Comer, were surrounded by an entanglement of barbed wire. Neither of the men were seriously injured and appeared in the grand stand shortly after the accident.
"Durant’s car turned over about half a mile west of the spot where Spencer Wishart was killed in 1914. His car tore through the fence and broke the telephone poles for a distance of sixty feet. His escape from serious injury is considered remarkable." [Source = The Elgin Daily Courier, August 23, 1919]
[A paradox statement followed two days later.] "Details of the accident in which Cliff Durant, Chevrolet driver, was injured, were learned yesterday. Traveling at a 100 mile an hour rate, Durant failed to slow down as he pounded his mount over the "Airplane Hill", one of the steepest on the course. When the machine crossed the brow of the hill, the entire four wheels were in the air. Durant lost control of the car and it left the road, smashing into the fence. It did not hit the telephone poles. "Airplane Hill" is almost in front of the buildings of the Huber farm, east of hairpin turn.
"Durant was not badly hurt and left the hospital Saturday night, returning to Chicago." [The Elgin Daily Courier, August 25, 1919]

"Of the 13 starters, three had dropped out before the race was half over. Durant was compelled to quit when his car turned over [see above], Cotey broke a connecting rod and Joe Thomas was compelled to quit when a bearing burned out.
Mulford had finished his 20th lap when Ira Vail pulled up to the pit of his 16th. Vail was in bad physical condition and was replaced by Ernie Langshan. Barney Oldfield came down out of a box and revived Vail by giving him a drink.

"Timers apparently had a serious run-in regarding the position of the three leaders. Announcements, lap by lap, up to the 22nd, gave Mulford as the leader. Then, when Mulford drew up at the pit for engine repairs, timers said he really had not been leading for a number of laps, owing to his start of several minutes ahead of Klein and Milton, his two close competitors.
The time given out by the officials at the end of the twenty-second lap was: Milton 2:27:15, Mulford 2:24:53 and Klein 2:25:17. Sarles, Hitke and Langshan [in Ira Vail’s car] were runners up in order.

"Through the 25th 26th and 27th laps Klein and Milton were neck and neck, with Milton leading by a scant margin of three seconds. When Milton stopped at a pit, he lost a half lap and continued to drop further behind.
With Klein burning out a bearing, while leading the field in the thirtieth lap, Tom Milton in a Duesenberg forged to the front again and barring accident was conceded the race.

"It was not until late Saturday night that judges and timers definitely decided the winners of the first five places. Vail, whose car was turned over to Mulford [sic] was given fourth place, with Harvey fifth. The winners, their time and cash prizes follow:
Milton ....4:05:28 ..$4000 and Cobe Trophy
Sarles ....4:30:08 ..$2000
Hitke .....4:41:58 ..$1000
Vail .......4:43:20 ..$ 600
Harvey ..4:45:54 ..$ 400
Schillo ...4:45:58 .........
Stein ....(Flagged on 35th lap)" [Source = The Elgin Daily Courier, Aug 25, 1919]

"...Milton also received $900 from the Goodyear Rubber Company."
[Source = The Elgin Daily Courier, Aug 25, 1919]

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#160 fines

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Posted 09 December 2008 - 10:46

:clap: Thanks, Hans! Wonderful account! :)

#161 john glenn printz

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Posted 10 December 2008 - 13:08

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-68) With the new 183 cubic inch formula coming up in 1920, Cliff Durant was going to need some new cars, as his two 1915 Stutz's would no longer be legal. At some point in 1919 Durant contacted Harry Miller, who was then commissioned to built a fleet of four 183's machines for use principally in the 1920 contests, i.e. the Indianapolis 500, the French Grand Prix, and the revived AAA National Championship events. Later Cliff scaled down the order to just a single vehicle, probably because of the cancellation of the French Grand Prix in late 1919 and the escalating cost each, of four complete cars. Durant's new 183 Miller was soon dubbed the "baby" Chevrolet to distinguish it from Cliff's two larger 1915 Stutz's. The resulting Durant-Miller car had a four cylinder engine and double overhead cams run by a chain drive. The engine's dimensions were: bore 3.375 inches, stroke 5 inches, 4 valves per cylinder, and a piston displacement of 180 cubic inches. This "baby" was the third complete racing car that Miller put together; the first two being the 289 cubic inch 1917 machines for Barney Oldfield and A. A. Cadwell. On January 10, 1920 Cliff entered his new "baby Chevrolet" in the Indianapolis 500 and thereby became the very first entrant for the 1920 "500".

Cliff's new 183 Miller was to have been run in the February 22 inaugural 250 at Beverly Hills by Eddie Pullen, as a preliminary test outing, but the car was not yet ready. Pullen was released from his contract to pilot the "baby" on February 16 and then Eddie elected to drive Richard's 24 valve Hudson. However the Los Angeles 250 entry list was reopened due to the rain delay on February 22 and now Durant's 183 was going to be driven by Fred Comer, but once again the car did not appear. The publicity over Durant's new "baby" 183 in the contemporary daily newspapers and elsewhere, stated that the car was being constructed in Oakland, CA, where a General Motors' Chevrolet assembly plant was located; but the real truth seems to be that Harry Miller's shop in Los Angeles, CA was where it was designed, made, and put together.

In January 1920 it was reported that Louis Wagner was the chief driver, alongside pilots Pietro Bordino and Ferdinando "Nando" Minoia (1884-1940), for a three car Fiat team being readied at Turin Italy for Indianapolis; while in March 1920 it was asserted that Dario Resta would be the head of a three vehicle Sunbeam Indianapolis venture, hailing from England. As it turned out however neither the Fiats or Sunbeams were ever actually entered for the 1920 "500". Fiat cars had won the American Grand Prize contests of 1908 (Louis Wagner), 1911 (David Bruce-Brown), and 1912 (Caleb Bragg); while at Indianapolis Bruce-Brown was 3rd in 1911 and Teddy Tetzlaff 2nd in 1912 with them. Fiat was said to have had a team for Indianapolis ready for 1917, 1919, and 1920 but no Fiat ever made it to the Speedway or touched the bricks in those three specific years. A strike and labor troubles at the Turin, Fiat factory prevented the completion of the three Indianapolis 1920 Fiats. The very next Fiat to compete in the U.S. big-time, was Pietro Bordino's in the Beverly Hills 250 of March 5, 1922.

In the end only six firms came forward and built new 183's for the 1920 Indianapolis event: three from France, i.e. Ballot, Gregoire, and Peugeot; and three from the U. S., i.e. Duesenberg, Frontenac, and Miller. In the end, there were just 32 entries total.

The French were aware that they had both invented automobile racing in 1894-1896 and for the most part, had dominated in the sport since its very inception. The great French make during racing's first decade (1894-1904) was Panhard; followed in 1904-1908 by Richard Brasier, Clement Bayard, Darracq, and Renault. When Grand Prix racing proper revived in 1912-1914 the great French marques became Delage and Peugeot. There of course had been some rather embassassing and rude setbacks to the French dominance, i.e. 1. 1903 Gordon Bennett (Camille Jenatzy-Mercedes); 2. 1907 French Grand Prix (Felice Nazzaro-Fiat) ; 3. 1908 French Grand Prix (Christian Lautenschlager-Mercedes); 4. 1914 French Grand Prix (Christian Lautenschlager-Mercedes); and perhaps 5. 1915 Indianapolis (Ralph DePalma-Mercedes). But generally the French constructors were on top during the entire era 1894 to 1920. Their major foreign rivals were Mercedes of Germany and Fiat of Italy, but the British and American marques were generally of little or of no account.

In the U.S., French cars had won many of the really important races beginning with 1904 Vanderbilt Cup with George Heath using a 90 horsepower Panhard. Their Indianapolis Memorial Day victories included the 1913, 1914, 1916, and 1919 contests, or four out of the last five Indiana/Hoosier classics. At Indianapolis in 1920 each of the three French teams of Ballot, Gregoire, and Peugeot were trying to sustain both the past victorious French motor racing tradition, but also to gather the winning honors for themselves.

#162 john glenn printz

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Posted 10 December 2008 - 21:21

Dear Mr. Hans Etzrodt and to everyone else (Capps, Ferner, Thurman, etc.);

Season's greeting from Detroit, MI where the temperature is 20 degrees above zero and all the streets and sidewalks are slippery. I thank you for your nice comments, Hans.

I've been trying to get this 1894 to 1920 essay finished, but I still have a long way to go. I was originally a race fan but seem to have turned into a pedant and an antiquarian, but automobile racing did not begin or start in 1906, 1909, 1916, 1946, or 1950 etc., but in 1894/1895. The only proper place to begin a history of the sport is therefore 1894.

The first 25 years of U.S. racing or so (i.e. 1894-1920) has not yet been properly set down or even understood. It's obvious that one could spend a lifetime just researching the period 1894 to 1920. I myself still have a full time job at age 67, so everything I've put together is from spare time, as is the case with everything that I have ever written. So far I've put about four years effort into the 1894 to 1920 writeup and I think it does contains some new ideas and perspectives from Mr. McMaken and myself about the American racing scene, 1894 to 1920.

I have a B.A. in history with a minor in philosophy, but I don't think I learned a whole lot from college or from taking university courses. But let everyone be duly warned, the university professors said I had absolutely "no aptitude for history"; but I myself never believed what they said! I myself don't think I learned much from taking classes, my sources of historical understanding if I have any, came from elsewhere.

And Hans your data on the 1919 Elgin race is really great stuff! Thanks everyone!

Sincerely

#163 Jim Dillon

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Posted 12 December 2008 - 01:16

John Printz, like all of the others I am in awe of the great effort in this and other threads, and I am trying to be somewhat cautious as to not interrupt the flow. That being said I am trying to catch up on much of the great stuff written here. You stated earlier in this thread that Packard in February of 1916 built 2 new duplicate motors for DePalma's 14 GP Merc and later stated that Packard built some 4 cylinder engines patterned after the 14 GP Merc then started on the V-12. Were these from the same source or separate sources(Other than the LA Times of February 6 1916 Section VI p 9)? and could you point me in the right direction so I could follow up on this for my own timeline?

Michael Ferner, I see earlier that you made reference (#77) to Gary Doyle's book on DePalma and the photo at p213 in regards to DePalma Manufacturing Co. You will note that I supplied him with the photo and did not see the mistake until after the book was in print. Gary and I spoke, met and traded info and pictures and somehow this photo became mislabeled. It is surely not a product of the DePalma Manufacturing Co but was I am quite sure is Ralph's 183 Duesenberg that he was to take delivery of in March or April of 1922 on his trip to the West Coast. At this point in time he was in the process of moving into the seat of a Duesenberg which he did shortly after this picture was taken. Just thought it wise to correct it for the record-Jim

#164 john glenn printz

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Posted 12 December 2008 - 18:33

Dear Jim;

PAST HISTORY. In the late 1950's when I was in high school, I plumped down over $100, a king's ransom then, and sent for a copy of Lawrence Pomeroy's THE GRAND PRIX CAR, 2 volumes, 1954. It was here, as with Griffith Borgeson also, that I learned all about the impact of the European Grand Prix vehicles (i.e. Delage, Mercedes, Peugeot, etc.) on American racing, 1913 to 1919. Pomeroy's treatise is still probably the greatest book ever written about automobile racing.

It was here that I noticed the obvious and startling resemblance of the 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes' motor with the 1917 American Liberty V12 aircraft engine. I already knew about DePalma having a 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes machine and Packard's (i.e., Jesse G. Vincent's) connection with the Liberty V12. I also was aware of DePalma replacing his 1914 Mercedes with a V12 Packard powered racing car during late 1916 and early 1917. I therefore quickly surmised a direct Mercedes/DePalma/Packard/Liberty V12 linkup.

I was on the trail of all the ties here in the mid-1970's. I talked to Charles Lytle of Sharon, PA c. 1978, about the topic. Charles reached into his desk and immediately produced a letter, just two weeks old, from a man who was writing a Mercedes book, and who was asking Lytle exactly the same questions. Lytle thought there might be a genuine linkup here, but wasn't sure, as he had no detailed or direct information about the situation.

I also tried to pump Peter DePaolo on the DePalma-Packard connections 1914 to 1919, but Peter knew considerably less about the situation than I did. DePaolo, after all, did not know much about his uncle Ralph's direct activities in any detail until January 1920 and thereafter, which did not cover the exact years in question here, i.e. 1914 to 1919. But DePaolo did tell me (quote), "In those days everybody was copying everybody."

So the Palma-Packard connection is a topic that I have investigated for over 30 years. In the mid-1970's I purchased a defective copy (10 pages missing) for a dollar or two of Borgeson's GOLDEN AGE OF THE AMERICAN RACING CAR (1966) and started annotating it. In writing about the period 1915 to 1920 I often use the notes I have put in it over the years. However I have little recall of where the data originally came from in many instances.

I do site the LOS ANGELES TIMES, February 6, 1916, part 6, page 9, for the two new replacement Mercedes' motors, but I believe there was here also a second source that I came across.There is a lot of DePalma-Packard stuff in the DETROIT NEWS and DETROIT FREE PRESS during 1915 to 1919. In addition articles on the origin of the 1917 Liberty V12 aircraft engine, both contemporary and later, often shed light on the Mercedes/DePalma/Packard/Liberty V12 connections. That there exists such links and a direct Mercedes/DePalma/Packard/Liberty V12 connection, has long been beyond all dispute.

Sincerely

#165 Jim Dillon

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Posted 13 December 2008 - 00:15

John, I do not for a minute dispute the Mercedes/Packard/DePalma liberty connection, it was merely the two new engines that I wanted to follow up on. Being from Detroit you probably knew of my grandfather, Barney Pollard and it was the many conversations I had with him on these racecars that got me involved in researching early racing and trying to find any of the remains of any of the racecars built in the experimental department at Packard in the teens. I ended up buying the Packard 299 engine 9 months after he died or I would have had a bunch more questions for him. Several of the conversations I had with him (and as is the case with all of the older folks relating "what really happened" without copious notes) had an error or two, but for the most part much of what he related I believed to have been true. I have run across at least four times that the 14 GP Merc was in the Experimental Department and one of the times was in November of 1915 when it was rebuilt after a trying 1915 season. My grandfather's field of expertise was engine vibration where he had worked on it at Chalmers and then at Packard in the experimental department. He worked on the vibration with the Twin Six in 1915 and as you may know Packard bought the rights to the vibration damper to help deal with the problems they were having in Twin Six. He worked on two Packard Twin Six racers that allegedly had all sorts of issues including damaging vibration when nearing 3000rpms. It was these two racecars that piqued my whole interest in this era to begin with and I looked for at least for twenty years for any trace of these cars. I found some obscure print references but nothing 100% solid until about ten years ago when one was located in the jungle of Uruguay. Since then I have had a great deal of fun with this particular racer.

From the Twin Six, my grandfather went on to work on the development of the Liberty Motor. Although he had very little interest in race cars and racing, his best friend in the department, Carl Smith was extremely interested in the racecars and he continued his whole life, including later attempting to qualify at Indy in the thirties. Carl also traveled with the racers any chance he got to act be it a pitman or mechanic. I have in the last couple of years met Carl's great grandson, who I met out of the blue and we have become friends. When the Mercedes was brought into the department in November my grandfather said it was he and Carl that set up DePalma's Mercedes engine on what they called a jack stand to run the engine at different speeds at varying angles. My grandfather remained friends with DePalma up till his death and my grandfathered lobbied to make sure DePalma get the credit he deserved for his contribution of the development of the Liberty.

What my grandfather told me was that Mercedes gave DePalma a spare engine or a major portion of the engine when he first brought the car into the department in 1914. Some of my research has indicated that DePalma at times held the Merc together with bandaids and bubblegum. I believed that Packard cast a number of replacement parts including if I remember correctly Depalma showed up in Omaha with a green casting before a race (whether this was from Packard or DePalma Manufacturing I cannot state with certainty). In addition, I believe DePalma Manufacturing Co built three engines in 1916 that closely resembled the original engine (slightly different bore and stroke), which if that is true he may have used some of those parts as well. I would assume one of these engines went in the Detroit Special. I would like to see some closeups of the Merc with the hood up in late 1919 and early 1920, as well as seeing the Detroit Special with the hood up as well.

When I read the LA Times article on the 2 Merc engines in February of 1916, I figure this was a misstatement as Packard had their hands full at that time with tweaking the two new 299 engines, put in their chassis in March. I also know that Ralph continued to experience problems with the Merc and if he had two new engines I am not sure he would have had all of the problems he did. It may be that there were two new engines and figured if you had another "reliable" source it may force me to reconsider my timelines and theories and travail on another quest to figure out how to work with that "truth".

I have collected a decent library but am still looking for a copy of Pomeroy. Some day hopefully I will find a copy that will fit on the shelf.

Packard not only borrowed some ideas from Mercedes on their aero engine but if you study the rear spring setup on the Merc and 299 they are so identical even the rivets are in the same location (I have the blueprint of the 14 GP Merc hanging on my shop wall). By the way Packard also not only leaned on the 14 Merc but you are aware I am sure that they had "Toodles V" the Sunbeam 12 that they studied, played with and ran in a match race or two at Sheephead until 1916 when they sold the car to the Adams brothers. Thanks for the response-Jim

#166 fines

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Posted 13 December 2008 - 16:41

Originally posted by Jim Dillon
Michael Ferner, I see earlier that you made reference (#77) to Gary Doyle's book on DePalma and the photo at p213 in regards to DePalma Manufacturing Co. You will note that I supplied him with the photo and did not see the mistake until after the book was in print. Gary and I spoke, met and traded info and pictures and somehow this photo became mislabeled. It is surely not a product of the DePalma Manufacturing Co but was I am quite sure is Ralph's 183 Duesenberg that he was to take delivery of in March or April of 1922 on his trip to the West Coast. At this point in time he was in the process of moving into the seat of a Duesenberg which he did shortly after this picture was taken. Just thought it wise to correct it for the record-Jim

Thanks for pointing out the mistake, but I don't believe it's a Duesenberg either. They still had shaft and bevel drive to the camshafts, as far as I know. There's a picture in "Miller Dynasty" (p157 in my 2nd ed) showing the DO Duesey, and the block looks different, too. But then again, with the Duesenbergs anything's possible, perhaps they built two different engines for de Palma!? Once again, I can only express my hope that Joe Freeman will one day step forward and present his ultimate Duesenberg racing history... :(

Interesting sidelight here: Carl Smith, 1931 Indy entrant with a Mercer Special - one of these luvverly obscurities, can you perhaps shed some light on that one? :cat: Would love to know more about it...

As for "the Pomeroy", I got mine a few years ago, as an e-book, might be worth searching the interent for it. Of course, it's not as nice as a real book, and I don't consult it as often as I should probably because of that, but it was relatively cheap (though I don't recall the price), and one thing it has going for it is that it's fully searchable in the blink of an eye!

#167 m.tanney

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Posted 13 December 2008 - 17:02

With regard to the Mercedes-DePalma-Packard connection, here is a passage from Packards at Speed by Robert J. Neal (p.24) :

  Vincent and DePalma soon cemented a friendship and working relationship that would last for a number of years to come. In 1915 DePalma entered the Mercedes racer with which he had won the French Grand Prix in 1914 in the Indianapolis 500. Prior to race time Vincent, by now vice president of engineering, had agreed to make available Packard's facilities and his own and any other Packard engineering expertise to prepare the car. The preparation was later described in The Packard magazine and the car was said to have been "practically rebuilt in preparation for the big race." The body was rebuilt and streamlined and the engine was rebuilt and fitted with a Vincent designed Packard carburetor. On May 22 the car was tested on the Indianapolis Speedway and lapped the track at 1:31.7 or 98.2 mph. DePalma said this was a five-second-per-lap improvement in the car's time.
  DePalma went on to win the 1915 500 and Packard and Vincent were credited throughout the motoring press as having been a significant factor in the cars ability to carry DePalma to victory. His "five second per lap" comment was calculated as a 16 minute 40 second gain in time over the 200-lap race and was thus the winning factor because Dario Resta, the second-place finisher, had come in only four minutes 30 seconds behind (Dario Resta would drive for Packard in the 1923 Indianapolis 500, as would DePalma). Whenever any specifics were mentioned, Vincent's carburetor was cited as the reason for the additional speed, although the body streamlining must have also been a factor.
  In addition to the weeks of help Vincent contributed at the Packard factory, he also served as DePalma's pit crew chief during the "Indianapolis Classic," as it was already being called in its fifth year.


Mike

#168 Jim Dillon

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Posted 13 December 2008 - 18:41

Michael, you are correct, mea culpa, it is not the Duesenberg. Too many assumptions of my part without enough investigating I suppose. I had known that the picture was 1922 as it had been published in Motor West in the early part of 1922 and DePalma was switching from his Ballot to the Dues around that time I believed. I have a letter somewhere from Fred Duesenberg wherein he relates that DePalma was trading a 4 speed transmission out of his Packard record car for a 183, and Fred had some good things to say about the trans. I had also read in Borgeson's Twin cam book that Duesenberg had been developing a new design with spur gears. I apparently put 2 and 2 together and came up with 5. After looking though at page 75 of his Twin Cam book the front case looks remarkably similar to the photo of the 4.8 Ballot and I may have to change my mind and throw a dart in the direction of it being Ralph's Ballot. I guess this sleuthing is dangerous without a net.

As to Carl Smith at Indy in 1931 I will ask his great grandson (Isaac). I told him to see if he could dig up some photos. He told me that a Smith had not attempted to qualify since his great grandfather, which with all of the Smiths in this country that seems strange. I will give Isaac a call and see what he can find out. The Mercer name in 1931 is a bit strange to say the least as well.

A somewhat sad story about photos is, in my first conversation with Mrs. Herbert Book I asked her if she had any old photos of the racecars from DePalma Manufacturing. I had read in the Detroit Library reading room that her husband (Ralph DePalma's partner) was an avid photographer and figured he had to have taken tons of pictures of the early racecars. She told me that they threw that stuff out years ago as no one seemed to have any interest in it. Little did they know-but then again for the life of me I cannot understand how people could have thrown out OHC racing engines even if they were broken. Pure artwork in my opinion-Jim

#169 john glenn printz

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 18:28

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-69) The three 1920 Ballots were scaled down versions of their 1919 vehicles, but the barrel gasoline tank rear ends of the 1919 machines were now replaced by fully streamlined tails. The 1920 Ballots were the fastest and the most technically advanced of all the existing 3 litre racing cars. With Ralph DePalma, Rene Thomas, and Jean Chassagne as the drivers, the Ballot was a potent force. DePalma seems to had had a special deal or relationship with Mr. Ernest Ballot, and ran independently of the factory Ballot team proper.

The Gregoires were named after J. P. Gregoire who began the manufacture of automobiles in 1904 at Poissy (Seine et Oise), France. The only previous Gregoire foray into major league motor racing was an entry in the 1906 French Grand Prix. Their car failed to complete even the first lap and placed 31st among the 32 starters. For the 1920 Indianapolis classic they constructed two vehicles for the Italian Jean Porporato and Englishman Jack Scales. The motor was originally designed and put together by the Darracq firm but was abandoned by them when the 1920 French Grand Prix was cancelled. The engine had four cylinders and produced over 100 horsepower. Gossip said it had 8 valves per cylinder. Porporato had run in two big 500 milers in America during 1915, i.e. Indianapolis (May 31) and Chicago (June 26) for Sunbeam, but hadn't competed in the U.S. since. Scales had no U.S. starts.

Peugeot, which was perhaps the most successful racing car in the U.S. during the 1913 to 1919 period, was trying to continue its supremacy or reign, with a three car effort utilising Andre Boillot, Jules Goux, and Howard Wilcox. The new 3 litre Peugeot 1920 racing cars had 2 spark plugs and 5 valves per cylinder, and 3 overhead camshafts; and produced 105 horsepower at 4000 rpm. Goux and Wilcox thought that sticking to the Peugeot marque and their new design for 1920, after both their successes in the Indianapolis 1919 race with the old 1914 EX5's, was probably equally a good bet and a good idea. The new 1920 Peugeot racers were designed by Marcel Gremillon.

The two totally new 183 factory Duesenbergs were downsized versions of their 1919 straight 8 racers, and were put into the hands of Tommy Milton and Jimmy Murphy. The two other official factory Duesenberg entries were older 1919 chassis now equipped with 183 cubic inch straight 8 engines. They were assigned to Eddie Hearne and Eddie O'Donnell. Although most of the 1920 Indianapolis machinery was all new, a few competitors merely installed a new 183 motor in their older 301 cubic inch chassis.

Frontenac racing cars, which were named after Comte de Louis de Buade Frontenac (1620-1698) who had been governor of New France during the periods 1672-1682 and 1689-1698, first appeared at Indianapolis in May 1916. They embraced the experience and ideas of Louis Chevrolet who had been racing since his debut as a driver using a Fiat, at Morris Park, NY on May 20, 1905. Later two of Louis' younger brothers, Arthur and Gaston, got into the automobile racing game also. The Chevrolet racers (1916-1922) could not be run as "Chevrolets" as such, because Louis had earlier sold his own personal name to General Motors as a passenger car trade make. From 1916 to early 1920 the Frontenac marque was among the most successful U.S. racing cars running under the AAA 301 cubic inch limit classification. The 299 cubic inch single overhead 1916-1920 Frontenac racers were then famous for their advanced use of aluminum.

Frontenac vehicles recorded important wins at the Uniontown 112.5 of September 2, 1916 (L. Chevrolet) ; the Cincinnati 250 of May 30, 1917 (L. Chevrolet); the Chicago 100 of September 3, 1917 (L. Chevrolet); the Sheepshead Bay 100 of September 22, 1917 (L. Chevrolet); the Chicago 100 of June 22, 1918 (L. Chevrolet); the Uniontown 112.5 of July 18, 1918 (L. Chevrolet); the Uniontown 112.5 of September 2, 1918 (Mulford); the Sheepshead Bay 100 of July 4, 1919 (G. Chevrolet); the Uniontown 225 of September 1, 1919 (G. Chevrolet/Boyer); the Sheepshead Bay 150 of September 20, 1919 (G. Chevrolet); and the Cincinnati 250 of October 12, 1919 (Boyer); among others. In the two early AAA 1920 race meets, both staged at Beverly Hills and held under the 301 cubic inch limit, Frontenacs placed 2nd (Joe Thomas) in the inaugural 250 (February 28); and 4th (Sarles) in the 50 mile final heat run on March 28.

In 1919 William L. Small of the William Small Company, then the maker of the Monroe passenger cars in Indianapolis, commissioned Louis Chevrolet to build him four 183 cubic inch class racing cars which would run under the Monroe name. The motors in these new 1920 Monroes followed the Peugeot practice of four valves per cylinder with twin overhead camshafts and were designed and drawn up by Cornelius Willets Van Ranst (1892-1972). W. L. Small had earlier been a distributer of the Chevrolet passenger cars. At the same time Louis Chevrolet made another three identical cars to the four Monroes, to compete under the Frontenac name. All seven machines were entered in the 1920 Indianapolis chase and all seven qualified. In a routine practice session on May 23, Arthur Chevrolet was badly injured when his Frontenac crashed into the back of Rene Thomas' Ballot. The Ballot had just blown a rear tire and Arthur couldn't avoid hitting it. This accident put a complete halt to Arthur's driving career, but the wrecked Frontenac was repaired, and was driven in the race by rookie Bennett Hill.

Harry Miller also built two or three completely new cars for the 1920 "500". First off was Durant's Chevrolet "baby". In the meantime Miller had received an order for one or possibly two more complete machines. These were the "T.N.T" entries for Frank Elliott and possibly, Tom Alley. Probably the "T.N.T."s , either one or two (?), were just the remaining and partially finished Durant team cars; left incomplete when Durant dropped his purchase order down from four examples to just a single machine. So I surmise. And from Barney Oldfield and driver Waldo Stein, came an order for a copy of the new Miller 180 cubic inch, 4 cylinder engine. Their idea was to run Barney's old 1917 Miller chassis (the ex-Golden Submarine) at Indianapolis in 1920, by replacing its older 289 engine with a new Miller 180. This was the so-called "Oldfield Special". All three or four of these 1920 Miller Indianapolis entries used exactly the same type 180 cubic inch double overhead cam engine.

It appears that Durant's "baby" and no "T.N.T." car either, ever arrived at the Speedway, although Durant is said to have shipped his new car "east". Oldfield's Miller actually made it to the track and arrived on May 23, but it did not qualify. Oldfield himself took his car out for a few hot laps on May 24, but withdrew it from the race on May 27. Durant also withdrew from the 500 supposely on account of several large deals involving General Motors interests on the Pacific Coast. The new Miller 4 engines were at fault and as it turned out, no Miller car was ready and/or made the 1920 Indianapolis race day lineup. The 1920 Miller 4 had no power or reliability, and developed a penchant for breaking and pitching its connecting rods. As always at Indy there were a few "odd ball" entries, most of which were now powered with Duesenberg straight 8 engines.

Edited by john glenn printz, 03 June 2011 - 15:39.


#170 john glenn printz

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 20:43

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.- 70) For the very first time the qualifications consisted of four laps (10 miles), and a minimum average speed of 80 mph was required. The first actual trials occurred on May 26, with ten cars moving into the starting grid. The four fastest speed trials posted at Indy in 1920 all were made on May 26, i.e. 1. DePalma (Ballot) 99.15 mph; 2. Boyer (Frontenac) 96.90 mph; 3. L. Chevrolet ("Monroe" Frontenac) 96.30 mph; and Chassagne (Ballot) 95.45 mph. The slowest qualifier on May 26 was Ray Howard, in an old 3-litre type Coupe de l'Auto model Peugeot, at 84.60 mph.

The trials resumed on May 28 with another four machines moving into the field, and May 29 added three more. On the last day of the qualifications (May 30) another four made the cut also. Here Porporato posted a slow 79.98 mph average in the Gregoire, which was not technically going to be fast enough. That made a total of 21 duly qualified starters in all; but the Speedway decided to allow Porporato to start, as well as Ralph Mulford, who didn't post any qualification speed at all. So the field the next day, i.e. race day, numbered 23 competitors which was still ten cars short of a full grid of 33. All three of the new three cam Peugeots made it, with Wilcox the fastest at 88.82 mph on May 30; while the only Gregoire in the race was that of Porporato. Scales in the second Gregoire had not been heard from.

The seven Frontenacs were driven by Gaston and Louis Chevrolet, Joe Thomas, and Roscoe Sarles in the Monroe sponsored cars; and the remaining three had Joe Boyer, Bennett Hill, and Art Klein. Among the seven Frontenac entries Joe Boyer posted the 2nd fastest qualification time of 96.90 mph and Louis Chevrolet, the 3rd fastestest at 96.30 mph. Only DePalma's sleek French Ballot was faster, with his chocking of 99.15 mph. Besides the four works Duesenberg vehicles, there were three other Duesenberg powered entries in the race day lineup, i.e. Willie Haupt (1885-1966), Pete Henderson (1895-1940), and Ralph Mulford (1884-1973). Milton posted the highest qualification speed, at 90.20 mph, of these seven Duesenberg engined cars.

After the qualifying it looked like the 1920 "500" itself, would largely be fought out between the three Ballots and the seven Frontenacs, with the four factory Duesenbergs given an outside shot. DePalma in his Ballot however was the overwheming pre-race favorite to take the top prize. The former winners in the field numbered Goux (1913), R. Thomas (1914), DePalma (1915), and Wilcox (1919). The rookies were John Boling (1884-1932) , Bennett Hill, Joe Thomas, and Jimmy Murphy. The new 183's were not quite as fast as the 1919, 301 cubic inch class models, as was proved in the 1920 Indianapolis qualifications; but still many predicted a new race record for the full 500 miles, which would entail bettering DePalma's 89.84 mph average, set back in 1915.

#171 fines

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 21:58

Originally posted by john glenn printz
Harry Miller also built two or three completely new cars for the 1920 "500". First off was Durant's Chevrolet "baby". In the meantime Miller had received an order for one or possibly two more complete machines. These were the "T.N.T" entries for Frank Elliott and possibly, Tom Alley. Probably the "T.N.T."s , either one or two (?), were just the remaining and partially finished Durant team cars; left incomplete when Durant dropped his purchase order down from four examples to just a single machine. So I surmise. And from Barney Oldfield and driver Waldo Stein, came an order for a copy of the new Miller 180 cubic inch, 4 cylinder engine. Their idea was to run Barney's old 1917 Miller chassis (the ex-Golden Submarine) at Indianapolis in 1920, by replacing its older 289 engine with a new Miller 180. This was the so-called "Oldfield Special". All three or four of these 1920 Miller Indianapolis entries used exactly the same type 180 cubic inch engine.

It appears that Durant's "baby" and no "T.N.T." car either, ever arrived at the Speedway. Oldfield's Miller may actually have made it to the track, but it did not qualify. The new Miller 4 engines were at fault and as it turned out, no Miller car was ready and/or made the 1920 Indianapolis race day lineup. The 1920 Miller 4 had no power or reliability, and developed a penchant for breaking and pitching its connecting rods. As always at Indy there were a few "odd ball" entries, most of which were now powered with Duesenberg straight 8 engines.

Some secondary sources insist on a second TNT entry, but I have never found any evidence of that. Similarly, the DOHC engine that, according to Mark Dees and some others, was built by Miller for the TNT is probably a myth. It may have been the originally envisaged power plant, but in the entry list the car had the same specifications as the other two Millers, i.e. 3 3/8" bore and 5" stroke. Which, btw, is different to the specs given by Dees for both the "Baby Chevrolet" and the TNT...

As for the TNT being a leftover from the Durant order, I wouldn't think so. The car was so different in many major aspects that it looks extremely unlikely to me. For starters, it had left-hand drive as opposed to the right-hand drive of the Baby, and its body was made up of cast aluminium panels! On the other hand, the cars also clearly showed their common ancestry, e.g. both had large drum brakes on all four wheels, highly unusual for Speedway cars at the time, and the frame and radiators appear to have been of identical design.

#172 john glenn printz

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Posted 21 December 2008 - 19:27

EARLY HARRY A. MILLER HISTORY (?), LATE 1914 TO 1920, AGAIN. I have tried to fathom and reconstruct the earliest doings of Harry Miller, i.e. late 1914 to 1920, with regard to both his racing engines and complete cars. Actually though my ideas here differs in detail from both Griffith Borgeson and Mark Dees, my historical construction is basically very simple and in conformity to all the contemporary sources that I'm aware of. As the most important U.S. racing car constructor ever, I think straightening out Harry Miller's earliest years and ventures is of tantamount importance to all interested parties.

I believe Miller only built three basic types and/or designs of racing motors between late 1914 and 1920: i.e.

(1.) In late 1914/early 1915 Miller made a duplicate copy or two of the 1913 Peugeot EX3 motor for Bob Burman and his sponsor, Louis C. Erbes. Bob had blown his EX3 motor, needed a replacement, and Miller got the job of building a replica. Being a close copy of the EX3 Peugeot engine, it had double overhead cams. Burman used a Miller built 1913 Peugeot replica motor at Indianapolis in 1915, placing 6th; and at Corona on April 8, 1916, where he was killed. This was the first complete motor Miller ever put together and represented an epoch for both Harry Miller and Fred Offenhauser.

(2.) The next and second Miller motor was the single cam 289 cubic inch model, that was to go into the two new racing cars being built at Miller's shop in 1915 and early 1916 for Bob Burman. Probably the order for these two cars originated from driver Huntley Gordon in late 1914 but Burman and Erbes later took over this entire project, in early or mid-1915. The death of Burman in April 1916 prevented their immediate completion, i.e. the two motors and the two cars; but in mid-1917 they became metamorphosed into the new Oldfield and Cadwell, Millers. Harry also sold examples of this 289 design to others who needed just an engine, i.e. it was used in the (1.) 1916 "Erbes Special", (2.) Alley's 1917 "Pan American", (3.) Oldfield's 1917 Miller/Delage, and (4.) the Ogren Special. The "Erbes Special" was the EX3 1913 Peugeot which Burman wrecked at Corona, now equipped with a new 289 single cam Miller motor. It previously had used a Miller replica of the 1913 EX3 Peugeot motor during 1915 and early 1916; and back in 1913 and 1914, it had retained its genuine and/or original EX3 Peugeot powerplant. So there were three different engines in the same exact EX3 1913 Peugeot chassis, covering the years 1913 to 1917; the last two of which were Miller made.

(3.) The third Miller unit or type was the new twin overhead cam 180 cubic inch motor designed for the new AAA 1920 cubic inch 183 limit, to begin at Indianapolis in May 1920. These units powered (1.) Cliff Durant's new Chevrolet "baby", (2.) Eddie Maier's "T.N.T.", and (3.) Barney Oldfield's old 1917 Miller chassis. And also the second and twin "T.N.T." car, if there ever was such. This 180 cubic inch Miller motor proved to be a complete failure and there was no attempt to run it after the 1920 AAA season. Its last try in actual competition was Waldo Stein's No. 5 Miller entry (Oldfield's car or a "T.N.T"?) in the Beverly Hills 250 of Nov. 25, 1920. This Miller No. 5 failed to qualify however. All three types of Miller motors listed above, 1914 to 1920, were four cylinder jobs.

As to the construction of complete cars, there were only four or five during the entire period 1915 and 1920. The first two were the 1917 Millers for Barney Oldfield and A. A. Cadwell. The next two were Cliff Durant's "baby" Chevrolet and the "T.N.T." for brewer Eddie Maier. I think also that Ira Vail's 1921 "Leach Special" and/or Miller, may have been a 1920 "T.N.T." chassis, now however installed with the 181.48 cubic inch, 1921 straight 8 Miller motor, for which Milton and Vail had put up the money in early 1921. So the basic situation here, 1914 to 1920, is not that overly complicated. Obviously too, Miller was improvising in all his racing car and engine building endeavors during 1914 to 1920. Secondary material (Borgeson and Dees), along with incomplete and faulty memories (Offenhauser and Goossen), has greatly confused and mixed up the whole situation, 1914 to 1920, if my reconstructions here are in anyway correct. Anyhow, these are my current thoughts on this puzzling subject.

Dees in his book THE MILLER DYNASTY (Scarsdale, N.Y., 1981) maintains that Durant's "Baby" Chevrolet contained a single overhead cam, driven by a gear train, type motor. I deem this totally incorrect as I believe the "baby"s engine had double overhead cams driven by a chain. Likewise the photograph of a Miller engine, contained on the lower right corner on page 57 of Dees' book, is not that of Durant's "baby" as Dees surmizes, but rather is a picture of the single cam 289, designed and made in 1915/early 1916 for the two Burman/Erbes machines undergoing construction at Miller's shop. And I also revert back to my earlier thesis that the picture contained in the May 1915 issue of MOTOR AGE on page 27, is that of a single cam 289 Miller, that was to go into one of the two new Miller racers then under construction for Burman and Erbes.

Confused? Who wouldn't be...

Compare with the posts, numbers 30, 32, and 42, above.

"When Sigmund Freud (1850-1939) got done analyzing a joke, it was no longer a laughing matter." MODERN ADAGE

#173 Frank Verplanken

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Posted 27 December 2008 - 07:54

Originally posted by john glenn printz
Two other 1914 EX5 model Peugeots were in the hands of Art Klein (1889-1955) and Ray Howard [...] Howard had somehow obtained the EX5 Peugeot, in which Resta had won the 1916 AAA National Championship crown. Ray was an obscure dirt track driver from the eastern U.S.


Sorry if this has been discussed before, but I found the following article in The New York Times, July 4, 1919, stating that Howard and his mechanic were killed in practice for the Independence Day Sweepstakes at Sheepshead Bay :

"AUTO RACER KILLED AT SHEEPSHEAD BAY - High-power Car Turned Over While Speeding at 115 Miles an Hour.

DRIVER MORTALLY INJURED – Surgeons Say Raymond Howard Cannot Survive – Steering Gear Broke in Test for Race Today.

Emilie Gamdelli, an expert automobile mechanic, of 14 West Sixty-fourth Street, was killed, and Raymond Howard, a racing driver, was mortally injured when the car they were to pilote today in the one-hundred-mile Derby at Sheepshead Bay turned turtle last night on the racing course.

For several days the racer and his mechanic had been trying out their entry, and last night they decided to give the machine a speed test as part of the final tuning up. At 8 o’clock they climbed into the powerful racer and started around the two-mile course. Before leaving the stand, which contained a few spectators, they announced that they would try to get 115 miles an hour out of the car.

Thrice around the course the low-hung automobile flashed, gaining speed with every turn of the wheels. Flying along at a speed estimated at 110 miles an hour, the two dim figures were observed leaning over in preparation for taking the bank on the east curve. Suddenly the racer made a sharp zig-zag move, flopped completely over under the force of its impetus, and slid down the incline.

Headed by Eddie O’Donnell, who was to compete against Howard today, drivers and mechanics ran down the course to the curve. They found the car, its wheels still spinning and engine running, lying at the foot of the bank with both men pinned beneath it. O’Donnell said he believed the accident was caused by the breaking of the steering arm.

O’Donnell’s racing car was rushed to the Coney Island Hospital, where surgeons declared that Gamdelli had been killed instantly. They found that Howard had suffered fractures of the legs and the right arm, a fractured skull, and was injured internally. Just before midnight surgeons operated upon Howard in a final effort to save his life.

Beyond the fact that he had been driving racing cars in most of the big races of the last few years, no one at the course last night knew anything about Howard. It was said that his home was in the West".

I did not find any article the following days talking about the outcome of the desperate operation, and neither Phil Harms or any other source I have access to mention Howard's or his mechanic's fatal fate. However, it seems Howard started at Indy the following year, so there might have been a miracle for him after all ? BTW, the mechanic's name sounds unlikely, Emile Gambelli or Gandelli would make more sense imho.

Anyone know more on this ?
:wave:

#174 Mark Dill

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 05:44

Thanks to everyone for contributing to this thread about my favorite era of auto racing. Special thanks to Mr. Printz. What an awesome amount of information you have. I have read all your stuff and, of course, I am tremendously impressed - I have learned a great deal.

I'd like to try something on you guys. One of the most interesting drivers of the era (to me, anyway) is David Bruce-Brown. Interesting because he died so young and was apparently so talented. He is all but forgotten and yet he is one of the far too many stories of a great talent snuffed out far too soon. He's always been a mystery to me, and, I think, to others as well. I compare him to James Dean. Charismatic, hugely talented, a lover of fast cars; he left his mark with a handful of brilliant performances and then was lost to the ages.

I spent a little time gathering information on this impressive man and I'd like to present it here for comment. I hope everyone finds it useful or at least interesting. Also, I would delighted if you know more about him than I do, if you will only share that knowledge.

About Bruce-Brown, the legendary starter Fred Wagner wrote (in his somewhat stilted autobiography, "Saga of the Roaring Road"), "He had all the confidence of a seasoned veteran as he came up to the starting line, and roared off down the beach…That day, a great racing driver was born – the greatest road driver, in my opinion, that ever sat behind the taped wheel."

It was March 1908 at Ormond Beach's speed trials and David Bruce-Brown was but 20 years old.

The mystery of David Bruce-Brown begins with the date of his birth, by some accounts reported as sometime in 1890. But David Loney Bruce-Brown was born August 13, 1887 to parents of two prominent families linked to several fortunes. This, at least, is according to a Web site presented by family members from his mother's side: the Loney family, at http://kihm3.wordpre...e-loney-family/

That same Web site provides interesting information about both his families and how Bruce-Brown, frequently referred to in contemporary accounts as a millionaire, was born into great wealth. Father George received a large inheritance from a grandfather who succeeded in New York real estate and a grandmother who was the daughter of tobacco magnate, J.P. Lorillard, the founder of the company behind famous brands like Kent and Newport. With the passing of George’s first wife, Virginia Greenway McKesson, he inherited additional wealth from her holdings in McKesson Pharmaceuticals. David’s mother, George's second wife, Ruth Arabella Loney, was the heir to her father’s real estate fortune.

David was the youngest of four children, only one of them a girl. One of the first generation to grow up with the automobile, David was inexorably drawn to the machines. Just a month after his 19th birthday, he received driving lessons in his mother’s car from family friend Louis Warren. The car was the first mass production automobile, the “Curved Dash” Oldsmobile. Ever confident, he inevitably exceeded the limits of his skills or the car or both. (The New York Times, “Bruce-Brown’s Career,” November 20, 1910.)

Commenting on the incident, David said, “I soon put it on the bum, thinking I was already a racing driver,” Bruce-Brown recalled in 1910 about wrecking his mother’s car." (The New York Times, “Bruce-Brown’s Career,” November 20, 1910.)

In May 1907 David appeared at the Empire City horse track in his own Oldsmobile runabout for a race meet at the mile dirt oval. Victorious in two sprint races, Bruce-Brown caught the attention of Fiat works driver Emanuel Cedrino of Italy, who established a 15-mile world’s speed record for a mile track that day. (Same Times article)

Encouraged by Cedrino, Bruce-Brown left his studies at Harstrom’s preparatory school to participate in one of the most important events on the auto racing calendar; the sixth annual Daytona Beach races ran March 3rd through 6th, 1908. This choice generated the ire of his mother, who had her attorneys fire off telegrams to officials at the scene threatening lawsuits should her son be allowed to race. It didn't work.

Officials looked the other way to allow Bruce-Brown to join Cedrino as his riding mechanic in a 300-mile race up and down the beach against three other competitors. Cedrino won, no doubt giving Bruce-Brown an overwhelming adrenaline rush. Pleading his case with starter Fred Wagner and event referee Robert Lee Morrell, he somehow got the waiver to drive Cedrino’s Fiat for the one-mile amateur speed record. David Bruce-Brown was an instant success. He smashed the four year old record of William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. at 39 seconds (92.308 mph) with a new mark at 35.6 seconds or 101.124 mph. (Racing on the Rim, Dick Punnett, Tomoka Press, 1997, page 100.)

The dangerous game of early auto racing soon ended Cedrino’s relationship with Bruce-Brown. The master driver who was once Italian Queen Helena’s personal chauffeur was killed May 29, 1908 while trying to break the one mile track record at the Pimlico horse track in Baltimore. His right front wheel collapsed as he entered the second turn and sent him into the fence at top speed. (The New York Times, “Cedrino Killed in Racing Auto Test,” May 30, 1908.) Cedrino’s death was no doubt an emotional setback for Bruce-Brown. Nonetheless, he forged ahead in 1909 with impressive runs again at Daytona and major hill climb events.

At Daytona, Bruce-Brown drove the 120 HP grey Benz of boxing promoter and Australian mining tycoon Hugh D. “Huge Deal” McIntosh. He lowered his amateur mile record to 33 seconds or 109.091 mph on March 23rd and then returned the following day to set the professional 10 mile land speed record at 114.504 mph.

On April 26, the Bruce-Brown and Benz combination proved potent again, winning the New York Automobile Trade Association’s Fort George hill climb. Bruce-Brown set a new record for the 1,900 foot incline at 48.8 seconds. (Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal, “New York Automobile Carnival,” June 1, 1909, page 57.)

A large entry list of 66 cars gathered on May 26 for the Yale Automobile Club Shingle Hill climb at West Haven, Connecticut. Bruce-Brown again drove McIntosh’s 120 HP Benz to set the new record at 51.2 seconds or 66.5 mph. Just five days later, he won Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania’s Giant’s Despair Hill Climb , an event that is still conducted today. (Yale Sheffield Monthly, “Shingle Hill Climb,” September 1912, page 631.)

Bruce-Brown’s association with the Yale Automobile Club and his time at Harstrom’s prep school are at the heart of another of the mysteries about the man. Fred Wagner promulgated the misconception that the millionaire scion attended Yale University and was even a member of their boxing team. He never attended Yale, but Harstrom’s was particularly well known for its Yale graduates and there is little doubt many of the Bruce-Brown family’s social circle attended the Ivy League institution.

David Bruce-Brown had been knocking on the door of stardom and 1910 was his break out year. A natural road racer, his big moment came in the November 12 running of the American Grand Prize in Savannah, Georgia. Still not widely known, Bruce-Brown was the newest member of the works Benz team. His teammates were Willie Haupt and team captain Victor Hemery, winner of the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup.

The race was an epic battle between three works Fiats of Felice Nazzaro, Ralph De Palma and Louis Wagner and the German Benz team. Also competitive were the Buicks of Louis Chevrolet and Bob Burman.

The 17.3 mile, unpaved, natural terrain course over country roads took its toll on equipment. While the Fiats of Nazarro and Wagner led early, both suffered suspension damage and retired. De Palma’s Fiat took over, pressed by Bruce-Brown and Hemery.

When De Palma’s red Fiat cracked a cylinder the race came down to a shoot out between the 23 year old Bruce-Brown and the veteran Hemery, 12 years his senior. Hemery steadily whittled down his young teammate’s lead, but the 415.2 mile race proved too short for him to prevail. Bruce-Brown won by the closest margin in auto racing history up to that time: a scant 1.43 seconds.

By 1911 Bruce-Brown had established himself as a top tier competitor. Now driving for Fiat, David, who did not drive in any of the Speedway races prior to the first Indianapolis 500, was one of the favorites to win the historic race. He lived up to expectations, dominating the first half of the race, leading 81 of 102 laps. (Official History of the Indianapolis 500, Donald Davidson and Rick Schaffer, Crash Media Group, page 323.)

Despite starting in 25th position, Bruce-Brown surged the big Fiat into the lead on lap 14. Battling with Ralph De Palma (Simplex) and Johnny Aitken (National), who each led briefly, Bruce-Brown ran laps at 80 mph. While the pace was impressive, it took its toll. His right rear tire blew in the south short chute and two miles of riding on the rim bent it out of shape.

He spent three minutes in his pit as Fiat mechanics struggled to replace the damaged rim. Now a lap down, Bruce-Brown set out to catch the new leader and eventual winner, Ray Harroun on the Marmon Wasp. He staged a relentless drive that gradually drew him closer to Harroun.

History would not record David Bruce-Brown as the winner of the first Indianapolis 500. Ignition troubles slowed his progress. The Fiat required a stop for new spark plugs during the second half; and even a quick dash into the pits on his last lap to adjust a faulty spark lever. He salvaged third place as a reward for his brilliant drive. (Indianapolis Star, “Work in Pits Aids Winner in Big Race,” May 31, 1911, page 133.)

Bruce-Brown faired better as defending champion of the 411.36-mile American Grand Prize at Savannah on November 30, 1911. He and his teammates Louis Wagner and Caleb Bragg set the pace, turning laps at or near 80 mph. Like Indianapolis, tire wear slowed their progress. Benz driver Eddie Hearne, running at a more measured pace, preserved his tires and led much of the race.

Bruce-Brown found his rhythm and improved his tire wear. By 342.8 miles the race was a three-way battle between Hearne, Bruce-Brown and Ralph Mulford, who finished second at Indianapolis in the same American built Lozier.

With two laps to go the three leaders hit the pit simultaneously. Perpetuating the myth that he was a boxer, observers marveled as the six foot, two inch Bruce-Brown slung the heavy mounted tires himself, changing the rubber with a hand wrench in 68 seconds. He re-entered the fray just behind the Lozier. Within a few miles a broken drive shaft ended Mulford’s day when he landed violently after flying over a railroad crossing. Hearne suffered a tire puncture to allow Bruce-Brown to win by over two minutes.

His second try at the Indianapolis 500 in 1912 proved disappointing despite the fact that he was the fastest qualifier at 88.45 mph. He again staged an impressive drive when he surged from his 23rd starting spot to third within the first six laps.

Perhaps the most impressive drive of his career came on the June 25, 1912 at the French Grand Prix. It was his only race in Europe.

Matched against the great driving talent of Europe with a full field of that continent’s elite racing machinery, his star shone brightly. Adding to the mystique of David-Bruce Brown, the European fans were introduced to the brilliant young American when he and his riding mechanic, Tony Scudalari, appeared at the muddy track with their faces shrouded in balaclavas long before such protection was common in motor racing.

The race was conducted over two days on a public roads course just shy of 48 miles long in Dieppe, France. Bruce-Brown dominated the first day’s half of the race, only to be disqualified the second day when he took fuel on the course far from his pit area.

While it was entirely reasonable for David Bruce-Brown to look ahead to another year for a second chance at a French GP, it would not be. In pursuit of his third successive American Grand Prize he arrived by train from New York in Milwaukee, the site of the 1912 race, on October 1. His life would end less than two and a half hours later.

Eager to practice with his Fiat, he arrived at the 7.88 mile public roads course and quickly went to work posting fast time at 5 minutes, 53.8 seconds or 80.18 mph. When he returned to the pits, Fred Wagner noticed the Fiat’s tires were threadbare and ordered the 25 year-old driver to return to his garage. (Saga of the Roaring Road, Fred J. Wagner, Floyd Clymer Publishing, 1949, page 72; The Indianapolis Star, “Auto Accident Costs Life of D. Bruce-Brown,” October 2, 1912, page 1; The Automobile, “Bruce-Brown’s Fatal Accident,” October 3, 1912, page 659.)

Bruce-Brown ignored the order and at about 1 o’clock on the backstretch of the course, while traveling at 90 mph, a rear tire exploded. The car did a barrel roll, throwing Bruce-Brown and riding mechanic Scudalari violently to the ground. Both men died of massive head injuries. Widely respected and popular among his peers, giants of the age including Ralph De Palma, Caleb Bragg and Teddy Teztlaff openly wept in the hospital corridor when doctors informed them of the passing of their friend. (The New York Times, “Bruce-Brown Killed in Auto Race Trial,” October 2, 1912, page 1.)

#175 Mark Dill

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 00:03

Seems like this thread is running out of steam...

I'd like to say just a few comments about my old friend, Barney Oldfield.

I think he's a delightful if sometimes unsavory character, and while I recognize that his fame seems out of proportion to his on-track performance, it was nonetheless deserved. My contention is that Barney knew how to market (or perhaps more accurately, "sell" himself). He was pretty clear about what he wanted: fame and fortune, mostly the latter. He was just ahead of his time; today he would be a marketing VP for NASCAR.;)

His upbringing is relevant to understanding his objectives. Born in a log cabin long after it was fashionable in a "Lincolnesque" way, this was a guy who did not intend to live his life penniless and in obscurity. As they say, "he rode the horse he came in on."

Mr. Printz provided some highlights of Barney's career, but I'd like to make submit some additional information for consideration:

First, to dismiss all his track racing as "unimportant" isn't fair. In 1902 I'm not convinced the American automobile industry could have supported the kind of distance racing taking place in Europe. We didn't have the roads, and, based on the performance of Winton and Peerless in the JGB Cup races of '01 and '03, the cars weren't exactly up to the task either. So, the October '02 Manufacturer's Cup at Grosse Pointe, where Oldfield and his Tom Cooper-Ford disposed of Alex Winton's Bullet was significant. It did much to advance Ford's interests, and it put Barney on the map. Following that up with some track record runs in 1903 and most notably his June 1903 "mile-a-minute" lap around the Indiana State Fairgrounds track was truly hanging it out - and achieving something others simply had not exhibited the skill to match.

When he went to Winton in August '03, he simply could not be touched. These weren't phony, staged races. He was a young, ambitious 25-year-old that was driving the wheels off his car. At Glenville, Ohio that month he dominated and nobody gave him anything. At Ormond Beach in January 1904 he set the "competition mile" record with the fastest mile recorded anywhere, defeating William K. Vanderbilt, Jr.'s 90 HP Mercedes - the same car Willie K had set a world land speed record of 92+ mph with (not recognized by FIA because they didn't time it and he didn't do a return trip) just days prior.

That's not to say Barney didn't barnstorm during this time. He saw the opportunity to provide a service to eager customers and satisfied their desires. And yes, this cost him his job with the button-down Winton, but when he signed on with Peerless he went straight to his work of nailing down records. By the end of the year, he held every AAA track record from 1 to 50 miles. He also had an interesting encounter with Paul Sartori (Fiat); Leon Thery (Richard-Brasier), and Maurice Bernin (Renault) at Empire City on October 29, 1904 which was billed as an "international championship." Hype, yes, but the competition was legitimate. In the spirit of full disclosure, the contest was not at all fair to Thery as he had no track experience and his car had been delayed in customs so he no chance to get the gearing right. Nonetheless, he was hardly taking a dive. Bottom line, Oldifield beat their pants off. And all of this was after two unfortunate accidents where he had been injured and spectators killed, through no fault of his own.

In 1905 he did win the first AAA points national championship, and in doing so survived a rough year that claimed the careers of two of his toughest rivals, Earl Kiser and Webb Jay. And yes, the circumstances were sometimes bizarre in that it almost seemed nobody wanted to win the thing as his toughest competitor, Louis Chevrolet in the 90 HP Fiat (far and away a more powerful car than Oldfield's Peerless) just stopped showing up in mid season. Nonetheless, whatever you think of the quality of the racing, these events were not staged.

His antics between 1906 and 1909 earn him scorn among racing purists. Most notable perhaps was his special effects vaudeville act that expanded into a component of the 1906 Broadway play, "The Vanderbilt Cup," where he ran his Green Dragon a treadmill - on stage. He even incorporated early motion pictures, driving his car through pasteboard fences. Not much racing involved there, but he knew how to promote.

Critics shout "hippodrome," but Barney was a formidable force on dirt ovals - something even his bitterest rival Ralph DePalma wound undoubtedly confess, if only in private, especially after losing 4 of 7 match races to Barney during the 1917 season. He learned to drive the road courses as well. He gave DePalma all he could handle at the 1914 Vanderbilt Cup, and would likely have won at Corona in 1913 over Earl Cooper, if not for miraculously dodging a small boy that had wandered onto the course only to wreck his Mercer.

His victory in the LA to Phoenix "Cactus Derby" of 1914 was arduous and impressive. His to top-5's in the Indy 500 - with only two starts in the classic - were solid drives as well. Especially the 1914 race when American equipment was totally outclassed and Barney was the first finisher "in class."

He other flashes of brilliance at the Speedway as well. He was presented a gold plated Overland touring car in 1910 for setting a record for fastest timed mile at their May event, the first full-fledged race meet on the newly paved brickyard. Between the August 1909 and May 1910 race meets at the Speedway he picked up four wins, albeit sprint races against small fields. Nonetheless, legitimate wins. He was also the first driver to turn a lap at over 100 mph - using the even-then ancient J. Walter Christie front wheel drive contraption.

I understand his critics, but I also believe the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. It has now gotten to the point where his career is excessively derided. I think Oldfield had the talent to amass a more impressive record, but we'll never know because he chose a different path. Still, he deserves his place in history. There is no reasonable assessment of American auto racing history from the first quarter of the 20th century in which he does not figure prominently.

I give Mr. Oldfield credit for simply surviving this era - and prospering. His strategy of barnstorming was a big part of that. He knew safety for drivers, mechanics and spectators was atrocious. He decided to take responsibility for himself in protecting his own well being by managing events his own way as much as possible. And reaping impressive financial rewards. Indeed, help me to identify another American driver whose career spanned 1902 - 1919. I can't think of one, but if there is, I tip my hat to him as well.

#176 Allen Brown

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 09:22

Originally posted by Mark Dill
Seems like this thread is running out of steam...

I doubt that very much.

#177 dilettante

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 16:17

Hi Mark,

I read with interest your abstract of David's life!
I also spent some time to make a biography of Bruce-Brown (in french ;) ). May I suggest to your opinion some little corrections?

- First race of David was the Fort George 0.532 mile hillclimb, a motorbike race, by the New York Motor Cycle Club, held on May 30, 1904. He finished 15 (17 finishers for 20 starters). [The New York Times, May 31, 1904]

- About the races at Ormond Beach in 1908 : David smashed the 1 mile record on March 4 and it's only the next day that he was riding mechanic of Cedrino in the 256 mile race, stock chassis free displacement (they run for 300 miles but the official length was 256 miles) [NYT, March 6, 1908]

- About the Fort George hill climb, held on April 26, 1909, David won the Class H free-for-all, by 28.8 seconds. A Knox was fourth in 33.8... (anecdote: NYT, April 27,1909, quote "Robert Bruce" as the winner of class H! :lol: )

And last, not a correction but a point of vue about the Yale University:
I agree with you that David never attented Yale. But the connection between David and "Yale's people" is a fact (and I don't know how...). For example, on November 1907, David have a car crash at Bridgeport with George C. Haas, captain of the Yale fencing team, driving to New Haven for the Yale/Princeton game. [NYT, November 17, 1907]
What I know is that he graduate from Harstrom School on May 1908. On July, David's father aunt Matilda Wolfe-Bruce died. David receive a part of her fortune (as well as his brother, half-brother and half-sister) and decide to stop his studies to devote to auto racing...

Jyl

#178 Mark Dill

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 18:52

Thanks, Dillettante!

Excellent feedback. The point about the order of events at Ormond is interesting. I got the order from an obit as well as Fred Wagner's book. However, Wagner's book, while interesting, is riddled with errors and the obit was drafted four and a half years after the event, so a piece reporting on the event would hold higher value.

Thanks for the leads on the motor bike racing. I picked up in a secondary source that he had done some of that, but your source looks excellent.

I wish there was more information readily available on Bruce-Brown. I just acquired the Automobile and Motor Age coverage of his two Savannah wins, which I have not read. It will be interesting to see if more information is to be had.

Your help is much appreciated, and if you have an English translation of your article, I would be delighted to read it.

MGD

#179 dilettante

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 22:03

Originally posted by Mark Dill
(...) Your help is much appreciated, and if you have an English translation of your article, I would be delighted to read it.

Thanks Mark, but sorry no english version... (14 pages! :) ). I send you a mail via your website...

Jyl

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#180 john glenn printz

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 13:52

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-71) At the start of the 1920 Indianapolis 500 DePalma, because of a flat right tire, had to pit on the very first lap. Joe Boyer jumped into the lead and led circuits 1-11, 43-62, and 70-107, to lead 93 laps in all, worth $9,300 in lap prize money. But so fast was DePalma's Ballot that it moved up quickly and was 8th at 10 laps, 6th at 30, and 3rd at 30. Ralph took the front position for laps 38-42 and later for circuits 113-186. At 100 laps (250 miles) the top six running order was: 1. Boyer (Frontenac); 2. R. Thomas (Ballot); 3. G. Chevrolet (Frontenac); 4. DePalma (Ballot); 5. Chassagne (Ballot);and 6. Milton (Duesenberg). At 180 laps DePalma had a 3 minute and 28 second advantage over the second placed, 27 year old, Gaston Chevrolet.

Then about 14 laps before the end disaster ensued for DePalma, as the Ballot's motor caught on fire. DePaolo, while the car was still moving, put out the fire by climbing over the cowling and holding on to the Boyce Motormeter temperature gauge located on the radiator cap. DePalma passed to Peter a fire extinguisher which Ralph had carried in the cockpit. DePaolo sprayed over the blaze through the two carburetor intake holes located in the side panel of the hood. Then the Ballot sputtered to a halt in the north turn. They got the vehicle running again and completed another lap before the engine caught on fire again. The flames were again extinguished but the engine died once more, again in the northwest turn. DePalma thought the Ballot was out of fuel and quickly dispatched DePaolo to run to the pits almost half a mile away, to obtain gasoline, but the real problem proved to be a faulty magneto. As the precious seconds ticked away, Gaston Chevrolet took over the front position (lap 187) and remained there until the end.

The Ballot was equipped with two magnetos, one each for half of the engine's eight cylinders. DePalma, by himself somehow, got the Ballot running again and drove it to his pit where the four spark plugs from the dead side of the motor were removed, to relieve the pressure from that half of the engine. And so DePalma and DePaolo finished the "500" using just four cylinders and one magneto, to salvage 5th place overall. They were then 27 minutes behind the victorious Gaston Chevrolet.

With seven cars total in the race day lineup, Louis Chevrolet is said to have engaged in the some pre-race strategy. Boyer was told to grap the head at the start, if he could, and to stay there, even if it meant eventually blowing up the car's motor. There were two good reasons for Louis' order. The 1920 "500" offered, and for the very first time ever, lap prize money. All 200 laps had been subscribed to and they paid $100 for each circuit led. If Boyer could take the early lead, he could collect all those lucrative payouts. And secondly, by Boyer's hard charging here and over extension of his red painted Frontenac, Joe might help break up some of the major opposition, by their foolishing trying much too hard to keep pace with the fast flying Boyer.

In fact, Louis' plan worked to perfection, if there had been such. Gaston started 6th on the grid and never ran lower than 4th place, beginning with lap 10. Gaston led the last 14 laps (i.e. 187-200) to win with an average speed of 88.618 mph, the second fastest "500" up to that time, but DePalma's 1915 mark of 89.84 mph was not beaten. It was however the first occasion since 1912, i.e. Joe Dawson and Don Herr with an Indianapolis built National, that an America constructed vehicle had won the Memorial Day classic and the victory was duly hailed as a U.S. triumph. Both Louis and Gaston Chevrolet were American heros!

In some circles however the win was regarded as a very luckly fluke. However Louis Chevrolet built equipment had led, 108 total laps. Boyer had 93, G. Chevrolet 14, and Klein 1. In contrast, the three Ballots had gathered all the remaining 92. DePalma had 79, R. Thomas 12, and Chassagne 1. But the seven Frontenac entries proved, in the race itself, to have one very serious and major defect. The steering knuckles had been improperly heat treated and broke in five of the cars. This error led to the retirement of Klein on lap 40, Sarles on lap 58, L. Chevrolet on lap 94, Sarles again driving in relief of Hill on lap 115, and finally Boyer on lap 192. Legend has it that, immediately after the race, Louis gave Gaston's winning "Monroe" a swift kick to test its steering knuckle and it promply snapped off.

#181 Mark Dill

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 16:58

Great post, John, as always.

#182 john glenn printz

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 13:27

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-72) Jean Porporato's Gregoire was flagged off the course after just 23 laps, as a nuisance and a menace to the other and faster moving competitors. The Englishman, Jack E. Scales (1886-1962), had arrived at the track only two days before the race and was unable to qualify his Gregoire. These two 1920 Gregoire entries were long considered the weakest and worst foreign contestants ever at Indianapolis. The three new 3 cam Peugeots all had engine problems, i.e. overheated engines apparently. With each cylinder head containing five valves and two spark plugs, one might wonder how large and just where, the water cooling jackets were located. Andre Boillot lasted 16 laps, Howard Wilcox 65, and Jules Goux 148.

At 180 circuits the three Ballots were running 1st (DePalma), 3rd (Chassagne), and 4th (R. Thomas), with a possible one-two-three finish. Earlier Chassagne had had to swerve sharply to avoid hitting one of the Frontenas when its steering knuckle let go on a straightaway section of the track. Both he and Rene Thomas, who were running closely behind the Frontenac at 100 mph, had very close calls in this incident. Chassagne hit the inside dirt to the left side and his car bounced over this rough surface for almost 100 yards, but Jean was able to return to the brick surface with the Ballot undamaged. In the late stage of the race Chassagne was given the order to drive as fast as possible, which resulted in his hitting the outside concrete wall and damaging his front axle. The harm was soon repaired in makeshift fashion and Chassagne then limped home to take 7th.

Rene Thomas might have had a better chance to win but was delayed at the pits on two occasions. His second delay was due to a defective contact breaker problem. At the end Rene was 6 minutes and 19 seconds in arrears of Gaston Chevrolet. Thomas however now had the best driver's record at Indianapolis with a 1st in 1914 and a 2nd in 1920, in just three tries. And in 1919 Rene had set the lap record (104.78 MPH) which still stood in 1920, but he managed only 11th place in the 1919 race itself. (Goux probably had the 2nd best Indy record with 1st in 1913, 3rd in 1919, and 4th in 1914.) The three Ballots for 1920 thus finished 2nd (Thomas), 5th (DePalma), and 7th (Chassagne).

The four factory Duesenbergs placed 3rd (Milton); 4th (Murphy); 6th (Hearne), while O'Donnell retired after 149 laps with a broken oil line. No Duesenberg engined car led even a single lap at Indianapolis in either 1919 or 1920.

The new 183 cubic inch class motors were declared to be an overwhelming success. Much technical progress and prowess had certainly been gained with regard to the internal combustion engine from aviation experience with them, during World War I (1914-1918). In 1920 at Indianapolis, straight 8 powered equipment finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 9th but did not win! The famous Ford Model T (1908-1927) had a piston displacement of 176.7 cubic inches, and was rated at about 22 horsepower. The new and better 3-litre racing engines (i.e. Ballot, Duesenberg, & Frontenac) produced approximately 100 horsepower and seemed to be small engineering marvels to their 1920 contemporaries.

The final results (i.e. top six) were: 1. G. Chevrolet (Frontenac); 2. R. Thomas (Ballot); 3. Milton (Duesenberg); 4. Murphy (Duesenberg); 5. DePalma (Ballot); and 6. Hearne (Duesenberg). Gaston Chevrolet had made two pit stops for fuel but never changed a tire. The race attendance was placed at about 125,000. The two Gregoires, the three Peugeots, and two of the Ballots, were now shipped back to France. The biggest automobile race for 1920, world wide, was over.

#183 john glenn printz

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 20:41

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-73) LOUIS CHEVROLET(1878-1941). Louis Joseph Chevrolet's younger brother Gaston (b. 1892), by winning the 1920 Indianapolis 500 in a Frontenac, probably provided Louis with his greatest triumph ever. Louis (1878-1941) was a much better and more experienced racer than Gaston, but in four tries at the Indianapolis Memorial Day race (1915, 1916, 1919, and 1920), Louis' best final placement was 7th in 1919. Louis had long been around the U.S. racing scene. But at Indy in 1920 Louis had never run ahead of Gaston, being himself never higher than 6th place. Louis retired after 94 circuits with the endemic Frontenac snapped steering knuckle problem.

Louis was born on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 1878, at La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland. The family moved to France when Louis was about 8 years of age, to the city of Beaune in the Burgundy wine region. At an early age Louis evinced an ability and interest in all things mechanical like clocks, watches, wine pumps, bicycles, motorbikes, motorized tricycles, and automobiles, but he had little actual formal education. Louis soon took up the new trade of an automobile mechanic.

By 1898 he was working for the Societe d'Electricite et d'Automobile Mors located in Paris, France. He was then sent to Montreal (Quebec), Canada in 1899 or 1900. Also in 1900 Louis came to the U.S. where worked for the De Dion Bouton Motorette Company agency in New York City (Brooklyn). But in mid-1902 he moved to the Fiat import outlet in New York City, owned by E. Rand Hollander and a Mr. Tangeman.

Louis made his racing debut as a driver, using a 90 horsepower Fiat, at Morris Park NY on May 20, 1905. Louis also competed for a time in the AAA's 1905 National Track Championship sprints, based on a point system. The chief rivals here were Webb Jay (b. 1870), Earl Kiser, Barney Oldfield (b. 1878), and Dan Wurgis. This AAA title series seems to have petered out after a number of bad wrecks occurred in August 1905. Nor is it very clear either whether this 1905 "points" title is, in any direct or tangible manner, to be linked up historically to the "point" awarding National Championship Driving Title which the AAA Contest Board initiated in May 1916 at Sheepshead Bay, NY.

Oldfield (Peerless 'Green Dragon') and Wurgis (Reo 'Redbird') tangled at Detroit MI on August 8 in a 5 miler and both cars crashed through the infield fence. Oldfield was thrown from his car and knocked unconscious. Barney received severe scalp wounds and his right arm was bruised and cut. Wurgis escaped uninjured. This was Oldfield's third brush with near death. Barney had crashed at Detroit (Sept. 9, 1903) with a Winton 'Bullet' killing one spectator and at St. Louis (Aug. 28, 1904) with a Peerless 'Green Dragon', when he killed two more onlookers. The St. Louis race had been run in conjunction with the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.

On August 12 at Cleveland OH, Kiser in a Winton 'Bullet' during a warm up lap, dashed into the outside fence and was so badly injured that his left leg had to be amputed up to the knee. Earl also sustained a dislocated right shoulder and his entire body was bruised and cut, but Kiser survived.

And still yet again, on August 18 at Buffalo, NY Webb Jay in the White steamer 'Whistling Billy', went over an embankment during a 10 mile sprint, and landed ten feet below in the Cazenovia Creek. Jay was found unconscious and he had broken seven ribs, a leg, an arm, and had suffered a fractured skull ana a punctured lung. It was feared that his injuries would prove fatal, but like Kiser, he would recover.

These three mishaps in August 1905, raised a storm of protest from the press against all oval dirt track racing and, in some cases, against all automobile racing period. Others thought road racing was still O.K., but not track racing. Rightly or wrongly, most asserted that the cars now were too powerful and too fast for the nation's one mile flat dirt horse tracks. The WASHINGTON POST (Aug. 27, 1905, sports, page 5) reported (quote), "The American Automobile Association is about to renounce all connection with the control of track sports. Chairman Morell and Secretary Batchelder, of the racing board, do not care to longer identify themselves with a sport so dangerous to life and limb."

Somewhere in either 1904 or 1905, Louis married Suzanne Treyvoux and their wedding journey took them to Niagara Falls.

In 1905 L. Chevrolet drove in his first big or major automobile race at Long Island NY, i.e. the second Vanderbilt Cup, staged on Oct. 14, 1905. Louis wrecked a 120 horsepower Fiat entered by Hollander and Tangeman, in the early morning practice session on Oct. 2, when it was extremely foggy. Chevrolet's Fiat was the identical car that Felice Nazzaro had driven to 2nd place in the 1904 Gordon Bennett contest. Louis had crashed into a telegraph pole adjoining the estate of William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. himself. Louis escaped serious injury but was badly shaken up. His riding mechanic, the Swiss Henri Schutting, however had three broken ribs, various cuts and bruises, and was taken to the Nassau hospital.

The 120 hp Fiat could not be repaired in time and so Louis piloted a 90 hp Fiat owned by Major C. J. S. Miller. The race consisted of ten laps of 28.3 mile each and there were 19 starters. Louis was never really in contention for first place, as the highest he ran was 9th on lap 4. Louis' Fiat, after losing a left front wheel on lap 7, crashed and this time just grazed another telegraph pole instead of hitting it head on, as previously.

In 1905-1906 Louis became associated with J. Walter Christie (1865-1944) and helped him construct and develop a 50 horsepower V8 front drive racing machine. At Ormond Beach FL speed trials, on January 26, 1906 Louis drove a 200 hp V8 Darracq for a kilometer in 19.4 seconds and a mile at 30.6 seconds. Louis used the Darracq in this instance because the Christie racer was not functioning properly. The 200 hp Darracq that Chevrolet had here was the same vehicle that Victor Hemery (1876-1950) had piloted at Arles, France on Dec. 30, 1905 to a one kilometer average of 109.65 mph.

Louis' marks at Ormond Beach were the fastest ever for a gasoline type car and would have been the world's Land Speed Record if it hadn't been for Fred H. Marriott's times of 28.2 seconds for a mile and 18.4 seconds (121.57 mph) for a kilometer, set in a special streamlined Stanley steamer, at the same Ormond Beach meet and on the same exact day. For 1907 Chevrolet worked for the Autocar Company of Ardmore PA, but apparently did little or no racing.

During 1908 Louis was employed by the Matheson Motor Car Company then located at Wilkes-Barre, PA. The Matheson passenger car make was manufactured from 1903 to 1912 and were large and expensive vehicles. Chevrolet returned to major U.S. racing competition as an entrant to the Oct. 30, 1908 running of the Vanderbilt Cup. His car was a 86 horsepower, 16.2 litre Matheson. Louis had as his Matheson teammate, James B. Ryall, who was using a smaller, 58 hp, 11.1 litre Matheson.

The Vanderbilt Cup was still being conducted on Long Island in 1908. The event consisted of 11 laps, each of which was 23.46 miles in length. In the race itself, Chevrolet was running 5th, among the 19 starters after the first circuit, but retired on lap two because of a cracked cylinder. Ryall ran in 12th place for laps 1 and 2, and moved into 11th place on his third circuit. Ryall was out however on lap 4, when his machine caught on fire. It was not a good day for the Matheson team effort.

Edited by john glenn printz, 20 September 2010 - 12:55.


#184 Mark Dill

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 23:08

Good post, John.

I did a lot of research on 1905 and I corroborate your report. To embellish, I can also say that while the AAA considered disassociating itself with track racing, it never did. I have always assumed this was more about politics than principle. Had they abandoned track racing, they would have left it wide open for some other organizing group to move in on the business.

As for the championship contenders, it is worth noting that there were only three that were seriously in the hunt: Chevrolet, Oldfield and Jay.

It is also worthy of note that this was Chevrolet's introduction to racing - and at the wheel of Major Charles Miller's 90 HP Fiat. He pretty much kicked ass, but in fairness, Oldfield's Peerless was out matched, forfeiting some 30 HP. Nonetheless, it is pretty clear Chevrolet would have won this championship if he had simply continued showing up. However, he stopped doing precisely that after the July race at Empire City where another Fiat driver, Paul Sartori, crashed his Alfred Vanderbilt-owned machine through the fence and severely injured a 16 year old boy. Some of the news reports said the boy was fatally injured, but in the style of the day people were reported as fatally injured before they died, all based on someone's assessment that they could not recover. Whether it was the accident or the mercurial nature of his car owner (Miller, the son of a massively wealthy industrialist, was a bit quirky and, in a questionable judgment, even absconded with the pretty wife of former heavyweight boxing champ Bob Fitzsimmons) Chevrolet stopped running the track circuit after that event.

Indeed, none of the contenders consistently appeared. Kiser, despite being one of the fastest track racers in the business with Alexander Winton's Bullet II, only entered a couple of the championship events before being injured as you so accurately report. Oldfield, frustrated at being out matched in the HP department by both Jay and Chevrolet, demonstrated a lukewarm attitude about the championship. After Jay's accident and Chevrolet's decision to simply not show up, the trophy was literally handed to him. Even then, Barney skipped an event and didn't take the point standings lead until the penultimate event. It's pretty clear Oldfield's priorities were with wherever he could obtain the biggest payday - he was a valuable promotional tool and track managers were bidding for his services.

To show where his mind was, Oldfield appeared to be engineering his exit strategy from the sport. He hatched a scheme to build a stage career with a special effects extravaganza employing another leading edge technology, motion pictures. At Poughkeepsie’s Dutchess County Fairgrounds track he hired famed movie producer George Spoor to help him stage a sensational scene of the Green Dragon crashing through a fence made of pasteboard. With bits of faux wood splintering in all directions, the Green Dragon skidded to a halt with Oldfield tumbling out of his seat to feign unconsciousness. A horse-drawn ambulance added a nice dramatic affect.

He was awarded the trophy for the championship in early 1906. I think there is little doubt there was basically no connection between the national championship of 1905 and the national championship of 1916. Racing had come a long way in the ensuing 11 years, both in terms of organization and equipment. The 1916 championship was more recognizable by modern day standards, including the Indianapolis International Sweepstakes and full-blown road course contests like the Grand Prize and Vanderbilt Cup. The 1905 championship is probably more analogous to sprint or midget racing of later years, and restricted to dirt ovals exclusively.

#185 john glenn printz

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Posted 03 February 2009 - 17:52

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-74) On March 5, 1909 Louis Chevrolet joined the Buick racing team which already consisted of Bob Burman (1884-1916) and Lewis Strang (1887-1911). 1909 would prove to be a year of big success for Louis. Along with the 1917 season, 1909 would be one of his two greatest years in AAA motor competition, as a driver. The two Michigan auto manufacturers, the Buick Motor Car Company of Flint, and the Chambers Motor Car Company of Detroit, embraced the new 1909 Manufactures Contest Association-American Automobile Association's stock chassis racing regulations with gusto. It is said that Buick's 1909 racing equipage or emporium alone utilized 15 separate vehicles and 40 employees.

The Buick racing team entered many major U.S. races during the period late-1908 to mid-1911, as well as a much larger host of minor contests and hill climbs. The Buick team may have existed a year or two before 1908, but the first really important event which they entered was the American Grand Prize, run on Nov. 26, 1908. This inaugural ACA American Grand Prize, held at Savannah, GA, consisted of 16 laps of a 25.13 mile road course, for a grand total milage of 402.08. Buick had a single entry in the event, with a car piloted by Burman. Bob was out after just two circuits with motor trouble, to finish dead last among the 20 starters.

Louis Chevrolet won four important races for Buick in 1909. The first was at Crown Point, IN on June 19. It was the Ira M. Cobe Cup Trophy road race for 395.65 miles. There had been 12 starters total in this heavy stock chassis contest (i.e. 300 to 525 cubic inches) and Louis won it with a 49.26 mph average. Louis' winning time was 8 hours, 1 minute, and 39 seconds (!), and he had led laps 4, 6-9, and 14-17.

On September 6 at Lowell, MD Louie won the 159 mile Yorick Club Cup with an 18 horsepower Buick with a time of 2:56:43 (54.2 mph) against 5 other competitors. Here Chevrolet led all the laps, i.e. 1-15. The Yorick Club Cup was for vehicles running in the 231 to 300 cubic inch classification. And on September 29 at Riverside, NY Louis won another light car event (161-230 cubic inch class) for Buick, of 113.75 miles in length, with a clocking of 1:37:36.3 or 70.3 mph. Chevrolet led circuits 1-2 and 4-5. Burman, in another Buick, placed 2nd with a time of 1:46:02 and had led lap 3. However here there were only three actual starters in toto.

And at the first race meet (Nov. 9 to 13) at the newly constructed 2 mile dirt oval Atlanta Motodrome, Louis captured perhaps the biggest and most important event on the entire Atlanta program. This was a 200 miler for the heavy cars (i.e. 301 to 400 cu. in.) and the Coca-Cola Trophy. Chevrolet posted a time of 2:46:48 for a 71.94 mph average. In the race Louis made only one pit stop when his motor had caught on fire.

Arthur Chevrolet (1884-1946) had also joined the Buick racing team by September 1909 and he made his racing debut at Brighton Beach, NY with his older brother Louis, in a 24 hour marathon staged on Oct. 16, 1909. The pair finished in 4th place.

In the most important American motor race for 1909, i.e. the 278.08 mile Vanderbilt Cup of Oct. 16, Louie drove a 316 cubic inch Buick, and ran second on the first lap, and in first for circuits 2 to 4. But Chevrolet retired on lap 5 with a cracked cylinder. He had however run the fastest lap of the race on his 4th trip around the 12.64 mile course with a circuit timed at 9:56.4, for an average of 76.3 mph. All in all, it had been a very good year for Louis and his reputation as a hard charging, "hell-for-leather" racing driver was now firmly established.

#186 john glenn printz

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 20:16

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-75) Neither the Buick team or Louis Chevrolet fared as well in 1910, as they had in 1909. The only major win for Buick during the 1910 AAA season was Burman's victory at Indianapolis on July 2, in a 100 mile contest, with a total time of 1:20:35 (74.5 mph). In three major 1910 races held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Louis had no luck at all. In the Wheeler & Schebler Trophy 200 run on May 28 (301 to 450 cu. in. class), Louis' Buick broke a piston on lap 32. On July 2 in a 100 miler for the Remy Brassard Trophy (600 cu. in. limit) he failed to finish. At the Speedway again on July 4, in another 200 miler, for the Ira M. Cobe Trophy, he was retired after 62 circuits.

Arthur and Louis Chevrolet along with Bob Burman, ran three 593.7 cubic inch Buicks in the sixth Vanderbilt Cup event, staged on Oct. 1, 1910. On this occasion the Vanderbilt Cup consisted of 22 laps with a total distance of 278.08 miles. Here Louis led laps 1-8 and 14. But while in 4th place he crashed badly on circuit 16. Chevrolet was trying to make up for lost time due to frequent magneto and tire trouble. After a bad bounce, his steering failed. The Buick plunged into a fence and then hit a passenger car whose occupants were tossed into the air. All escaped unhurt in the touring car but Louis's mechanician, Charles Miller, was instantly killed. Chevrolet himself sustained a severly mangled left arm. Louis's other two Buick compatriots in the 1910 Cup classic had already retired, i.e. Arthur Chevrolet after 8 laps with a broken radius rod and Bob Burman at 10 laps with a burned out engine. This was the last of the four Vanderbilt Cup contests, i.e. 1905, 1908, 1909, and 1910, in which Louis had driven.

On October 25, in Chicago, IL, Louis announced his retirement (quote), "I had intended to quit the track after driving in the Grand Prix at Savannah, Ga, next month but the injuries I received during the Vanderbilt will keep me out of that, so I am entirely through. The game will get every one of us sooner or later. It is hard to abandon my plan to make the Grand Prix my speedfest and most daring race, but I am now going to devote my time to preparing cars for others to drive." Curiously, L. Chevrolet never participated in any of the seven American Grand Prize contests staged during 1908 to 1916.

(Two other well known American pilots who retired in late 1910 with L. Chevrolet, were Ray Harroun (1879-1968) and George Robertson (1884-1955). Robetson had been badly shaken up in a Benz, while in an accident which took place in a Vanderbilt Cup practice session on September 23, 1910. George announced his retirement from the sport on October 4, 1910. Harroun, as we know, made just one last exception to his complete withdrawal as a competitive driver in late 1910. It was for one big and important event being staged at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in late May 1911.)

However with all the hoopla over Carl Fisher's new 500 mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Memorial Day (May 30, 1911), Louis soon got the urge to drive again. The Buick team for the 1911 "500" consisted of two machines for Arthur Chevrolet and Charles Basle (1885-1962). Now a third Buick was going to be added to the list for Louis, but this latter car came too late and other competitors refused to O.K. Buick's belated third entry. Finally Louis was retained and named as a possible relief driver for his brother and Basle but both Buicks retired so early that Louis never took the wheel. So Louis did not drive in the first Indianapolis 500.

William "Billy" Crapo Durant (1861-1947) had founded General Motors on September 16, 1908 but was forced out of control as head of the corporation on October 10, 1910, by a consortium of east coast bankers. A man of wide vision, or perhaps just wild optimism, Durant had combined Buick and Oldsmobile to form General Motors in late 1908. The Cadillac Motor Car Company was added to the GM mix in June 1909. In early 1911 the dapper Durant had decided to use Louis' last name to market a new passenger car. Louis Chevrolet, after all, was now famous in the U.S. as a daring and fearless speed demon and racing driver, although now nominally in retirement from all competitive motorsport.

Durant requested that Louis design a car of the light French type. Chevrolet and his draftsman, Etienne Planche, did not do that, but rather came up with a large, 120 inch wheelbase, 299 cubic inch, solid, up to date, six cylinder, and well constucted automobile. The actual prototype was ready by November 1911. If put into production it would have to sell for over $2100. W. C. Durant had wanted something quite different and much cheaper, i.e. more in the $750 range. The Chevrolet-Planche design was put into actual production in 1912, but meanwhile in 1913 and 1914 Durant began manufacturing lighter and cheaper machines, of both 4 and 6 cylinders, using the Chevrolet logo, but of which Louis and Planche had had nothing to do. Louis' well designed and engineered six was put out of production in either late 1913 or early 1914 because of very sluggish sales. Louis himself wasn't at all happy about having his name appearing on such flimsy, low priced, inexpensive, and mass produced cars; but now Durant and later GM had the legal right to use his name as an automobile trademark in anyway they saw fit. By 1916 the Chevrolet cars had been so successful, that W. C. Durant bought out General Motors, and became its head man for a second time, i.e. June 1,1916 to November 30, 1920.

Louis was with Durant's Chevrolet Motor Company from November 2, 1911 (when the firm was first incorporated) to September 1913. Because of heated disputes between Durant and himself, Louis left the company. Louis thereafter never had any further important or influential connections with the large mass market GM Chevrolet marque. And thereafter, forever, the Chevrolet name always designated a car in the lower and cheaper price range or sales market.

GM presidents James Jackson Storrow II (1864-1926) and Thomas Neal, who took over General Motors after W.C. Durant left, probably cut the Buick racing division in 1911 as a long overdue, cost saving measure. The GM Buick racing team ventures of 1908-1911 were the only instances of General Motors supporting major open wheel racing in their history, while the AAA was still the main sanctioning body (1902-1955); unless one wants to include Cliff Durant's purely personal efforts from 1914 to 1920. Cliff used the Oakland, CA Chevrolet assembly plant as a base, from 1916 to 1920. Cliff here (1916 to 1920) was using Stutz and Miller built racing cars, but always masqueraded them as pure bred overhead valve "Chevrolets". Before that in both 1914 and early 1915, Cliff had used actual, modified Chevrolet stock cars, for his first forays into racing.

#187 fines

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 21:27

Originally posted by john glenn printz
However with all the hoopla over Carl Fisher's new 500 mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Memorial Day (May 30, 1911), Louis got the erge to drive again. The Buick team for the 1911 "500" consisted of two machines for Arthur Chevrolet and Charles Basle (1885-1962). Now a third Buick was going to be added to the list for Louis but this latter car came too late and other competitors refused to O.K. Buick's belated third entry. Finally Louis was retained and named as a possible relief driver for his brother and Basle both Buicks retired so early that Louis never took the wheel. So Louis did not drive in the first Indianapolis 500.

I have found oblique references in 1911 newspaper reports* that it was Louis Chevrolet who qualified one or even both Buicks for the 1911 Indy 500 - have you any info on that?

* I don't have the sources handy at the moment, but will find them if needed.

#188 Mark Dill

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 21:36

Love your posts, John. It is worthwhile to note that the Buick team, using a Model 16 they dubbed "Marquette-Buick" won several IMS races in July until disqualified later that month.

Louis made a spectacular albeit hair-raising return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the July 1, 2 and 4 race meet. In pre-race practice on June 29, Chevrolet lost control of his Buick “Bug” and rolled it coming out of the fourth turn. Chevrolet told of his miraculous escape.
“When I hit the ground, I watched for the turnover and when it came, I ducked, turtle fashion into the hood of the car as far as I could. That is what saved my life, I think. The steel bands around the hood held strongly and when it rolled over, my head was out of danger.”
The meet at first appeared to be a strong success for the Buick team. Between Chevrolet and Burman, the team picked off seven wins of 23 events, with five 1-2 sweeps. In all, the team recorded 26 speed records during three days of competition. All of this was nullified on July 29 when the AAA determined that the cars, called Marquette-Buicks, actually did not conform to rules established for stock equipment. Not enough of the models had been manufactured. The Buick team did not return for the Speedway race meet around the Labor Day weekend.

In fact, the reason Louis and Burman entered so few of the Speedway events in May is that the AAA ruled their stock entries were not stock at all (they did not meet a bogey for units produced).

You're right about his lack of meaningful connections to Chevrolet - but, surprisingly, there were a few. First, as early as 1914 - the year Louis divested himself of his position in Chevrolet Motors - he returned to racing as a driver in the November Phoenix to Los Angeles Road Race (the Cactus Derby) as driving partners with none other than Cliff Durant, William's son. He even took up running as Cliff's riding mechanic when an exuberant spectator sprung into action to fill the Chevrolet's gas tank with water when Louis stopped for supplies in Seligman. Louis hopped aboard Durant's racer and left their mechanics to tend to Louis' disabled racer.

In his increasingly desperate years, Louis, in 1934, working for Sunoco, ran a 5,009.5 mile trek through 13 states to prove the superior qualities of the firm's "Winter W20" motor oil. Chevrolet drove a Chevrolet in that effort, which became the subject of a nationwide advertising campaign. Finally, in 1935-1936 he worked as a common laborer in a Chevrolet axle plant in Michigan until suffering a stroke.

I hope you don't mind me tagging onto to your posts. You have a magnificent amount of quality information. I will contact you soon off-line.

Mark

#189 Mark Dill

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 21:53

Hi Michael.

I'd love to see your references. I have all the Indy Star-News coverage on the 1911 race and have seen no such reference. I have also scoured a ton of more recent writings on Louis - and have noted that much of it is not all that reliable - but I have never seen such a reference. Keep in mind there are no "official" records from this Time Trial in existence. It was all about the car and whether it could cover a quarter mile with a running start at 75 mph.

#190 fines

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 22:05

That is funny, because I was sure it was in the "Indianapolis Star" - and I have just found it: Saturday, May 27, 1911, p11 (I think - it's hard to read), article "Ten Cars Still to Qualify for Speedway Race - DRIVERS WILL GET FINAL INSTRUCTIONS"

Louis Chevrolet, veteran pilot of the Buicks, arrived yesterday morning, bringing with him his model "100" Buick, which is entered in the French Grand Prize. Chevrolet took part in the qualifying trials, as he is going to be the relief driver for the Buick team. When he made his trial he finished at the rate of nearly 100 miles an hour and got a good hand from the rail birds and the men in the pits. The famous Frenchman has scores of admirers, and when he rolled out on the course the first time he was cheered by the contestants, and the pitmen and the crowd took it up when they saw that it was Louis Chevrolet at the wheel of the Buick.


Earlier, the article mentioned that 34 cars qualified that day, but lists only 29, and no Buick.

#191 Mark Dill

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 22:29

thanks, Michael.

I'll go back and try to dig it out of my own files - but you are onto something very interesting. I appreciate you flagging this, another interesting point of detail!

Regards,

Mark

#192 Mark Dill

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 19:22

I have another Louis Chevrolet question...

I have seen several references to Louis serving as a mechanic for Victor Hemery. Since they were secondary I took them with a grain of salt. Then, in reading The Automobile's coverage of his marvelous Ira Cobe Trophy win in 1909 (The Automobile, “How Chevrolet Won the Cobe Cup,” June 24, 1909, page 1015.), that he discussed how he served as Hemery's mechanic at some point in his career and that Hemery was the greatest driver ever and that he had learned road racing from him.

I have other sources discussing how Chevrolet and Christie went to Ormond-Daytona in 1906 and Chevrolet drove Hemery's Darracq when the latter was DQ'd basically for being a temperamental jerk, but I don't have a lot on their relationship afterward. Several references printed years later say that Chevrolet came to America with Hemery in 1908, but it's pretty clear Louis was established in North America by 1901. Unless...he went with Hemery back to France in 1906 or 1907 and worked with him at Darracq and subsequently returned. That would be an interesting dimension to Louis Chevrolet's life that was not explored...

So, here's the sort version of my question...does anyone (John, Michael) know of Louis' relationship with Hemery?

Also, just a curiosity...does anyone know if Louis' wife, Susan Treyvoux, was French or French-Canadian?

Mark

#193 john glenn printz

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Posted 08 February 2009 - 18:30

TOO MANY QUESTIONS AND TOO FEW ANSWERS.

Dear Michael. I believe you have already answered your own question about L. Chevrolet at the 1911 Indianapolis pre-race trials. For those who may be interested, a McMaken/Printz survey of the first 1911 Indianapolis 500, is contained on the thread "FIRST INDY 500". This article was written in early 1987 and was published originally in INDY CAR RACING, in the May 1, 1987 issue, on pages 18-20.

Dear Mark. The FORMULA 1/ATLAS seems to believe in freedom of speech and a very open forum, and so do I. All to the good I say! I think anyone has the right to generally post whatever they want.

I think information about Louis Chevrolet is somewhat scanty and in many cases, incorrect. For instance I don't think Art and Louis Chevrolet were with W. C. Durant, at Buick, in either 1907 or 1908, as is frequently asserted. I am trying now to put together something about Louis that is reasonably more accurate than most accounts, but much remains obscure. I do not currently know when or where the Victor Hemery and Louis Chevrolet pre-1909 connection took place.

I plan to continue the 1894 to 1920 essay, by covering the rest of the 1920 AAA Championship season and making a few comments on how international motor racing differed in 1894 to 1920, from what came later. I suppose the essay, as such, is a commentary of sorts on both Catlin's 1909 to 1917 "History" (1954-1955) and Borgeson's "Golden Age" (1966) which covers mostly 1915 to 1929.

#194 Mark Dill

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Posted 08 February 2009 - 21:46

Hi John. Be assured my comments about inaccuracies about Louis' career was not an assessment on what I have found on Atlas F1. That was more about any number of other sites, including the international motorsports hall of fame and the GM site.

As for when Hemery and Chevrolet hooked up, I am completely convinced it was at Ormond in 1906. Of this I have no doubt. I believe - but want to substantiate my suspicion - that Chevrolet worked with Hemery in 1906 and maybe into 1907. That is the window when it would have had to have occurred, it's now a matter of plugging in the details of specific events of the time period.

I hope that parameter is in some way helpful to you.

Regards,

Mark

#195 fines

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Posted 09 February 2009 - 07:48

Originally posted by john glenn printz
Dear Michael. I believe you have already answered your own question about L. Chevrolet at the 1911 Indianapolis pre-race trials.

Maybe. The wording's a bit vague in the Star article, but I have to admit it is less so than what I did recall before re-reading it! :D

#196 john glenn printz

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Posted 12 February 2009 - 19:22

SHORT ADDENDUM ON LOUIS CHEVROLET 1905 TO 1909.

According to a very short biography on Louis Chevrolet contained in the CHICAGO DAILY TRIBUNE (July 16, 1916, section 8, page 7), Chevrolet was Victor Hemery's (1876-1950) riding mechanic at the 1908 American Grand Prize event (Nov. 26). Hemery placed 2nd in that contest using a Benz, behind Louis Wagner (1882-1960) in a FIAT.

This then must be what is being alluded to, whenever a Chevrolet-Hemery connection, is mentioned or brought up.

(Quote) "Chevrolet was schooled under a master driver, coming to the United States with Victor Hemery, with whom he rode as mechanican in the grand prize in 1908. When Hemery returned to France Chevrolet remained in this country, going to New Orleans, where he was discovered by Bill Pickens and put on the Marquette-Buick team. The following season he won his spurs in the hill climb up historic Lookout mountain, where in his third trial he estabished a record."

The idea that L. Chevrolet came to the U.S. in 1908 is all wrong, but this article does confirm my idea that Louis Chevrolet joined the Buick team in 1909, not 1907 as is often stated. The author of the article does not seem to know that Louis drove in any U. S. races before 1908, which includes the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup! Originally, L. Chevrolet was entered in the 1908 American Grand Prize with a Matheson (Source: OAKLAND TRIBUNE, Nov. 8, 1908, page 23). As we know, Louis piloted a Matheson in the Vanderbilt Cup staged on Oct. 24, 1908 with no success.

The New Orleans races alluded to above were scheduled for February 20-22, 1909 (Sources: NEW YORK TIMES, Feb. 13, 1909, page 7; and ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, Feb. 20, 1909). Bob Burman, in a Buick, won the 100 mile event there with a time of 1:42:39 2-5 on February 21.

Louis Chevrolet joined the Buick racing team on March 5, 1909 (Sources: DECATUR DAILY REVIEW, March 6, 1909, page 7; and NEW YORK TIMES, March 6, 1909, page 5; compare also with DECATUR DAILY REVIEW, March 21, 1909, page 2).

William "Bill" H. Pickens resigned as the head of the Buick racing team on Oct. 5, 1909. Bill had decided to set sail for Germany and pick up a special 200 horsepower Benz for Barney Oldfield's use.

#197 Mark Dill

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Posted 12 February 2009 - 19:41

Interesting, John. Thanks.

I can also tell you that he also worked with Hemery at Ormond in 1906, as mentioned earlier. It would be really interesting to find information on what they did, if anything, together between 1906 and 1908.

Thanks for the tip!

Mark

#198 john glenn printz

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 21:14

With regard to Mr. Capps inquiry of July 1, 2008 (post no. 120) above;

The 1910 notice of "National Championship" races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has to be judged entirely in the context of 1910, not 1916 and/or 1920 to 1955. Here the word "national" seems to be in contrast to the word "local", i.e. a "national" race would be much more important than a "local" contest. All the "National Championship" events at the IMS gave the top three finishers medals, with the familiar arrangement, i.e. gold for 1st, silver for 2nd, and bronze for 3rd; and all over just one and the same Memorial Day 1910 weekend.

There was no "National Championship Driving Title" AAA automobile racing circuit in the year 1910, nor anykind of an annual Championship car and/or driver, chosen by the AAA Contest Board at the end of the year. All these IMS 1910 National Championship races were also generally for very short distances and numbered about 14 events in all.

It is therefore entirely anachronistic to assert or say that these 1910 IMS races with the "National Championship" tag were in any tangible manner connected with the National Championship Driving Title started by the AAA Contest Board in early 1916 by AAA chairman, Richard A. Kennerdell. In 1910 it was more of a promotional gimmick and catch phrase, probably thought up jointly by the AAA Contest Board and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to enhance the status of these Memorial Day races. In 1910 there exists no AAA Championship point system and/or an AAA National Championship Driver Titlist, for the major AAA races staged that year. These concepts didn't arrive, and were not put in actual use, until early 1916.

Edited by john glenn printz, 03 December 2010 - 19:55.


#199 leestohr

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 06:36

I would like to know more about the connection between Walter Christie and Louis Chevrolet. It seems possible that Chevrolet was hanging about Christie's New York shop around the winter 1905/06. Chevrolet certainly drove the 1906 Christie racer at Ormond Beach. Borgeson included a photo in Automobile Quarterly 1983, showing Louis at the wheel of the Christie. He drove the Christie in two events at Ormond, dropping out at half distance in the first, overheating but finishing second to Marriott in the Stanley in the other.
By April '06, Walter was behind the wheel again and had his racer fairly well sorted. He set a one mile record of 102.3mph at Ventnor Beach, New Jersey.
As to Chevrolet's influence on the design of the 1906 Christie, I can't imagine it was much. The chassis was likely Christie's 1905 racer, with an enlarged 4 cylinder engine. The cylinders were staggered in a V4 configuration.
The car didn't last long, as Walter wrapped it around a telephone pole in practice for the Vanderbilt Cup later in 1906.
There is so little material available regarding Christie's early years, and it seems the same is true of Chevrolet. I would love to see a serious, in-depth biography on the Chevrolet brothers.

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#200 john glenn printz

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 14:06

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-76) After the tiff with W.C. Durant, Louis sold his 100 shares of Chevrolet stock, originally given to him when he had officially joined the Chevrolet Motor Car Company in late 1911. Louis now went to work as a salesman for the William Small Company, then the largest distributor of Chevrolet passenger cars in the U.S. Louis Chevrolet also returned to competitive driving of sorts, by taking part in the seventh annual 696 mile Los Angeles-Phoenix "Cactus Derby", staged during November 9-11, 1914. Here Louis was teamed up with Clifford Durant. The two were both using slightly modified stock Chevrolet passenger cars.

Cliff, no doubt, had met Louis Chevrolet during the 1909-1910 Buick racing days and it was here that the young and impressionable Durant had obtained his initial interest in automobile racing. The "Cactus Derby" was Cliff's very first attempt at competitive motor sport. In the derby Louis retired on the 2nd day when a wheel went bad, but when Cliff came upon the stranded and immobile auto of Louis, Durant had Louis take the place of his riding mechanic, a Mr. Lawrence. The Durant/Chevrolet car finished in 4th place overall, among the original 20 starters.

In late 1914 Louis joined the Blood Brothers Machine Company located in Kalamazoo, MI, but which soon moved its location to Allegan, MI. The company was mainly a universal joint manufacturer and supplier. One of their new products was a rather unique vehicle designed by Howard Blood, called the Cornelian, which weighed only 980 pounds. The Cornelian was powered by a 4 cylinder, 103.8 cubic inch, overhead valve, Sterling built motor, rated at just 12.1 horsepower. Its chassis was of the full monocoque type, consisting of a single steel sheet skin, which was at once both the vehicle's body and frame. The car featured four wheel independant suspension and the whole package sold on the open market for $410. Supposedly a total of about 100 Cornelians were produced.

After an example of the odd duck Cornelian ran in the 100 mile race at Kalamazoo on September 26, 1914 placing 9th, as piloted by Harvey "Cap" Kennedy, the company decided to employ Louis Chevrolet to prepare a Cornelian for the upcoming 1915 Indianapolis 500. The car arrived at the Speedway on May 11, and on May 21 proved fast enough to make the show when Joe Boyer qualified it at 81.1 mph. 80 mph was the minumum qualifying speed required at Indianapolis in 1915. Boyer weighed 125 pounds, while Louis weighed 200. It was considered a judicious "stragetic move" as the weight difference between Boyer and Chevrolet made quite a difference in the speed of this tiny car. If we discount the 1914 Cactus Derby, Louis had not been in a major race since his drive in the 1910 Vanderbilt Cup.

The Cornelian "baby" or "freak" was not a serious entry for the 1915 Indianapolis 500, but its manufacturer hoped it would perform well enough to generate a lot of favorable publicity. Of the 24 starters, it had qualified 23rd in speed. In the race itself with L. Chevrolet as its driver, it never ran higher than 16th, at the 50 mile mark. After completing 76 laps it retired with valve problems.

The only other major race that Louis drove in 1915 was the 500 miler on June 26, that was the inaugural event for the new 2 mile Chicago-Maywood board speedway. Here Louis piloted Rene Thomas' 1913 Grand Prix Delage that Rene had used and won with, at Indianapolis in 1914. Louis qualified 10th fastest at 97 mph among the 21 starters at Chicago, while Dario Resta in the fast flying 1914 EX5 Peugeot, set the fastest time trial by clocking in at 110.1 mph. In the race, Chevrolet on his 231st circuit skidded on the turn leading into the frontstretch and his Delage was pointing 90 degrees to the outside railing, but Louis corrected the situation and drove the car to the pits. After a quick inspection, lasting a minute, Chevrolet returned to the fray and finished the race in the 7th position.

After running in Chicago 500, Louis immediately began the design and creation of a new thoroughbred racing car, i.e. the Frontenac, for the AAA Class E, i.e. 301 cubic inch or lower displacement machines. L. Chevrolet had hoped to have a complete car finished by October 1915 and had actually entered it in the October 2 inaugural 350 mile "Astor Cup" race to be staged at Sheepsheads Bay, but by September 28 he had to cancell his Astor Cup entry. The new car was not going to be quite ready and in addition he had sustained a bad foot injury when a heavy steel object had fallen on it. However the very first Frontenac race car was completed by early November and Louis the shipped the vehicle to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for tests. A photo of L. Chevrolet's very first Frontenac is contained on page 923, in THE AUTOMOBILE for November 11, 1915.

By December 1915 the Frontenac Motor Company had been formed, with Louis Chevrolet as the President, Josph Boyer, Jr. as the Secretary-Treasurer, and V. R. Heftler as the Vice President, to construct three racing cars for both the 1916 Indianapolis race and the AAA season. William L. Small was also involved in this project (Source: MOTOR AGE, Dec. 30, 1915, page 90). The shop was located at 1547 or 1647 (sources here differ) Grand River Avenue in Detroit, MI.