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Tazio in America, 1938


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#1 raturn5

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Posted 06 September 2016 - 19:37

After the 1938 Pau GP (April 10th) Tazio Nuvolari left Enzo Ferrari's Alfa GP team, citing poor preparation, announcing his "retirement," and that he was taking a "holiday to America," only to come out of "retirement," and sign up with Auto Union in time for the Italian GP, September 11, 1938. My question is what did he do on his holiday in America during the spring and summer of 1938? I know he made an appearance at the 1938 Indianapolis 500 festivities about five days before the event. What was his itinerary, people seen, places, and events? The museum in Mantua was unable to respond.



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#2 Vitesse2

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Posted 06 September 2016 - 20:50

Details of what he did and where he went are hard to find. Believe me, I've looked! Johnny Lurani claimed in his biography of Tazio that he'd spent much of the summer in America. However, this is incorrect.

 

He arrived in the United States on May 25th, having sailed from Genoa on the Conte de Savoia. From New York, the Nuvolaris travelled to Indianapolis, where he tested a car or two and was much photographed - both before and after the race - and was appointed honorary starter.

 

However, the Nuvolaris were on their way home again by June 11th at the latest - and possibly earlier - since Italian press reports say he was present at a bicycle race in Mantua on the 19th: to achieve that (assuming he used Italian ships, which is almost certain) his last possible departure would have been sailing from New York on the Rex on the 11th. The following Sunday, the 26th, he acted as chauffeur for Crown Prince Umberto when he attended the Coppa Principessa di Piemonte meeting.

 

When Auto Union returned to Germany after the debacle of the GP de l'ACF, they did four days testing (July 6th-9th) at the Nürburgring. Chiron and Stuck were present on all four days, but a third driver - unannounced by the team and not reported afterwards - arrived on the third day. It was of course Nuvolari.

 

Nuvolari had been flirting with Auto Union for some time, but the received wisdom is that Varzi had blocked him. With Varzi out of the way, the road was apparently open, but the rise of Rosemeyer meant that the relationship had cooled a bit and Tazio stayed at Scuderia Ferrari in 1937. After Rosemeyer's death, AU made an approach via their Italian agent Ugo Ricordi, but Tazio elected to stay with the revived Alfa Corse, having apparently been persuaded that the 316 would be a Silver Arrows beater. Then came Pau ...

 

The Italian press reported that Tazio had declined an invitation from Alfa Corse to test at Livorno on July 14th. However, on the same day, one Italian paper (quoting German sources datelined the 13th) reported that he was to start in the German GP, making the assumption he would be driving for Alfa Corse. But even as Alfa were testing, in Berlin, Auto Union were announcing Tazio as their new team leader. This had in fact been reported in the French press on the 11th! With Chiron as the quoted source. Automobil Revue in Switzerland followed suit on the 12th.

 

I've never been wholly convinced by the suggestion that he announced his retirement after Pau. Probably something that got lost in translation, especially by the time it reached English-language sources, which might very well be relying on French or German translations from the original Italian!



#3 Vitesse2

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Posted 07 September 2016 - 10:01

The Museo Nuvolari does have some home movie film of Tazio and Carolina's trip. Much of it was filmed on board ship and at the Brickyard though. It appears that they took an Alfa Romeo road car with them, as it's depicted at both Indianapolis and parked at the roadside. I think it's a 6C2300 Corto Berlinetta - note the front wing dent! I don't think it has broken down, but I doubt your average American saw either an Alfa Romeo or an RHD car very often; the Indy pic also shows people examining the engine. Carolina is in the passenger seat.

 

Nuvolari_1.jpg

 

Some of the film is in colour - including some shots presumably taken by Tazio himself from the starter's rostrum, showing the start. You can see the pace car peeling off here:

 

Nuvolari_2.jpg

 

Other than that, there are some scenes on an anonymous restaurant terrace, probably at their hotel. And this, which is the only evidence that they were anywhere else. Anybody recognise where it was taken? Looks like a seaside boardwalk, but where? It doesn't look built up enough or commercial enough for Atlantic City or Coney Island. Daytona?

 

Nuvolari_3.jpg



#4 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 08 September 2016 - 07:23

In "When Nuvolari raced" italian news papers and other documents are quoted. Also that after Pau: Tazio lascio lo sport (Tazio leaves the sport).

It is also stated that after the race (30th of May), the next day he was back in New York. Also that he was up and busy communicating to possibly take part in the French GP (July 3rd) as well as communication between him and AU.

Did he return back to Italy beginning of June?



#5 Vitesse2

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Posted 08 September 2016 - 10:47

Possibly, Arjan. I must admit I hadn't checked 'When Nuvolari Raced'! :blush: The Rex, Conte de Savoia and I think one other ship operated what was essentially a shuttle service between New York and Genoa, passing each other in mid-Atlantic. I'd need to check the shipping records in The Times, which I won't be able to do until later, but one would probably have sailed from New York on or about the 4th. Unfortunately, Ancestry only has the incoming New York passenger lists for Italy, so it won't be possible to pin down his departure. I did check the New York Times for the relevant period; they (and other papers) covered his arrival, but not - as far as I could see - his departure.



#6 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 08 September 2016 - 12:14

For sure he will have accelerated to leave for Milano after the AU proposals reached him. This in order to get cleared by the FASI for racing a foreign make. 



#7 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 08 September 2016 - 12:21

For Raturn5: he already raced July 24th in the German GP. He seems to have wanted to race already the 3rd in the French GP. The Indy 500 must have inspired him.

He did stay some days in New York, also as he was quite popular there with the large group of Italian emigrants. But after arriving from Italy must have rushed to Indiana first for testing, he was set to race.



#8 Vitesse2

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Posted 08 September 2016 - 20:12

Possibly, Arjan. I must admit I hadn't checked 'When Nuvolari Raced'! :blush: The Rex, Conte de Savoia and I think one other ship operated what was essentially a shuttle service between New York and Genoa, passing each other in mid-Atlantic. I'd need to check the shipping records in The Times, which I won't be able to do until later, but one would probably have sailed from New York on or about the 4th. Unfortunately, Ancestry only has the incoming New York passenger lists for Italy, so it won't be possible to pin down his departure. I did check the New York Times for the relevant period; they (and other papers) covered his arrival, but not - as far as I could see - his departure.

The Giulia was the third one. She sailed from New York for Genoa on the 4th.



#9 raturn5

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Posted 08 September 2016 - 20:58

http://blog.ims.com/...t/#.V87CDmfbKzk  Donald Davidson's comments in the IMS Blog Speedread 2/4/15



#10 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 06:24

http://pitlane.gr/in...1930-1939/1938#

 

On this page a photo of the attempt with the Welch Miller Offy.



#11 Vitesse2

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Posted 06 January 2017 - 22:09

The excellent French archive Gallica has recently made the sports newspaper l'Auto available online. This has enabled me to compile the following timeline of Tazio's 'retirement', which seems to have lasted about three days!

 

April 13th - Nuvolari is still in hospital in Pau. This somewhat contradicts statements made in various books that he had been passed fit to race and it was only Alfa Corse's decision to withdraw which prevented him from driving there. He was reported to be planning to travel to Paris in the next few days.

 

April 16th - Nuvolari informs Count Bonacossa and Enzo Ferrari that he intends to retire from racing. Ferrari, interviewed by Canestrini in Gazzetta dello Sport, declares that he will not be replaced in the GP team, which will continue with Villoresi and Farina as drivers.

 

April 17th - Nuvolari is in Paris and the next day is pictured on the front page of l'Auto with Raymond Sommer during a walk in the Bois de St-Cloud. Tazio is reported to be tired after his journey from Pau and his legs are still 'swathed in bandages'. Nuvolari repeated that he had definitely retired Finished! No more races!” said the headline – although Sommer was quoted as saying that while Nuvolari had repeatedly told him that he was retiring he couldn’t believe that he would actually do so: “Sa retraite est inacceptable.”

 

April 19th - Maurice Henry informs his readers in l’Auto that – contrary to what he had said just two days earlier Nuvolari was having second thoughts about retirement. Henry had interviewed Tazio in his suite at the Hotel George V and sensed that he was actually in two minds; the possibility of retirement had actually been on his mind for about eighteen months and the final decision would be made when he returned to Italy, where he would talk with his 74-year-old father. The next day Nuvolari was reported to still be considering his options – he had visited the theatre with Sommer, ‘Raph’ and various other French sports stars and although unsigned, the report was probably again written by Maurice Henry. Tazio was about to return to Italy by train, but the headline said it all: ‘Perhaps Indianapolis will see the return of Nuvolari’.

 

April 25th - l’Auto reports that it has received a letter from WF Bradley – in his capacity as European representative for Indianapolis - that Nuvolari had expressed an interest in driving there.

 

May 2nd - the US press reports that Nuvolari had cabled an entry for the 500 on April 30th, the last possible day. On May 3rd, the European press goes into overdrive!

 

May 5th - Bradley confirms Nuvolari's entry to l'Auto. In Italy, the press are saying Nuvolari has no knowledge of any entry and within a few days Furmanik will issue an official denial on behalf of FASI.

 

May 19th  - l’Auto attempts to make sense of it all, claiming that Tazio had booked a passage from Cherbourg on the RMS Queen Mary, which had sailed from Southampton the previous day – but had not been on the 3pm boat train from Paris. From this, Maurice Henry concluded that Nuvolari’s entry - which they had now seen on an official entry list and was for a 12-cylinder Alfa - was forfait. In fact, this was probably designed to put the press off the scent, as on the day when l’Auto claimed they should have been in France, Tazio and Carolina Nuvolari - and the Alfa road car pictured above - had boarded the Italian liner Conte de Savoia at Genoa, bound for New York, where they arrived on May 25th en route for Indianapolis. On arrival, Tazio again said that he wasn't going to drive in the race. The British press, meanwhile, chose to believe the entry list ...

 

The story now coming out of Italy was that this entry was not authorised and that it was a personal initiative on Tazio’s part, while Bradley – as the European representative for Indianapolis – had meanwhile sent letters and telegrams to Nuvolari, all of which had gone unanswered. On the 20th, an apparently embittered Bradley was quoted as saying the Americans had been deceived and that Nuvolari would not now have time to get to the track – obviously news of his departure from Genoa had not yet reached Paris, although l’Auto would eventually report this on the 29th.

 



#12 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 11:03

Interesting, thank you!



#13 Doug Nye

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Posted 13 January 2017 - 21:02

Great posts Richard...

 

DCN



#14 Vitesse2

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Posted 13 January 2017 - 21:55

One of those little mysteries I've been chipping away at for years!

 

I have to say, Doug, that I'm now taking quite a lot of stuff attributed to - or quoting - WF Bradley with a fair-sized pinch of salt. I'm not enough of a Bugatti scholar to know how much of his biography of Le Patron was hagiography, but I do wonder. (Lurani's book on Nuvolari too, come to that! It has some interesting inventions and omissions ...)

 

Bradley just had fingers in too many pies - sometime AAA representative on the CSI; IMS spokesman in Europe; regularly quoted by l'Auto so obviously thick as thieves with Henry and Faroux - and probably the rest of the French press corps too; Continental Correspondent for The Autocar, who often presented his personal views as published in France as official US policy, and thus close to Sammy Davis too ...



#15 Doug Nye

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Posted 17 January 2017 - 22:40

WFB's writings served WFB's own interests - of that there is no doubt. But as a true insider he also told us much of merit. It's all a question of pinching salt...

 

DCN



#16 Vitesse2

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Posted 31 March 2017 - 21:57

RACI Magazine, issue 8, April 1938, page 11: https://www.dropbox....248_09.PDF?dl=0

 

Issue 10, May 1938, page 21:

 

screenshot-www.bibliotecadigitale.aci.it

 

Tazio Nuvolari, arriving in New York, told journalists that he will continue to Indianapolis aboard the Alfa Romeo he has brought from Italy as soon as he is issued with an American licence. He will stay in the United States as a tourist for three or four weeks in order to visit the major car factories and assist at the one great international race that he has not seen.



#17 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 12:28

The Evening Star of May 27th 1938 reports Tazio (Italy's Iron Driver) could race the 30th. "As usual Nuvolari came over without a return ticket. 'Maybe I must keep my date with the devil over here' he says, .....'So why should money be wasted over a return-ticket?' .... Mrs. Nuvolari.... had arrived with a return ticket. She doesn't risk her live in those fearsome gas buggies".

On the same page it is being reported that Tazio is to be tested. The Mad Man from Modena had talked with several car owners in an attempt to find a fast mount. Of course he also had to convince the AAA officials that he could handle a car there, find a drive and make test drives. "Observers believe that in view of the few cars available, Nuvolari will not drive, but accept an invitation from the speedway management to act as an official starter."

 

This was confirmed in the same paper a day later "providing he did not arrange for a car to drive". Also Mrs. Nuvolari was quoted that he would not take part in the race. 

 

In the Daily Illinois of May 28th it was said that "he was listed as a possible starter but was practically counted out tonight." (?) Joel Thorne from Tucson had offered him a drive, a front drive job, Nuvolari stated he was not accustomed to that type of car.



#18 tcsparky

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 14:47

I seem to recall a photo of Nuvolari posing with a "gift" Lincoln. I think it had white lettering on it's rear trunk lid with something like "Tazio Nuvolari Racing Champion of Italy".   I think it's in Chequered Flag : 100 Years of Motor Racing" by Ivan Rendall. 

 

"We do it Right, or we do it Twice"!   My version of English would have Thrice, also rhyming. 


Edited by tcsparky, 27 June 2019 - 17:08.


#19 Vitesse2

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 20:54

The Evening Star of May 27th 1938 reports Tazio (Italy's Iron Driver) could race the 30th. "As usual Nuvolari came over without a return ticket. 'Maybe I must keep my date with the devil over here' he says, .....'So why should money be wasted over a return-ticket?' .... Mrs. Nuvolari.... had arrived with a return ticket. She doesn't risk her live in those fearsome gas buggies".

On the same page it is being reported that Tazio is to be tested. The Mad Man from Modena had talked with several car owners in an attempt to find a fast mount. Of course he also had to convince the AAA officials that he could handle a car there, find a drive and make test drives. "Observers believe that in view of the few cars available, Nuvolari will not drive, but accept an invitation from the speedway management to act as an official starter."

 

This was confirmed in the same paper a day later "providing he did not arrange for a car to drive". Also Mrs. Nuvolari was quoted that he would not take part in the race. 

 

In the Daily Illinois of May 28th it was said that "he was listed as a possible starter but was practically counted out tonight." (?) Joel Thorne from Tucson had offered him a drive, a front drive job, Nuvolari stated he was not accustomed to that type of car.

I don't think it's unfair to suggest that with honourable exceptions in the big cities like New York, Washington DC, Chicago etc the American press of the time was often long on hyperbole and short on knowledge and facts. The 'provincials' certainly weren't above inventing quotes to sell papers and were, frankly, indeed very much 'provincial'. They might have known a bit about their local dirt trackers, but they were probably as clueless about European racing as their readers. Even the 500 was sometimes something of a mystery: The Indianapolis 500 winner you've never heard of

 

For example from the above: "Joel Thorne from Tucson"? Thorne was born in New York, his father was from Texas and Joel was at that time based in Los Angeles!

 

Incidentally, I'm now sure the seafront picture is Atlantic City. There are many pictures of what are called 'rolling chairs' on the net and although I can't find a match for that exact design I've found this one which shows the same pattern on the the boardwalk surface.

 

atlantic_city_NJ_rolling_chairs-616x393.



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#20 Michael Ferner

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 21:50

They were clueless about their local dirt trackers, too. However, Thorne really lived in Tucson (as well as New Rochelle/NY) in the thirties. He only moved to Burbank/CA because Thorne Engineering was located in Los Angeles - it was basically Art Sparks's shop. After the war, he was also listed under Las Vegas for a time. He had so much money, I'm not sure whether he always knew how many houses he owned, and in which places!

#21 Vitesse2

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 22:02

Every day's a school day! Thanks, Michael - I wasn't aware of a Tucson connection for Thorne. Nevertheless by May 1938 surely he and Art were firmly established in LA?



#22 DCapps

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 22:36

I don't think it's unfair to suggest that with honourable exceptions in the big cities like New York, Washington DC, Chicago etc the American press of the time was often long on hyperbole and short on knowledge and facts. The 'provincials' certainly weren't above inventing quotes to sell papers and were, frankly, indeed very much 'provincial'. They might have known a bit about their local dirt trackers, but they were probably as clueless about European racing as their readers. Even the 500 was sometimes something of a mystery: The Indianapolis 500 winner you've never heard of

 

For example from the above: "Joel Thorne from Tucson"? Thorne was born in New York, his father was from Texas and Joel was at that time based in Los Angeles!

 

Incidentally, I'm now sure the seafront picture is Atlantic City. There are many pictures of what are called 'rolling chairs' on the net and although I can't find a match for that exact design I've found this one which shows the same pattern on the the boardwalk surface.

 

atlantic_city_NJ_rolling_chairs-616x393.

 

The same rolling chairs and pattern can be found on Coney Island, by the way. That said, it is more than likely that this is Atlantic City given the background in the right part of the photograph.



#23 Michael Ferner

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Posted 28 June 2019 - 18:03

Every day's a school day! Thanks, Michael - I wasn't aware of a Tucson connection for Thorne. Nevertheless by May 1938 surely he and Art were firmly established in LA?


I'm not really sure - Thorne is a bit difficult to follow in his doings, as I said. In his motorboating days, he was generally listed as a New Yorker, I gather, but after his mother died he was suddenly "of Tucson and New York". I can't really establish what his links to Tucson were, other than that the family "owned some cattle in and around Tucson", but Thorne Engineering was actually incorporated there! (see Arizona Daily Star of Tucson, July 29 to August 1, 1937). Joe was listed as President and Director, with a New York address, while Sparks was General Manager and Director at his Eagle Rock address in California, plus three more officers and directors from New York. I've seen Thorne listed as an Arizonan as late as August 1940, and as living in Los Angeles as early as 1939

#24 Vitesse2

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Posted 28 June 2019 - 18:38

Joel is on the 1940 census in Encino CA, although in a rented property on Oak View Drive.



#25 Jim Thurman

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Posted 04 July 2019 - 17:07

I don't think it's unfair to suggest that with honourable exceptions in the big cities like New York, Washington DC, Chicago etc the American press of the time was often long on hyperbole and short on knowledge and facts. The 'provincials' certainly weren't above inventing quotes to sell papers and were, frankly, indeed very much 'provincial'. They might have known a bit about their local dirt trackers, but they were probably as clueless about European racing as their readers. Even the 500 was sometimes something of a mystery: The Indianapolis 500 winner you've never heard of

 

For example from the above: "Joel Thorne from Tucson"? Thorne was born in New York, his father was from Texas and Joel was at that time based in Los Angeles!

 

I don't know how well even some of those listed "big city" papers did as far as motorsports coverage or fact-checking. The Los Angeles Times was often quite good, with racing being important enough in Los Angeles that the newspaper had some detailed coverage from the 1910s. It wasn't the "provincials" at the newspapers that invented things, though as you wrote, they weren't above that. It was the promoters (granted, the small town papers didn't question or just went with what they were told). Some papers definitely did know more than a fair bit about their local dirt trackers. As far as Will Overhead, that isn't reflective of a general lack of knowledge or mindset, that's just down to a green kid working the wire at a paper in a remote Colorado coal mining town with a population of about 5000.

 

 

They were clueless about their local dirt trackers, too. However, Thorne really lived in Tucson (as well as New Rochelle/NY) in the thirties. He only moved to Burbank/CA because Thorne Engineering was located in Los Angeles - it was basically Art Sparks's shop. After the war, he was also listed under Las Vegas for a time. He had so much money, I'm not sure whether he always knew how many houses he owned, and in which places!

 

I think Michael is a tad harsh here and not giving credit to some of the better coverage, as he seems wont to do. There is some surprisingly good motorsports coverage by some newspapers, even in smaller towns. Like that one in New Jersey that sort of evolved into something else  ;) . I like to kid Michael that he feels the coverage was terrible because it didn't list the chassis numbers or some other nebbish, tiddly nut and bolt that his vintage racing patrons want him to find   ;)  I expect this to trigger a Michael level rant citing many examples of the terrible coverage to "prove" his case  :lol:  (Michael, I know! I've seen plenty of the other as well) 

 

I, too, have seen Thorne listed as from Tucson. It all gets a bit tricky, as plenty of times I've seen drivers listed for the hometown of their Championship car owner/entrant! Plus, drivers were often quite itinerant and moved around a bit. I like Michael's answer, that Thorne might not have been aware of how many houses he owned in which places  :up:   :D



#26 Vitesse2

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Posted 04 July 2019 - 18:39

I've found the New York Times and Chicago Tribune are generally very good for the 'big picture' (the NYT also for its coverage of Roosevelt Raceway) and the Salt Lake City papers often provided detailed coverage of happenings at Bonneville, much of which didn't make it into the nationals - and in the case of Eyston's and Cobb's exploits not into the British specialist press either! Although of course they just loved Ab Jenkins!

 

But I'd say 'Will Overhead' is also indicative of the locals' utter dependence on the news wires.

 

Thorne may perhaps have also lost touch with which woman he'd installed in which house.  ;)



#27 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 05 July 2019 - 08:09

The Museo Nuvolari does have some home movie film of Tazio and Carolina's trip. Much of it was filmed on board ship and at the Brickyard though. .....

 

Other than that, there are some scenes on an anonymous restaurant terrace, probably at their hotel. And this, which is the only evidence that they were anywhere else. Anybody recognise where it was taken? Looks like a seaside boardwalk, but where? It doesn't look built up enough or commercial enough for Atlantic City or Coney Island. Daytona?

 

Nuvolari_3.jpg

 

 

It is difficult to pin it down as the shot misses any characteristics on the back ground. This likely was shot after the Indy 500 as the couple had some time to spare and were back in NY a day after the race.

 

Coincidentally, to add some pieces of the puzzle:

Nuvolari is listed as DNQ in some reports! At least a fact that he was on the entry list with starting #48 entered by Alfa Romeo SC, withdrawn. But also listed with #54, the Welch Miller Offenhauser attempts that ended at the end of the pit lane. But was the last a qualification attempt?

 

http://pitlane.gr/in...page=2#category

 

What else did they do in NY, watch a boxing match or visit horse aces?


Edited by Arjan de Roos, 17 July 2019 - 08:26.


#28 Michael Ferner

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Posted 05 July 2019 - 12:23

I was being flippant, of course. Plenty of amazingly good newspaper coverage, I should know - that's where most of my info comes from! Des Moines (Iowa) is also extremely good, I have just recently found that they covered the races in neighbouring (and rivalling!) Cedar Rapids much, much better than the local papers over there! Modern stuff, too - all the detailed info on the Knoxville website (including qualifying times down to 129th positon etc.) comes actually from a newspaper in Des Moines! On the other end of the scope is the info I just found the other day, that "Cecil Burnaugh drove the very same car in which Mauri Rose crashed fatally a few years ago..." Say, what???

That all being said, Jim is quite right in pointing out that much of what is found in old newspapers was actually the promoters themselves writing copy! Here and there, you can even find an editorial stating that promoter X or promoter Y were paying visits to the newspaper, and "how awfully nice t'was of them to tell us first hand..." - good promoters always knew how to get good coverage! The other thing Jim said, about newspapers often listing the hometown of the car owner instead, is also very true. Although in Thorne's case, hardly relevant...

Edited by Michael Ferner, 05 July 2019 - 13:17.