Sunday, February 11, 2018

New York to Paris, The Great Auto Race of 1908

Thomas Flyer following trolley tracks somewhere in U.S.
  February 12th, 1908 is a date that will live on in automotive history.  Six automobiles from France, Italy, Germany, and the United States left New York City to begin a race around the world from N.Y. to Paris! 250,000 people cheered them on.
   The race was sponsored by the New York Times and Le Matin, a Paris newspaper. It was described as “the most fantastic, grueling, strenuous test ever devised for man and machine.” Held at a time when horses still shared the road with these less than reliable machines and many towns around the country and the world had never even seen an automobile yet!
  The audacity of a race of this magnitude, 22,000 miles, seemed incredible, especially when the average life of an auto in 1908 was about 10,000 miles, not to mention the idea of doing this in mid-winter!  Roads were very primitive, or non-existent, mostly dirt except around cities or large towns.  Where there were no roads they just went overland or on RR tracks. Cars were just expensive cantankerous toys for the wealthy then. The Thomas Flyer of the E.R. Thomas Motor Car Co. of Buffalo cost $4,000, or equivalent to $85,000 in todays money. If you wanted reliable transportation to get somewhere, you were better off with a horse. Predictions were that none of the cars would make it past Chicago.
Drivers being interviewed at the starting line in NY
    The original route was to take them to the West Coast, a ship to Alaska then drive across the frozen Bering Strait to Russia.  However Alaska turned out to be impossible to negotiate due to the lack of any roads.   The torturous New York to Paris Race route eventually became:  New York City to Albany, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Valdez, Japan, Vladivostok, Omsk, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Berlin and Paris. 
  The Thomas Flyer Team covered three continents and over 22,000 miles in 169 days.  The 1908 Race was ultimately won by the American Buffalo made Thomas Flyer driven by George Schuster Sr. of Buffalo, NY. The feat has never been equaled. They still hold the world record over 110 years later! 

For the complete story watch the three videos below.










Cars waiting at the starting line in New York City



Thomas Flyer at the starting line in New York City

Following the trolley tracks somewhere in rural America

When roads weren't available or drivable the RR tracks were the next best thing

Digging the Thomas Flyer out with shovels

The going was not great on most parts of the route to Paris

Approaching the Rocky Mountains in Colorado

Native Americans posing with the Thomas Flyer out West

Thomas Flyer in Cheyenne Wyoming

Getting out of the mud in Siberia

The Thomas Flyer entering Berlin on July 27, the last city before the finish line in Paris



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