October 24, 2005

Today in Automotive History

1908 Old 16 defeats the world

On this day, the Locomobile Old 16, driven by George Robertson, became the first American-made car to beat the European competition when it raced to victory in the fourth annual Vanderbilt Cup held in Long Island, New York. The Vanderbilt Cup, an early example of world-class motor racing in America, was created in 1904 to introduce Europe's best automotive drivers and manufacturers to the U.S. George Heath won the first Vanderbilt Cup in a French-made Panhard automobile, beginning a French domination of the event that would last until Old 16's historic victory. Old 16 was first built in 1906 by the Connecticut-based Locomobile Company, and showed promise when it raced to a respectable finish in the second Vanderbilt Cup. With some modifications, Old 16 was ready to race again in 1908. Americans pinned their hopes on the state-of-the-art road racer to end the European domination of early motor racing. Designed simply for speed and power, Old 16 had an 1032 cc, 4-cylinder, 120 hp engine with a copper gas tank, and a couple of bucket seats atop a simple frame with four wooden-spoked wheels completed the design. At the fourth Vanderbilt Cup, Robertson pushed Old 16 to an average speed of 64.38 mph, dashing around the 297-mile course to the cheers of over 100,000 rowdy spectators, who lined the track dangerously close to the speeding motor cars. With a thrown tire in the last lap and a frantic fight to the finish against an Italian Isotta, America's first major racing victory was a hair-raising affair. Old 16 is one of the oldest American automobiles still in existence, and is currently on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Posted by Quality Weenie at October 24, 2005 08:08 AM | TrackBack