American racing 1894 to 1920
Posted 23 July 2012 - 16:21
Permit me one question, though: what's your evidence that the Burman Peugeot was fitted with a single-cam Miller engine (in late 1916 or early '17)? I don't think I have ever seen this possibility mentioned in any sources, whether contemporary or secondary, and the only actual reference to the engine in contemporary sources that I could find stated that it had a DOHC engine at the 1919 Elgin races!
Posted 23 July 2012 - 20:10
OFF THE CUFF (IMMEDIATE) RESPONSE: There were two EX3 type 1913 Grand Prix Peugeots in the U.S. after May 1914. Peugeot sent the two cars (i.e. Goux's and Boillot's) over for the 1914 Indianapolis 500, and sold them both after the race. One went to Kauffman and the other was purchased by Erbes. After Burman's wreck at Corona in April 1916, the Erbes EX3 car (or chassis) was rebuilt in late 1916 at Miller's shop and a new Miller 289 motor was installed in it. This vehicle then ran as the Erbes Special during the 1917 AAA season. Then it seemingly disappears. Erbes probably got out racing and retired from the sport.
Now your 1919 Elgin posting lists two Peugeot cars. The Art Kline car is a 1914 EX5 type Grand Prix model while Paul D. Harvey's is an EX3 1913 Grand Prix model. The Klein car doesn't apply, so you must be referring to Harvey's EX3 1913 Peugeot. My conclusion is that Harvey's Peugeot is the ex-Kauffman EX3 owned machine. It's engine is thus correctly listed as having a dual cam motor, because this Peugeot was still intact, and thus still contained its original EX3 dual cam Peugeot engine.
In September 1916 the MOTOR WEST journal has a photograph of Earl Burman, the son of Bob, working on a single cam 289 Miller motor. It seems that after Bob's death, his son wanted to work on, and continue his father's abandoned project. The whole Erbes/Burman/Miller connection and the idea that the Erbes Special of 1917 was a Miller/Peugeot hybrid are discoveries (or mistakes) of mine. I don't think there is any clear statements about the situation however. It's been so long since I worked on this 1914-1920 Miller stuff that I don't quite remember what source material I used or what I looked at. But I think a cogent and logical case can be made out for my statements.
Both Dees and Borgeson, I believe, got things wrong here. Partly this was due to Fred Offenhauser (1888-1973) himself, who remembered the situations wrongly. Fred rightly remembered however the installation of a single cam Miller 289 in the Burman-Erbes 1913 EX3 Peugeot chassis, but got the time and context mixed up. Fred thought it occurred after the Peugeot motor had exploded and needed a repair, (i.e. late 1914 or early 1915), but in reality it occurred when Burman's wrecked EX3 chassis was rebuilt in late 1916 and/or early 1917. Dee's has a photo of Offenhauser sitting in the newly refurbished 1917 Miller/Peugeot hybrid, but Dees had the dating incorrect of early 1915. For this reason (i.e. Offenhauser's false testimony) Borgeson always maintained (incorrectly) that the original "blown" EX3 dual cam Peugeot motor was replaced by a newly designed Miller 289 single cam motor. See pages 109-110 of the first edition (1966) of the GOLDEN AGE. Griffith even states that the new single cam Miller motor delivered 10 additional horsepower. I deem this all total nonsense.
I don't have immediate access presently to my source material or to the Dees or Borgeson books. That will have to wait until September, when I may look the situation over again. Borgeson never mentions Louis C. Erbes at all, while I can't remember whether Dees does or not. I actually talked to Mark Dees on a couple occasions, when he was at the Speedway, and before his Miller book was published. At the time I talked to Dees I had never heard of Erbes either. I was then trying to clear up the 1920-1922 Miller/Durant/Milton situation. I found out about Erbes from going through the old newspapers.
Edited by john glenn printz, 06 August 2012 - 13:23.
Posted 24 July 2012 - 09:23
The doughboys are expected to cheer for Sergt. Paul Harvey, motor transport corps, who will pilot a Peugeot that Bob Burman formerly drove.
As always, with newspaper reports, that is to be treated with caution, but pictures of the car seem to support the notion.
Also, wasn't Earl Burman a brother of Bob, rather than his son? (See http://www.motorspor...ph...=ct&n=9261)
Edited by Michael Ferner, 24 July 2012 - 09:28.
Posted 24 July 2012 - 18:40
Well everyone is working with very skimpy information sources, which may in many cases be misleading and/or incorrect. Everyone has different ideas and interpretations greatly differ. I was particularly interested, for example, as to how you linked up the ex-Erbes 1913 Peugeot with Paul Harvey's car used at Elgin in 1919.
I still maintain (against Borgeson) that Harry Miller (c. early 1915) built a two cam replica of Burman's blown EX3 Peugeot motor. And between that project and Miller's motor for the new 183 cubic inch formula built for Cliff Durant during late 1919-early 1920; Miller only had ONE ENGINE DESIGN manufactured and in use for racing cars proper. That was the Miller 4 cylinder 289 motor which had a single cam (against Ferner). This would make for much simplicity in the entire problem and actual historical situation, which might be a virtue in itself. The simplist explanation is often the correct explanation, i.e. Ockham's razor again. Thus I maintain that anything that varies from my reconstruction, is probably confused and incorrect data. Perhaps its a case of the Gordian knot. But I do see your research, reasoning, contemporary evidence, and your conclusions from it. It is all perfectly logical.
We know that such a single cam motor 289 design powered the Cadwell and Oldfield Millers of 1917. Other examples were used in Oldfield's 1914 Delage, the Ogren, and the Pan-American (later called the Bender). I also think such a unit powered the 1917 Erbes Special. Nor do I think it likely that Miller was trying to develop two different (i.e. both a one cam and a two cam) motors for the 301 AAA cubic inch formula at the same time. Harry had his hands full, just as it was. And at the same time period Miller also was trying to build high performance aviation motors! I also opine that probably the "The motor that Bob Burman never saw finished" was the 289 single cam engine which was not operational in April 1916 and wouldn't be until early 1917. The earlist actual use of it in actual competition seems to be Oldfield's Delage and Burt's Erbes Special at Uniontown on May 10, 1917. Oldfield's Golden Submarine first appeared at Chicago on June 16, 1917 and Cadwell's Miller at Minneapolis for July 14, 1917. The only major win for the Miller single cam 289 motor was Frank Elliott using Oldfield's "Miller/Delage" at the Uniontown 112.5 run September 3, 1917. Tom Alley won a 20 mile sprint with it at Chicago on September 13, 1917 and Roscoe Sarles was victorious at Uniontown (in a 22.5 mile sprint) on July 19, 1919 using Oldfield's former 1917 "Golden Submarine".
But there are certainly more good questions about Miller during 1914-1920, than accurate and concrete answers for them. A lot of the current findings and conclusions, including mine, are really just guesswork. What is needed are photographs, blueprints, and contemporay unequivocal testimony from people who were in the know. Presently we are far from all that.
P.S. As to Earl Burman's exact relation to Bob, I most likely am mistaken here, due to a faulty memory. In any case I didn't ever find any more connections that Earl had with Harry Miller after September 1916.
Edited by john glenn printz, 27 July 2012 - 20:30.
Posted 25 July 2012 - 17:01
In rebuilding his car, Harvey was asisted (sic) by Bob Burman and the latter's mechanician, Jack Gable, now a member of the Hudson racing team.
Posted 30 July 2012 - 18:43
The three car tribute to Burman scheme, may have at first have originated from Louis Erbes himself and Bob's widow! Compare with my July 8, 2008, posting No. 127, and July 14, 2008 posting No. 133 above. This would account for the long time lapse during the 1916 season. The title of the Piqua newspaper article is "WILD" BOB BURMAN'S CONTRACTS WILL ALL BE CARRIED OUT BY RELATIVES AND HIS CAR IS ENTERED IN CINCINNATI RACES. It seems then that the Burman family in late July 1916 were about to take over all the old Erbes' contactual agreements made with constructor Harry Miller. A LOS ANGELES TIMES notice of June 4, 1916 states that the proceeds from the three car team would go to the two little daughters of Burman, for their support and education.
Another source of information on the three car tribute team to Burman is the LOS ANGELES TIMES, June 1, 1916, p. III, 1. It may be too, that Harry Miller claimed his single cam 289 cubic inch motor was of the "Peugeot type", to enhance the sale of his new motor. Both engines, the Peugeot and the Miller single cam 289, featured four overhead valves per cylinder.
Burman's 1913 EX3 Peugeot seems to have been rebuild and repaired soon after its being wrecked on April 6, 1916 at Corona, as Jack Gable ran it at Chicago on June 11, 1916 as a Peugeot. Probably it was then still powered by the 1915 Miller built replica of the EX3 Peugeot double cam motor. This same car first ran under the name "Erbes Special" at Cincinnati on September 4, 1916. Jack Gable used the car exclusively in 1916 after Burman's death, while Andy Burt replaced Gable as its pilot during the 1917 AAA season.
The LAT (June 1, 1916) contains the following information:
"The Bob Burman estate is to race three cars to be known as the Bob Burman specials."...
"HOME PRODUCTS. The Burman specials are Los Angeles products. All three cars have been built in the shops of the Harry A. Miller Manufacturing Company."
"For several weeks a corps of mechanics has been kept busy night and day at the Miller plant. Mrs. Burman has been in the city and taken a personal interest in the finishing of the three cars that are to be driven in the great speed contests of the season as a monument to the name of the late speed king, Bob Burman."...
"One of the cars is the Peugeot which was wrecked at Corona, killing the driver, Bob Burman and his mechancian Eric Shrader."...
"The motors of the other two cars are copied to a certain extent after the original Peugeot motor and were built by Harry A. Miller of this city."
This plan was not to be fullfilled. So what eventually happened to the "other two cars"? My guess and idea here was that they became A. A. Cadwell and Oldfield Millers of 1917.
Griffith Borgeson always maintained that the Burman-Erbes 1913 Peugeot had had its original double cam Peugeot motor replaced by the new Miller single cam 289 engine, during early 1915. Compare with post 40 above. I think this idea is in complete error. My idea or hypothsis is that Louis Erbes, after his fallout with the Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company in early 1915 over the racing motors delivered to Harry Stutz, then commissioned Harry Miller to construct two 301 cubic inch formula racing cars for Burman in mid- or late-1915. At first Erbes tried to arrange a deal with the Duesenbergs for new motors. When that fell through he then went to Miller. The single cam 289 Miller motor for them was thus of later origin than early 1915 (i.e. Borgeson's idea), and was not actually ready for actual use until late-1916 or early 1917. Compare with the August 28, 2009, Post No. 238 above.
Eventually Burman's machine had its Miller built twin-cam replica replaced with the single cam 289 I believe, but if that did actually happen, it had to be in either late 1916 or early 1917. It is still a real possibility that the replica 1913 Peugeot two cam Miller copy motor was never replaced at all, which would make both Borgeson and myself, in total error on this specific question. That is to say, that perhaps when Paul Harvey used the ex-Burman/Erbes Peugeot in 1919 at Elgin, it still contained the Miller double cam Peugeot replica motor made in early 1915.
Borgeson's ideas about Harry Miller's doings for 1915 and 1916 probably came mostly from Fred Offenhauser's (1888-1973) direct oral reminiscences and testimony.
Edited by john glenn printz, 09 August 2012 - 17:20.
Posted 30 July 2012 - 19:21
Posted 30 July 2012 - 20:05
Indeed so. This is a topic about which I (used to) know very little, but it's fascinating and enlightening to watch two such eminent authorities working together to get to the truth. TNF at its best.
... and I hope I speak for others ...
Posted 01 August 2012 - 13:14
Well said Tim and David.
Indeed so. This is a topic about which I (used to) know very little, but it's fascinating and enlightening to watch two such eminent authorities working together to get to the truth. TNF at its best.
Posted 06 August 2012 - 18:13
A small side note:
The new Los Angeles Speedway also staged three 50 mile sprint races, under the 301 cubic inch class limit, on March 28, 1920. This was an invitational program with two heat races and a final. Here the Beverly Hills track invited 14 contestants to take part. The 14 car/driver combinations were divided into two groupings and these two separate entities would compete in their own heat race or qualifying preliminary; i.e. with the top four finishers in each heat going into the 50 mile final.
These three 50 milers gave no AAA Championship points as Edenburn (DETROIT NEWS, March 7, 1920, Autos, page 5) points out (quote), "It will have no bearing on the A.A.A. season's championship." This three contest sprint meet was scheduled for March 21, 1920 but was rained out and was staged on March 28, 1920. The fact that it was an "invitational" and thus not open to all possible qualified competitors was probably one reason at least, why it had a non-Championship status.
Heat I was won by Art Klein driving a EX5 Peugeot, with a 110.769 mph average. Seven years after its construction the Grand Prix 1914 Peugeot was still capable of a win! This same EX5 design had won at Indianapolis in 1916 and 1919; at both the 1916 Vanderbilt Cup and American Grand Prize events; and placed 1st and 2nd in the 1916 AAA National Championship Title with Dario Resta and Johnny Aitken as its chauffeurs. In Heat I Milton (Duesenberg) placed 2nd, Boyer (Frontenac) 3rd. Jimmy Murphy won Heat II in a Duesenberg 8, at 110.399 mph; with Pullen 2nd (Richard's Hudson); and DePalma 3rd (Ballot). Tommy Milton won the final with his Duesenberg 8 by posting a 50 mile average of 111.649 mph; followed by Klein (Peugeot) 2nd and Pullen (Richard's Hudson) 3rd.
While watching one of these races automobile manufacturer & 1911 Indy 500 co-entrant Elmer Apperson died of a heart attack at the age of 58.
Posted 18 January 2014 - 14:25
A footnote for you. Paul Harvey had apparently entered for the 500 in 1919. As he was in France with the AEF, he couldn't get home in time, but he did put his experience to some use:
So there was at least one race meeting in France in 1919 ...
Posted 01 April 2014 - 18:52
John, I hope you're still following this thread, as I have made a few discoveries about the fate of the "Burman estate" cars in 1916!
The first trail turned out to be a cold one, nevertheless I shall mention it to set the stage once again - the Indianapolis News of July 15 in 1916 reported on page 12:
Bob Burman's three racing cars will be campaigned on the speedway circuit by the Burman estate as a monument to the famous driver. Teddy Tezlaff will drive one of them, Tony Jennette [sic] another, and the third driver is to be named. The cars are of Los Angeles manufacture, having been built by Harry A. Miller, a great friend of Burman. One of the trio is the car rebuilt and originally known as the Peugeot, in the wreck of which Burman and his mechanic, Eric Schroeder, lost their lives at Corona. The motors of the two other cars built by Miller are duplicates of the Peugeot motor.
Tetzlaff had publicly announced his retirement from the sport in September of 1915, only to turn about and partake in the California racing season that winter, driving an assortement of different cars, amongst them the interesting Milac, a 200 CID car of Californian manufacture (Milac stood for Manufactured in Los Angeles, California). Plans for a Milac campaign "in the East", with a three-car team, were hinted at, but the project fell through, and nothing was heard of the Milac again after an unsuccessful run at the first Pikes Peak hill climb in August. Nor did Tetzlaff and Janette continue their respective careers after that announcement made in July, which makes one wonder what it was all about - especially in the light of the fact that the ex-Burman Peugeot was unquestionably already racing in the East for about a month, and just taking part in the Omaha Speedway races the very same day that article appeared in the Indianapolis newspaper! Quite possibly, the idea of Tetzlaff and Janette getting back into the Speedway racing circuit was a bit of West Coast wishful thinking, perhaps an attempt to remind the Midwestern owners of the cars of the fact that, after all, this still was a West Coast project. Until Harry Miller effectively reset the parameters in the twenties, California car people always suffered from an inbred inferiority complex!
Next, the same newspaper reported on August 30, 1916, on page 12, about the upcoming Indianapolis Motor Speedway "Harvest Classic":
The latest entries were received from L. C. Erbes, of Waterloo, Ia. He nominated two cars, the Burman Special and the L. C. Erbes Special. These two cars were built in the Erbes factory in Waterloo. The Burman car is the racer in which the late Bob Burman lost his life in the Corona races. It was rebuilt by Mr. Erbes. Both cars are four-cylinder, with a piston displacement of 298 cubic inches. Art Kline, who formerly drove the Kline-Art car, will be at the wheel of the Erbes Special, while Jack Gable, of Williamsport, Pa., will be at the wheel of the Burman Special.
Here, we can see first hand how the Midwesterners claimed the West Coast cars as their own - remember how the Ogren Special was always billed as a Chicago car? Quite typical PR BS of the time... Anyway, the interesting part is the last sentence: Art Klein??? Yes, he did eventually drive a Duesenberg in the Harvest Classic (actually Charley Devlin's privately owned 16-valve), but he was originally entered in his Kleinart Special - hold on, what do we know about that?
Klein first appeared at Indy in 1914 with his "King Special", a homebuilt racer with cantilever rear springs and a 450 CID Wisconsin engine, apparently based on a stock King chassis (King was a small-time manufacturer from Detroit, hoping to generate sales for its new V8 model). The car was quite competitive, and later that year Klein campaigned it on a number of Ernie Moross promotions, and during the winter racing season on the West Coast. At some point, he rebuilt it with a Duesenberg engine, and ran it as the "Kleinart Special" in the 1915 Five-hundred, with a marked improvement in performance.
Coincident with the 1915 IMS event, the IMCA "outlaw" tour was inaugurated, attracting at once the most active dirt track "teams" of the AAA, namely Alex Sloan's ex-Case effort, and the Moross operation based around the latest Maxwell racers. In a way, Klein was the ideal target for the IMCA, a veteran dirt track racer with no factory attachments, and already some experience of "team racing" - within a fortnight, he'd switched camps and competed on the IMCA circuit for the rest of the year, first with the Kleinart, then with a 450 CID Maxwell and the Blitzen Benz. What happened with the Kleinart? Well, it was apparently swallowed up by the Moross equipe, and presumably transfered to the Sloan team once Moross retired from the business a year or two later - there's evidence that it was driven by the likes of Lon Lonsbury, Ray Repp and Ted Hill well into the twenties!
Art Klein, on the other hand, applied for reinstatement with the AAA, and was allowed back into the sanctioned fold exactly one year after bolting the club, i.e. after the 1916 IMS event, but in time for the 300-miler at Chicago, an event that posed a real threat to the status of Indianapolis in the racing world at the time. Interestingly, he entered two cars... The Chicago Tribune reported on June 3, page 11:
Little is known about the Klein Specials except that they are new jobs. In his entry blank Klein failed to name his teammate.
Tom Orr was reportedly ready to drive, yet it was the relatively unknown Red Wood(s) who got the assignment, but for one reason or the other never qualified. On race day, the car was still allowed to start from the back of the field, but now it was Tom Alley at the wheel (remember him?), who had left the Ogren team just days before the event! In any case, Alley trundled around for merely five laps, before he was flagged off course because of excessive smoke emanating from the engine, and Klein retired around half distance with unspecified mechanical ailments - not an auspicious debut!
Klein competed all through the summer with a Klein or Kleinart Special, and interestingly, always in competition with the Ogren and Erbes-Burman teams, but apparently never again with the second car - was the engine wrecked beyond hope at Chicago? Or was the car just not competitive enough to attract another driver, inducing Klein to persevere with just one entry in order to make some progress... Truth to be told, he didn't make much of an impact, and soon began accepting drives from other teams, lending out the Kleinart to newcomers like Ora Haibe, who drove the car at Cincinnati on Labor Day, just five days before the Harvest Classic, leading to the amusing story of Klein finishing the race 5th in a Crawford=Duesenberg, then relieving Haibe for the last ten laps or so to finish 7th as well!
That was actually the last race of the Kleinart, which was entered at Indy and Sheepshead Bay later that month, but did not appear at either event. Which brings us neatly to this entry list, published in the Indianapolis News of September 6, 1916, page 10:
There is the Kleinart, right next to the Burman Special, and "both cars are four-cylinder, with a piston displacement of 298 cubic inches..." Remember that sentence? Identical bore and stroke for both cars, almost identical to the dimensions of the Harvey Peugeot at Elgin in 1919 (the small difference of 1/8 inch in the stroke is presumably a result of metric conversion; 3 5/8 * 7 1/4 is actually 299 CID, while 3 5/8* 7 1/8 is 294 CID, and the original dimensions of the L56 Peugeot are 3.937 * 7.087 for 345 CID) - in other words: the Kleinart has a Miller engine!!!
So, the two "surplus" cars of the Burman estate became the 1916 Klein or Kleinart Specials? Perhaps a bit early to say that, but the evidence is quite compelling! What is needed now is a picture of the(se) car(s), and so far I haven't had much luck: though the Chicago Tribune of June 12, 1916, page 13 shows the complete field of the 300-miler of the day before leaving the grid, it is of such a low reproduction quality that you can't even tell if the cars exhaust to the left or the right, or if they are LHD or RHD, for that matter And what happened next? Did the cars return to California, to become the Oldfield and Cadwell cars of 1917? Or were they perhaps "used up" on Midwestern dirt tracks?? Or, perish the thought, did they end up on a scrap heap, because of their disappointing performance??? Who has the answers?
Edited by Michael Ferner, 01 April 2014 - 20:36.
Posted 01 April 2014 - 22:06
Another low resolution pic:
The Kleinart is the last car in the last row.
Edited by Michael Ferner, 01 April 2014 - 22:07.
Posted 20 April 2014 - 16:27
Another interesting titbit of early Miller history - the Tucson/AZ Daily Citizen had this to say on Sep 30, 1916:
Durant, Oldfield's relief driver, is in Santa Monica races
R. C. Durant, the son of W. C. Durant, president of the Chevrolet Motor Company, has been nominated as Barney Oldfield's relief driver in the Vanderbilt and Grand Prix [sic] races, to be held on the famous Santa Monica course in November.
Young Durant, who is vice president of the Chevrolet Motor Company of California, was having a motor built for the Santa Monica classics by a Los Angeles manufacturer, but on account of the scarcity of materials it was impossible for him to complete the motor and chassis in time for the Vanderbilt and Grand Prix [sic]. He therefore cancelled the contracts with the manufacturer, giving him time to complete one motor, which Oldfield is to place in the French Delage chassis.
The manufacturer is, of course, Harry Miller; compare the earlier posts about Oldfield's Santa Monica entries in 1916, and the troubles of getting the crankcase cast in time by Miller and his shop. Here, now, we have a definite account of a linkup between Durant and Miller more than three years before the "Baby Chevrolet" project, and a possible link of Durant to the Golden Submarine and/or Cadwell Miller!
Posted 20 April 2014 - 23:58
Establishing dots and connecting them in early Miller activities is pretty darn exciting!
Thanks to all for pursuing this.
Posted 31 August 2014 - 19:11
So, the two "surplus" cars of the Burman estate became the 1916 Klein or Kleinart Specials? Perhaps a bit early to say that...
Yes, a bit early! I found a table with technical data of the contestants in the June 1916 Chicago race (Motor Age, June 15, 1916), and am suitably disappointed to find that the data appears to indicate that both "Kline Specials" had 8-valve Duesenberg engines. Sure, the cars had Miller carburettors, but so did practically everybody else. Hm. Not sure what that means, it could be that one of the two (or both?) sources are mistaken, or maybe they changed the engines in between (three months is a long time), but at the moment I'm stumped. To be continued...
Posted 29 March 2015 - 14:35
On the National Speed Sport News website there is a piece by Tim Kennedy about the 1915 Venice GP:
The first and only Venice Grand Prix took place on March 17, 1915. Legendary race car driver Barney Oldfield, at age 37, won that 300.7-mile road race in a Maxwell.
One hundred years later to the day (Tuesday, March 17) a group of more than 50 racing aficionados and local historians gathered on St. Patrick’s Day to commemorate that event. Titled “Celebration – 100 years, 3/17/1915 – 3/17/2015”, the event took place at the Del Monte Speakeasy downstairs bar/meeting room of Menotti’s Townhouse, 52 Windward Ave., half a block from the eclectic Venice beach and Pacific Ocean.
Pre-and post meeting discussions lasted about two hours, with dual presentations lasting from 5:30-6:30 pm. Host Louie Ryan supplied the free “Paddy’s Day” Irish stew, with Irish whiskey and Irish coffee available. The two-hour program had a pair of knowledgeable, enthusiastic authors/historians split the photo slide show, narrative into parts one and two. They were flawless and professorial in their subject knowledge and enthusiastic presentations. Attendees included J. C. Agajanian Jr. and wife Franci, radio host Bill Wood, Howie Zechner, Autoweek writer Mark Vaughn, and photographer Albert Wong.
Racing historian/book author Harold Osmer gave his 40-minute presentation complete with slide photos of the 1915 Venice GP. Osmer, half of the auto racing program publishing duo The Program Guys, delighted attendees with his presentation. Wearing an Indiana Jones-like brown fedora, the bearded speaker regaled his enthralled audience with detailed facts and on-screen photos of the 2015 Venice GP. He explained that his masters degree thesis in geography from Cal State University-Northridge led to his study of land uses and auto racing tracks in Southern California.
He said since 1903 more auto racing has taken place in So Cal than anywhere in the world. There have been 174 race tracks in the area. His research led to “Where the Raced” (Volume I and II),“Real Road Racing, The Santa Monica Road Races” and “Saugus Speedway” books. He showed an aerial photo of the one mile horse track around the LA Memorial Coliseum during festival week (an early LA County Fair).
Barney Oldfield and his early racing exploits in a Stearns six-cylinder, 1,800 rpm race car in the Altadena-Pasadena races in 1906-09 were discussed. His speed increased from 12 mph in ’06 to 38 mph in ’09. Osmer covered the Playa del Rey Motodrome one-mile circular track made out of wood with 18-degree banks. Fans watched from the infield as stripped down stock cars raced. Races were promoted with full page newspaper ads. Motorcycles raced 100 mph and cars ran 97 mph. Cars ranged from 35-60 HP to Oldfield’s 200 HP car. Official race programs cost ten cents. Spectators came from LA by train and other attractions included camel rides. The area today is Marina del Rey, a residential area developed in the early1960s.
“There is no trace of the track today,” Osmer said. “I looked for it.”
Next Osmer described the “Race for Life” attraction in which a man drove a stripped-down Hames motorcar 8-10 miles at 55-70 mph on a board track with 75-degrees banking. Halver Shain was killed on Dec. 30, 1912, driving in this early auto thrill show. He then discussed Culver City Speedway at Lincoln and Washington Blvd (where a Costco is today). It was built as a dog racing track. Culver City annexed the site and it ran midgets and jalopies in the late 1940s-50s. Movies, such as “The Big Wheel” staring Mickey Rooney, shot racing scenes there.
Osmer also discussed the Red Car streetcar system and the 1950s-60s conversion to more maneuverable buses for non-rail mass transit. He discussed the Santa Monica road race that ran from 1909-1919. It ran on Montana Ave. and Wilshire Blvd. and was 8.4 miles per lap. That was considered a short course because the Long Island road race was 20+ miles per lap. He described and showed photos of race souvenirs of the day, including pennants and printed race programs.
Osmer showed a map of the Venice GP 1.3 mile race course. The track ran counter-clockwise as horse races did. Start/finish was on Electric Ave. near Venice Blvd.; the track went east on Venice Blvd to Lincoln Blvd., which is now the four-lane wide Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1). The track turned left and went north on Lincoln to Rose Ave., then left on Rose to Hampton Drive, and left on Hampton to a jog onto Electric Ave., where grandstands were located. A two-story house at Rose & Hampton pictured in a race day photo is still there. Turns were made out of wood and banked to increase lap speed.
Race promoters installed a canvas-covered wall around the track to force people to buy a ticket if they wanted to see the race. An estimated 60,000 persons attended. There were five gates and crossover bridges for infield admission. The race was 97 laps and it was a balmy 85 degrees on race day. We worked from 1970-73 in a two-story building on Lincoln at Rose and never knew that famous Barney Oldfield raced past my workplace 55 years earlier. Ironically, our work site has been replaced by newer commercial buildings, while the house shown in 1915 at Rose and Hampton still stands.
The Venice GP was round six of a 27 race 1915 AAA National Championship Trail. Nine races were on road courses, seven on dirt ovals and Indianapolis Motor Speedway was classified a brick oval. Points were not awarded in 1915. Later points were awarded and Earl Cooper was named 1915 national champion. Ten race distances were 100-miles. Other distances were 300, 350, 400 and 500 miles (Indy 500) on May 31. The season ran from Jan. 9 to Nov. 25.
Race sites prior to Venice were a San Diego road course on Jan. 9, Glendale road course on Feb. 3, Ascot dirt oval on Feb. 7, and two on a road course in San Francisco – American Grand Prize on Feb. 27 and Wm. K. Vanderbilt Cup – March 6. Following Venice, on March 20 teams raced 103.152 miles on the Tucson road course. Subsequent races were in Oklahoma City, Galesburg, Ill., Chicago, Sioux City, Tacoma oval (July 4-5), Omaha, Burlington, Des Moines, Chicago, Elgin, Ill. road course (Aug. 20-21), Kalamazoo, Minneapolis, Providence, Astor Cup-Sheepshead Bay (Oct. 9), Harkness Gold Medal Race at Sheepshead (Nov. 2), Phoenix dirt oval (Nov. 20) and San Francisco dirt oval 100 (the third SF race).
The Venice GP started 18 of 23 cars present. All were two-man cars of the day. The starting field included 10 Indianapolis 500 drivers; three Indianapolis 500 drivers did not start. Indy 500 vets in the Venice GP were Oldfield, Billy Carlson, Eddie Hearne, Cliff Durant, Louis Disbrow, Dave Lewis, Eddie Rickenbacker, Art Klein, Harry Grant and Eddie Pullen. Non-starters who were Indy 500 vets included Harold Hall, Hughie Hughes and Louis Nikrent.
Car chassis in the Venice race included three Maxwell cars designed by 1911 Indy 500 winner Ray Harroun. Other car makes that also had engines by the car builder were: Mercer, Bugatti, Case, Simplex, Stutz, Chalmers, King, Delage, Chevrolet and National. Cars that missed the race were: Hercules, Napier, Simplex, Fiat and Mercer.
Cliff Durant started on the pole in the No. 9 Stutz. WW I flying ace/future Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner/Eastern Airlines President Eddie Rickenbacker was alongside in the No. 12 Maxwell. Oldfield started 12th in the No. 1 Maxwell, a four-cylinder engine that produced 445 horsepower. Carlson started 14th in the second of three Maxwell entries and finished second. Carlson was killed on July 4, 1915 in a race at Tacoma, Wash., just 11 weeks after the Venice GP.
Oldfield finished the 97 laps (300 miles) in 4:24.02.4 at an average speed of 68.438 mph. Carlson averaged 68.261 mph. Seven of 18 starters finished with five on the lead lap. Glover Ruckstell, John Marquis and Eddie Hearne also completed 97 laps. Durant and Disbrow also were running but were flagged off the course. Osmer said starting in 1913 the checkered flag concluded racing for all cars. Prior to that year all cars raced until they completed the full distance.
The heart-breaker of the day befell race leader Dave Lewis, who started 11th in his No. 7 Stutz. He had a huge lead of seven minutes with two laps remaining when his crankshaft broke. He placed eighth. That mechanical failure cost him the $3,500 first place money. In today’s dollars (per Bureau of Labor Statistics) that equates to $81,370. In 1915 the Venice victory was the equivalent of three years of earnings because the average income was $1,076 annually. Cars in 1915 cost about $500 vs. $31,252 today; a house cost $4,800 vs. today’s $177,600 nationally. A gallon of gas cost 12-14 cents vs.$3.35 currently. First class postage cost two cents vs. 49 cents now.
Other causes for dropouts were: broken oil line, engine problem (three), broken crankcase (two), radiator leak, broken connecting rod (two), and stripped gears. Oldfield maintained a steady pace and won the race without making a pit stop. Runner-up Carlson stopped seven seconds to add a quart and a half of oil and trailed the winner by 41.2 seconds. Stories about the Venice GP ran in newspapers across the nation and gave the city desired publicity. Firestone Tire and Maxwell Cars ran ads featuring their Venice victory.
Speaker Harold Osmer leads a discussion about the Venice Grand Prix at the Del Monte Speakeasy in Venice, Calif., on March 17. (Albert Wong Photo)
Posted 02 April 2015 - 12:22
The Venice GP was round six of a 27 race 1915 AAA National Championship Trail...
No such thing as a National Championship trail in 1915. The author tries to get it right by saying that "points were not awarded", but old habits die hard, it seems. Clearly it's hard to write about something that you have no knowledge of, other than how to enter words into a google machine. A bit of common sense might have prevented a few embarrassments like the "lead lap" nonsense, or the 445 horsepower Maxwell, but is apparently no longer taught at school. Is journalism still a profession, or just a word from the past when people did ridiculous things like reading books or newspapers? National Speed Sport News used to be the name of a quality paper, now it's just one of a gazillion websites.
Posted 02 April 2015 - 17:37
Michael, Tim Kennedy has written for racing publications for at least 47 years. So, he's not a recent J-school grad Any endeavor at tracing sprint car chassis used in the CRA would likely not be possible without his attempts at noting such.
The "Championship" part of it is down to the long standing creations from Russ Catlin. Kennedy mentions: "Later points were awarded and Earl Cooper was named 1915 national champion." While I know you (and especially Don) don't like to hear it, there would not have been sufficient space allowed to lengthily dissect Catlin's disaster in creating the retroactive championships. Especially in an article focusing on another specific event. You (or Don) should contact NSSN about writing up something about the fabricated championships. But, I'll tell you right now, it would likely be 500 words or under.
Also, this is his report on a presentation. You (and I) have no idea how much of this came from simply passing along what was presented. Likewise, the presenter would have come to the misinformation through Catlin's (ahem) efforts. So, he doesn't necessarily deserve villification either. Save that for the ones responsible for this mess in the first place, like Catlin.
Which still doesn't mean I don't think it could have been written up differently. You ought to contact Tim and point out Catlin's folly and how it continues to cause problems. But, be polite. Ranting at him (or Harold Osmer) does no favors, save the ranting for Catlin and what he wrought. He deserves it
Edited by Jim Thurman, 02 April 2015 - 17:39.