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Thread: The Greatest Race of 1908

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    The Greatest Race of 1908

    “The Greatest Auto Race” of 1908

    One hundred years ago, the crack of a gold-plated pistol triggered the beginning of the “Greatest Auto Race” of 1908, a global endurance test of man and machine. 17 men dared take part in hopes of proving that the newly invented automobile was not only a practical, durable machine, but could meet the demands of a future on the move.

    The “Greatest Auto Race“ of 1908, was inspired by the success of the landmark Peking to Paris race, held one year earlier. The French newspaper Le Matin and later, The New York Times conspired to top that earlier event and stage “the toughest race ever devised.” There was little hope that the automobile could withstand the rigors of such a monumental undertaking.

    “The Greatest Auto Race” of 1908 began within a few months. On 12 February 1908, six of the most innovative automobiles of the era, representing France, Germany, Italy and the United States lined up in Times Square, New York City.

    Aboard were 17 men, eager to represent their countries and prove that they and their machines were tough enough to endure the ultimate automotive adventure.

    The participating teams in 1908


    Country: France
    Specs: Model 1908, 4-cylinder, 4-speed transmission, max speed approx. 50 mph
    Team Members: Team Captain: G. Bourcier de Saint Chaffray • Driver & Mechanic: Alphonse Autran • Assistant: Hans Hendrik Hansen (left the French Team in Chicago, IL and joined the American Team in Cheyenne, WY.)
    Results: DNF. Withdrawn from the race by the manufacturer while crossing Japan. (7,332 miles / 11,800 kilometers)

    Country: France
    Specs: two-seater, 15-HP 1-cylinder, 3,300 lb.
    Team Members: • Driver & Team Captain: Auguste Pons • Mechanic: Maurice Berthe and Lucien Deschamps
    Results: DNF. Traveled as far as Peekskill, NY, before breaking down. (44 miles / 71 kilometers)

    Country: Italy
    Specs: Model 1908, 40HP, 4-cylinder, 4-speed transmission, max speed approx. 60 mph, 114” wheelbase
    Team Members: • Driver: Giulio Sirtori • Mechanic: Henri Haaga • Correspondent: Antonio Scarfoglio
    Results: Finished third. Arrived in Paris, France on September 17, 1908.

    Country: Germany
    Specs: Model 1908, 40HP 4cylinder, max speed approx. 70 mph, fuel capacity 176 gallon, 6.5’ wide – 16’ long, loaded weight 6,000 lbs
    Team Members: Team Captain: LT. Hans Koeppen • Driver & Mechanic: Hans Knape • Mechanic: Ernest Maas
    Results: First car to arrive in Paris, France on July 26, 1908. The German team was levied a 15-day penalty for taking a train from Ogden, Utah to Seattle. That and a 15 day advantage given to the Thomas Flyer placed the Protos second overall.

    Country: United States
    Specs: 1907 Model 35, 60HP 4-cylinder, 4-speed transmission, max. speed, approx. 60 mph, 11’ 8” long, loaded weight approx. 5,000 lbs.
    Team Members: • Driver & Team Captain: Montague Roberts (replaced by George Schuster in Cheyenne, Wyoming to finish the Race in Paris France) • Mechanic: George Schuster (replaced by George Miller as Mechanic in Cheyenne, Wyoming having joined the Team in Buffalo, New York) • NY Times Correspondent: T Walter Williams (left in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and was replaced by George MacAdam also with the New York Times in Seattle, Washington) • Assistant: Hans Hendrik Hansen (joined the American Team in Omaha Nebraska)
    Results: The Thomas Flyer was declared the victor, winning by 26 days over the second place German Protos. The German team was penalized a total of 30 days (15 days for not having gone to Alaska, with an additional 15 days for shipping the Protos by railcar in the United States).


    The Race

    The Race was sponsored by the NEW YORK TIMES and the LA MATIN (a Paris newspaper). The torturous New York to Paris Race route: NYC, Albany, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Valdez Alaska, Japan, Vladivostok, Omsk, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Berlin and finally Paris. The Thomas Flyer Team covered three continents and over 22,000 miles in 169 days.
    From New York to Paris.
    Upon leaving New York, the teams plowed into a snowstorm in the Northeast. Snow, frigid temperatures and hazardous conditions dogged the teams as they traveled across the American mid-west forcing some of the teams to resort to driving on railroad tracks to avoid the rough going.

    Four teams successfully crossed the continent to San Francisco. The Thomas Flyer was the first to arrive and, according to the Race organizers’ plan, catch a ship to Anchorage for the drive across Alaska and the Bering Straight to Vladivostok.

    10 foot tall snowdrifts in Alaska made the route impractical, forcing the race organizers to re-route the Thomas back to Seattle and then on to Japan which they crossed before going to the port at Vladivostok for the long journey across Siberia.

    All along the racecourse people cheered, urging the drivers on. Celebrations were held, toasts made. The world watched. The Greatest Auto Race was so audacious; it achieved as much popularity as the Olympic Games of 1908.

    Three continents, 22,000 miles / 35,000 kilometers and six months later, three teams, from the U.S., Germany and Italy finished, proving that the automobile could withstand the rigors of an around the world race. For the world, the “Greatest Auto Race” established the automobile as an everyday tool, enabling commerce, personal freedom and ultimately a better way of life. The world has never been the same.

    Regardless of the mode of transportation, teamwork, determination and ingenuity were required to finish, let alone win. But to better understand what the original adventurers were up against, and what these men and machines were really made of.

    The Race was ultimately won by the American Thomas Flyer driven by George Schuster Sr. of Buffalo, NY. The feat has never been equaled. They still hold the world record nearly 100 years later!

    Route Maps (see attached)

    - The Asia/Europe map is an original purchased in Vladivostok May 1908
    The New York to Paris Automobile Race was to be driven across the frozen Bering Straits in the dead of winter 1908. All this at a time when horses were considered more reliable than automobiles.

    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Sledgehammer; 11-02-2007 at 11:00 AM.
    "Horsepower sells motor cars, but torque wins motor races."
    -Carrol Shelby

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    1. The Flyer drew crowds as it passed through cities, towns and villages. In Cheyenne, Wyoming cowboys (shooting their guns in the air) escorted the Thomas.

    2.250,000 spectators gathered in Times Square to watch the start of the New York to Paris Race, an epic International Automobile Race.

    3.The International competitors gather for a group photo just prior to the start of the New York to Paris Race. Germany, Italy, France and the United States were represented in this global competition.

    4.Representing the United States: 1907 Thomas Flyer Specs: Model 35, 60 HP, 4 cylinder, 4 speed transmission, 11' 8" long, loaded weight 5,000 lbs
    Max Speed: 60 mph
    Winner of the 1908 New York to Paris Race

    5.Representing France: 1908 De Dion-Bouton
    Specs: 4 cylinder, 4 speed transmission
    Max Speed: 50 mph

    6.Representing France: 1908 Moto Bloc
    Specs: 30 HP, 4 cylinder

    image credits: GreatRaceLegends
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Sledgehammer; 11-02-2007 at 10:58 AM.
    "Horsepower sells motor cars, but torque wins motor races."
    -Carrol Shelby

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    1. Representing France: 1908 Sizaire-Naudin
    Specs: 2 seater, 15HP, 1cylinder, loaded weight 3,300 lbs

    2. Representing Germany: 1908 Protos
    Specs: 40HP, 4 cylinder, 176 gals. fuel capacity, 6.5' wide - 16' long, loaded weight 6,000 lbs
    Max Speed: 70 mph
    Second place 1908 New York to Paris Race

    3.Representing Italy: 1908 Brixia-Zust
    Specs: 40HP, 4 cylinder, 4 speed transmission with 114" wheel base
    Max. Speed: 60 mph
    Third Place 1908 New York to Paris Race

    4.A moment of true sportsmanship. The Americans (Flyer) pulls their German competitors (Protos) from the Siberian mud. May 22,1908

    5. Crowds begin to gather at the Times Square starting line in NYC. Over 250,000 spectators were on hand for the start of the 1908 New York to Paris Race.

    6. Shortly after the start of the Race, Spectator cars follow the competitors up Broadway, bound for Albany, NY. February 12, 1908

    image credits: GreatRaceLegends
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Sledgehammer; 11-02-2007 at 10:58 AM.
    "Horsepower sells motor cars, but torque wins motor races."
    -Carrol Shelby

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    1. The International competitors line up in the center of Times Square for viewing and photos just prior to the start of the Race. February 12, 1908

    2. 11:15 AM February 12, 1908 Times Square, and the start of The New York to Paris around the world Autmobile Race! The competitors are headed north on Broadway for Albany, NY.

    3. The Thomas Flyer along side a Trans-Siberian Railroad locomotive.

    4. Long before snowplows, hand shoveling or dragging the Flyer with teams of horses was often the only way through. With little protection from the elements, the American built Thomas Flyer with George Schuster as driver becomes the first automobile to ever cross the US in winter.

    5. Often with no roads, the Flyer would go "cross-country" finding torturious obstacles along the 22,000 mile course.

    6. The Flyer up to the axles in mud near Julesburg, Colorado.

    image credits: GreatRaceLegends
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Sledgehammer; 11-02-2007 at 10:57 AM.
    "Horsepower sells motor cars, but torque wins motor races."
    -Carrol Shelby

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    1. 1907 model 35 Thomas Flyer returning to New York City after winning the NY to Paris Race on July 30,1908

    2. The Thomas Flyer arrives on the pier at Valdez, Alaska. Impossible conditions prevented using Bering Straits as a "bridge" to drive across. George Schuster-driver (right front), George Miller-mechanic (left front), George MacAdam-New York Times reporter (seated right rear fur collar), Hans Hansen-crew (standing left rear) April 8, 1908


    3. The Flyer with the 45 star flag flying approaches Buffalo, NY where it was built. Often spectator cars would join in, following the competitors or acting as guide cars breaking the way through snow.

    4. The Zust proved to be a good competitor, one of the three Teams to finish the Race. The young Italian Team spoke little English.

    5. The Zust crew included Antonio Scarfoglio, a young correspondent for his family's Italian newspaper. He proved important to helping the car finally make Paris in September 1908. This photo was in Ames, Iowa.

    6. The Protos was the largest and heaviest of the 6 competitors. Lieutenant Hans Koeppen, a 31 year old, 6' officer with a "toothbrush" moustache on leave from the German General Staff headed the Protos Team.

    image credits: GreatRaceLegends
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Sledgehammer; 11-02-2007 at 10:58 AM.
    "Horsepower sells motor cars, but torque wins motor races."
    -Carrol Shelby

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    1. G. Bourcier St. Chaffray (white fur cap) headed the French entry De Dion-Bouton.

    2. Lieutenant Hans Koeppen (in the rider's seat) on leave from the German Army aboard the German entry Protos.

    3. Montague "Monty" Roberts, driver of the Thomas Flyer at the start of the New York to Paris Race in Times Square

    4. George Schuster (Chief Mechanic for the E.R. Thomas Motor Company of Buffalo, NY) in the rear seat of Thomas Flyer at the start of the New York to Paris Race in Times Square


    5. The starting line-up in Times Square. Mayor George B. McClellan of New York was to start the Race, but couldn't get through the dense crowds of 250,000 spectators. At 11:15 the morning of February 12, 1908 President Colgate Hoyt of the American Automobile Club raised a gold plated pistol into the air, and fired the shot starting this epic Automotive event.

    6. The Italian Zust with Antonio Scarfoglio, a reporter for the il Mattino (a large Neapolitan daily newspaper) as part of the crew.

    image credits: GreatRaceLegends
    Attached Images Attached Images
    "Horsepower sells motor cars, but torque wins motor races."
    -Carrol Shelby

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    A journal of the race here
    "Horsepower sells motor cars, but torque wins motor races."
    -Carrol Shelby

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    Sledgehammer, it's..it's great!

    P.S. where is my jaw?

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    Sledgehammer you should write a book

  10. #10
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    I did not write this, I scrapbooked it together from a few different sources and added pictures/info. You can follow my sources back to the origional articles. I figured some people would find it as interesting as I have.
    "Horsepower sells motor cars, but torque wins motor races."
    -Carrol Shelby

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    BTW, they drove through Moscow, like Peking-Paris participants did. That means I have a chance to see another set of unique cars next year in my hometown Who knows - maybe they'll hit the road, too.
    Last edited by faksta; 11-03-2007 at 05:16 AM.

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    Oh, my thoughts are true - they'll arrive in Moscow July 20, 2008 and will remain here till July 22. Great news!
    Some really interesting cars will participate - I'd really like to see them!

    1904 Thomas Flyer
    1910 Nyberg Indy Racer
    And what is 1927 Jorden J-1 Flyer??

    They promise 100 cars, yay!

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    Does anybody know whether the above Protos and the Formula-2 Protos which entered 1967 GP at Nurburgring are of the same company? The cars are both from Germany... It would help me to organise my pics library correctly. Thanks.

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    ****!!! #@##^%#*&!!!

    Great Race 2008: New York to Paris postponed

    Bill Ewing, CEO of Great Race Sports, regretfully informed participants that the Great Race 2008: New York to Paris has been postponed as the approval to travel through China has been recalled and the permits have been placed on hold.

    Given the high level of enthusiasm and support demonstrated for this race, Great Race Sports owners, executives and participants are dedicated to honoring the history of this illustrious race. Great Race Sports is hard at work exploring all options to run this race in honor of the 100th anniversary.

    Thank you for your continued interest in and support for the Great Race. We will be sure to offer updates as they become available.

    Media Contact Information:
    Elisabeth Edelman
    Cooke + Co.
    elisabeth-at-cooke-co.com
    978-621-7500
    Last edited by faksta; 06-02-2008 at 01:41 PM.

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    greatest auto race

    The documentary on the 1908 NY to Paris auto race is complete and winning awards world wide. The Great Auto Race 1908 | In the Beginning is the site and DVDs are available for sale there. Full sized replicas of the Thomas Flyer, the German Protos, and the Italian Zust were made for the dramatic re-enactments. 1000s of photos were found from around the world, a great deal of them never before seen. Cheers. Michael.

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