Saturday, December 3, 2011
“The first American automobile race took place on this date in 1895. It was put on by the Chicago Times-Herald, and it was open to cars with at least three wheels that could carry two or more people (the driver and a judge). The race, 54 miles in all, ran from Chicago's Jackson Park out to Evanston, Illinois, and back.
It was Thanksgiving Day, and it had snowed the night before. None of the automobiles had roofs, and none of the roads were paved, so conditions for a race weren't optimal. Out of the original 89 entrants, only six were at the starting line on race day. Two of them were American-made electric cars; the other four -- one of them American and three built by German manufacturer Karl Benz -- were gasoline-powered. Four of the cars eventually dropped out due to the poor conditions, and it came down to American Frank Duryea and one of the Benz machines. Duryea prevailed, reaching a top speed of 7.5 miles per hour, and crossing the finish line after several breakdowns and a little over 10 hours. The German car limped home two hours later, driven by the referee; its driver had collapsed, exhausted. Duryea used his $2,000 winnings to start the Duryea Motor Wagon Company.”
Here’s a photo of my father's 1903 Stevens-Duryea in residence at the Autorama. Stevens-Duryea was an American car manufacturer between 1901 and 1915 and from 1919 to 1927. The company was founded after a falling-out between J. Frank Duryea and his brother Charles in 1898. Stevens-Duryea's first product was a 2-cylinder, 5-horsepower runabout that sold for $1,200 in 1901. Pretty pricey for the time!