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American racing 1894 to 1920


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#201 Jim Dillon

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 03:21

John, as always it seems, a bunch of really thorough research. I ran across those pics of Louis Chevrolet's first Frontenac years ago but have never seen any other reference to it and have never seen the bodywork again. Have you ever run across anything further on this early Frontenac or seen any later pics?-Jim

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#202 john glenn printz

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 15:36

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-77) The three new 1580 pound, 125 horsepower Frontenacs first appeared in 1916 at Indianapolis for the annual Memorial Day classic. The three machines were rather appropriately assigned to the three Chevrolet racing brothers, Arthur, Gaston, and Louis. Here Gaston, the youngest of the three, was entering his first big race. The Frontenacs arrived at the Speedway on May 25, with the one lap time trials to begin on May 26. Ten cars made it into the race day lineup on May 26 and four more on May 27. Both Arthur and Louis qualified on the second day, May 27. Arthur was in at 87.72 mph and Louis with 87.70 mph. Gaston tried to qualify for the first time on May 28 but could only post a lap at 73.35 mph, which wouldn't do. 80 mph, at least, was again required as in 1915.

On May 29, Louis' Frontenac No. 6 broke its crankshaft during a tune-up session and Louis himself now appeared to be out of the race. Gaston apparently still couldn't get up to speed and so, on the very morning of the race (May 30), Joy Boyer took over Gaston's No. 8 car and qualified it with a clocking of 87.69 mph. However Boyer's immediate family objected to his driving the car in the race itself, worried as always about Joe's personal safety. (Boyer promised his family in late 1921 that he would not touch a race car for an entire year. So Joe sat out the entire 1922 AAA season. But when the vow's time limit ran out Boyer rejoined the AAA Championship circuit in 1923. Boyer was the Assistant Starter for the 1922 Indianapolis 500.)

But by a special decision from the AAA Contest Board, Louis was allowed to start the ex-Gaston assigned Frontenac no. 8 in the race. Thus Joe Boyer actually qualified the two machines that L. Chevrolet started in, two years in a row at Indy, i.e. a Cornelian in 1915 and a Frontenac in 1916! In the race itself, just a scheduled 300 miler in 1916, Arthur in the no. 7 retired after 35 laps with magneto problems while Louis went out after 82 circuits with a connecting rod bearing failure. Louis, at the start anyway, had been moving. Starting dead last in the 21st position, Louie was 10th at 10 circuits, 6th at 20 laps, and was posted as running 2nd at both the 30 and 40 circuit marks; but thereafter he had faded to 16th by 50 laps. All in all, the two Frontenacs, in this Indianapolis 300, had not done well. In the final reckoning Louis was placed 12th and Arthur 18th.

All three Frontenac again, with the three Chevrolets, were entered for the Chicago 300, staged on June 30; but none of the three, neither the Chevrolets and/or the Frontenacs, were in the 21 car race day lineup. After Chicago, L. Chevrolet only shows up intermittently in the 1916 AAA ranked Championship contests using a Frontenac. Nor is it clear now why Arthur and Gaston Chevrolet, didn't campaign the Frontenac cars during the rest of the 1916 season after the June 1916 Chicago race.

Louis was at the Minneapolis for the July 4, 150 mile contest. Here he posted the fastest quaifying speed with a lap in the 102 mph bracket; but in 150 itself he travelled just 26 circuits before a rocker arm broke. Louie next competed in the inaugural Cincinnati 300, run on September 4. This time he completed only 20 circuits before another rocker arm let go. Here, in both contests, he drove Frontenacs.

L. Chevrolet next appeared at Sheepshead Bay for the September 30 "Astor Cup" 300. In this instance Louis was teamed up with Belgian Josef Christiaens, both using two British built Sunbeams. Here Chevrolet and Christiaens provided the two quickest qualifiers by posting 115 mph laps. There were 31 starters on race day and the two Sunbeams placed 28th (Christiaens) and 30th (Chevrolet); Louis was out with an oil leak and Josef with a broken piston.

The next AAA Championship ranked event Louis entered was at Chicago on October 14, a 250 miler. Louis was originally entered on a Frontenac but was then engaged by David R. Reid, the President of the Chicago-Maywood oval, to drive a Ben Hur. In March of 1916, a new company was proclaimed to construct three "Ben Hur" racing cars. The new Ben Hur racing motor was supposedly of a very advanced design and may have featured a desmodromic valve system. The first example of a Ben Hur motor was to be installed in Al Schillo's Mercer chassis. L. Chevrolet was induced to pilot this Ben Hur/Mercer hybrid here at Chicago, in its first debut in actual AAA Championship level competition. However neither the Ben Hur or Louis Chevrolet was among the 19 car lineup on race day. It not clear why Louis chose to drive a Sunbeam at Sheepshead Bay or an untested Ben Hur at Chicago.

The Ben Hur was named from the main charactor in Lew Wallace's (1827-1905) popular novel BEN HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST, about 1st century A.D. Rome and Syria-Palestine, published in 1880. Lew had attended a lecture by Robert "Bob" G. Ingersoll (1833-1899), the once famous free thinker and agnostic, and Wallace had been appalled by what he heard. Lew decided that some kind of antidote or rebuttal was due such damage as Ingersoll was creating and apparently reaping. The novel BEN HUR was the result. Although the book was never the top best seller in any given year, it sold very well near the top, over a long period of time. Sears, Roebuck and Company (1886-2005) alone, sold millions of copies through their once renowned and famous mail order catalog. Wallace himself had been a genuine General in the American civil war (1861-1865) on the Union side, and was present at the battle of Shiloh (1862).

Book V, chapters 12-14 in Wallace's BEN HUR novel, contains the justly famous description of the chariot race at Antioch, Syria which is held by most classicists to be a very accurate delineation of such Roman contests and spectacles. When motor racing or the Indianapolis 500 are said to be "Roman spectacles", what Wallace wrote about here, is what is being alluded to. The colour, the excitement, the general atmosphere, and the danger is all about the same, and is really remarkably quite similar.

And lastly for the year 1916, Louis ran in the first important event staged at the Uniontown Speedway (Dec. 2), in the non-Championship 112.5 miler against 12 other competitors. Here Louis won, finally providing the Frontenac marque with first big overall victory. 1917 was a great turnaround for Louis and the Frontenac cars. For 1917 Louis won four major races, all in Frontenacs: i.e. (1) the Cincinnati 250 on May 30; (2) the Chicago 100 on June 22;(3) the Chicago 100 on September 3; and lastly (4) the Sheepshead Bay 100 on September 22. For his feats here Louis was proclaimed by the press generally as the 1917 U.S. Driving Champion, as there was no official AAA Title for that year. Drivers who piloted Frontenacs during 1917 were Joe Boyer, Gaston and Louis Chevrolet, Charles Kirkpatrick, Ralph Mulford, and Roscoe Sarles.

Of Louis' activities and the history of the Frontenac make from late 1917 to mid 1920, they have already been described before the present L. Chevrolet biography 1878-1917 appeared just above, in this same 1894 to 1920 writeup. All of which seemingly brings us back to the midpoint in the 1920 AAA Championship season proper.

#203 john glenn printz

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 20:09

What's above, is about all that I currently know about Louis Chevrolet before mid-1920.

Dear Lee;

I would agree with you that Louis did not design the 1905/06 Christie racer. Christie probaby hired Chevrolet as a test pilot, possible driver, and idea man. I unfortunately have no further information on the Chevrolet-Christie connection.

Dear Jim;

I have not seen any other photographs or pictures of Louis' November 1915 Frontenac. The body work here in late 1915 is indeed, quite different from the three Frontenacs shipped to Indianapolis in late May 1916.

The information on many aspects of major league U.S. motor racing is very paltry, as we all know. And much of the material still extant, particularly in the secondary material, is myth and misinformation.

#204 john glenn printz

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 19:51

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-78) After Indianapolis (May 30) the further prospects for the rest of the 1920 season looked a bit bleak. The 1920 Indianapolis 500 had acted as a great clearing house for all the new 3 litre formula racing cars, of which there had been only six basic types at Indianapolis to begin with. The new French Gregoires, Peugeots, and U.S. built Millers had been proven to have great design and structural defects, and were at present, not competitive. That situation in essence left, only the Duesenbergs, Frontenacs, and DePalma's sole Ballot, to fight it out among themselves, in what remained of the 1920 AAA season. And with so few car makes actually in competition now, there was a decided dearth of drivers, entries, and vehicles for the rest of the remaining 1920 AAA contests. What a contrast here from 1919!

The number of different car makes had greatly diminshed steadily since 1915 and by mid-1920 was down to just three, i.e. Duesenberg, Frontenac, and one lone Ballot. The U.S. passenger car industry was now completely out of racing, as neither Duesenberg, Frontenac, or Miller had produced anything but racing cars up to 1920. The Duesenberg Model A passenger car was not yet, but became available only in 1921.

The next major event for 1920 after Indianapolis was the Uniontown 225 "Universal Trophy Race" on June 19. According to a brief notice appearing in the DETROIT NEWS on March 28, 1920, Autos, page 4; Uniontown was going stage two major races during 1920. The dates given were June 19 and Labor Day (Sept 9), but of which only one would contribute points towards the AAA National Title. The article states that Chairman Kennerdell had not yet decided, which of the two would count.

Isaac "Ira" Phillips "I. P." or "Red" Fetterman (1887-1924), a local Pennsylvania pilot, had made quite a name for himself by winning a number of so-called "dealer races" at the Uniontown board oval during 1916 and 1917, using a modified straight 8 Peerless stock car. Eddie Hearne had left the Duesenberg team after Indianapolis and was now driving a "Revere" sponsored Duesenberg racer. Here at Uniontown 225 for the June 19 contest, the Duesenberg factory team decided to utilise Fetterman as its supplementary driver for its fourth team car. Milton and Murphy still had the new machines, while O'Donnell and Fetterman had the old 300 cubic inch chassis installed with the new 183 cubic inch formula motors.

The June 1920 Uniontown entries included just 15 cars and among them were the four official Duesenbergs, six Frontenacs, DePalma's Ballot, and Barney Oldfield's Miller with driver Waldo Stein. By virtue of his win at Indianapolis, Gaston Chevrolet was the pre-race favorite. There were 13 vehicles in the race, but the Oldfield owned Miller was not one of them. It was reported that L. Chevrolet might drive here but, as it turned out, Louis had driven in his very last race at Indianapolis on May 30, 1920.

The final result here on June 19 was a Duesenberg team rout of all the other competitors as their factory cars placed 1-2-3-4 (!), i.e. (1.) Milton; (2.) Murphy; (3.) O'Donnell; and (4.) Fetterman. Milton's winning average was 94.578 mph. DePalma's Ballot had retired after 121 circuits with a broken valve, while Gaston Chevrolet was out after 117 laps with a broken valve spring. The only accident was when Wade D. Morton (1889-1935) crashed after a tire blowout in the "Meteor" Duesenberg on his 180th lap, while relieving old timer and starter Willie Haupt (1885-1966). Haupt had been a competitor in 1908, with a Chadwick, at the Long Island (Oct. 10), Vanderbilt Cup (Oct. 24) and American Grand Prize (Nov. 26) road races.

The June 1920 Uniontown, Universal Trophy Race, neither before or after its actual running, was nowhere ever billed or was stated to be, an AAA Championship ranked contest. The AAA Championship point totals issued before the next Championship event, i.e. the Tacoma 200 of July 5 1920, did not include this June 1920 Uniontown 225 in their reckonings.

#205 john glenn printz

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 20:02

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont-79) The July 5 Tacoma consisted of 225 miles or 115 laps. There were 13 entries. The four Duesenberg works cars were there, but now they had three 1920 models racers and only one old 300 cubic inch type chassis fitted with a new 183 cubic inch motor. The three new cars were assigned to Milton. Murphy, and O'Donnell, while the older car was given over to Edward "Eddie" Miller (1895-1965). Miller hitherto had been a long time riding mechanic for the Duesenberg team, but now was the new pilot on the fourth car.

Six Frontenacs were present driven by Boyer, Gaston Chevrolet, Klein, Mulford, Sarles, and Joe Thomas. After having entered his "baby Chevrolet" Miller at both of the two previous 1920 AAA Championship contests where the car never appeared, now at Tacoma, Cliff Durant actually showed up with his new 183 cubic inch class racer. Oldfield and Stein did not enter and had now apparently given up on trying to run Barney's old 1917 Miller chassis with a new 183 class Miller engine installed in it. This car, the "Oldfield Special", seems to disappear from the important 1920 AAA races after the Uniontown 225 of June 19. DePalma was also an entrant with his Ballot here at Tacoma.

However Ralph's Ballot broke a connecting rod in practice and could not start. The Tacoma track managers still wanted DePalma in the race as a drawing card, so a deal was arranged whereby Ralph took over O'Donnell's No. 29 Duesenberg, and O'Donnell replaced Eddie Miller in the old chassis Duesenberg No. 31. O'Donnell's car number was now altered from 29 to 2, while Miller's machine was changed from 31 to 11. Eddie Miller now became O'Donnell's riding mechanic in the No. 11 and reverted back to his former status as a mechanician.

Durant's Miller showed no speed in practice and Cliff was quite reluctant to actually race it, but finally decided to be a starter in the Tacoma contest. Just earlier Durant had offered DePalma $20,000 for his Ballot but Ralph wouldn't sell. By now Durant had a total of $17,000 invested in his new Miller speedster which was still as fragile as a newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll.

Some Tacoma track improvements were made for the 1920 July 5 race. A new grandstand was erected and the pit area was enlarged. The official AAA point Championship standings after two races (i.e. Los Angeles 2/28 and Indianapolis 5/31) were, top ten: 1. Gaston Chevrolet 1000; 2. Murphy 640; 3. Rene Thomas 520; 4. Joe Thomas 296; 5. Milton 270; 6. Vail 140; 7. DePalma 105; 8. Hearne 95; 9. Goodson 61; and 10. Mulford 60. (Sources: DETROIT NEWS, June 20, 1920, Autos, page 5; and LOS ANGELES EXAMINER, July 4, 1920, Autos, page 1.) The June 20 DETROIT NEWS, be it noted, gives Joe Thomas mistakenly just 281 points.

Twelve cars took the green flag here at Tacoma. The first car out was Durant's hapless Miller "Chevrolet", when a connecting rod went through the crankcase on lap 4. DePalma, in the borrowed Duesenberg, didn't fare much better as he was out after 75 circuits with an oil leak to finish 11th. Milton emerged the overall winner, in a non-stop run. Tommy averaged 83.643 mph with an elasped time of 2:23:28. The top four finishers were 1, Milton (Duesenberg); 2. Mulford (Frontenac); 3. Hearne ("Revere" Duesenberg); and 4. Klein (Frontenac). The total purse here was $22,500 and the attendance was placed at about 40,000.

Tommy Milton was married on June 29, and his bride was Elinor Theodosia Giantvalley of St. Paul, MN. Thus Milton won the Uniontown 225 on June 19 just before his marriage, and the Tacoma 225 of July 5, just after it. Jules Goux also was married in June 1920. Goux married Ruth Edith Davis of Indianapolis, IN and they soon set sail for Paris, France.

The upgraded AAA Championship standings after Tacoma were, top ten: 1. Gaston Chevrolet 1015; 2. Milton 670; 3. Murphy 665; 4. Rene Thomas 520; 5. Joe Thomas 296; 6. Mulford 270; 7. Hearne 205; 8. Vail 140; 9. DePalma 105; and 10. Goodson 61. (Sources: CEDAR RAPIDS EVENING GAZETTE, August 7, 1920, page 12; DETROIT NEWS, August 8, 1920, Autos, page 11; LOS ANGELES EXAMINER, August 8, 1920, Autos, page 1; and MOTOR AGE, August 12, 1920, page 25.)

The scene now turned to Elgin, IL for the 251 mile road race to be staged on August 21.

#206 john glenn printz

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Posted 24 March 2009 - 18:40

U. S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-80) When the official National Championship Driving Title was introduced by the AAA Contest Board in early 1916, genuine motor racing on public roads was already largely passe in the U. S. In the year 1916 only two large scale road racing contests were staged, i.e. the Vanderbilt Cup and the American Grand Prize events, both at the Santa Monica road course in November. During the two seasons that the U.S. was involved in the Great War, i.e. 1917 and 1918, there were no road races at all. However 1919 witnessed a revival of road racing at the Santa Monica, CA (March 15) and the Elgin, IL (August 23) sites, but for 1920 the sole AAA sanctioned road racing contest was at Elgin, scheduled for August 21. Indeed the 1920 Elgin race was the very last AAA Championship contest held on actual public roads. And in fact, after the 1920 Elgin 251, all the remaining AAA Championship races were staged on oval tracks of one type or another (i.e. board, brick, or dirt) right up until the AAA quit racing in late 1955, with the exceptions of; (1.) the 1934 Mines Field 200 (Dec. 23); (2.) the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup 300 (Oct. 12); (3.) the 1937 Vanderbilt Cup 300 (July 5) and (4.) the Pikes Peak hill climbs of 1947 to 1955. The 1934 Mines Field and the 1936-1937 Vanderbilt Cups were conducted on short twisting, special made, artificial road circuits.

The 1920 Elgin 251 mile race was 30 laps over a 8.324 mile circuit. There were but ten entries, although the Elgin race sponsors were hoping for twenty! These consisted of three Duesenbergs for Milton, Murphy, and O'Donnell; and three Frontenacs piloted by Gaston Chevrolet, Mulford, and Percy Ford. Ford was a local Chicago amateur ace. Hearne was present with his "Revere" Duesenberg and DePalma with his French Ballot. Cliff Durant was ready to try it again and had his "Chevrolet" here, with a brand new Miller motor installed. A William H. Seymore entered an ancient Locomobile which was ruled out on August 20 because of an oversize engine.

The guaranteed prize fund for the 1920 Elgin was $15,000 and $100 was awarded for each lap led. The Elgin race record was 77.25 mph, set by Gil Anderson using a Stutz, in the 1915 contest, which had been for a 301.8 mile distance. The 1920 Elgin practice sessions commenced on August 18 and O'Donnell (Duesenberg) posted the quickest time with a 6 minute, 52 second lap. This compared with the Elgin lap record of 6 minutes, 13 seconds set by Spencer Wishart during the actual running of the 1914 Elgin event. On August 19, Milton (Duesenberg) cut the fast time down to 6 minutes, and 19 seconds. Cliff Durant in his 1920 Miller was clocked at 6 minutes, and 35 seconds. DePalma elected to run here at Elgin using four wheel brakes, which was a new technical novelty for racings cars during the period 1919 to 1921. Omar Toft had used a 1917 Miller equipped with four wheel brakes at Santa Monica in 1919 and in Toft's case, the braking system was hydraulic as well!

A young French mechanic by the name of Jean Marcenac had come over to the U.S. with the Ballot team in May 1920 to help Jean Chassagne at Indianapolis, and now he had been sent back again by the Ballot firm, to assist DePalma's installation of two new brakes to the Ballot's front wheels. Marcenac (d. Feb. 14, 1965, at age 69) eventually was to stay in the U.S. and later worked on Frank Lockhart's 1927-1928 Land Speed Record machine with Myron Stevens. Jean was the winning mechanic at Indianapolis four times within a six year period, with four different cars and four different drivers! Marcenac's winners were (1.) George Souders in 1927 (Duesenberg); (2.) Ray Keech in 1928 (Miller); (3.) Billy Arnold in 1930 (Miller/Summers); and Fred Frame in 1932 (Miller/Wetteroth). In 1947 Marcenac became involved with the front drive Novi V8 project, working with William C. "Bud" Winfield (d. Oct. 29, 1950, at age 46). When Bud was killed in a highway accident near Fresno, CA, the Novi's owner Lew Welch put Marcenac in charge of the whole Novi project.

For the major road races, both in Europe and the U.S., there were still no mass starts. At Elgin in 1920, the cars were dispatched at 30 second intervals. There was going to be nine starters on August 21, but it rained and the 1920 Elgin race was postponed for a full week, to August 28. The first important road race to use a mass start was the 1922 French Grand Prix at Strasbourg on July 22, won by Felice Nazzaro in a Fiat.

#207 Mark Dill

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Posted 24 March 2009 - 20:39

Hi John.

Thank you so much for your continued work on this history. I'll be in touch with you soon about other matters. You may be interested in checking out this link on my site about Jerry Fisher, Carl Fisher's distant relative and his premier biographer: http://www.firstsupe...mier-biographer

Mark Dill
www.firstsuperspeedway.com

#208 john glenn printz

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Posted 30 March 2009 - 19:05

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-81) The one week Elgin postponement to August 28 led to some changes and alterations. On August 24 Joe Thomas, while practicing in Hearne's Revere, lost control and the car overturned. Neither Thomas, the riding mechanic Hart, or the vehicle itself were badly hurt. On the next day it was reported that Thomas would pilot the Revere in the race instead of Hearne. No reason was was given for the switch but Hearne was then in the middle of a legal dispute with his second wife, Zola S. Hearne. Eddie married Zola on October 21, 1915 in Kansas City and they had been separated since October 1917. Now Hearne had to post a $3600 bond for non-support or face immediate arrest. Zola had charged Eddie with desertion and had gotten a Illinois legal writ against him.

Cliff Durant had been ready to start in his Miller on August 21, but on August 27, he had to withdraw it from the contest because of a cracked cylinder sustained in practice. At this point Cliff apparently gave up, retired from all motor racing competition for good, and gave his "Chevrolet" with all its racing equipment, to Tommy Milton. Milton later shipped the now ex-Durant Miller racer to Uniontown for use in the upcoming Labor Day event, but here again the Miller motor could not be made functional so Milton started his familiar Duesenberg No. 10 team car at the September 6, Uniontown 225.

With the withdrawal of Durant's Chevrolet there remained only eight actual starters left for the 1920 Elgin 251. The starting order was determined by the draw. DePalma was first off and then proceeded to lead all 30 laps, thereby collecting all the $3000 lap prize money. Joe Thomas drove the first six laps in the Revere but was then relieved by Tom Alley. Joe was still very weak because of an arm injury he had sustained in his August 24 practice crash. All eight cars went the entire distance and there were only two pits stops made by them during the entire duration of the contest. Gaston Chevrolet stopped to replace an obstruction in his gasoline line on lap 2, and lost 4 laps to the field, and on lap 6 Thomas pitted to be replaced by Alley. DePalma ran off the road onto the grass on his 21st circuit but quickly recovered, kept going, and did not lose the lead.

DePalma's triumph here at Elgin was Ralph's first really important victory since his win at Cincinnati in a 100 miler on July 4, 1918, using a Packard V12. The top four finishers here at Elgin were (1.) DePalma (Ballot); (2.) Milton (Duesenberg); (3.) Murphy (Duesenberg); and (4.) Mulford (Frontenac). DePalma's average of 79.5 mph with a total time of 3:09:54 was a new record. It was the third time DePalma had won the Elgin Trophy as he had won the 1912 and 1914 races here as well, using Mercedes cars. The total attendance for 1920 was placed at about 60,000.

To fathom Cliff Durant's retirement situation after the August 28, 1920 Elgin race, we have to backtrack a bit. In mid-1919 the U.S. economy took a decided downturn and automobile sales quickly declined. General Motors quickly acquired a vast backlog of unsold cars and GM's profits went into a nosedive. Soon the value of GM stock began a rapid downward slide also. W.C. Durant, Cliff's father, began a policy on his own, of buying up all General Motor's stock shares to keep the price up, but GM stock continued to lose its value. In early and and mid-1920 the situation became more and more critical for both GM and Mr. W.C. Durant.

The elder Durant had purchased his GM stock on margin and as the price of the shares lowered in the market, Durant was required to come up with more and more cold cash. The DuPont interests, as a major investors who already owned 31% of all the General Motors stock, became more and more worried about their stake in GM. They certainly didn't want to see all of W.C. Durant's shares dumped suddenly and all at once on the market, because of Durant's personal financial problems. That would have wiped out all their remaining value. The DuPont interests were then flush with money, as they had been the major U.S. munitions supplier and makers during World War I (1914-1918) to the Allied cause.

The DuPonts agreed to bale Durant out, pay off his debts to the brokers, and buy up his shares of GM stock, but at a cost of stripping Durant of all his influence and managerial duties at GM. The DuPonts now took over General Motors for they now owned outright over 50% of all the GM stock after buying Durant out. William Crapo Durant's last official day as President of General Motors was November 30, 1920, but he had actually been forced out a month earlier. Pierre S. DuPont (1870-1954) now replaced Durant as President and the head of GM. Pierre lasted until May 10, 1923. Pierre DuPont was then replaced by the legendary Alfred P. Sloan (1875-1966), who reigned at GM from May 10, 1923 to May 3, 1937.

His father's problems at General Motors, I suspect, had a large impact on Cliff Durant's mid-1920 racing endeavors. Probably Cliff's old man by mid-1920, had told his son that he would have to "cool it" and/or quit entirely his use of the California based Chevrolet division's advertising fund, used hitherto from late 1914 for Cliff's racing adventures and forays. So Cliff. no longer getting a "free ride" with regard to his racing efforts, quit cold turkey and gave his largely useless "Chevrolet" Miller to Milton after the Elgin race. Anyway that's how I reconstruct Cliff's "retirement" from all racing in late August/early September 1920.

The new, current, and updated official AAA National Championship point standings after Elgin were: 1. Gaston Chevrolet 1030; 2. Milton 930; 3. Murphy 805; 4. DePalma 605; 5. Rene Thomas 520; 6. Mulford 350; 7. Joe Thomas 296; 8. Hearne 205; and 9. Vail 140. (Sources: LOS ANGELES EXAMINER, Sept. 12, 1920, page 9; LOS ANGELES TIMES, Sept. 12, 1920, sect. VI, page 1; and THE DETROIT NEWS, Sept. 15, 1920, Autos, page 4 and Sept. 20, 1920, sect. V, page 7.)

#209 Jim Dillon

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 02:09

John as always good stuff. As to Cliff Durant he may have given up driving but as I understand he still dug pretty deep to field a bunch of racecars in 1922 and 1923. As I understand from Bill Castle (Baby Chevrolet) who has researched Cliff pretty extensively including continuing talks with one of Cliff's grandaughters (I believe a grandaughter of one of his wives-who still has some of his notes and records), that Cliff had Miller build 6 183s for 1922 and when he couldn't get Indy to agree to letting him run some of these in 1923, he converted three of the six to 122s and had five 122s built. All in all he had 8 cars at Indy in 1923. Milton's winning car (as well as a second HCS) were almost identical to Cliffs cars (except for a support rod under the chassis).

As I have discussed with Bill Castle were it not for Cliff's healthy wallet you kind of wonder if Miller could have survived as long as he did without Cliff Durant. Eleven cars in two years with three being re-worked was probably a princely sum-Jim

#210 john glenn printz

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Posted 02 April 2009 - 12:03

CLIFF DURANT, A BIT AFTER 1920. Cliff Durant's doings after 1920 are not so confused. William Crapo Durant, after having been tossed out of General Motors in late 1920, quickly organized an entirely new automobile company named "Durant Motors" in early 1921. Cliff soon left GM also and joined his father at the newly formed corporation. In early 1922 Cliff got right back into automobile racing big time, both as a driver and prospective sponsor. Cliff had however sat out the entire 1921 AAA season. But in 1922 once again, the younger Durant had a "free ride" with regard to his racing expences, as now Durant Motors' vast advertising fund could furnish easy money for a totally new Durant Motors racing team. W.C. Durant's huge reputation as a "money maker" among the U.S. general public, had made the selling of Durant Motors stock easy, and a large sum of working capital was quickly raised by late 1921.

In early 1922 Cliff reclaimed his 1920 Miller from Tommy Milton, which he had loaned and/or leased to Milton in late August/early September 1920. Milton in late 1920 had replaced its double overhead cam Miller 4, with a single cam Duesenberg straight 8 racing motor. Milton had been disappointed with the performance of his new hybrid Duesenberg/Miller and next installed a new double overhead cam Miller straight 8 engine in it during early 1921, making the car once again an "all Miller" constructed machine. At first its performance was poor in Milton's eyes, so Tommy elected to pilot a Louis Chevrolet 8 cylinder Frontenac at Indianapolis in May 1921. Here, at the 1921 500, he became the unexpected victor even to himself! Going into the event Milton thought that DePalma and his Ballot would be very hard to beat and that the Duesenberg cars had a lot more possibilites than L. Chevrolet's new and old Frontenacs.

Milton always maintained that the new 1921 Miller twin overhead cam straight 8 183 was originally commissioned by himself and that he was largely responsible for, and dictated, its design details. If so, Tommy here certainly utilized his experiences and knowledge obtained from the two Duesenberg brothers during 1919 and 1920, when Fred and August were developing their own 300 cubic inch and 183 cubic inch straight 8's. When the new 1921 Miller straight 8 began demonstrating it's performance mettle, now using Hall-Scott design type cams in mid-1921 and all of 1922, Milton claimed later that "he had made Harry Miller", both famous and wealthy. The Miller straight 8 motors, of various types, dominated American racing during the period 1922 to 1933.

During mid and late 1921 Tommy gradually made his now all Miller car a winner and was looking forward to using it, and winning with it at Indianapolis, in 1922. The speed potentiality of the car was first demonstrated at Tacoma on July 4, 1921 when Milton won the 250 with it, with a 98.3 mph average. But now in early 1922 Cliff wanted his old car back from Tommy, so he could run it himself, in the upcoming 1922 Indianapolis 500. Durant duly reimbursed Milton for all his vast improvements to the car, by giving Tommy a cash settlement of $6000. But Cliff's appropriation of his former 1920 Miller now forced Milton to hurriedly build an entirely new machine of largely his own design at Harry Miller's shop for the 1922 Indianapolis 500, as a replacement for his just lost and returned car. The Milton designed replacement vehicle was another "Leach Special" but the time was now short; it was much too quickly assembled, not properly tested, and fell apart in the 1922 500. The gas tank came lose after only 44 laps completed and Tommy had to quit the race. Later in 1922 Milton won the ill fated Kansas City inaugural event, a 300 miler staged on September 17, using this same Leach Special.

Cliff Durant had the now ex-Milton Miller at Indianapolis in 1922 but carburetor troubles soon intervened during the race and made the entry of just "also ran" status at the end, as it placed only 12th, and averaged only 77.75 mph for the full 500 miles. Dave Lewis did relief work for Durant during the contest. Milton always maintained that he could of won at Indianapolis in 1922 with it, if only he had been able to retain it for his own use. In any case at Kansas City on September 17, Roscoe Sarles drove this same car in substitution for Cliff, who was originally scheduled to drive it. During the race Sarles, in this borrowed Durant car crashed on its 115th lap through the outer rail, dropped 25 feet, and landed upside down, with Roscoe trapped in it. The Durant car caught on fire and poor Sarles was burned to death beyond all recognition, in it. The riding mechanic, C. V. Pickup, was thrown clear but had a fractured skull and body injuries. This was the final end also, for what had started out in early 1920, as Cliff's "baby Chevrolet" Miller.

By mid-1922 Cliff had formed plans for a new Durant Motors racing team and ordered a fleet of six new Miller 183's. The new Durant team first competed at Beverly Hills on December 3, 1922, using as pilots Earl Cooper, Eddie Hearne, Art Klein, Jimmy Murphy, and Durant himself. Jimmy Murphy was named as captain. Murphy had wrecked his highly successful hybrid "Murphy Special" (Miller/Duesenberg) at Kansas City in September 1922, so it was a convenient opportunity for Jimmy, to now join forces with Cliff Durant in late 1922. Murphy stayed with the Durant team during the 1923 AAA season, while at the same time, Eddie Hearne won the 1923 AAA Driving Title for the Durant marque. The Durant works team was a major player in the AAA National Championship division during late-1922, 1923, and 1924, but Durant Motors itself began to fade in 1924 and 1925, and Cliff had to start curtailing the situation and scaling down his racing activities once again to just one or two cars.

The Durant Motors' team never won at Indianapolis but in 1923 they placed 2nd (Hartz), 3rd (Murphy), 4th (Hearne), 6th (Elliott), and 7th (Durant himself). In 1924 they finished 4th (Hearne) and 7th (Comer). Cliff never owned a winning car at Indianapolis, but his entries had a second place final ranking in 1919 with Hearne (Stutz); 1923 with Hartz (Miller), and 1925 with Dave Lewis/Bennett Hill (Miller F.D.).

Cliff Durant was certainly the major factor, money wise, for Harry A. Miller during the years 1919, 1920, 1922, 1923, and 1924, but not in 1921. Cliff here used General Motors' money in 1919-1920 and Durant Motors' funds in 1922-1924. In both cases, it was all charged to the plush advertising money made available to him during those years at General Motors and Durant Motors by his father. For 1921 Harry Miller made an alliance with the Leach-Biltwell passenger car firm, located in Los Angeles, CA. Miller's linkup here did not work well for the Leach concerns or interests, as the six cylinder passenger car motor designed for the Leach car which emerged out of Miller's shop, was no good and helped put the Leach-Biltwell Motor Company out of business. During 1921 and 1922 most of the more potent Miller racing cars ran as "Leach Specials". Sometime in 1922 Miller was somehow able to sever all his legal connections and obligations with the Leach-Biltwell firm.

#211 fines

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Posted 11 April 2009 - 14:51

John, I hope you don't mind me copying your last post into the Golden Age thread, since it's pertaining to that era, really, and I want to comment and enlarge on a few points there. I sincerely hope that you (and Mark Dill and Jim Dillon, perchance) will join me in discussion there! :)

http://forums.autosp...threadid=103835

#212 john glenn printz

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 20:14

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-82) After the Elgin 251, the teams headed to Uniontown for another 225 miler, to be staged on Labor Day, i.e. September 6, 1920. There were eleven entries in all, if we exclude Milton's "Chevrolet" (Miller). The Duesenberg team consisted of Milton, Murphy, O'Donnell, and Miller. Eddie Hearne was back again with the Revere Duesenberg. Four Frontenacs were in the hands of G. Chevrolet, Bennett Hill, L. L. Corum, and Waldo Stein. The occasion marked the first appearance of Lora Lawrence "L. L." Corum (1899-1949) as an entrant in a big league AAA race.

Ralph Mulford could not drive for the Frontenac team here at Uniontown because of a former commitment of his to pilot a Hudson in the Labor Day, Pikes Peak hill climb, which had been just revived in 1920. Its only previous running had been in 1916. So Waldo Stein here at Uniontown, was given Mulford's red Frontenac to drive. DePalma was on hand with his Ballot and Denny Hickey was entered on a "G.M.C. Special". The "G.M.C." seems to have been Denny's old 1919 "Stickel Special" Hudson, now scaled down somehow to meet the 183 cubic inch limit, but Hickey encountered motor trouble (broken distributor?) and was a non-starter.

Between the June 19 "225" and the September 6 "225" contest, work had been done on the 1 1/8 mile Uniontown oval, to reinforce and renew the track surface, and to eliminate all excessive vibration in the turns. The basic ideas used here were provided by Louis Chevrolet and the repairs were done under the supervision of Uniontown Speedway's General Manager, Al E. Corns. The revamping, reconstruction, and repairs were said to have cost nearly $40,000. The total September 6 Uniontown 225 prize money or purse however had been lowered from an original $25,000 (Source: MOTOR AGE, July 29, 1920, page 27) to just $14,000 (Source: LA CROSSE TRIBUNE, Sept. 6, 1920, page 1).

The early race day practice session eliminated two would-be competitors: (1.) DePalma's Ballot broke a piston or a connecting rod (the sources differ) and (2.) L. L. Corum skidded on a high turn and his Frontenac slid down the embankment into the infield fence, thereby bending a spring so badly that Corum was unable to compete. So the event ended up with only eight actual starters.

The race itself was mostly a battle between Milton and Murphy. At the half way mark (100 laps) the running order was 1. Milton; 2. Murphy, 3. O'Donnell; 4. G. Chevrolet; 5. Hearne; 6. Stein; 7. Miller; and 8. Hill (out after 8 laps). On lap 118 G. Chevrolet's left wheel struck the right rear of Stein's, while Chevrolet was attempting a pass in the east curve. Both Frontenacs spun and headed for the infield fence but both avoided disaster and went immediately to the pits to change wheels. Stein's wheel had its spokes torn away and his brake's rigging was damaged. Both Chevrolet and Stein returned to the fray however, and kept going.

Until lap 164 Milton and Murphy ran close together but then Murphy had to pit because a right rear tire started flying apart by partly flapping in the air. On lap 191 Murphy had to stop again for a tire change. After lap 164 Milton was always in front and drove the entire 225 mile distance non-stop. Milton winning time was 2:20:24.19 (96.151 mph). The top four finishers were, 1. Milton (Duesenberg); 2. Murphy (Duesenberg); 3. Hearne ("Revere" Duesenberg); and 4. O'Donnell (Duesenberg). And so the September 6 Uniontown "225" was the second 1920, one-two-three-four Duesenberg sweep here, when added to the earlier June 19 Uniontown 225 contest. Milton's elapsed time of 2:20:24.19 compared with his June 19 winning reckoning of 2:22:44.37 (94.578 mph).The Labor Day attendance was placed at about 45,000.

#213 Mark Dill

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Posted 23 April 2009 - 15:02

Great stuff, as always, John. I recall you were researching Louis Chevrolet. I came across a really nice article done by an AP reporter by the name of Don Pryor in 1938. He visited Chevrolet and his wife in their home in Detroit. Even at that time Chevrolet was all but forgotten. It's on my site at:

http://firstsuperspe...louis-chevrolet

With all your knowledge and research, you may have already seen this material, but just in the event that you haven't - or for the benefit of others - I note it here.

Keep up the good work, and I will be staying in touch as I expand my site.

#214 john glenn printz

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Posted 28 April 2009 - 16:38

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-83) There was definitely confusion among some newsmen and the press (but not among them all) as to whether the September 6 Uniontown "225", after it had been actually staged, was an AAA National Championship ranked contest. A few newspaper reporters thought it was a points awarding event and stated that Tommy Milton had finally overtaken Gaston Chevrolet in the AAA point standings, and in fact, was the new AAA point leader. This certainly would have been the case if the September 1920 Uniontown "225" had been the fifth AAA Championship ranked contest run in 1920, but it wasn't. That honor belonged to the Beverly Hills 250 of November 25, 1920.

The confusion or mixup here seems to have been due to the following circumstances. At first only one of the two 1920 Uniontown 225's was to count (Sources: DETROIT NEWS, March 28, 1920, Autos, page 4; NEW YORK TIMES, July 11, 1920, Pt. 6, page 1; and DETROIT NEWS, August 22, 1920, sect V, page 8) and as the June 19 "225" didn't count, it followed that the September 6 "225" must be the Uniontown's AAA Championship race for the year. I think this originally was the intention but the Uniontown management later lowered the prize money to be put up, i.e. to below the AAA Championship minimum required, and so Uniontown's second "225" didn't count either.

However some newsmen were still under the (false) impression that the second "225" was a genuine "points" awarding race and reported it as such in both September and October 1920. (Sources: DETROIT NEWS, September 15, 1920, Autos, page 4; FORT WAYNE JOURNAL-GAZETTE, September 19, 1920, page 28; BROWNSVILLE HERALD, September 26, 1920, page 8; and DES MOINES CAPITAL, October 31, 1920).

Richard A. Kennerdell however had issued a definite and official Contest Board statement in early September which should have cleared up all the befuddlement. Some newspapers however seemed to have entirely missed Kennerdell's recent memo. Kennerdell's post stated that the 1920 AAA point standings would remain the same, just as they had been after the August 28 Elgin road race, and would stay the same until the running of the Beverly Hills 250, slated for Thanksgiving Day, i.e. November 25, 1920. The "Turkey Day" event would be the last AAA Championship race for 1920 and would decide who was to be the 1920 U.S. driving champion.

For instance the LOS ANGELES TIMES for September 12, Sect. VI, page 1, under the heading CHEVROLET IS STILL LEADER has the following (quote); "Chairman Richard Kennerdell of the A.A.A. Contest Board had just given out the official standings of the drivers in the battle for the speedway championship for 1920. These standings are official and complete to date and will not be changed until the Thanksgiving Day 250-mile race at Beverly, which is the only remaining event of the season, carrying championship points. The points follow: Gaston Chevrolet...1030, Tommy Milton...930, Jimmy Murphy...805, Ralph DePalma...605, Rene Thomas...520, Ralph Mulford...350, Joe Thomas...296, Eddie Hearne... 205, Ira Vail...140." And still further down (quote), "The recent Uniontown race, which was won by Milton with Murphy second, was not a championship event and carried no points with it."

The LOS ANGELES EXAMINER (Sept. 12, 1920, Auto Section, page 9) records the following (quote), "The four leading drivers of the United States are thickly clustered around first place in the race for the Speedway Championship for 1920. A letter received from Chairman Kennerdell of the Contest Board of the A.A.A. yesterday gives the standings right down to date. They will remain unchanged unitil the final event of the racing season, the 250-mile race on Thanksgiving Day at the Los Angeles Speedway, this being the only remaining event of the 1920 season for which championship points are awarded. The present standings are: Gaston Chevrolet...1030, Tommy Milton...930, Jimmy Murphy...805, Ralph DePalma...605, Rene Thomas...520, Ralph Mulford...350, Joe Thomas...296, Eddie Hearne...205, Ira Vail...140."

And in an article penned by Eddie Edenburn (DETROIT NEWS, Sept. 26, 1920, Sect V, page 2) the following is contained (quote), "Due to the fact that Chairman Richard Kennerdell, of the A.A.A. Contest Board, did not award Uniontown a championship race on Labor Day, the national speed honors will be settled at Los Angeles, Nov. 25. The drivers are in the same positions they held after the Elgin road race and the 250-mile event over the board speedway at Beverly Hills on Thanksgiving Day, with 580 points to the winner, will be the deciding factor."

Oval dirt track racing did not play a very important role in the earliest years of the AAA National Championship, i.e. 1916 and 1920 to 1930. The 1916 AAA Championship season had only one example, i.e. the Ascot 150 of November 30; and the next two AAA Champ contests staged at dirt ovals were the Syracuse 150 (September 15, 1924) and the Detroit 100 (June 10, 1928). Then a gradual, but rather quick, alteration took place. The rapid demise of all the board saucers effected a great alteration here. Beginning with the year 1932 and lasting right up to the AAA Contest Board's elimination as a sanctioning body for racing in late 1955, the vast majority of the AAA National Championship events were held on flat dirt surfaced tracks.

For 1920 itself, one does not hear or read about any really important or major AAA dirt track races. And the few instances of 1920 AAA dirt contests are provided unfortunately with very scanty contemporary information. One gets the impression that less than half a dozen cars actually started in most of them. One notices an Eddie Hearne win at Fresno, CA on April 30, 1920, in a 50 mile contest, and Gaston Chevrolet winning a 100 miler at Columbus, OH on August 2. Here Gaston led every lap and won with a time of 1:29:23. Gaston's time broke the former record for a flat one mile dirt oval for 100 miles set by Tom Alley (Duesenberg) at Minneapolis on October 24, 1914. Alley's old mark had been 1:31:30.

In 1920 there was a dirt race meet at Syracuse on September 17, which had a total field of just six entries. There were three Frontenacs (G. Chevrolet, Bennett Hill, and Ira Vail), two Duesenbergs (Murphy and O'Donnell), and DePalma's lone Ballot. This meet was notable for being the very first time Jimmy Murphy raced on a dirt oval. There were three separate events in all, of 10, 20, and 50 miles. All were won by DePalma. Ralph's winning time in the 50 miler was 40:49.68.

The earliest automobile contests staged at Syracuse of which I am now aware, were held on September 12, 1903. The 1920 Syracuse meet may have been the first automobile races held here since Lee Oldfield in a Knox had a solo one car accident in a 50 mile race (September 16, 1911), which killed nine spectators. AAA National Championship racing proper was first introduced at Syracuse on September 15, 1924. Beginning in 1928 the Syracuse dirt mile held an AAA National Championship ranked 100 miler annually from 1928 to 1941, and after World War II, from 1949 to 1955.

#215 john glenn printz

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 19:32

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-84) The announcement of Cliff Durant's "retirement" from all racing first appeared in the daily newspapers on September 18 and 19, 1920. The obviously ostensive and official reason given for Cliff's sudden retirement from all motor sports, was his father's constant concern over his son's personal safety. Nothing however was mentioned about W.C. Durant's financial problems at General Motors, of which very few were knowable, even among the "insiders" at GM. It was mentioned also, as a kind of offhand aside, in some of the retirement reports about Cliff, that his "Chevrolet" racing car was now going to be leased to Tommy Milton.

On September 18, 1920 had come another unexpected bombshell! Tommy Milton quit totally the Duesenberg team with which he had been exclusively associated since May 1916, and would now run on the AAA National Championship circuit as an independent, using Cliff Durant's "Chevrolet Special"! In order to understand Milton's decisive split with the Duesenbergs here, it is necessary to return to late 1919.

Milton, while he was recuperating in the hospital from his September 1, 1919 Uniontown burns, schemed on how to wrest the Land Speed Record from Ralph DePalma, who then held it at 149.875 mph. This idea had apparently been in Milton's mind for some time. DePalma had attained his new Land Speed Record mark on February 12, 1919 at Daytona, FL, using a special 905 cubic inch V12 Packard car. Milton's special LSR machine would utilize two standard 300 cubic inch straight eight Duesenberg racing engines. Tommy, using some of his own money, got the go-ahead from Fred Duesenberg and after much blood, sweat, and tears the new Duesenberg "Beach Car" was taken to Dayton Beach in early April 1920. Milton was delayed in getting to Florida and had instructed his crew, which included Fred Duesenberg, Harry Hartz, and Jimmy Murphy, to get the new 16 cylinder machine readied for the record run.

It was with a great deal of dismay then, that before Tommy arrived at Daytona, he was both shocked and furious to read in the daily newspapers that Murphy, using his car, had broken the Land Speed Record at 153.9 mph (23.38 seconds) on April 17, 1920! Milton was boiling hot, as he certainly had a right to be, and held Fred Duesenberg directly responsible for what had happened. Although Murphy's new speed of 153.9 mph was unofficial and Milton himself on April 27 upped the official U.S. record to 156.04 (23.07 secords) this incident was the genesis of the so-called "Milton-Murphy" feud, however long it lasted.

After April 1920 Milton had resolved to free and sever himself from the Duesenberg team, because of this supposed "betrayal", as soon as an appropriate and convenient opportunity presented itself. Now in mid-September 1920 Cliff Durant's retirement gave Milton the chance to campaign on the AAA Championship circuit, wholly as an independent entity; as he could now take over Durant's "Chevrolet" exclusively and use it on a loan or lease basis. Tommy's new and novel idea was to replace its totally ineffective Miller 4 powerplant with a Duesenberg straight 8 racing motor. A machine using a Miller chassis with a Duesenberg 8 type motor might prove to be a very effective and efficient crossbreed, with a high winning potential! And so during late September 1920 Milton removed its original Miller 4 and installed a Duesenberg 8, to create a Duesenberg/Miller hybrid. The machine still continued to be raced under the name "Chevrolet Special" throughout the rest of 1920 however, even while under Milton's tutelage.

Edited by john glenn printz, 01 May 2009 - 11:59.


#216 helioseism

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Posted 06 May 2009 - 15:05

Just found out about this website on the 1915 Minneapolis 500. Might be of interest.

Minneapolis 500

#217 john glenn printz

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 20:26

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-85) The next major race on the 1920 AAA calender was the Fresno 200 of October 2. Fresno was a totally new $250,000 one mile board speedway built on the site of the older one mile dirt oval, at the Fresno County Fairgrounds. Actual construction on the Fresno board track was begun on August 2. The word "fresno" is Spanish for "ash tree" and Fresno itself is located in the San Joaquin Valley which was a very heavy agricultural area back then, with the production of raisins being one of its chief sources of wealth in and near Fresno, CA. Fresno was the second new board speedway erected in 1920, the other having been the 1 1/4 mile Los Angeles Speedway (i.e. Beverly Hills).

The Fresno 200 or "San Joaquin Valley Classic" attracted but 10 entries; the Duesenberg team, beginning at Indianapolis, always had four cars during the 1920 season. At Fresno the drivers were Murphy, O'Donnell, Sarles, and Joe Thomas. Sarles was the replacement pilot for Milton in the No. 10 Duesenberg. Up to now Sarles had driven only Frontenac cars during 1920, but now Roscoe switched to the Duesenberg team. There were two Frontenacs in the hands of Gaston Chevrolet and Bennett Hill. DePalma was present with his Ballot and Hearne with his "Revere" Duesenberg. Milton had his "Chevrolet Special", which was now really a Duesenberg/Miller. The tenth entry was Jim Crosby, with an off-beat "Patterson" machine, constructed by A. H. Patterson of Fresno. In fact both Jim Crosby and Patterson were local Fresno boys. I would guess that this was the same "A. H. Patterson" who ran a Hudson in some 1916 and 1917 AAA contests. Crosby however had to drop out from the actual entrants, because his car was not quite ready. So there was just nine competitors total.

O'Donnell was the fastest qualifier at 102.27 mph (35.2 seconds) and thereby won the pole position. Cliff Durant, now retired from all competitive driving, acted as the "assistant starter" to the actual starter, Frank G. Lowry. The total purse was $15,000. Like the 1920 Uniontown "225" of June 19, the Fresno 200 was nowhere advertised or hailed as an AAA National Championship "points" awarding contest. And as Kennerdell had already made clear in early September, there would be no official point awarding contest staged, until the Los Angeles 250 of November 25, 1920.

DePalma started 9th in the lineup, as he had no qualification time. On the first lap he moved into 7th and by the second lap, he was running in fifth. By lap four Ralph had secured fourth place and had moved into the 2nd position by ten circuits. On lap 14 DePalma moved into the lead, but on circuit 21 he had to pit for new rubber. Thereafter Ralph had intermittent tire problems which made him an "also ran".

In the Fresno 200, at 100 miles, the running order was 1. Murphy (time 1:01:59); 2. Milton; 3. J. Thomas; 4. Sarles; 5. Hearne; 6. O'Donnell; 7. G. Chevrolet; 8. DePalma; and 9. Hill (out 21 laps-engine trouble). Milton led at the 140, 150, and 160 mile marks but had to pit on lap 161 for two new right side tires, thereby dropping down to 5th place. But so speedy was his "Chevrolet", he managed to move into 3rd place at the end. DePalma's Ballot retired on lap 170 with a broken oil line. Chevrolet and Thomas drove the entire distance non-stop while Murphy made but one stop for new rubber.

The Fresno finishing order (top five) was, 1. Murphy (Duesenberg); 2. O'Donnell (Duesenberg); 3. Milton (Duesenberg/Miller); 4. G. Chevrolet (Frontenac); and 5. J. Thomas (Duesenberg). Murphy's total time was 2:04:32 for average of 96.36. Murphy, with his victory here at Fresno, had now won both the inaugural races at the two new 1920 California board ovals. The attendance was placed at 50,000, which was the largest crowd ever assembled in the city of Fresno up to this time.

The 1920 AAA season was about over now, except for the Los Angeles 250 to be staged on "Turkey Day" November 25, which would finally decide who would be the 1920 AAA National Driving Champion.

Edited by john glenn printz, 14 May 2009 - 19:37.


#218 john glenn printz

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Posted 15 May 2009 - 14:56

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-86) It had been almost three whole months between the fourth and fifth AAA 1920 Championship point races, i.e. the August 28 (Elgin) and the Thanksgiving November 25 (Beverly Hills), but Gaston Chevrolet had always retained the AAA point leadership since his victory at Indianapolis on May 31. The 1920 AAA Title chase was now considered a decided success because, back in 1916, only two drivers (Aitken and Resta) had had a mathematical chance to win the title with but one event remaining; whereas in the 1920 AAA Championship, with just one more contest left, four pilots had a mathematical possibility (Chevrolet, Milton, Murphy, and DePalma). As the AAA point totals had not altered since Elgin the four leaders stood as follows; 1. Chevrolet with 1030; 2. Milton with 930; 3. Murphy 805; and 4. DePalma 605.

Although Chevrolet had kept the leadership in the official AAA standings thoughout the 1920 season since Indianapolis, Gaston was considered the least likely of the four contenders, to win the 1920 AAA Driving Title, while heading into the November 25, Los Angeles 250. Among the racing experts, people in the know, and the odds makers, Tommy Milton was overwhelmingly favored. But Jimmy Murphy too, had his ardent supporters. DePalma was given only an outside shot, but was still generally reckoned a better bet than Gaston Chevrolet. And though Milton had quit the Duesenberg team in mid-September, the pollsters had been impressed by Tommy's newly acquired "Chevrolret Special" which had run well at Fresno on October 2. Milton, in the meantime, had also won a 100 mile dirt track race at Phoenix (October 10) in it, with a time of 1:24: 2/5 seconds. Tommy's clocking here was hailed as the new world's record for 100 miles on a flat 1 mile dirt oval. However at Phoenix, Tommy had faced only two other competitors, i.e. Gaston Chevrolet and Omar Toft.

The November 25 Beverly Hills 250 had 13 entries. The four Duesenberg works cars were in the hands of Murphy, O'Donnell, Sarles, and Edward "Eddie" F. Miller. Hearne was present with the "Revere" Duesenberg. The Frontenac make was represented by G. Chevrolet and Joe Thomas. DePalma and Milton, both with a chance for the AAA Title, were entered on their Ballot and Chevrolet Special (Duesenberg/Miller) machines, respectively. The other remaining four entrants were all odd ducks, i.e. Stein in a Miller, Crosby in a Patterson; and Al Thiele and Al Melcher in their "Thiele" and "Melcher" Specials. The Thiele and Melcher cars may have been simply old castoff Duesenbergs, now entered under their driver/owner's names.

Of Waldo Stein's Miller the only comment I can find is (quote), "The Miller Special is a fast little car, built by Harry Miller, for entry in the last Indianapolis race, but which was never sent East." (Source: LOS ANGELES TIMES, November 18, 1920, Pt. III, page 1). I can locate nothing indicating it was Barney Oldfield's old 1917 Miller. Thus Stein's No. 5 Miller here, might be an updated "T.N.T." In any case this Miller was a non-starter because it broke a connecting rod in practice. So the starting field was reduced down to twelve, instead of an "unlucky" thirteen.

On November 23, Ralph DePalma informed the Los Angeles Speedway management that he could not compete in the 250. His Ballot was shipped a week late from France though a mixup of some sort, and he and his car could not now arrive in time for the race. DePalma's telegram read (quote), "My car on steamer Savole arriving today. (Monday). Cannot ship to Los Angeles until Tuesday. Therefore cannot be with you on Thanksgiving Day. If you contemplate another event will be ready to race any time after December 1. Ralph DePalma." (Source: LOS ANGELES TIMES, November 24, 1920, pt. IV, page 1). So the race for the 1920 AAA driving title was now reduced to just three, Chevrolet, Milton, and Murphy, while the starting field was set at eleven.

This would be the first occasion at Beverly Hills for the 183 cubic inch cars, as both the earlier 1920 meets here (February 28 and March 28) were staged under the 301 cubic inch limit. During the year, the new 183 cubic inch cars had proven to be more speedy than had been expected. In fact they were just shy of matching the speeds of the older 301 cubic inch racers.

The total purse here aggregated $35,000. $25,000 was put up by the speedway itself and another $10,000 was further subscribed for a $50 a lap lead prize fund. Captain Eddie Rickenbacker acted as the official referee and Cliff Durant with friends, journeyed down from Oakland, CA to watch the action. Fred J. Wagner (d. Nov. 5, 1933 at age 67) was the starter. The audience was entertained by Barr's Flying Circus before the race, which started at 1:30 p.m.; and Barney Oldfield was the pace maker in a Marmon speedster.

Gaston Chevrolet supposedly said before the race that (quote), "I'm not going to take any risks. Tommy Milton is the only one who can possibly deprive me of the championship now, for he's only 100 points behind. I don't need to take any desperate chances to win the race. I need only to be placed, so for once I can play it safe." (Source: GALVESTON DAILY NEWS, December 13, 1920, page 7).

Edited by john glenn printz, 30 June 2009 - 14:36.


#219 ensign14

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Posted 28 May 2009 - 16:35

Was this quote of Gaston's invented? With a 100 point lead, he needed to win to be sure of taking the title. If Milton (or indeed Murphy) had won, 2nd would not have been enough for Chevrolet.

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#220 john glenn printz

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Posted 29 May 2009 - 12:23

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-87) The Beverly Hills 250 did not follow the predictions of the pundits and prognosticators. Jimmy Murphy led the first lap, and then Roscoe Sarles took over the front position to lead all the rest of the way, on a non-stop run for the victory. Ernie Ansterberg (1891-1924) rode with Sarles this day. The first car out was, alas, Tommy Milton's Chevrolet Special (Duesenberg/Miller), at just 21 circuits completed, with a broken valve. Thus Milton would not be the victor for the 1920 AAA Driving Title. The 1920 AAA Championship battle was now reduced to just two personages, i.e. either Gaston Chevrolet or Jimmy Murphy. Murphy would have to finish here in either 1st (with 500 points) or 2nd (with 260 points) to win the AAA Title, even if Gaston obtained no further points to his already accumulated total of 1030.

Both the Thiele and Melcher cars had retired by the half way mark; the Thiele after 34 laps (burned out bearing) and the Melcher after 74 circuits (broken piston). Jim Crosby in the green painted No. 7 Patterson had many long stops at the pits. His car was the slowest on the course but still completed 106 laps before being finally flagged off at the end. The fans had great fun in heckling and laughting at the slow moving and troublesome Thiele, Melcher, and Patterson entries whenever they pitted. As the race progressed, Jimmy Murphy too, fell off the fast pace because of ignition and tire problems. Eddie O'Donnell had lost many laps also, due to engine trouble, but was still running. So by lap 140, barring the unexpected, Gaston's chances of winning the year's AAA Driving Title were looking extremely good.

Gaston Chevrolet on his 147th lap and when in the east turn, attempted to pass Joe Thomas who was running on the inside lane. Gaston moved to the right and collided with O'Donnell, running on the outside. O'Donnell's No. 9 Duesenberg went sideways and moved in front of Gaston's No. 6 Frontenac. Gaston's machine now struck O'Donnell's Duesenberg a second time, on this occasion T-boning it. Gaston's "Monroe", now out of control, hit the outside railing and tore out 20 feet of fence and skidded down the embankment. O'Donnell's Duesenberg flipped over after the second hit and landed upside down, at the bottom of the track. Joe Thomas, still running in the lower portion of the track, sped by the melee totally unscathed. The front of Gaston's car was now torn away. At the time of the crash O'Donnell was on his 139th circuit. Gaston Chevrolet had had a non-stop run going until the accident and had been running in 5th or 6th place.

Gaston died a few minutes after the collision, while his riding mechanic, Johnny Bresnahan, was thrown clear and reemerged with only a few scratches. O'Donnell's mechanician, Lyall Jolls, was pitched out of the car, hurled over the track's outside guard rail, and then dropped 25 feet to the ground below. Lyall was picked up alive but died en route to the hospital. O'Donnell had suffered compound fractures of the skull, an arm broken in two places, and various internal injuries but was still alive. Eddie however never regained consciousness and died the next day, i.e. on the morning of November 26, at 7:30 a.m., in the California Hospital. A blood clot was the official cause of Eddie's death.

The final results of the November 25, 1920 Beverly Hills "250" were (top four); 1. Roscoe Sarles (Duesenberg); 2. Eddie Miller (Duesenberg); 3. Eddie Hearne ("Revere" Duesenberg); and 4. Jimmy Murphy (Duesenberg). Sarles' total time was 2:25:2 (103.21 mph). This was just shy of Murphy's 2:25:17.59 posted here on February 28, 1920 under the old 301 cubic inch limit rules. Sarles was no factor at all in the AAA Championship itself, as he had only 40 points total, all gained from a 5th placement at Tacoma on July 5, going into this last AAA Championship race for the year 1920.

Murphy had needed to win or take 2nd place to capture the AAA title, but finished only 4th, good for only 80 more Championship points. This added to Murphy's previous total of 805, resulted in a grand total of 885, insuffient to pass Chevrolet's accumulated total of 1030. It didn't even overhaul Milton with his 930 counters. Thus Gaston Chevrolet was crowned posthumously the 1920 AAA Titlist on the afternoon of November 25, 1920. The final AAA 1920 points standings, as concluded on the afternoon of November 25, 1920, stood (top ten): 1. Gaston Chevrolet-1030; 2. Tommy Milton-930; 3. Jimmy Murphy-885; 4. Ralph DePalma-605; 5. Roscoe Sarles-540; 6. Rene Thomas-520; 7. Joe Thomas-351; 8. Ralph Mulford-350; 9. Eddie Hearne-345; and Eddie Miller-260. The race attendance was put at 70,000.

It had been a day. All across the U.S., the November 26 newspapers, carried the odd story of Chevrolet's sudden demise and his winning of the 1920 AAA National Championship Driving Title on the same exact day and date, as his death. Many of these dailies also included the top positions of the final 1920 AAA point standings. Or as some November 26 reports succinctly put it (quote), "Although the race cost Chevrolet his life, it gave him the title of national automobile racing champion for 1920. The championship is awarded on points and Chevrolet's total for the season was 1,030 all acquired previous to today's contest."

Edited by john glenn printz, 10 August 2010 - 17:11.


#221 john glenn printz

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 18:22

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-88) Gaston Chevrolet had been born in France on October 26, 1892 at Beaune. He came to the U.S. in 1901 and was a racing mechanic during 1915 and 1916. Gaston married Marguerite Bueron from Brookyn, NY, on October 27, 1916. The earliest reference that I have which connects Gaston with automobile racing proper is July 8, 1915. On that day at Lima OH he went through the outer fence with driver William "Bill" Dowty and the car overturned. Gaston was then acting as the riding mechanic to Dowty and Gaston sustained severe back injuries. In late May 1916, Gaston was at Indianapolis with his older racing brothers, Louis and Arthur, all entered on three brand new 301 cubic inch class Frontenac racing cars, but Gaston failed to qualify and didn't compete in the race itself. Gaston was active as a pilot of Frontenac cars in some of the major 1917 AAA race meets. At the Cincinnati 250 (May 30, 1917) Gaston had his first big finish by placing 3rd, only behind Louis Chevrolet (Frontenac) in 1st and Ira Vail (Hudson) in 2nd.

For 1918 Gaston went "outlaw" and ran on the IMCA circuit. Other famous AAA drivers both past and future, who ran in IMCA contests in 1918, were Tom Alley, George Clark, Earl Cooper, Al Cotey, Wilbur D'Arlene, Louis Disbrow, Jules Ellingboe, Bill Endicott, Barney Oldfield, Omar Toft, Jerry Wonderlich, and Cliff Woodbury. The International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) was formed on March 29, 1915 in Chicago, IL by disgrundled fair managers who regarded the AAA Contest Board as dictatorial, high-handed, unfair, and much too costly for their dirt track races and contests. The new IMCA was then closely allied with the American Association of Fairs and Expositions and G. W. Dickinson was the first President of the newly created IMCA, which operated in both the U.S. and Canada. The IMCA quickly became a persistent thorn in the side of the AAA Contest Board and the rivalry lasted, with regard to important U.S. dirt track fair dates, until the expiration of the AAA Contest Board's connection with racing in late 1955.

For the 1919 season Gaston was reinstated into the AAA fold and ran in most of the major AAA contests, winning three major events; i.e. (1.) the Sheepshead Bay 100 of July 4; (2.) the Uniontown 225 of September 1, with relief help (laps 118-200) from Joe Boyer; and (3.) the Sheepshead Bay 150 of September 20. Thoughout his career Gaston always piloted Frontenacs. Gaston's only near relative in Los Angeles at the time of his death was his wife. Louis Chevrolet himself had been in Savannah, GA on November 25, 1920, for a minor automobile race meet.

Lyall Jolls had been a mechanic for the Duesenberg team for three years and had ridden with Jimmy Murphy when he had won the Beverly Hills 250 on February 25, 1920. Jolls was 26 years old and his fiancee, Miss May A. Esch, had been in the grandstand, as had been both Mrs. G. Chevrolet and Mrs. O'Donnell. Jolls real last name was Headen. but when he entered the racing game he decided to make professional use of the surname of his step-father.

Eddie O'Donnell (1885-1920) began his racing career as a riding mechanic for Harry Endicott (1883-1913) in the 173.36 mile "Wisconsin Motor Challenge Trophy" race staged at Milwaukee on October 3, 1912. Endicott and O'Donnell won this event in a Mason with a 55.6 mph average (time 3:06:44.78). The Wisconsin Trophy was for cars in the 161 to 231 cubic inch classification but only three vehicles actually started, all factory backed Masons. O'Donnell made his first start as a driver in the Kalamazoo, MI 100 of September 26, 1914 where he finished 2nd in a Duesenberg, to Bob Burman's 1913 EX3 Peugeot. A very bad spill at a Kansas City dirt track on June 22, 1916 put Eddie out of racing for late 1916, and all of 1917 and 1918. O'Donnell commenced the second phase of his racing profession or vocation, at Indianapolis in May 1919. Eddie's most notable placement in his 1919 and 1920 comeback was a 2nd at Fresno on October 2, 1920. O'Donnell, with very few exceptions, usually drove Duesenberg cars.

Edited by john glenn printz, 04 June 2009 - 11:31.


#222 Mark Dill

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 18:19

Today (June 19, 2009) is the 100th anniversary of the first running for the Ira Cobe Trophy which was won by Louis Chevrolet. As near as I can tell, this was his only road course victory.

You can see excellent news coverage of this event at my Web site at:

http://www.firstsupe...age-cobe-trophy

I also blogged about it at:


http://www.firstsupe...years-ago-today

Mark Dill
www.firstsuperspeedway.com



#223 john glenn printz

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 15:43

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-89) There is no explanation given, in any contemporary 1920 source material, as to why the two Uniontown 225's of June 19 and September 6, 1920; and the Fresno 200 of October 2, 1920, did not count toward the 1920 AAA National Driving Title.

However it can be clearly shown that these three AAA contests paid out less prize money than the five AAA races which counted for the National Championship Title. The monetary figures for the five 1920 Championship events were; (1.) Beverly Hills (Feb. 28) Total purse: $25,000, 1st place $10,000; (2.) Indianapolis (May 31) Total purse: $50,000, 1st place $20,000; (3.) Tacoma (July 5) Total purse: $22,500, 1st place $10,000; (4.) Elgin (August 28) Total purse: $15,000, 1st place $6,500; and (5.) Beverly Hills (Nov. 25) Total purse: $25,000, 1st place $10,000.

The winner of first place in the two Uniontown 225's and the Fresno 200 contests got $5000 each for his victory, which was a lower sum than any of the five genuine 1920 AAA Championship races. The total purses were $14,000 each for both of the 1920 Uniontown events and $15,000 for the Fresno 200. It thus seems to be a reasonable conclusion and inference that a lower prize fund and pay scale, precluded the two Uniontown and the 1920 Fresno contests to being assigned by Kennerdell to the AAA National Championship calendar for 1920.

In the performance department the new 183 cubic inch class racers proved to be almost the equals of the older 301 cubic inch class cars. At Indianapolis in 1919, Howard Wilcox's (Peugeot) elasped time was 5:40:42 compared to Gaston Chevrolet's (Frontenac) 1920 chocking of 5:38:32. The Indianapolis record however was still held by Ralph DePalma (Mercedes) at 5:33:55 set in 1915. The 1915 Indianapolis contest had also been staged with a 301 cubic inch displacement limit. At the Beverly Hills 250 on February 28, Murphy posted 2:25:17, while Sarles' total for another Beverly Hills 250 run on November 25, was 2:25:20. Here Sarles was slowed somewhat by the Chevrolet-O'Donnell accident. At the September 1, 1919 Uniontown 225, G. Chevrolet/Joe Boyer (Frontenac) had 2:24:19, with Milton even faster on September 6, 1920, for the same distance, with a 2:20:24 posting. Straight 8 type motors won nine of the eleven major 1920 AAA races, i.e. all but (1.) a 50 mile sprint heat at Beverly Hills (March 28, 1920) won by a EX5 1914 Grand Prix Peugeot, and (2.) the most important event of all for 1920, the Indianapolis 500 (May 31). Indy in 1920 was won by a four cylinder Frontenac. The Great War (1914-1918) had greatly advanced the science of metallury and engine design, it had developed better lubricants, and had made for much more effective and potent fuels. All this new and increased technology had been utilized and applied to the new 1920 "183" class racing cars.

Although Harry Miller in mid-1919 opted and agreed to built a fleet of new 183 class racing cars for Cliff Durant, Miller's new double overhead cam, 4 cylinder motor, proved a complete failure during the entire 1920 season, as it had neither power or reliability. The new engine design made only one actual start during 1920, i.e. at Tacoma on July 5. There it lasted just three laps before connecting rod failure put it out. 1920 was a very bad year for Harry Miller. Cliff Durant and Barney Oldfield reflected the general consensus about Harry's racing efforts for 1920 when they asserted that "Miller couldn't build a rat trap." And Milton said of the Durant owned, 1920 Miller built four cylinder 183 "Chevrolet Special" (quote)," It wouldn't go fast enough to blow your hat off."

But during the second half of 1921, Harry would both quickly and surprizingly repair his poor showing during all of 1920 with a new Miller straight 8, first introduced in April 1921. In the summer and fall of 1921 it was developed with the sustained help and expertise of Frank Elliott, Leo Goossen, Tommy Milton, and Ira Vail. Vail, in fact, ran one example at Indianapolis in May 1921, to place 7th overall. In 1922, with Jimmy Murphy as the driver, and Ernie Olson (b. October 21, 1891) as the mechanic, the Miller 183 straight 8 literally took over the AAA National Championship circuit. Mllton, at the Tacoma 250 on July 4, 1921, had already posted one 1921 victory, using the design. No complete Miller built car had won an important race until Milton's win at Tacoma in 1921 and complete Millers would win no more important events during 1921. 1921 was, in fact, a year when Duesenberg equipment was dominant.

Edited by john glenn printz, 19 July 2010 - 17:44.


#224 john glenn printz

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 15:04

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-90) Compared to his dire 1920 results, Harry Miller's two complete 1917 machines, put together for Oldfield and Cadwell, and his 289 cubic inch motors, sometimes sold as separate units, had done fairly well during mid-1917 to early 1920. According to the DETROIT NEWS (April 18, 1920, Autos, page 3) in an Edenburn article, Miller was preparing four cars for the upcoming 500 (quote), "In addition in having a hand in the preparing of Cliff Durant's and Barney's cars for the Hooser classic, Harry Miller is also constructing a pair of racers for the Indianapolis event. If he can complete the two cars in time to ship them East for the race, Miller will enter the cars and name the two drivers." The "pair of racers for the Indianapolis event" must have been or soon became the two "T.N.T." cars. Apparently only one "T.N.T." vehicle was officially entered at Indianapolis, probably because time was running out and only one example could be possibly still readied in time. However even that prognostication proved overly optimistic, and the single "T.N.T" entry never arrived at the Speedway.

After their Indianapolis win (May 31) the Frontenac cars did not fare well. In the remaining three 1920 AAA Championship contests after Indy their best placements were; 4th at Tacoma (Klein); 4th at Elgin (Mulford), and 5th at Beverly Hills (J. Thomas). In the major non-Championship AAA races they were 5th at Uniontown on June 19 (Mulford), 5th at Uniontown again on September 6 (G. Chevrolet), and 4th at Fresno (G. Chevrolet). The Frontenac vehicles were now being constantly outrun by the straight 8 Duesenbergs and at Elgin (August 28), by DePalma's straight 8 Ballot. The poor performances of the Frontenacs after Indianapolis, was one of the main reasons why Gaston Chevrolet was not thought to be the likely winner of the AAA 1920 Title, on the eve of the November 25 Los Angeles 250. All three of the racing Chevrolet brothers, i.e. Louis, Arthur, and Gaston, began the 1920 season as active competitive drivers, but 1920 would be their last year in that capacity. None of this illustrious trio would ever complete again in an automobile race after the 1920 season.

On the whole the Duesenberg team had been very successful during 1920, winning three of the five AAA Championship ranked events, i.e. 1. Beverly Hills (Feb. 28); 2. Tacoma (July 5); and 3. Beverly Hills (Nov. 25). In the two other genuine AAA Championship contests for 1920, Duesenberg cars were 3rd at Indianapolis (May 31) and 2nd at Elgin (Aug. 28); Milton being the pilot here on both occasions. In the six other important AAA non-Championship events, Duesenbergs had five wins; i.e. (1. & 2.) Beverly Hills sprints (March 28), Heat 2 and the Final; (3. & 4.) the two Uniontown 225's of June 6 and September 6; and finally (5.) the inaugural Fresno (Oct. 2). These eight 1920 Duesenberg victories were divided among three pilots, i.e. Milton had 4, Murphy 3, and Sarles 1. No other make besides Duesenberg had more than one win in the eleven important 1920 AAA races, these three exceptions being, (1.) Beverly Hills sprints, Heat 1 (Peugeot); (2.) Indianapolis (Frontenac); and (3.) Elgin (Ballot). For the Duesenbergs the only major disappointment surely, had to be at Indianapolis, where they could only muster a 3rd (Milton), 4th (Murphy), and 6th (Hearne). Good but not great.

After Indianapolis, the French Ballot team immediately headed back to France and left their further 1920 U.S. racing fortunes solely in the hands of Ralph DePalma. Ballot would certainly had prospered much better if they had had one or two more cars running in the U.S., besides the lone DePalma effort. As it was DePalma won only at Elgin (Aug. 28) and the minor Syracuse 50 (Sept. 18) dirt track race. Because of a broken connecting rod, DePalma's Ballot did not start at Tacoma (July 5), and due to a mixup and late shipment from France, no Ballot competed in the Beverly Hills 250 of November 25 either. With probably the fastest and the most advanced design, the Ballot marque had faired rather poorly in the New World during 1920.

When the new 183 cubic inch limit replaced the older 301 cubic inch limit in May 1920 at Indianapolis, there began a great diminuation of actual entries and starters in the U.S., AAA races. For example, Indianapolis in 1919 had a full field of 33, but for 1920 there were only 23. The 1919 Elgin had 13 starters but only 8 for 1920. With a total circuit measuring 8.5 miles, and with only 8 cars total running, the 1920 Elgin sponsors and promotors must have cringed at such a puny field put before their public audience. At the Beverly Hills 250 for February 28, 1920, run under the 301 limit rules, there were 18 starting cars, but the Beverly 250 of November 25, 1920, had but 11. Indeed this unfortunate trend would continue. The whole AAA 183 cubic inch limit Championship events, staged from mid-1920 to early 1923, suffered from a lack of complete starting fields.

Edited by john glenn printz, 10 July 2009 - 20:18.


#225 john glenn printz

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Posted 13 July 2009 - 14:26

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-91) Another very vexing situation reared it's head in 1919 and 1920. This was simply that the AAA Contest Board had no international recognition as to its current status as the "de facto" regulator and actual organizer of all the more important U.S. automobile races and speed trials. Thus all U.S. speed records were not recognized or regarded as official in Europe and elsewhere. It meant, for instance, that DePalma's Land Speed Record (149.875 mph) set in a Packard on February 12, 1919 and Milton's later record (156.04 mph) made by a twin engined Duesenberg on April 27, 1920, had no "world" standing or status; but at best were and remained merely local "U.S." records. For these new marks and times to have been considered "official" by the Paris based AIACR, they would have had to been timed by the Automobile Club of America (ACA), not the American Automobile Association (AAA).

The idea in Paris, the world center for all motor sport since 1894-1895, at the Automobile Club de France (ACF) from 1899 to 1904 and later the AIACR from 1904-1920, was that each country or nation, could have only one national automobile club as its representative for its international automobile racing activities and achievements. Just after the running of the 5th Gordon Bennett Cup on June 17, 1904 at Homburg, Germany, won by Leon Thery (1878-1909) on a Richard-Brasier car; there was held an international conference of the national automobile clubs. On June 20 while everyone was still at Hombury, there was formed the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (i.e. AIACR), which thereafter controlled all the important world motor car races. The AIACR in 1904 retained the ACA from the ACF as America's representative for all international motor racing. The ACA seems not to have taken its AIACR membership always seriously and didn't even send a single representative to some of the more important 1906 and 1907 AIACR meetings held in France. And still for the United States in 1919 and 1920, its official representative in Paris at the AIACR, was the old, moribund, and "do nothing" ACA, and not the AAA!

This curious anomaly had it historical origins going all the way back to November 1899, three years before even the formation of the American Automobile Association (AAA) on March 2, 1902 in Chicago, IL. The Automobile Club of America (ACA) was organized on May 27, 1899 in New York City and was composed generally of wealthy, aristocratic elements from mostly the New York area. The Gordon Bennett Cup series was first initiated and formulated in June 1899, and when the Bennett Cup idea got more properly proposed, organized and implemented in late 1899, the new ACA club was selected by the ACF as the official American automobile club representing the U.S. interests with regard to racing. For example all the U.S. entrants for the international Gordon Bennett races (1900-1905) and the later French Grand Prix events (1906-1914), were through the agency and medium of the ACA and its representatives. The ACA was in existence in late 1899 and was at the time the U.S.' most prominent motor club and therefore there was nothing odd about it getting the official nod from the Paris based ACF in 1899.

However that might be, the American Vanderbilt Cup races (1904-1916), had the AAA as its sponsor and sanctioning body in 1904, and also during 1905 and 1906, with apparently the full co-operation of the ACF; and here the ACA was inexplicably and completely shut out. W. K. Vanderbilt, Jr. had offered the Cup to the AAA Racing Board in January 1904 and the AAA had accepted the challenge under the headship of Chairman Arthur R. Pardington, of providing itself as the official sanctioning body for the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup contest. This has always been a puzzle to me, as I would have thought that the ACA would have been the sanctioning body here (Compare with my "cont.-5" post above). In any case, all the W. K. Vanderbilt Cups (1904-1916) were run by the AAA, and W. K. Vanderbilt Jr. himself was always very supportive of the AAA. The ACA remained largely a snobbish local New York area motor car club while the AAA quickly expanded nation wide, all across the U.S. during 1902 to 1916.

There had been no Vanderbilt Cup race for 1907 because the new Long Island Motor Parkway, upon which it was to be staged, could not be completed in time. There were later some temporary plans to stage it in the state of New Jersey, but permission to hold it there, could not be obtained from the New Jersey state legislature. All schemes to run a 1907 Vanderbilt Cup were abandoned by July 23, 1907. In July 1907 also there was held at Ostend, Belgium by the AIACR, an international conference to draw up uniform rules for all future and major international automobile races. The decision and the new rules were arrived on July 14. It called for a maximum weight limit of 110 kilograms (2425 pounds) and an engine bore limit on four cylinder engines of 155 millemeters (6.1 inches).

That a 1908 Vanderbilt Cup race would be run was proclaimed on November 27, 1907. The only important rule change was the weight limit of the vehicles would be raised from 2204 to 2424.4 pounds. This was in conformity to the new Ostend rules. But the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup regulations put no restrictions on the size of the bore. Already by May 20, 1908 the ACF objected that the upcoming 1908 Vanderbilt event did not conform to the Ostend rulings and warned that there might be no foreign entries for the proposed 1908 Vanderbilt race. On the very next day, the ACA declared that they just might hold a big 1908 U.S. road race of their own, which could secure as many as 20 foreign competitors! Naturally this new ACA contest would be in total conformity to the July 14, 1907 Ostend agreements! It all seems now like a tempest in a teapot but all the disputes here made for big newspaper headlines in mid-1908. Basically what soon happened was that the American automobile manufacturers sided with the AAA, while in stark contrast the Europeans upheld the Ostend rules and the ACA. It may be that the American automobile manufactures thought also that a boycott of the Europeans at the upcoming 1908 Vanderbilt classic, might enable an American built vehicle to finally win a Vanderbilt race. (Compare with "cont.-6" above.) Anyway it all led to the ACA holding a second large scale 402.08 mile road race, dubbed the "American Grand Prize", on November 26, 1908, at Savannah, GA.

The strift between the ACA and the AAA for the control of American motor racing seems to have arisen when the ACA renewed its interest in racing in 1908 and began their new series of "American Grand Prize" contests. There can be little doubt that for 1908, and even thereafter up to 1916, the ACA's "American Grand Prize" upstaged the hitherto dominant Vanderbilt events on the international level and probably in actual fact in the U.S. also. The American Grand Prize was for a longer distance and generally allowed higher piston displacement engines than the Vanderbilt. All seven of the American Grand Prizes (1908-1916) were over 400 miles in length and all eleven of the W. K. Vanderbilt Cup races (1904-1916) were under 300 miles in overall milage. For 1916 the ACA languished again and largely allowed AAA personnel to conduct its own "international ACA" Grand Prize. The Grand Prize was even included in the AAA's new 1916 National Driving Championship "points" Title, if the cars used were under the 301 cubic inch limit (See cont.-26).

After 1916 the ACA seems not to have sanctioned any automobile races at all, certainly no major ones. Meanwhile the AAA, since April 1909 with its agreement with the Manufacturer's Contest Association (MCA) and its multitude of national U.S. races , was the real and "de facto" organizer and sanctioning body for all the major and important national U.S. racing meets, with the sole exception of the ACA's so-called "international" American Grand Prize. Consult "conts.-7, 8, & 13" above.

World War I (1914-1918) put a halt to all important relations between the AAA and the French motor sport authority, the AIARC, but 1919 and 1920 brought up again all these contentious matters once again, as no American 301 or 183 cubic inch limit speedway records or U.S. Land Speed records had any international or world recognition. In August of 1920 therefore, Richard A. Kennerdell may have written a letter to the AIACR about the AAA's total lack of any official authorization or recognition, in Paris or the world at large (Source: MOTOR AGE, August 12, 1920, pages 25 & 54). Whatever the case here, this matter dragged on for years until October 27, 1926, when the AIACR finally replaced the old and decrepit ACA, with the AAA now being named as the U.S.' official motor racing authority for the entire United States.

Edited by john glenn printz, 15 July 2009 - 13:12.


#226 fines

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Posted 13 July 2009 - 19:28

Yet another excellent post, thank you, John!

As for the AAA sanctioning of the Vanderbilt Cup races, I seem to recall having read that it basically happened on a whim of William Kissam Vanderbilt himself, he apparently demonstrating his independence from "the other" New York motorists, perhaps on account of an (imagined?) slight? I will have to rummage through my sources to find it...

#227 Mark Dill

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 01:26

Yet another excellent post, thank you, John!

As for the AAA sanctioning of the Vanderbilt Cup races, I seem to recall having read that it basically happened on a whim of William Kissam Vanderbilt himself, he apparently demonstrating his independence from "the other" New York motorists, perhaps on account of an (imagined?) slight? I will have to rummage through my sources to find it...


I have done a lot of writing and research for Howard Kroplick, the foremost authority on the Vanderbilt Cup. I can tell you that the link to the AAA was largely a personal one, as Vanderbilt had a close relationship with Art Pardington who chaired their racing board in 1904. It is not clear who approached who first, but their first meeting to discuss a James Gordon Bennett-style international road race occurred January 8, 1904. Pardington was always at Vanderbilt's side through the Long Island Vanderbilt Cup races probably lending more counsel then will ever be fully recognized. Pardington not only led the charge on the initial Vanderbilt Cup, but was the general manager of the Long Island Motor Parkway, another Willie K inspiration.

Check out Howard's Web site at www.vanderbiltcupraces.com for a wealth of information.

Mark Dill
www.firstsuperspeedway.com




#228 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 09:30

I think that Mark Dill provides an insight as to why the AAA may have been the club that WK Vanderbilt turned to when he decided to hold his event on Long Island. It should also be noted that the membership and the leadership of the AAA and the ACA were somewhat intermingled during this period. Rather than on a personal whim, it might be that a part of the reason that WK Vanderbilt turned to the AAA was that the ACA had placed a ban on road racing after its Staten Island exerience on Decoration Day in 1902, about 18 months or so prior to the discussions with the AAA about the event Vanderbilt wished to hold. This was prior to the establishment of the AIACR in June and the acceptance of the ACA as its US representative. It would seem that a combination of factors, the personal relationships and the ACA ban on road racing among them, that played a role in the Vanderbilt Cup being an AAA entity rather than one of the ACA.

The rivalry of the ACA and the AAA seems to have arisen prior to the 1908 season, at some point in the latter part of 1906 with the two openly differing during 1907 on some issues. It is possible that a part of the rivalry stemmed from the ACA being less attuned to national interests and more towards European one when it came to issue of automobile racing, with the AAA being closely aligned with the US manufacturers and their interests.

The post-Great War muddle regarding the AIACR, the AAA, and the ACA that JG Printz covers is an often overlooked aspect of the role that the AAA Contest Board assumed during the Twenties. It should be noted that the change of US membership on both the AIACR and the CSI took place rather quietly and with relatively little fanfare.

At any rate, I offer these observations as food for thought.

#229 ensign14

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 09:38

And then after AAA withdrew USAC did not get onto the FIA roster, the position seemingly reserved for the not-yet-existing ACCUS. More confuddlement.

#230 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 11:00

And then after AAA withdrew USAC did not get onto the FIA roster, the position seemingly reserved for the not-yet-existing ACCUS. More confuddlement.


Not "reserved," but rather the CSI not willing to be rushed into accepting the USAC simply because the AAA Contest Board was terminated and the USAC claimed to be its replacement. Indeed, the USAC making the automatic assumption that it was take the AAA Contest Board's place in the CSI may have worked to its disadvantage since USAC did not reckon with the unlikely partnership of the SCCA and NASCAR. However, that is, as they say, another story.

Plus, the AAA did retain its seat in the FIA as the US representative for all matter regarding "touring," that is non-sport related matters.


#231 Russ Snyder

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 12:24

Did Frenchman Albert Guyot have any results in American racing besides the Indy 500's he took part in?

#232 fines

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 13:51

No.

#233 Russ Snyder

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 12:53

No.



Thank you!

I am amazed at Guyot's record at Indy during the pre WW1 and post WW1 races. I liken his results to Ted Horn in the 30's and 40's. Steady and in the top 4 when finishing. Its a testament to how important Indy was in those days for a driver to come to the USA just for that race!

#234 john glenn printz

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Posted 21 July 2009 - 20:30

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-92) JACK PRINCE (1859-1927) . John "Jack" Shillington Prince, the racing bicycle track builder and promotor, had constructed five board speedways for automobile racing in the U.S. before 1920, i.e. (1.) Playa del Rey in 1910; (2.) Elmhurst (Oakland) in 1911; (3.) Omaha in 1915; (4.) Des Moines in 1915; (5.) and Uniontown in 1916. In 1920 itself, Prince built two more wood saucers, i.e. (6.) the Los Angeles Speedway (Beverly Hills); and (7.) Fresno. Of Jack's original five, only Uniontown was still operational in 1920, but the board track era still had one full decade to go after the 1920 season. Probably its most glorious period occurred during the AAA Championship seasons of 1923 to 1927. These same years as well marked the height of the Miller-Duesenberg rivalry.

Jack Prince was born in Langley Green, near Birmingham, England on November 27, 1859 and died in Los Angeles, CA on October 27, 1927. At an early age Jack was a cricket player, a "bowler", but after an injury of a smashed hand Prince took up bicycling. In May 1905 Prince, then a successful constructor of bicycle wood racing ovals, gave this short resume of his life (quote);

"I learned to ride a bicycle on a wooden velocipede, common in those days. Took me about six months to learn. There was a track, a dirt track of course, they didn't have any other kind in those days, at Birmingham. The track was at Aston, a suburb of Birmingham. Had my first race there, went in the amateur event. There were a lot of amateurs in that race. Why, I guess there must have been 100 of them. Anyway, I won. See this medal on my watch chain. That was my first prize, and I have it yet.

"It wasn't very hard after that, and it was not so long before I was winning race after race.

"In 1879, 1880, 1881, and 1882 I was "champion" of the world on the high wheels, the big wheel in front and the little one behind. I licked all the riders, all the old-timers. I beat all the French riders, Terront and DeCovy and Mantaiges. I was the English champion, and there were no riders in the country I couldn't do up with ease. I won from Jack Koen of London, and Fred Cooper, of Sheffield, and Walter Philips, of Wolverhampion, and a long string of others I have forgotten or haven't time to mention.

"Of the Irish champions, I met Patay O'Donnell, the Irish champion; Derkenring, the flying Dutchman: Albert Shock, another Dutchman: Lumbsen of Edinburough; Fred Lees, of Leicester, and licked them all.

"I raced Dick Howell and Fred Wood, of Manchester, England , at Springfield, Mass., for the mile championship of the world. The race was run on a half mile dirt track, the prize being the international championship.

"I held the championship of the world for seven years. My fastest mile was 2:29 on a dirt track, with solid tires. I have ridden on the wheel for ten years straight with several years added, with intervals between.

"I have raced in many places. In America the tracks were at Springfield, Mass., where I raced before 40,000 people; in Boston, at Beacon Park, in Providence, and in New York, on the polo grounds.

"On the Boston commons I have ridden before as many as 100,000 people.

"Other tracks where I have ridden, and where the races were held in those days are in Manchester, in Birmingham on the Aston track, in Leicester in Wolverhampion, three tracks in London, at Crystal Palace, at Hernhilt, where the college races are held, and at L'ly Bridge. Frank Kramer will seen ride on the Aston track in Birmingham.

"The last race I ever rode was in Baltimore, an exhibition affair, with Bobby Walthour, and Bert Repine pacing me on a tandem. I have never ridden behind a motor, always when paced by human pace.

"In all I have taken part in twenty-one six-day races of different character. Three of them were roller skate races. I lost but two races in my life of the six-day caliber. I raced running horses in Boston, twelve hours a day against twenty running horses. Each man had to all the riding horses and on the wheel. The man on the horse was nearly dead at the end of the seventy-two hours, while I was in good shape.

"Other tracks in use in those days were situated at Paris, called the Seine; one in Edinborough, one in Glasgow, one in Belfast, one in Berlin, and one in Vienna. I never raced in Russia. I have crossed the Atlantic twenty-three times, and have seen a great number of the countries of the world. I have been in Egypt, in Australia, in all parts of Europe, all over America, but never in Asia.

"They used to make books on all the races just like on the horse races now.

"I have won many prizes in cycling. Mrs. Prince has twenty gold medals I won, and one big silver cup, about the second thing I ever won, I think. When I was in shape I weighed about 160 pounds, and never lost more than two or three pounds in a race. I don't believe racing hurts a man, provided that he takes care of himself and doesn't drink and dissipate.

"I used to box with Charley Mitchell, the English prize fighter who is now matched with Fitz for a fight. I was with him when he fought Sullivan to a draw in France, and with him in Jacksonville when Corbett put him to sleep.

"It was easy for me to slip into track building from riding wheels. I knew just how to build a track so as to prevent the slip and believed that a track could be banked much higher than it then was. The first step towards banked tracks after the dirt track passed was to cement the track.

"I built the first real track as we know them today, and started it going. This track was built at Nashville, and I banked it 40 degrees. Everybody looked at it and said no one would ever be able to ride on it. Why, now tracks are banked as high as 60 degrees. This track was built in 1894 and was the first one with high banks, built with strips.

"Funny the first race I ever had on that track. The day before the race two boys came in to see me. 'I want to find Prince,' said one of them. 'Well, here he is,' said I. 'We want to run in your race'' spoke up one of them. 'Where did you come from?' 'We came from Atlanta and want to go in the amateur race.'

"'What's your name?' said I to one of them. 'My name is Walthour.' So I fixed it up for them and let them in the race. Bobby won it, and from then on went butting around the circuit winning races.

"In the professional race I had a bunch of world champions-Eddy Bald, Jay Eaton, Fred Loughead, Tom Cooper, Earl Kiser, Charlie Wells, Fred Titus and Frank Starbuck. We had a circuit those days with Atlanta, Montgomery, Chattanooga, and Memphis in it.

"I came first to Atlanta in 1895 to build a track. We raced in the old Coliseum. I came to America in 1884.

"The first race behind motors was ridden by Eaton and Kiser in 1898 at Waltham, Mass. Moran raced that night in the amateur event.

"It has been a life of hard work and many disappointments, but it's all in the game. I have visited many countries and many cities, but Atlanta is good enough for me, all except the rain." (Source: THE ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, May 28, 1905, page 27.)

Of any interest? Obviously here's some odd new light and/or rather obscure information on America's foremost builder of board speedways, in fact the real instigator and inventor of board track racing in America. How much of the above is actually true, I can't say, but Prince was quite a talker at least. It seems here that Jack Prince may have had the attentive ear of a new and naive cub reporter. His mention of Edward "Eddie" Cannon Bald, Tom Cooper (1874-1906), and Earl H. Kiser (b. 1876), is also of seeming interest. The "Jack Koen of London" is most certainly John "Happy Jack" Keen (1849-1902) of England, i. e. "Koen" here being a misprint for Keen. Keen came to the U.S. in mid-1883, in his third trip to America, specifically to challenge John S. Prince (Sources: NEW YORK HERALD, Nov. 11, 1882, page 1 and PALO ALTO REPORTER, Dec. 12, 1882, page 3.). In both these late 1882 citations, Prince is hailed as the "American champion", but how or why he is named such, I don't know. Keen's late 1882 trip to the U.S. was obviously delayed.

The Eaton and Kiser mentioned as being at Waltham, Mass in 1898 are Jay Eaton and, of course, Earl Kiser; two of the most famous men in bicycle racing at the time. The Moran, also named in this context, was the amateur rider, James F. Moran. Bobby Walthour (1878-1949) went on to became one of the greatest names in the sport.

On the motor tandems consult the thread "THE YEARS 1894 TO 1897", cont.-36, posted on April 24, 2007.

With regard to the pugilists Prince names, they were the four most famous fighters of the day, i.e. John L. Sullivan (1858-1918), James John "Gentleman Jim" Corbett (1866-1933), Bob Fitzsimmons (1863-1922), and Charles Watson Mitchell (1861-1918). "Fitz" here must be a nickname for Bob Fitzsimmons. Charley Mitchell was born in, and was a native of Birmingham, England. The first three Heavyweight Champions of the World were Sullivan from 1892-1897, Corbett from 1897-1899, and Fitzsimmons from 1899-1905. Mitchell fought bouts with both Sullivan (1883) and Corbett (1894). Although Michell lost in his bouts with Sullivan and Corbett, his overall record was good with 30 wins (9 by knockout), 3 loses, and 13 draws.

Edited by john glenn printz, 20 September 2010 - 14:06.


#235 john glenn printz

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 18:27

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-93) John "Jack" Prince's bicycle racing career had largely taken place before the advent of the motor car and the coming of automobile racing in 1894/1895. Jack's early endeavors and exploits on the two wheelers seems very remote from the steeply banked U.S. wooden speedways operating in the 1920s, but everything here ties together when taken together from a long range view, i. e. of the very fast evolving technical and engineering advancements made during 1850 to 1925 in both Europe and the U.S.A. Automobile racing certainly stems directly from it all!

The industrial revolution first appeared in England during the late 18th century with the rapid rise of the steam engine and steam power. This new mechanical era manifested itself most visually perhaps in the steamboat and railway locomotive. Another technical wonder of the early 19th century was the invention of the bicycle, a device not seen before. The first origin of the bicycle is often assigned in 1817 to Karl von Drais (1785-1851), a Grand Duke of Baden, Germany. Drais' machine, made mostly of wood, had two wheels of equal size, and the forward motive power was provided by the two legs, pushing against the ground. It was the first "hobby-horse".

After that most bicycles were the so-called "high wheelers" or velocipedes, which made use of petals on a very high front wheel. Pierre Michaux (1813-1883) in France formed the firm "Michaux et Cie" in 1868, which first mass-produced velocipedes during the years 1868 to 1870. Frenchman Pierre Lallement, who had worked for Michaux, patented the basic velocipede design in the U.S. In 1885 came the first "safety" bike designed by the Englishman, John Kemp Starley (1854-1901), called the Rover. It featured a chain drive to the rear wheel which allowed the two wheels to be of near or of equal size. In the new "safety" design the driving power went to the rear wheel, rather than in the "high wheelers", where the much larger front wheel furnished all the power to the road surface. Early bikes had solid rubber tires. John Boyd Dunlop (1840-1921), a Scottish veterinary doctor, invented the pneumatic tire in 1887 for his son's tricycle, and patented his idea in 1888. (Compare with the thread "THE YEARS 1894 TO 1897", 'Racing 1894-1899 cont.-5', posted on March 5, 2007.)

The largest manufacturer of bicycles in the U.S. during the 1880s and 1890s, was Colonel Albert Augustus Pope (1843-1909). Pope's interest in them was sparked in 1876, at the U.S.' Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia, when Pope came across sample velocipedes imported from Europe. Pope was a Civil War (1861-1865) veteran who after the war, and with his war savings, had gone into the business of making tools and decorative items for shoes. Immediately after his visit to the 1876 exposition, Pope imported British built velocipedes from England to sell in the U.S. and bought up existing patents on bicycle design, including even the ex-Lallement patent. In 1878 Pope ordered 50 bicycles from the Weed Sewing Machine Company located in Hartford, CT and quickly sold them all. Pope ordered more and more bikes from the Weed company and soon the Weed factory was producing more bicycles than sewing machines. The trade name for all the Pope velocipedes was "Columbia". The most important and largest American cycle club was the League of American Wheelmen formed in Newport, RI in 1880 on May 31.

Later came, of course, the motorized bicycles, tricycles, and tandems. The first commercially marketed motorcycle was the Hildebrand and Wolfmuller in France, during 1894. It sported a two cylinder 1488 cc, (2.5 horsepower at 240 rpm,) water cooled engine. The first U.S. production motorcycle, in 1899-1900, was the "Orient" produced by the Waltham Manufacturing Company, located in Waltham MA. Charles Herman Metz (1863-1937) had formed the Waltham Manufacturing Company in 1893 to construct "Orient" brand name bicycles. The first Orient motorbikes used a one cylinder air cooled French Aster engine based on a De Dion design. The company introduced the "Orient Buckboard" automobile in 1902. The Buckboard contained a one cylinder, 4 horsepower, air-cooled engine. Probably the three most famous U.S. motorcycles makes were the Indian (1901-1953), the Harley-Davidson (1903-present), and the Henderson (1912-1931).

Already by the early-1890s it was evident to many that an entirely new type of vehicle, i.e. the four wheeled motorized automobile, was about to transform and revolutionize the mode of transportation once again. At first it had been the steam locomotive, then the bicycle, and now the motor car. Albert Pope then thought the electric motor powered automobile would win out over the gasoline and steam powered machines. Thus in 1897 Pope began marketing an electric car, called the "Columbia", but still retained the talented Hiram Percy Maxim (1869-1936) to conduct experiments on gasoline type vehicles, in his Motor Vehicle Division. In June 1900, Pope at age 57, sold out all his automobile interests and holdings to the Electric Vehicle Company and retired. (For information on the Electric Vehicle Company see the thread "THE YEARS 1894 TO 1897", 'Racing 1894-1899' cont-15.)

Jack Prince (1859-1927) had seen it all happen and all before the proper age of the motor car. According to one statement (WASHINGTON POST, June 24, 1883, page 5) Prince ran his first race as a professional at Wolverhampton, England in 1879. It would be most interesting to know if John or "Jack" Prince shows up anywhere in the contemporary British newspapers or periodicals. It is reported (SAN ANTONIO DAILY LIGHT, June 6, 1893, page 7) also that Jack became a U.S. citizen in 1884, but there are no details as to why he did so.

There is information and data in the U.S. newspapers from 1882 on, about John "Jack" Prince, but it is all rather contradictory in its many and specific details. It is almost as if Mister Jack Prince couldn't repeat the same incident, tale, or story twice, without major variations and different years being given, as to when the events had actually taken place. For example, the exact year in which he first came to the U.S. is variously given as 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, and 1885! The earliest references to Prince that I can find, date from 1882. In THE NEW YORK TIMES of February 23, 1882, on page 2, Prince is given credit for posting new 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 mile records at a 1/5's mile track located at the Institute Fair Building in Boston when competing against Lewis T. Frye. Prince covered the 5 mile distance in 16:22 1/2, which was 45 seconds faster than the best previous time. And again at Boston, on May 25, 1882 (Source: WATERLOO COURIER, May 31, 1882, page 2) one John S. Prince, rode 50 miles setting a new American mark of 3:12:38 1/2.

On September 9, 1882, William J. Morgan, issued a challenge published in the NATIONAL POLICE GAZETTE on page 14, which read as follow (quote), "SIR: I hereby challenge any man in America to ride a fifty mile bicycle race (except John S. Prince) for $250 or $300 a side; or I am prepared to meet any bicycle rider in America at the POLICE GAZETTE office, to arange a match to ride 100 miles for $250 to $500 a side and the championship of America, John S. Prince preferred. The race to take place in any city in the United States, four weeks from signing articles. To prove I mean business I have deposited $50 forfeit with Richard K. Fox, who is to be final stakeholder and select a referee.

Wm. J. Morgan. Long-Distance Champion of Canada."

The POLICE GAZETTE further comments (quote), "Morgan evidently means business when he puts up money to back his challenge, and there is not the least doubt but that John S. Prince, the champion, will accept his proposition and arrange the hundred mile race."

I find nothing further here. In 1883 the chief professional bicycle racers in the eastern U.S. were apparently (1.) John S. Prince, the American Champion; (2.) William J. Morgan, the champion of Canada; (3.) Harry W. Higham, the champion of England; and (4.) William M. Woodside, the champion of Ireland. It is not clear to me if these were real national cycle titles or just advertising and promotional hype.

Edited by john glenn printz, 01 October 2009 - 17:24.


#236 john glenn printz

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Posted 17 August 2009 - 19:39

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-94) A new novelty in the early 1880s was pitting a bicycle team against horses, mostly trotters. In Boston, MA, beginning on May 1, 1883 at the Casino, Prince and William Miller Woodside of Ireland, engaged Charles Leroy and Francis W. Ware using riding horses, in a six day, 10 hours a day, match race. The purse was $2000. Leroy and Ware won traveling 921 miles, while Prince and Woodside on their bike had only compiled 899. On June 9, 1884 Prince at Philadelphia was beaten in a 10 mile challenge by the trotting horse "Scotland" as piloted by expert horseman, Burd Doble. Doble's winning time was time was 36:33. Therafter Jack engaged his bicycle against the horses (mostly trotters) in match contests, all across the U.S. and the horse or horses did not always win. Prince even raced women! On September 2, 1883, J.S. Prince ran in a 25 mile bicycle race against Madam Louise Armaindo of Montreal, Canada. She was given a three mile advantage at the start but Prince still won the contest by 34 seconds. I think it had all been mathematically worked out and pre-calulated beforehand. One gets the uneasy feeling here of something akin to Barney Oldfield's barnstorming shows, the IMCA staged races, and the present day fake wrestling extravaganzas.

Prince often asserted that he held all the world's bicycle speed records from the 1/4 mile mark to 1042 miles. Later Jack maintained that his short distance marks had been bettered by the youngsters but that he still held all the records for all distances, 50 miles and above. I can find no real verification for any of this. These long distance speed marks are said to have been set at Minneapolis in May 1888 (Source: THE ILLINOIS DAILY REVIEW, August 27, 1892, page 3). Prince affirmed also that he took part in twenty-one, six-day bicycle races and lost only two. I can find only one of them, i.e. on May 19, 1890 Jack defeated Edward "Ned" or "The Soldier" Reading (b. 1864) at Omaha, NA. Another six-day affair at Minneapolis seems well attested but is variously placed in 1885, 1886, 1887, and 1888. Here Prince defeated Albert Shock from Germany. One newspaper, i.e. THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, on February 27, 1891, page 8 called Prince the (quote), "champion fake rider of the world". And my total ignorance of all U.S. 19th century bicycle racing doesn't help here much either. In 1895 Prince asserted it was he, back in 1883, who had first discovered the later famous and great U.S. amateur cyclist George M. Hendee (1866-1943) from Springfield, MA. Obviously Jack was always a "name dropper". In the 1890s Prince turned his attention, more and more, to race management and promotions. In 1897 Prince had his base camp at Atlanta, GA where he was in charge of the "southern circuit". It consisted of cycle tracks located in Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis, and Chattanooga, with one at Montgomery still under construction. All were built by Prince. Jack Prince also always seemed to be enamored by pugilism. He expressed at times, that he would like to promote fights, but there is no evidence that he ever did so.

It is not clear just when Jack quit competitive bicycle racing but c. 1894/95, Prince constructed his first board oval bicycle racing track at either Nashville, TN or Newark, NJ, i.e. the sources differ. By 1909 Prince had built over 30 such tracks. In December 1908 Prince declared his intention to construct a 1/3 mile oval speedway in Los Angeles, CA, for just motorcycle races exclusively. This was a new gig. Instead of just making wooden velodromes for bike racing as hitherto, why not make them for just motorcycle racing, the latest new craze. The new L.A. motorcycle speedway was built in early 1909 and was located at near Ascot Park, at 63rd and Main. It's shape was a perfect circle and its first meet took place on March 14, 1909. After a 100 mile motorcycle race run there on April 18, 1909 and won by Jacob "Jake" B. De Rosier (1880-1913), Prince's new Coliseum speedway, held all the motorcycle speed records from 1 to 100 miles. De Rosier was of French ancestory and was born in Quebec, Canada. De Rosier's time, using an "Indian" brand bike, for the century was 97 minutes and 59 seconds. Soon Prince went off to Springfield, MA to erect an even faster motorbike speedway.

The move from bicycle tracks to motorcycle ovals was just a mere quantum and logical leap perhaps, but not Prince's next project for 1910. Here the idea was to enlarge the 1/3 mile circle motorcycle speedway design up to a full mile and put up a wooden oval for just automobile racing! Probably the whole scheme originally came from Prince himself. However in the 1950s, when investigator Griffith Borgeson interviewed Fred E. Moscovics, Moscovics took full credit for the idea. Who would then know, as J.S. Prince had been dead since October 1927? But Moscovics undoubtedly raised the money needed for the construction of the one mile "pie pan" Los Angeles Motordrome (Playa del Rey), no insignificant item in itself.

The first day of actual competition on the new wooden circle was April 8, 1910, but events were scheduled up to April 17. On hand were Johnny Aitken, Caleb Bragg, Ralph DePalma, Ray Harroun, Al Livingtone, Joe Nikrent, Barney Oldfield, George Robertson, and Louis Strang, among many others. There were many contests but the two most important were two 100 miles, one run on opening day and one on the last day. Ray Harroun won both, using Marmons. In the first race, for the 231 to 300 cubic inch stock chassis class, Ray's time was 1:25:22.07 (70.26 mph). For the second event, for 600 cubic inches or less stock chassis, Harroun's clocking was 1:16:21.90 (74.67 mph). On April 13, DePalma won a 50 mile "Free For All" in the Fiat "Cyclone" with a clocking of 37:55.53 (78.11 mph). All three races here were, of course, run in record time.

In the euphoria raised by Playa del Rey's initial April success, Moscovics wanted to set up a syndicate of ten further motordromes in big cities, all across the U.S. Moscovics called upon Ernie A. Moross, then president and the director of contests at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to join him in the venture. But Moross didn't take the bate and only said of the Indiaoapolis Motor Speedway instead (quote), "The track here is the greatest in the world, and I predict an unheard of successful season for this year." (Source: THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR, April 12, 1910, page 8). The only direct and immediate reaction to the erection of Playa del Rey was the construction of another Prince built , 1/2 mile perfect circle oval, at Elmhurst, CA in late 1910. It was designed to stage both motorcycle and automobile races, but nothing of major interest ever took place there.

Nothing but minor races were run at Playa del Rey after its first meet in April 1910. Being in the hot California sun for three years made the Los Angeles Motordrome very dry and rickety by early 1913, and the Playa del Rey speed oval caught on fire on August 11, 1913. It was thought that the fire was due to vagrants, enjoying an afternoon siesta under the structure and very careless of their matches. The track was only partially destroyed but its owners, Pacific Electric, believed the oval was not worth repairing and that it had outlived its usefulness. Such was the fate of America's first large scale board speedway. After Playa del Rey, the next major board speedway for automobiles was completed at Chicago in 1915. It opened up with a big 500 miler, run on June 26, 1915 which was won by Dario Resta in a Peugeot at an 97.5 mph average. This 1915 Chicago 500, more properly than the 1910 Los Angeles Motordrome, started the AAA "board track era", which lasted from 1915 to 1931.

As has been already mentioned, Prince built four more board speedways between 1910 and 1920, and (6.) Beverly Hills and (7.) Fresno in 1920 itself. During 1920 again, Jack is cited as trying to promote new automobile raceways in Atlanta, Dallas, Fort Wayne, Oakland, and San Francisco. After 1920, Jack constructed nine more board ovals for automobile racing in the U.S. They were (8.) San Carlos and (9.) Cotati (Santa Rosa) in 1921; (10.) Kansas City in 1922; (11.) Altoona in 1923; (12.) Charlotte and (13.) Culver City in 1924; (14.) Salem (Rockingham) and (15.) Laurel in 1925; and (16.) Atlantic City (Amatol) in 1926. 1921 was the first year that all the AAA Championship events, except Indianapolis, were run solely on board speedways. This was repeated in 1922, 1923, 1925, 1926, and 1927. In 1928 dirt track 100 mile races were introduced to the AAA Championship circuit for the first time and they always remained part of the annual AAA Championship schedule until the AAA ceased sanctioning all racing in the year 1955. There was one oval Championship dirt track race each, run during the AAA seasons of 1916 and 1924, but they were both for a 150 mile distance.

Edited by john glenn printz, 14 December 2012 - 19:15.


#237 john glenn printz

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Posted 24 August 2009 - 19:11

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-95) There was some discussion about a 1920 revival of the Corona road race, last run in 1916; and of another race at the 2 mile Cincinnati board oval, which was still in existence, but neither idea was implemented. The AAA 1920 season ended with Ira Vail winning two 100 mile dirt track races, i.e. (1.) Phoenix on November 13, time 1:30:25 3/5; and (2.) Bakerfields on December 26, time 1:28:18 3/5. In each case Vail was piloting the "Philbrin" Duesenberg.

Among the AAA drivers in 1920 the biggest story was the rise and success of Jimmy Murphy. Murphy won three of the season's eleven major races, including both the inaugural contests at the two newly Jack Prince built board ovals, i.e. Los Angeles and Fresno. Tommy Milton tutored Murphy in 1919, probably without any real clue or intimation that he was creating his chief and most dangerous rival for the next half decade! Between 1920 and 1924 Milton and Murphy were the best U.S. drivers. Milton won two Indy 500s (1921 and 1923), and one AAA Title (1921); while Murphy won two AAA Titles (1922 and 1924), one Indianapolis 500 (1922), and one French Grand Prix (1921). Murphy was in fact the only pilot ever to win both the French Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 when both were in their true simultaneous heyday. Milton and Murphy compiled 27 genuine AAA Championship victories from 1920 to 1924; Milton had 10 and Murphy 17.

EPILOGUE OR LAST REMARKS: So what kind of general remarks or statements can be made concerning motor racing, particularly U.S. racing, durings its first quarter century (1894-1920) of existence? And how can we make sense of it all? And what are the connecking links, if any, to the present scene?

Automobile racing began in France with the great and annual town to town contests (1894-1903), which in turn were displaced briefly by the Gordon Bennett series (1903-1905), and which in turn was replaced by the French Grand Prix (1906-1908 and 1912-1914). The lineage here is perfectly clear. Beginning in 1906 certainly the Europeans thought in terms of one big event annually, i.e. the French Grand Prix, where the winners, car and driver, took all the year's awards and honors.

There were no major automobile races in the U.S. until William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. began the Vanderbilt Cup series in 1904 on Long Island, NY. It was a direct imitation and copy of the current Gordon Bennett events then being staged in Europe. The Vanderbilt Cup instantly became America's most important and significant automobile race and retained this clear status in both 1905 and 1906 also. The Vanderbilt Cup was not held in 1907. In 1908 the Vanderbilt race was boycotted by the European teams and its status was thereby greatly degraded and debased. The major U.S. event in 1908 was the new "American Grand Prize" run in Savannah, GA on November 26 and sanctioned by the ACA. The American Grand Prize had upstaged the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup chase, held on October 24, 1908, and won by George Robertson (1884-1955) on a U.S. built Locomobile. Robertson's win was hailed as an American triumph, but even in its 1908 context, it was all a bit of a sham. Thereafter the ACA's American Grand Prize was the U.S.' most important motor race for the period 1908 to 1912. There were no American Grand Prize and Vanderbilt Cup races for 1913, and the Indianapolis 500 became the U.S.' most important motoring competition contest for 1913, almost by default. Indianapolis has ever since 1913, managed to retain that loftly status and ranking, even to the present day.

Many American auto manufacturers during the period 1908-1911 thought that a successful racing program would greatly increase their sales and their marque prestige. But they could hardly win anything when put up against the superior foreign throughbred, "all-out" large displacement racing cars. What the U.S. car manufactuers wanted and needed, in effect, was a racing circuit of their own. And they needed many more races to increase their chances of a victory. So in February 1909 the American car makers formed the Manufacturer's Contest Association (MCA) to implement their ideas and soon collaborated, schemed, and plotted with the AAA's new Contest Board to set up such a circuit and race schedule. Almost everything now was to be run under a rather elaborate "stock chassis" classification scheme, based on both piston displacement and the vehicle's supposed retail price. The large displacement foreign racing cars would thus be shut out completely! Up to now most of the more important motor races were regulated by car weight, rather than by the size of the engines. And two new large speedways, just made exclusively for automobile racing, were constructed during 1909, at (1.) Indianapolis, and (2.) Atlanta; and they both wanted to run a plethora of many different and varied events for their established AAA track dates and race meets. The AAA stepped in to meet these new needs. The major AAA race meets in 1909 were at Portland, OR (June), Crown Point, IN (June), Santa Monica, CA (July), Indianapolis, IN (August), Lowell, MA (September), and Atlanta, GA (November). A kind of "AAA national stock chassis circuit" had been set up. And so for 1909 and 1910 the AAA promoted and abetted stock car racing. Even the AAA's premier contest, the Vanderbilt Cup, was further debased from that of 1908, by becoming a "stock chassis" event in 1909 and 1910!

Already by 1911, the AAA's stock chassis displacement categories, of which there were five (See "cont.-9" above), were in trouble and looking less and less viable. The initial U.S. automobile industry's support for "stock chassis racing", even in 1909, was a lot less than had been anticipated. Even at that, many factory teams soon dropped out and quit racing outright, making for very poor starting lineups. And cheating remained a big, big problem. What was stock and what was not? Who knew? The actual cars running in the AAA "stock chassis" categories were seldom really the same, as the supposedly similar "stock" models, as generally sold to the public at large. And how could the AAA enforce its nebulous stock chassis rules? And if the AAA officials debarred a team from competition because of rule infractions, they thereby shorten up the starting fields, which were already alarmingly small. What a mess!

Eventually the AAA Contest Board solved some of its problems here by retaining the various and separate piston displacement categories, but dropped the stock chassis requirement. Now each engine displacement classification could be filled up with stock, modified stock, semi-stock, "all-out" racing cars proper, or what you have. For example the Elgin road races, first held in 1910, required the exclusive use of stock chassis for 1910 and 1911, but eliminated that regulation from their 1912 and 1913 events. The 1911 Vanderbilt Cup, as well, no longer required just stock chassis machines. The old AAA/MCA stock chassis rules of 1909 and 1910 were just gradually fading away during 1911 to 1913.

The more important 1911-1913 AAA races were run using the two upper piston displacement classes, i.e. 301 to 450 cubic inched and 451 to 600 cubic inches. It was here that most of the competitors and teams aimed at, i.e. the higher stake contests. The three lower displacement divisions thus languished for lack of interest, entries, and importance and by 1914 they had disappeared. In 1911 and 1912 the factory supported modified stock or semi stock racing car was at its peak of success, winning at Indianapolis in 1911 (Marmon) and 1912 (National), and the 1911 Vanderbilt Cup (Lozier). But then a new disaster occurred for the U.S. car makers still seriously interested in racing.

Edited by john glenn printz, 22 September 2010 - 14:52.


#238 john glenn printz

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Posted 28 August 2009 - 12:14

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-96) In 1913 the Europeans began to import to the U.S. their "used" and seemingly obsolete, one year old ex-Grand Prix cars which had been designed specifically for use in the French Grand Prix. The official Peugeot team from France came over in 1913 to give Indianapolis a try. At first, it was probably pretty much of a lark, on their part. Goux and Zuccarelli were the two drivers but the Peugeot team's number one pilot, Georges Boillot, didn't brother to even make the trip. But everything worked out. Jules Goux won the 1913 Indianapolis with a 1912 Grand Prix Peugeot. Then Rene Thomas won the 1914 Indianapolis race with a 1913 Grand Delage; and next Ralph DePalma with won the 1915 Indy with a 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes!

The next two Memorial Day classics, i.e. 1916 and 1919, were won by 1914 Grand Prix model Peugeots. Both the 1915 Grand Prize and Vanderbilt Cup events were won by a 1913 Grand Prix Peugeot, driven by Dario Resta on both these occasions; and the two 1916 Grand Prize and Vanderbilt Cup races were both won by the 1914 Grand Prix model Peugeots. The Americans could not match the reliability, performance, or speed of these Delage, Mercedes, and Peugeot foreign invaders. By this time the old 1909-1910 AAA stock car circuit had turned itself, rather quickly during 1913-1915, into a big-time annual racing schedule where only genuine "all-out" or thoroughbred type racing designs and vehicles could hope to win.

THE EUROPEAN SPEED SECRETS DISSEMINATED IN THE U.S. IN 1914 AND 1915. In both 1913 and 1914 the Peugeot team, after running the cars at Indianapolis, sold their one year old Grand Prix machines to U.S. racing sponsors and entrepreurs. After the 1914 Indianapolis 500, the Peugeot company sold their two now ex-Grand Prix/Indianapolis cars, one each, to Louis C. Erbes of St. Paul, MN and Alphonse G. Kaufman from New York. Kaufman was the head of the Peugeot Import Company in New York City. He assigned the Peugeot to driver Eddie Rickenbacker and later to Englishman, Dario Resta. Erbes bought his 1913 Peugeot for Bob Burman's use and the two schemed to copy and use the Peugeot motor's technical design details, to make and market passenger and racing cars in the U. S. Immediately after Erbes purchased Boillot's Peugeot, which had been used at Indianapolis in May 1914, it was shipped to Jackson, MI. Here the car and its engine were minutely examined and inspected by A. F. Milbraith, the chief engineer at the Wisconsin Motor Company.

This was the same firm which had made the Stutz racing engines for the 1914 Indianapolis 500. On June 6, 1914 Erbes commissioned the Wisconsin Motor Company to make seven duplicates of the Peugeot's motor for Burman's use in the upcoming 1915 AAA season. Erbes had made the agreement here with Charles H. John, the President of the Wisconsin Motor Company. And after the Peugeot's motor had sustained very heavy damage (i.e. broken crank case, cracked cylinder, & burst piston) in a race at Sioux City, Iowa 300 (July 4, 1914), the car was shipped to the Wisconsin Motor Company for repairs. On this occasion the cost of repairs and extra parts cost Erbes $7,200.

In late 1914/early 1915 both of the 1913 Grand Prix Peugeots wound up in the Los Angeles' shop of carburetor manufacturer Harry Miller for repair, an overhaul, and new replacement parts. Harry had already been engaged in building a racing car for Huntley Gordon in early 1915 for Indianapolis, which was never completed. DePalma's 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes was shipped to the Packard Motor Car Company in Detroit in late 1914 for a close look, inspection, and an overhaul. In sum, the performance secrets of France and Germany were now being quickly and widely disseminated in the New World. In 1917 unpredictable and unfathomable results came from both Packard's and Harry Miller's detailed scrutines of these cars from Europe, i.e. Packard produced the "Liberty" V12 aircraft engine (Consult conts.-34, 35, & 36) and Miller went into the race car business (See conts.-16, 17, & 31).

The Burman-Erbes connection with Wisconsin Motor led only to lawsuits. On December 15, 1914 the Wisconsin Motor company informed Erbes that they would be unable to supply any motors to him. And further, sometime in 1915, the Wisconsin Motor Company sued Erbes for $2,607 for services rendered. Erbes didn't pay, but rather counter sued Wisconsin Motor for $200,000, for breach of contract. Erbes claimed that the racing motors due to himself and Bob Burman were, in fact, sold by the firm to Harry C. Stutz and that they were the motors used in Harry's three Stutz 1915 Indianapolis entries!!! The arguments in this bizarre case dragged on into mid-1917, but Erbes seems to have lost his suit. Meanwhile, probably in mid-1914, Burman and Erbes had linked up with carburetor manufacturer Harry Arminius Miller, located in Los Angeles. For instance, in late 1914 or early 1915, when Burman blew his engine in the Peugeot, Erbes and Bob enlisted Miller to construct an exact duplicate from the engine's fragments.

The foreign Grand Prix car domination of the AAA circuit in the big and more important events from 1913 to 1916, upped the ante considerably. As the modified stock racer was no longer competitive, it became necessary to design and put forth more technically advanced machines. Only total and specially conceived racing cars would work now. However they were much more expensive to design, construct, and race than the older modified stock racers. Therefore once again, more and more American automobile companies, dropped out from racing. By 1914-1915 it was up to just Duesenberg, Maxwell, Mercer, and Stutz, to uphold what remained of U.S. racing honors. Hudson it is true came in during late 1916 and 1917 with semi-stock powered vehicles which proved competitive, but that was about it. The first two complete Miller racing cars were added to the AAA circuit in mid-1917, but they posted no victories during the life span of the 301 cubic inch limit formula, i.e. 1915-early 1920. How much World War I effected the situation is hard to say. However when the AAA introduced the new 183 cubic inch limit at Indianapolis in 1920, not a single U.S. passenger car firm built any racing cars for the new rules! And among the Americans only Duesenberg and Frontenac had any usable designs and/or running vehicles at all!

Edited by john glenn printz, 23 September 2010 - 12:30.


#239 john glenn printz

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Posted 30 August 2009 - 17:05

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-97) HISTORICAL ORIGINS OF THE PRESENT DAY (2010) GRAND PRIX AND INDY CAR FORMATS. PART I: THE U.S. INDY CAR SCENE. By the end of 1920 the U.S. National Championship Driving Title, as run by the AAA Contest Board, had had two complete seasons, i.e. 1916 and 1920. The new point awarding U.S. Championship idea or concept proved useful and after 1920 the AAA Contest Board continued the series, with the exception of the war years 1942-1945, until the AAA's complete severance from all racing activities in late 1955. After 1955 the U.S National Championship Title was taken over by the recently formed United States Auto Club (USAC). USAC ran things until 1979.

However many unhappy and disgruntled car owners with USAC's operation of things, of which Roger S. Penske (b. 1937) and Ueal Eugene "Pat" Patrick (b. 1929) were the chief and most influential, formed a new organization on November 25, 1978 to conduct the 1979 season's Indy car races. With the secession of most of the betters cars, drivers (except A.J. Foyt), and teams to form Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), there still existed a divided title in 1979 (USAC and CART), but beginning in 1980 CART became wholely dominant and the only important series for the Indy cars. The new CART national title and series, in 1979 and 1980, thus was the direct descendant of the older AAA and USAC National Championship Titles. However for 1980 CART began calling its circuit the "PPG Indy Car World Series" which series in reality, had previously been known before 1980 as the U.S. National Driving Championship. CART's connection with the older AAA and USAC national titles was thus made somewhat nebulous and largely obscured by its new promotional name. Perhaps CART should have left it alone and kept the old series title, but the public relations people always think they are smarter than anyone else.

But it well to remember that it was the AAA's Contest Board Chairman, Richard A. Kennerdell, who started the whole ball rolling in 1916 (Consult conts.-20, 21, 22, & 23 above). After that the new AAA National Title was totally suspended for three seasons (1917-1919) because of the Great War, but Kennerdell reintroduced it again, for a second time in 1920 (See cont.-65). The much older and now defunct AAA (1916-1955) and USAC (1956-1979) U.S. national titles remain however the direct, but now remote, ancestors of the current Indy Racing League's races and circuit. But historically and also in fact, the AAA seasons 1916 and 1920 originally laid the foundation.

During 1904 to 1914 racing on public roads was the generally accepted mode for the more important U.S. events. But beginning in 1915 road races became more and more infrequent. There were numerous problems for the sponsors and promotors of road races. They included the lack of crowd control, gate crashing, unsafe conditions for both the competitors and spectators, as well as the infrequent view of the cars by the paying customers on the larger mileage courses. Newly introduced state laws prohibiting all racing on public roads was also a big fractor in the demise of road racing in the U.S. during 1915 to 1920. The period 1915 to 1920 thus witnessed the switchover from genuine road racing to that much more typical American species of automobile racing competition, i.e. big league oval track speedway racing. The transition from road to oval type competition was helped by a 1915-1916 building frenzy which saw seven new board speedways and two new paved tracks come into existence.

THE CONCEPT OF ONE BIG RACE PER ANNUM IN EUROPE AND AMERICA, AND ITS INFLUENCE ON THE THINKING OF THE ACA. During the first quarter century of motor racing (1894-1920), the Europeans thought generally in terms of just one big automobile race per year. In 1904 it was the Gordon Bennett Cup held at Homburg, Germany. William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. thought that the U.S. was missing something and staged a very similar, imitiative race at Long Island, NY in October 1904. So there was now two important "international" auto contests, one in Europe and one in America. Of course the Vanderbilt Cup, the copy, did not really rival the prestige of the Gordon Bennett races, the European original. And so it continued for 1905 and 1906. Meanwhile in Europe the Gordon Bennett series was replaced by a new race, i.e. the 1906 French Grand Prix, and it took over the former status of the Gordon Bennett races staged during 1903-1905. After the 1905 Bennett Cup race run at Auvergne, France, the Bennett series ceased to be held.

In 1908 everyone, both in Europe and the United States, were still thinking in terms of just two great international racing classics a year, i.e. the French Grand Prix in France and now the American Grand Prix in the U.S., which had replaced the older Vanderbilt Cup series as America's big and only important, annual "international" motor race. The American Grand Prize was sanctioned by the ACA and the Vanderbilt Cup by the AAA since its inception in back in 1904. The ACA was a wealthy, aristocratic, and snobbish New York City men's club and they relished gaining sole control over the U.S.' most important automobile race and the U.S.' only "international" event. The ACA had no general interest in racing and so left the rest of the U.S. domestic, small fry, stock chassis, and minor "riff-raff" stuff to whoever wanted it. Why brother over such trivia? It was into this vacuum however left by the ACA, i.e. the whole U.S. domestic and indigenous automobile racing scene, that the AAA moved into during 1908, 1909, and 1910.

On September 16, 1908 the ACA and the AAA came to an agreement. The two had been arguing all summer about the so-called Ostend rules as applied to the AAA's upcoming Vanderbilt Cup race to be held on Long Island (See cont.-91 above). The 1908 feud between the ACA and the AAA was not really about who would control all of American motor racing, but rather who would sanction, control, and run the U.S.' most important and sole "international" motor car contest. The ACA and the AAA on September 16 divided up, in effect, the jurisdiction of all domestic U.S. racing. The ACA would be in charge of the sole, annual and major "international" event and the AAA would sanction all the unimportant "national" races. There was still an open question perhaps as to what precisely constituted an international contest vs. a national one, but both organizations had seemingly buried the hatchet.

Edited by john glenn printz, 07 October 2010 - 15:43.


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#240 john glenn printz

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Posted 01 September 2009 - 19:19

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-98) The following joint statement was issued by the ACA and AAA on September 16, 1908 (quote);

"It is agreed that the Automobile Club of America is the only duly American member of the International Association of recognized automobile clubs, and that it is and shall be the only authority in America for the drafting of rules affecting and for the granting of sanctions for international races and for the regulation of such races in this country. On the other hand, the matter of the sanction of and the formulation of rules for local and National races is agreed to be as heretofore in the sole power and jurisdiction of the association. The two bodies agree to co-operate with each other in making the Vanderbilt Cup race and the Savannah Grand Prize race successes. After the races of this year the two cups are to be deeded to an independent racing association and are to be contested for annually, the Grand Prize Cup as the international trophy, and the Vanderbilt Cup as the National trophy. It is also agreed that the club shall not encourage other clubs to withdraw from the American Automobile Association."

"The essential points at issue between the two organizations have thus been settled, and their co-operation in the future in all matters relating to the sport of automobile racing is assured."

On September 21 an explanation of the difference between an "international" and "national" race was given out and made public (quote);

"An international race or contest is one which is announced or advertised as "international" or one which is open to entrants of America and foreign countries. Cars of foreign manufacture may be entered in a race or contest without making the same an "international" race or contest, provided however that such cars be owned and entered by American citizens, firms, or corporations." It's meaning was, in essence, that now European and foreign teams could no longer either enter or run in the Vanderbilt Cup races!

The U.S. auto manufacturers had sided with the AAA in the 1908 Ostend rules dispute and the AAA had thus formed a makeshift alliance with the American auto makers. Soon some U.S. automobile firms voiced that they wanted a racing circuit and schedule set up which they could utilise for advertising and promotional purposes. The AAA decided to go along with the manufacturers' rather elaborate scheme (Compare with conts-8 & 9). So an AAA stock chassis circuit of sorts was put forward for 1909. The U.S. was a large country, the public seemingly wanted races, the car makers were ready, and many men came forward to race the cars. So the AAA established a "national" stock car circuit which ran mostly during 1909 and 1910.

CHANGING TIMES (1908-1912) AND THE TAKEOVER OF U.S. RACING BY THE AAA CONTEST BOARD. Already in 1908 there had been important American races staged besides just the Vanderbit Cup (Oct. 24) and the American Grand Prize (Nov. 26). There had been large scale events held at Savannah, GA (March 19), Briarcliff, NY (April 24), Lowell, MA (Sept. 7), Long Island, NY (Oct. 10), and Fairmount Park, PA (Oct. 10). A first semblance of a major U.S. annual racing schedule, season, or series, was beginning to emerge although still in its early infancy. In 1908-1910 the ACA's ideas of just one great American "international" race per annum was about to become archaic and obsolete as well, for during 1909 and 1910 the AAA Contest Board was steadily evolving and developing a multi event racing circuit strictly of their own. Here the AAA built up close acquaintances and a good rapport with the nation's track owners, race promotors, officials, car builders, drivers, and team personnel. For instance, the AAA's connections with the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909 and 1910 proved invaluable for the future. The ACA's hobnobbing for one week, with half of Europe's top drivers and teams (i.e. not everyone came over), became less and less revelant to America's indigenous racing scene and situation. The AAA's numerous race sanctions granted during 1909-1912 became of much more significance in the general U.S. context for the future, than ACA's sole tight grip on America's only so-called "international" automobile race.

THE ACA AMERICAN GRAND PRIZE CONTESTS 1908-1916. The 1908 American Grand Prize was won by the Frenchman Louis Wagner in a Fiat. More than a decade later, in 1919, Wagner drove in his first and only Indianapolis 500 (See cont.-50). There was no American Grand Prize race for 1909. The 1910 and 1911 American Grand Prizes were won by David Bruce-Brown (1887-1912) driving for foreign teams. David won with a Benz in 1910 and a Fiat in 1911. For the 1912 American Grand Prize Bruce Brown was killed in practice at Milwaukee on October 1, when a left rear tire blew out on his Fiat. The huge type S76 Fiat hit a ditch on the narrow roadway and overturned. Bruce-Brown died three hours after the accident in the Trinity hospital. Barney Oldfield drove David's repaired S76 Fiat in the race to finish 4th overall. The 1912 race winner was Caleb Smith Bragg (1885-1943), who later shifted his attention to power boat racing. Bragg won the famous Gold Cup boat racing event three times, i.e. in 1923, 1924, and 1925. Caleb's last start in a major automobile race was on March 6, 1915, in the Vanderbilt Cup at San Francisco.

Edited by john glenn printz, 12 October 2010 - 15:45.


#241 Mark Dill

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 18:44

I think that Mark Dill provides an insight as to why the AAA may have been the club that WK Vanderbilt turned to when he decided to hold his event on Long Island. It should also be noted that the membership and the leadership of the AAA and the ACA were somewhat intermingled during this period. Rather than on a personal whim, it might be that a part of the reason that WK Vanderbilt turned to the AAA was that the ACA had placed a ban on road racing after its Staten Island exerience on Decoration Day in 1902, about 18 months or so prior to the discussions with the AAA about the event Vanderbilt wished to hold. This was prior to the establishment of the AIACR in June and the acceptance of the ACA as its US representative. It would seem that a combination of factors, the personal relationships and the ACA ban on road racing among them, that played a role in the Vanderbilt Cup being an AAA entity rather than one of the ACA.

The rivalry of the ACA and the AAA seems to have arisen prior to the 1908 season, at some point in the latter part of 1906 with the two openly differing during 1907 on some issues. It is possible that a part of the rivalry stemmed from the ACA being less attuned to national interests and more towards European one when it came to issue of automobile racing, with the AAA being closely aligned with the US manufacturers and their interests.

The post-Great War muddle regarding the AIACR, the AAA, and the ACA that JG Printz covers is an often overlooked aspect of the role that the AAA Contest Board assumed during the Twenties. It should be noted that the change of US membership on both the AIACR and the CSI took place rather quietly and with relatively little fanfare.

At any rate, I offer these observations as food for thought.


Hi Don.

Great to have you back. I will provide additional perspective. There was always tension between the two clubs, even though you are quite correct that several leaders belonged to both, including William K. Vanderbilt Jr. While there were issues, most of it boiled down to jealousy and rivalry. The biggest single reason that Vanderbilt selected AAA in January 1904 to host his inaugural Vanderbilt Cup in October of that year was his personal relationship with Arthur Raynor (A.R.) Pardington. Pardington was chairman of the AAA contest board (yes, they called themselves precisely that even though there is confusing information floating around out there suggesting that the contest board did not form until 1908). Pardington and Vanderbilt spent a lot of time together at the 1904 Ormond Beach time trial tournament in January 1904 - where Willie K was unstoppable after Barney Oldfield (who won one for the common folk in defeating the millionaire in the competition mile) broke the crankshaft of his Winton Bullet II after winning his heat in the 5-mile competition event. Vanderbilt then proceeded to kick butt in his aluminum Mercedes, winning everything he entered throughout the rest of the week's events. On the Wednesday prior to the official event, Pardington had saved the day for Willie K (when electric timers became impossible to use because of approaching high tide) by setting up an officially recognized AAA manual timing methodology to make a run at the world land speed record. Vanderbilt was successful, recording a time just over 92 mph. It was NOT recognized by the world governing body because they did not have a rep there and because it was a one-way run, not a round trip. Anyway, Willie K and Pardington were very tight and worked extensively together for the next six years on not just the Vanderbilt Cup, but the Long Island Motor Parkway which began acquiring right-of-way in 1907 and started construction in 1908.

The falling out between the AAA and ACA came to a head in 1908 over, of all things, a disagreement over auto licensing fees in New York. The AAA had told the state legislature that motorists would support a significantly higher fee than the ACA later recommended. But the real rupture came later that year over a dispute about Vanderbilt Cup adherence to the July 1907 Ostend, Belgium agreement that changed the technical specs on cars from a focus on MAXIMUM weight as opposed to engine displacement. No Americans had been invited to the Ostend conference and on these grounds Vanderbilt and AAA racing commission asserted that they were not obliged to follow the new rules. The ACA saw an opening to topple the AAA from their ascent to supremacy in America by siding with the French-led Europeans.

A big influence was the American auto manufacturers who did not like having to incur the expense of creating special purpose-built race cars to market their products. In fact, most of them had tried, with little success, to offer up modified stock cars to combat with the Euros and repeatedly had their heads handed to them. A brutal civil war ensued, not at all unlike the more recent IRL-CART debacle. The ACA, which had, by virtue of seniority, established themselves as the recognized American representative club for international affairs, sided with the Europeans and the Ostend ruling. The conflict escalated when the ACA announced their Gold Cup for the American Grand Prize to be staged in Savannah in November 1908. Both sides suffered as domestic manufacturers aligned, for the most part, with Vanderbilt and the AAA, and the Euros, who wanted to showcase their superior cars to the important American market, were in step with ACA. A war of insults was exchanged in the newspapers and this carried on for months. In the meantime, Vanderbilt was also struggling with his ambitious project of building America's first real highway - the Long Island Motor Parkway - which they planned to span a 60-mile stretch of Long Island, New York countryside.

The Parkway project was undertaken due to the fatal death of a spectator in the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup, a race that was always plagued with uncontrollable crowds numbering at times to a quarter of a million mostly non-ticket purchasing freeloaders who were known for running out on the course during the race, sometimes in an attempt to touch drivers as they sped by. In this effort to build a safer road Vanderbilt and his colleagues largely failed, only completing 8 miles of the Parkway for 1908, leaving much of the 24 mile course to return to public roads with no meaningful barriers to foolish interlopers. The project efforts were largely led by Pardington, he gamely persevered battles with land owners wanting hefty fees for the right to cross their lands. The result was a meandering serpent of a road connecting the dots of lands held by friendly farmers believing the arrival of the Parkway and the subsequent commerce it would create through New York City visitors would be reward enough.

Eventually, cooler heads at the ACA and AAA arrived at a sense of enlightened self-interest. They decided to cooperate with each other, arriving at a screwy compromise that announced that the AAA would sanction all "national" races and the ACA would sanction "international" races. Exactly what the criteria of the different categories was never clear, but the reality was that the ACA really didn't have the energy to sanction a multitude of races. Their focus was the Grand Prize. For 1909 a new corporation was formed to organize both the Grand Prize and the Vanderbilt Cup. This was called the "Motor Cups Holding Company," with Willie K as president.

In reality, this was the beginning of the end for these great road races. The outrageous lack of crowd control on Long Island resulted in more deaths in 1910 forcing the race teams to tell Willie K and his crowd in no uncertain terms that they would never race there again. Such action had been threatened almost from the beginning - with the Vanderbilt Race Commission always asking for another chance. As for the Grand Prize, the races were classics, but when Savannah grew weary of the disruption after Bruce-Brown won his second successive American GP in 1911, it became a traveling show with stops in subsequent years at Milwaukee, Santa Monica, San Francisco and Santa Monica. The two classic events traveled together, but with advent of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and emerging board track speedways, the allure of racing on tough-to-guard public roads that made it impossible to charge most of the spectators diminished. Both races were discontinued in 1916.



#242 Mark Dill

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 19:00

I wanted to flag something for you guys that will hopefully be fun and not at all time consuming. I came across a clip of Ray Harroun on the old "I've Got a Secret" TV show from 1961 - the Indy 500's 50th anniversary. I embedded it on my Website home page at www.firstsuperspeedway.com.

Mark
www.firstsuperspeedway.com



#243 john glenn printz

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 19:14

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-99) Neither the American Grand Prize or the Vanderbilt Cup was run in 1913. And the previous vaunted, high, and exclusive status of the American Grand Prize soon went all to hell as well. World War I probably didn't help the situation either, for none of the foreign drivers and teams could come over now, i.e. during 1915 and 1916, even if they had wanted to. After August 1914 most of the Europe's race personnel were in one European army or another.

There wasn't a nickel's worth of difference between the American Grand Prize and the Vanderbilt Cup from 1914 to 1916 except that the Grand Prize was for an additonal length of 100 miles. The same drivers (mostly American), cars, and teams now competed over the same road course or circuit. Santa Monica hosted both races in 1914 and 1916, while the two classic contests were staged in 1915 at San Francisco as part of the Panama Pacific Exposition. The three American Grand Prize winners were: 1914 Eddie Pullen (Mercer), 1915 Dario Resta (Peugeot EX3), and 1916 Howard Wilcox/Johnny Aitken (Peugeot EX5). Both events expired after their 1916 running.

RECAPITULATION 1909 TO 1916. And now to recapitulate the situation from 1909 to 1916. The newly formed AAA Contest Board in 1909 began regulating a circuit for essentially stock chassis, but by 1913-1915, this circuit had been transformed and metamorphosed into a major league or arena where only expensive, "ad hoc", specially designed and constructed racing cars could win. The big AAA contests were also now approaching in 1915 a complete uniformity of cars and drivers, just one classification (Class E 301 cubic inch limit), and one set of rules. After 1910-1911 the AAA's stock chassis series rapidly declined for the following four reasons;

(1) the auto industry's initial interest flagged and all the factory sponsored teams gradually dropped out.

(2) because of the vexing problem of the enforcement of the stock car rules and regulations for the various piston displacement categories, the AAA eliminated the stock chassis requirements entirely.

(3) the lower piston displacement categories and races were eliminated for lack of public interest, lack of entries, and in some cases, no entries at all.

(4) the public's interst in the lower piston displacement categories, which usually ran in events with much shorter distances, was minimal. The lower piston displacement races often acted largely as accompaning, supplemental, or support races to the larger, more important, "main event" contest. Because of the expence, it just made more sense to built vehicles for the top two, larger piston displacement classes. This is where the real emphasis had always been anyway.

By 1913 only genuine racing car designs could win the more important AAA contests. Thus what was orginally a stock car circuit had evolved quickly into a series only for thoroughbreds. The imported "used" European Grand cars quickly took over in this U.S. context and situation. From 1915 on, with such uniformity (mostly class E, 301 cubic inch limit) in place, lots of races, and a select group of qualified drivers, Kennerdell initiated the AAA National Championship Drving Title, based upon a point system in early 1916. The general trend of things here is clear, as well as the true origin of the AAA National Championship Title, from the contemporary newspaper and motor journal source materials, but has never been clearly or properly laid out in any previous historical account of AAA racing 1909 to 1920, that I know of.

Edited by john glenn printz, 22 September 2010 - 13:55.


#244 john glenn printz

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Posted 04 September 2009 - 12:29

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920 (cont.-100) PART II: THE EVOLVING OF THE GRAND PRIX CIRCUIT. In the earliest years of Grand Prix racing (1906-1914), all Grand Prix racing took place in France, and the French Grand Prix was the only Grand Prix event. It was the one big race of the year, where the winner took all. World War I (1914-1918) and the immediate post-war trauma prevented the French Grand Prix from being held for six straight years (1915-1920). It was thought at first in mid- and late 1919, that a 1920 French Grand Prix would be staged, but it was cancelled. When the French Grand Prix was finally revived in 1921, the event resumed its former position as the top motor racing contest in Europe and indeed, the whole world. It retained this ranking up to the mid-1920s, as the one big event everyone wanted to win, but change was in the air.

In the early 1920s other European countries (i.e. Italy, Belgium, Spain) started organizing and holding Grand Prix races as well. Thus a Grand Prix circuit emerged with more than just one event per season. Now the success of a car, driver, or team was judged over the results of a series of races, not just the French Grand Prix by itself. This was a big, big change. Eventually the once highly applauded and acclaimed French Grand Prix became nothing more than just another race on a now enlarged Grand Prix circuit or schedule, of no more real importance than any of the others.

This was acknowledged by the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR) itself. In 1925 they instituted the World Manufacturers' Championship which included four events, i.e. (1) the Indianapolis 500; (2) the Belgium Grand Prix; (3) the French Grand Prix; and (4) the Italian Grand Prix. The Indianapolis 500 was always a bit of an anomaly to the Europeans but was included. The 1925 title was won by Alfa Romeo, the 1926 by Bugatti (5 events), and the 1927 by Delage (5 events). Thereafter this AIACR title for manufacturers frizzled out and disappeared, but while it lasted it constituted an official Grand Prix series.

And again, beginning with year 1935, a European Driver's Championship, was started up which was based on a point system and a number of select Grand Prix races. The winner in 1935 (5 races) was Rudolf Caracciola (1901-1959). For 1936 (4 races) Bernd Rosemeyer (1909-1938), for both 1937 (5 races) and 1938 (4 races) Caracciola again, and lastly in 1939 (4 races) Hermann Lang (1909-1987). Some say that a more correct 1939 points tabulation would make Hermann Paul Muller (1909-1975) the 1939 Champ, instead of Lang. How "official" these 1935-1939 tabulations once were, I really can't say.

As everyone now knows the current World Grand Prix Driving Championship, based on points the drivers earn, originated in 1950. That year the Grand Prix Championship consisted of seven events, one of which inexplicabilty, was the Indianapolis 500. Although the two major automobile racing series (i.e. the International Grand Prix and the U.S. Championship or Indy cars) have used a large number of multiple events annually, uniform cars made to a set formula, a driver point system, and a select group of seasoned drivers, for well over half a century, it actually was not always so. Certainly not anywhere before 1915 and in Europe not apparently before 1950. Our present day concept of things, which seems so self-evident to us now, actually took many, many years to evolve, develope, and present itself both in Europe and the U.S., as a reality and as the normal standard operative practice or procedure. In history nothing is obvious. In the U.S. the modern concept really started with the Kennerdell's AAA Championship Titles of 1916 and 1920. In Europe, it actually didn't take place offically, until 1950!

THE POST-1920 CONNECTIONS BETWEEN GRAND PRIX RACING AND THE AAA'S U.S. NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES. The American and European racing traditions tended to be, almost always, two different and separate worlds. However during the 1920s the AAA Championship division was influenced heavily by the regulations set up for Grand Prix racing. The AAA's 1920s formula rules for 183, 122, and 91 1/2 cubic inch limits on the engine size reflected the contemporay international Grand Prix practice. But at the same time the AAA also wanted to reduce the size of the motors to curtail and reduce the speeds of the cars. Here the plan of AAA was largely foiled by the introduction of supercharging at Indianapolis in 1923 by Mercedes and in 1924 by Duesenberg.

There were a few isolated attempts during the 1920s to run European machines built in conformity to the Grand Prix rules at Indianapolis. Such vehicles ran at the Speedway in 1922, 1923, 1925, 1926 and 1929. The final results were not spectacular. The highest final placements for such cars was 1922 3rd Ballot (Eddie Hearne); 1923 8th Mercedes (Max Sailer); 1925 10th Fiat (Pietro Bordino); 1926 14th Anzani/Eldridge (Douglas Hawkes); and 1929 7th Delage (Louis Chiron). The U.S. constant high speed oval-speedway type racing, with its fully tested thoroughbred Duesenberg and Miller cars, was now much too specialized for the foreigners to have much success, with equipment constructed primarily for road racing.

With the introduction of Eddie Rickenbacker's "Junk Formula" in 1930 the AAA Contest Board pretty much went its own way during the years 1930 to 1937 and had little regard for, or even to, the contemporary foreign European Grand Prix scene. Eddie's basic junk formula configuration called for two-man cars, no supercharging at all on four cycle engines, and a cubic inch limit up to 366. For the years 1930-1935 this setup was generally in use for the Championship division but during both 1936 and 1937 modifications were made to it, almost from race to race.

With the AAA's adoption for 1938 of the new international Grand Prix formula limits of 274.59 cubic inches (4500 cc) unsupercharged and 183.060 cubic inches (3000 cc) supercharged, the AAA regulations for Champ cars was again allied and in basic conformity with the Grand Prix regulations for a time. During the Great Depression (1929-1939) American race car design and technology greatly declined, became atrophied and moribund, because of a decided lack of funds. So low had the situation deteriorated and become, that in both 1939 and 1940, a 1939 3 litre supercharged Maserati Grand Prix car, as piloted by Wilbur Shaw (1902-1954), outran all the American constructed equipment at Indianapolis two years in a row!!!

There was a serious attempt in both 1936 and 1937 to match the Grand Prix stars and cars, against the American AAA drivers and vehicles, in the two George W. Vanderbilt Cup contests staged in Westbury (Long Island), New York. The 1936 artificial 4 mile road course was very twisty and the more serious foreign teams made the Americans look silly. Tazio Nuvolari (1892-1953) won easily, going away, in a supercharged Alfa Romeo at just an 65.99 mph average. One year later, with the course altered to 3.3 miles to speed things up, it was the same story. The European teams made mincemeat of all the Americans entries, with Bernd Rosemeyer (1909-1938) winning in a rear engined supercharged Auto-Union at 82.56 mph. These two Vanderbilt contests were atypical for the U.S. scene and both events lost money. The new Vanderbilt Cup series not revived or renewed after its 1937 running. These two odd-duck American run races were however included in the AAA Contest Board's Championship schedule for both years, and thus Nuvolari was placed 5th in the 1936 AAA final standings while Rosemeyer was ranked 3rd overall for 1937.

One reporter's description of Nuvolari's superiority in the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup race was (quote), "Nuvolari, whose blazing trail of oil and daring now has accounted for 86 victories in 144 auto races in Europe and America, didn't give his field a chance as he settied in his seat, hooked the turns then passed his rivals like so many boys in kiddie cars down the long straightaway. It was Italy from flagfall to finish as Nuvolari and Brivio streaked toward their goal. Only Brivio was able to snatch the lead away temporarily from his countryman. That change came during the 27th lap when Nuvolari left the track for his pit."

The AAA continued to use for the Championship division the 1938 Grand Prix formula until they ceased to sanction motor races in late 1955. USAC, the AAA replacement for the 1956 season, also retained these old 1938 Grand Prix engine regulations for 1956. But for 1957, USAC lowed the engine size limits to 170.8 cubic inches supercharged and to 256.2 cubic inches unsupercharged. After World War II (1939-1945) all the pre-war built European Grand Prix cars running at Indy, mostly worn out Alfa Romeos and Maseratis, quickly became obsolete and 1949-1950 showed that they were now even outclassed by all the new U.S. Offenhauser "270" powered dirt track vehicles. After 1950 the only real and serious attempt to run Grand Prix cars at Indianapolis under the AAA auspices was the entry of four now obsolete 1951 Ferrari 4 1/2 litre Grand Prix cars, in 1952. On the Grand Prix circuit itself these big 4 1/2 litre cars were now banned because of the new engine regulations of just an 2 litre limit for unsupercharged vehicles introduced for the 1952 Grand Prix season. Actually Grand Prix racing in 1952 and 1953 ran under Formula II rules. Only one example of these 1951 model Ferraris, i.e. that driven by Alberto Ascari (1888-1954), managed to qualify at the Speedway and it retired relatively early (lap 41) because of a spoke wheel failure. That was pretty much the end of it all, as far as Grand Prix cars at the Speedway were concerned, until the onset of the rear engined car revolution, hit both USAC and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the early 1960s.

THE END

Edited by john glenn printz, 12 January 2011 - 14:26.


#245 john glenn printz

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 17:46

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920. ADDENDUM: I have just added during the last week, statistical data to this thread, mostly covering 1907 to 1920. I believe that all the really important U.S. automobile races have been now listed for the period 1894-1920 and/or mentioned. As everyone can now perceive there existed no one, overall, or universal racing car formula for the AAA racing seasons, 1909 to 1915. Nor is it in anyway correct to say that the other AAA events on the schedule necessarily followed the same formula generally that obtained at the Indianapolis 500 during the years 1911-1915. That idea is simply taking later conceptions and the later realities, and projecting them into the past where they did not obtain. It is myth.

Edited by john glenn printz, 15 January 2010 - 21:09.


#246 Mark Dill

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Posted 16 January 2010 - 19:49

U.S. RACING 1894 TO 1920. ADDENDUM: I have just added during the last week, statistical data to this thread, mostly covering 1907 to 1920. I believe that all the really important U.S. automobile races have been now listed for the period 1894-1920 and/or mentioned. As everyone can now perceive there existed no one, overall, or universal racing car formula for the AAA racing seasons, 1909 to 1915. Nor is it in anyway correct to say that the other AAA events on the schedule necessarily followed the same formula generally that obtained at the Indianapolis 500 during the years 1911-1915. That idea is simply taking later conceptions and the later realities, and projecting them into the past where they did not obtain. It is myth.


Hi John. So...where is your statistical data? I am sure whatever you have is excellent, I'd love to see it.

Mark Dill
www.firstsuperspeedway.com


#247 john glenn printz

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Posted 16 January 2010 - 20:11

Hi John. So...where is your statistical data? I am sure whatever you have is excellent, I'd love to see it.

Mark Dill
www.firstsuperspeedway.com


The added statistical data is embodied in the text, starting with the September 24, 2006 post (cont.-5). It carries on to September 25, 2006 (cont.-6), September 29, 2006 (cont.-9), September 30, 2006 (cont.-10), etc.

I have abandoned completely the old 1926-1928 AAA Harnesnape/Means reckonings and scheme, as I regard them and it as very misleading, inaccurate, and ahistorical. I think both my present text and race listings are more objective than anything previously written and/or put together.

Sincerely, J. G. Printz

Edited by john glenn printz, 16 January 2010 - 20:24.


#248 Mark Dill

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 23:25

The added statistical data is embodied in the text, starting with the September 24, 2006 post (cont.-5). It carries on to September 25, 2006 (cont.-6), September 29, 2006 (cont.-9), September 30, 2006 (cont.-10), etc.

I have abandoned completely the old 1926-1928 AAA Harnesnape/Means reckonings and scheme, as I regard them and it as very misleading, inaccurate, and ahistorical. I think both my present text and race listings are more objective than anything previously written and/or put together.

Sincerely, J. G. Printz


Thanks John. I appreciate your work. Suggestion: drop the stats into a table to make them more easily digestible. That would be a huge step forward in promulgating the truth. I certainly would share the information on First Super Speedway where I receive hundreds of unique visitors daily.

Mark

#249 Mark Dill

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 03:00

I found a neat little article celebrating Firestone Tire's success with the first three finishers of the 1914 Cactus Derby: Barney Oldfield (Stutz), Louis Nikrent (Paige) and T. Beaudet (Paige). Only two tires total were changed among the three of them. Consider the race was 673 miles across undeveloped land in this off-road classic across desert and mountains between LA and Phoenix.

http://www.firstsupe...-cactus-derby-4

#250 Mark Dill

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 20:29

I always love first hand accounts of races by the drivers of long ago. Check out this article by Barney Oldfield in describing his career-boosting victory in the 1914 Los Angeles to Phoenix Cactus Derby.

http://www.firstsupe...-derby-oldfield

Mark Dill