The 1897 Marseilles-Nice-La Turbie Race

In The Squire’s Tale, Chaucer tells us “Men love of propre kynde newefangelnesse.”  Echoing these very sentiments, Dr. Dre tells us “I love the new technology….New challenges mean you have to keep up, you know?”  The 1897 motorsport season, and I use the term loosely, demonstrates that the newest thing can still cause challenges and even problems.  Simply put, the petrol/gasoline engine was still lagging in power, as compared to the coal-powered steam engine.  However, a new class of driver was quickly becoming fascinated with the relatively newer technology of internal combustion.  These drivers would help foster the enthusiasm that propelled engines far beyond anything ever achieved by the steam engine.

A New Class of Driver.

Thus far, in these early years of motorsport, racing was reserved for the aristocracy.  This is logical.  Automobiles were expensive and not yet mass produced.  As such, one needed considerable wealth to afford an automobile.  However, some interesting names start to show up in the 1897 results charts.  Gentleman such as René de Knyff and Fernand Charron represent the early hints of a professional class of drivers.  In this regard, the sport was starting to get a little more serious in that it was contemplating (even if silently) a move beyond sheer amateurism,

Rene de Knyff

A great entry in my Encyclopedia of Auto Racing Greats sets the stage for René de Knyff:

A familiar figure of the period was a big man with a bushy black beard.  As the years wore on, the beard grayed, but the man remained as erect as ever, until, at the age of 90 in 1955, René de Knyff, a Belgian but a Chevalier of France, died.

René de Knyff was born in 1864.  He was an early director of Panhard and Levassor.  But, at the heart of this great man was a passion for motorsport.  In time, he became the chairman of the Automobile Club de France.  His record, as a racer, was relatively short compared to modern standards, but it was certainly distinguished as the forthcoming posts will most certainly detail.

At a base level, however, de Knyff represents those who were racing out of pure desire and love of the game.  Relevant accounts suggest that his directorship at Panhard was merely incidental to his love of racing.  In this regard, he represents one of the very earliest “drivers.”  A driver, for our purposes, is the one that burns inside to be ultimately quickest.

Fernand Charron

Fernand Charron, to a lesser degree as compared to De Knyff, was also an early example of someone consistently participating in motor races.  Charron was born in 1866.  He would later die in 1928.  Like many racers of the day, he was a champion bicycler long before his involvement with the so-called “autocar.”  Even though his first race, as detailed below, nearly ended in fatal disaster, he stayed with it.  In so doing, he became one of the original notable figures in motor racing history.

Marseilles-Nice-La Turbie: The Race Report.

A Brief Contextual Note.

Technology is funny.  We love the progress and benefits of new technology, as humans.  However, as humans, we also have a tendency to resist change.  This dichotomy is at play during the 1897 racing season.  For example, one Mr. Meyan was critical in arguing against pure racing cars.  He contended that only touring cars should even be manufactured to assure the sport remained an amateur endeavor.  As another example, an article in La France Automobile railed against a rumored “special racing monster of 8 h.p.”

It retrospect, it is comical that 8 horsepower caused such a stir.  But, at the heart of these criticisms, it seems, was unabated fear of change.  In an odd way, this evidences the very deep connection we, as human beings, have with our automobiles.

The January 1897 Marseilles-Nice-La Turbie Race.

On a personal note, these early races were staged races in which the competitors set off at regular intervals.  In short, it is difficult to conjure an exciting report some such indirect racing.  However, this does not abate my two-fold conviction that: (1) these early races are historically important; and (2) their details are being lost to time’s cruel march forward.

In any event, it appears that the competitors were released, in random order, at one minute intervals.  The “interval thing” was an intentional effort to decrease the need for passing, on account of narrow roads.

Early in the race, Charron was gripping the grain, as it were, around a 90-degree bend.  The wheels dug in and everything in the car, including his riding mechanic, was thrown out.  However, Charron, managed to stay in the somersaulting vehicle.  Observers suggested that the accident could easily have been fatal to Fernand Charron; however, he escaped with only moderate injuries to his arm.

The first day, of the three day, 149 mile race, concluded in Fréjus, a distance of 96.3 miles.  The Count de Chasseloup Laubat was first, completing the distance in 4:47:14.  An entry under the name off Prévost was second, at 5:12:11.  Lemaitre was third trailing by only a few seconds off Prévost.  My man, de Knyff, was fourth.

The second day was a shorter stint from Fréjus to Nice, a distance of 42.2 miles.  Prévost managed to run over two dogs.  Another competitor, managed to run over his mechanic.  The record is silent on the well-being of either the mechanic or the dogs.

The Count de Chasseloup Laubat won the second day as well.  He was trailed by Lemaitre and Prévost.  The final day, in this January race, was quite colder than the prior race, in spite of the fact that they were approaching the mediterranean setting of La Turbie, which sets just above Monaco and down the road from Nice, France.

This route was only 10.5 miles, owing to the historically winding nature of these roads. The Count de Chasseloup Laubat again prevailed.  But, his victory was somewhat surprising.  He was rolling hard in a steam engine.  Yet again, the petrol engines were defeated.

Nevertheless, the superiority of the steam engines was waning.  Development and progress were increasing rapidly.  The next car, of Lemaitre, in terms of overall finishing time, averaged 18.3 miles per hour.  Each race seems to be resulting in an increase in overall speed, regardless of the weather or course.  In other words, significant progress was being made.  In just a few short years, petrol engines would relegate steam power, in vehicles, to a thing of the past.

 

By Travis Turner of GPevolved.com

 

If you are interested in staying current on my progress through motorsport history, please consider taking a moment to follow the GPevolved Facebook page, or the @GPevolved Twitter account.

 

Sources:

Mercedes and Auto Racing in the Belle Epoque: 1895 – 1915, Robert Dick (2005).

Encyclopedia of Auto Racing Greats, Cutter and Fendell (1973).

A Record of Motor Racing 1894 – 1908, Gerald Rose (1949).

 

The 1896 Paris to Marseille to Paris.

GPevolved title graphic for Paris to Marseilles, 1896

The Formation of the Automobile Club de France.

Men of the Day No.761: Caricature of Le Comte ...
Men of the Day No.761: Caricature of Le Comte Albert de Dion. Caption reads: “Automobile” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was November 1895.  The committee that sponsored the major city to city race last summer had to determine its future.  Initially, there was some disagreement as to whether the committee should remain just that, a committee, or become a proper club.  In the end, the Automobile Club de France was formed at the “Quai d’Orsay” home of the Comte de Dion on November 12, 1895.

Why is this important?  Let me tell you.  For the first time, the burgeoning motorsport movement, as it were, had a head.  Moreover, the formation of a French national automobile club assisted in cementing France’s leadership of the movement.

Following its formation in November 1895, the high-society types that formed the club started work on a major city to city race for the upcoming 1896 motor racing season.

Paris to Marseilles and back was chosen as the general destinations of the race.  However, all-night racing (as used in the 1895 Paris to Bordeaux) was abandoned in favor of a timed-stage setup.  There seems to have been a recognition that the all-out endurance type of event, through the night and on unfamiliar roads, was simply too dangerous.  In other words, the means did not justify the ends.

January 1896: The Route from Paris to Marseilles, and Back, was Published.

The race was to start and end in the epicenter of early motorsport culture: Paris.  From Paris, the race was to go have daily stages to Auxerre, Dijon, Lyons, and Avignon, before arriving in Marseilles.  The route in return was only slightly different.  But, in publishing the details as early as January 1896, it was clear that the new Automobile Club de France meant business.

February 1896: Classes Introduced.

Das benzinbetriebene Dreirad Voiturette von Lé...
Das benzinbetriebene Dreirad Voiturette von Léon_Bollée, 1896; Damit legte er die Strecke Le Mans – Paris in sieben Stunden zurück. 650 ccm, Cité de l’Automobile – Musée National – Collection Schlumpf, Mülhausen, Frankreich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The regulations were published in full detail the next month, in February 1896.  In these early days of the automotive frontier, not just new vehicles were being created, but also entire new categories and types of vehicles.  For example, the three-wheelers by Bollée and de Dion certainly broke the established mold.

It was these diverging strands of vehicles that provided the impetus for instituting multiple classes for the upcoming 1896 Paris-Marseilles-Paris race.  There was a subdivided class for cars, depending on the number of seats, and a subdivided class for motorcycles, depending on whether or not they were assisted by pedals.

The regulations were  simple in these early days of racing.  Each car had to carry an Automobile Club de France (ACF) observer.  Repairs were, generally, to be made only during running time, although there was some quibbling as to what actually constituted a repair.  In the end, it was decided that anything short of completely replacing a part was to be allowed outside of actual running.

The 1896 Race Itself: Paris to Marseilles and Back.

Thirty-two competitors started the race on September 24, 1896.  Of the 32, there was 24 petrol cars, 3 steam cars, and 5 tricycles.  The tricycles had previously qualified in a race from Paris to Mantes, a few days earlier.  At the start, there were thousands out watching this event.  The police did what they could to control the crowds.

According to Gerald Rose’s account (cited below), “In all twenty-seven competitors finished the first stage and the speeds were unusually high, the Bollée averaging about 20 M.P.H.”

Through the night, there was an electrifying change in the weather and a massive storm swept across France.  The roads turned to mud and became incredibly slippery. Trees were down.  Debris filled the competitors paths.  Yet, these hearty competitors endured.  Oddly, one of the Bollées was charged by a bull. The car was damaged so badly that it could not continue.

The next day, the heavy rain continued, even if the thunder had subsided.  The real threat to these high mounted, low horsepower cars, was the wind.  The rain eventually stopped, several days later, but not before wreaking havoc on the field.  Rose summarizes:

 

The finish of the race was considered a great success and those involved enjoyed the parties along the way.  The race was won by one Mr. Mayade who finished the entire race at an average pace of 15.7 miles per hour.

 

//Travis Turner

Primary Source: Gerald Rose, A Record of Motor Racing 1894 – 1908.

America’s First Race: The Chicago Times-Herald Race of 1895.

The 1895 Chicago Times-Herald Race.

The 1895 Chicago Times-Herald race was the first organized motorsport event on states’ soil.  It was almost a failure.

H. H. Kohlstaat, an employee of the newspaper, happened to pick up a copy of a Parisian publication that May.  The publication was L’Illustration and contained an account–presumably with illustrations–of the Paris to Bordeaux race which had just taken place.  He called the editor into his office, a man by the name of Frederick “Grizzly” Adams, where they discussed bringing motorsport to America.

English: Mueller-Benz car entered in the Chica...
English: Mueller-Benz car entered in the Chicago Times-Herald car race of 1895. Seated are the Race Officials of Col. Marshall I. Ludington, Henry Timken, C.P. Kimball, with driver Oscar B. Mueller (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mr. Kohlsaat wrote, in a 1941 article for The Saturday Evening Post, “Adams was enthusiastic and at once drew up a plan which I endorsed and published.”  Recognizing the possible military importance of the so called automobile (variously referred to as a “motocycle” among other terms), President Cleveland was consulted.  Under the direction of a General Wesley Merritt, a testing rig was even set up to see which of the vehicles performed best under load.  The race was initially set for July 4, 1895.

An Independence Day Failure.

According to Kohlsaat, “When July Fourth arrived, there was only one machine ready–the Haynes-Apperson of Kokomo, Indiana.”  Recognizing the impossibility of a one-man race, the race was rescheduled for Labor Day, in September.

The September date was also postponed.  The race was scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1895.

The Pre-Race.

Patent Drawing for the Duryea Road Vehicle, 06...
Patent Drawing for the Duryea Road Vehicle, 06/11/1895. This is the printed patent drawing of the road vehicle invented by Charles E. Duryea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Presumably to help generate interest for the main event, a minor event was hosted by The Chicago-Times Herald in early November 1895.  The race was a simple trial between two cars.  Competing were the H. Mueller Benz Gasoline Motor (of Decatur, Illinois) and the Duryea Gasoline Motor Wagon (of Springfield, Massachusetts ).

The race was set at a lengthy 92 miles, from Washington Park in Chicago to Waukegan, Illinois and back to the Grant Monument in Lincoln Park.

Mr. Mueller won a staggering–for the time–$500 for making the trip in 9.5 hours.  His competitor, Mr. Duryea was not so lucky.  According to Mr. Kohlsaat’s Saturday Evening Post Article:

“The Duryea motor ran into a ditch to avoid a farmer who turned his horses to the left instead of the right.  He said, he was so scared to see a buggy without any horses hitched to it coming up to the road behind him, he did not know what he was doing.  To avoid a collision, Mr. Duryea, who was driving this motor, drove into the ditch, hopping to climb up the slight embankment, but broke a wheel and gave up the race.”

The Main Event.

The race, on Thanksgiving day, was preceded the night before by two to three inches of snow.  Sixty-some contestants had signed up; however, only six made it to the starting line.  Having repaired his vehicle. Mr. Duryea was one of them.  H. Mueller’s car was also there.  The other four included the gasoline-engined cars of the De La Vergne Refridgerator Machine Company, and the R. H. Macy company.  Shockingly, two electric vehicles also made it to the starting line (The Sturges Electric (Chicago) and The Morris and Salon (Philadelphia).

Leading up to the race, there was even a bit of trash-talking.  The newspaper editor of the Times-Herald commented:

“The Paris-Bordeaux race was worthless from a scientific standpoint, but the contest of today may result in the established of good data concerning what many believe the vehicle of the future.”

The electric cars failed to make it very far and were quickly out of the race.  At the first relay station, the R. H. Macy carriage was in the lead.  However, the Duryea, although 20 minutes behind, was charging hard.

America's First Automobile Race map
America’s First Automobile Race map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the cars reached Evanston, spectator interest in the contest remained high and their were plenty of folks cheering and watching.  At that point, the R. H. Macy machine held the lead, but only slightly.

A slight incline was noted at Forest Avenue up to Chicago Avenue.  The crowds cheered as the cars trundled up the minor hill.

The Macy car had a close call with a horse-drawn taxi that failed to give the appropriate right-of-way.

By the time the remaining handful of cars reached Douglas Park, it was getting dark and much colder.  In fact, as the cars hit California Avenue, there was not a single spectator left.  The race of attrition was failing to keep an audience on hand to see the progress.

In the end, the R. H. Macy car broke down and failed to finish the race.  The Duryea won.  The only other finisher was the Mueller car, in second place.

In general, due to the lack of spectators and the fact that only two spectators finished, the race was a bit of a failure.  The Times-Herald barely gave but only minimal lines to the discussion of race results.  Perhaps not as magnificent as the early European city to city races, the 1895 Chicago Times-Herald Race brought motorsport to North America.

 

///Travis Turner of GPevolved.

Sources:

Gerald Rose, A Record of Motor Racing: 1894 – 1908 (1949)

H. H. Hohlsaat, America’s First Horseless Carriage Race, 1895; The Saturday Evening Post (January 5, 1941)

Various Articles from The Horseless Carriage, Volume 1 (1895) (available through google books).

The Henry System

Ernest Henry: The Grandfather of the Modern Competition Engine

Ernest Henry, sitting at his drafting table.
Ernest Henry, Swiss Engineer for Peugeot.

Ernest Henry was born in 1885.  Mechanically inclined, he studied at an applied school of mechanics in Geneva, Switzerland.  He graduated in 1906, at age 21.  Initially working on marine engines, he soon moved to Paris, France.  By 1911, he was picked up by Peugeot.  It was there that he would hook up with a few race drivers to create an engine that would have an everlasting impact on motorsport, and even cars in general.  The cars that he designed for Peugeot, Ballot, and Sunbeam achieved no more than moderate success; however, his influence on motorsport was (and remains) profound.

The Henry System.

Henry’s system, as it were, refers to the integration of several disparate concepts: (1) one or more overhead camshafts; (2) inclined overhead valves; (3) monoblock casting; and (4) central spark plug location.  Henry was not the creator of any of these particular concepts.  However, he was the first to shove all four into a single engine.  This combination of concepts indelibly stamped itself upon motorsport history.

The Henry System, as it became later known, first appeared in the three-liter 1912 Peugeot.  The 1912 Peugeot car was ahead of its time.  In fact, anytime you see “DOHC” (Dual OverHead Cams) stamped on a production car or its engine, be aware that the technology is over a century old.  It all began when three drivers, by the names of Zuccarrelli, Boillot, and Goux got together and conceived some ingenious ideas for a race car.  Ernest Henry, an enigmatic swiss draftsman, was tapped to force some big ideas into a single car.

The 1912 Peugeot was powered by a 7.6 liter inline four-cylinder engine with a bore of 110 mm. and a stroke of 200 mm.  This remarkably high bore to stroke ratio (1.82 : 1) allowed higher revolutions per minute than were previously possible.  In fact, the then high-revving car was capable of a whopping 2,200 RPMs (some accounts suggest 2,800 RPMs).  At this engine speed, Laurence Pomeroy estimated that the car would have conservatively put out around 130 brake horsepower (Peugeot claimed 175 bhp).  The car weighed a mere 3,100 pounds; it was rather nimble for its time.  Apparently, the designers made no effort to streamline the car; however, some streamlining was employed for record attempts at Brooklands in the spring of 1913.

The 1912 French Grand Prix.

The first major race that the 1912 Peugeot competed in, the French GP of the same year, was also one of the longest Grands Prix of all time.  It took place at the Dieppe Circuit, which was a triangular circuit between three cities totaling roughly 48 miles per lap.  The cars were to run 10 laps per day totaling a nearly 1,000 mile Grand Prix.  The only restriction for the Grand Prix cars was that they were limited to a width of 69 inches (1.75 meters).  In this era, the cars did not race head to head; rather, at this race, they were started in 30 second intervals.  Jules Goux, Georges Boillot, Zucarrelli, and Thomas comprised the Peugeot team.

Goux was the first Peugeot off the line at approximately 5:34 am.  He ran the first lap in 40:16; however, on time, he was ultimately slower than David Bruce-Brown (Fiat) at a blistering 37:18.  However, Boillot’s Peugeot was not much slower at 38:40.  Boillot made progress on Bruce-Brown on the second lap and Goux slotted into the third position.

Unfortunately, Peugeot’s fastest, Boillot had to stop on the third lap to repair a broken brake cable.  Goux also stopped, due to a hole in his fuel tank.  He refilled outside of the pits, and was consequently disqualified.  Boillot continued to struggle as he had to change both rear wheels mid-way through the fourth lap.  Zucarrelli, in the ‘third’ Peugeot, had to stop to replace a water house.  Overall, the engines themselves seem to have held up well through just shy of 200 miles of hard racing.

According to David Hodges, one thing was clear at the first day’s halfway point: the Peugeots and Fiats were closely matched.  After five laps, the Fiats were first, third, and fifth overall.  However, Boillot kept on fighting maintaining second place.  The crowd, who only saw a given car pass every 40 minutes, was excited to see Bruce-Brown (first) and Boillot (second) stop at the same time.  Boillot struggled to drop his car into gear while Bruce-Brown raced away in the lead.  About a minute late, Boillot finally initiated his pursuit behind another Fiat driven by Wagner.  Some race accounts suggest that Boillot had better top speed; however, Bruce-Brown commanded superior acceleration.  Other reports suggest that Bruce-Brown’s flying kilometer was at times faster than Boillot’s.  One thing is certain, dueling down the long straights, if only by time and not by direct competition,  they traded places a couple times  between the fifth and eighth laps.  The first day concluded with Boillot trailing Bruce-Brown by a few ticks over two minutes.

Georges Boillot winning the 1912 French Grand ...
Georges Boillot winning the 1912 French Grand Prix in Dieppe, France (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The weather was not so pleasant on the second day.  A soft drizzle turned into sharp cold rain on the second day.  The water seeped into the Peugeot’s trick spark plugs and required changing before Boillot could get away.  Boillot was determined and soon caught sight of Bruce-Brown’s leading Fiat.  According to Hodges, “Boillot passed while the American [Bruce-Brown] changed a tyre at Criel, Bruce-Brown repassed as Boillot refilled.  And then the Peugeot passed the stationary Fiat at the bottom of Sept-Meules hill.”  Bruce-Brown had run out of fuel from a fractured pipe.  He scrounged up some Petrol, but was later disqualified for receiving fuel outside of the pits.  Sadly, Bruce-Brown was killed later that year practicing for a race in Milwaukee.

Wagner was behind the Boillot, the new leader.  However, as hard as Wagner tried to catch Boillot, he was unable to make up the distance he was behind.  Finally, Boillot was triumphant winning his home Grand Prix.  Thus, the Henry system was victorious on its first outing.

The 1913 Indianapolis 500.

Jules Goux, Indianapolis 500 Winner, 1913
Jules Goux, Indianapolis 500 Winner, 1913 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two of the 7.6 liter 1912 Peugeot’s, linered down to 7.4 liters each, were sent for the 1913 Indy 500.  One was to be driven by Zuccarrelli, who did not have much success at the race; the other was to be driven by Jules Goux.  Going into the third edition of the famous circle track race, Goux had an edge.  While most continental Europeans had little experience with this type of track, Goux had spent considerable time in a 1912 Peugeot at Brooklands earlier that year.  He also received advice from an American driver, Johnny Aitken.

According to William Court, “Goux apparently decided to use a tyre of half an inch less diameter on the left (inside) front wheel though this did not do him much good as is bursts of leadership in the early stages were interspersed with stops for tyres after which ‘he was out of pursuit of the field at a terrible speed.’  The race was one of attrition, and the Henry system was continuing to prove itself a reliable model of engine.

Popular lore suggests that Jules Goux drank upwards of six pints of champagne throughout the race.  William Court notes that some accounts, including that of W. F. Bradley deny this, suggesting he was drinking water out of champagne bottles.  However, in a letter to one Peter Helck, dated November 2, 1963, Goux himself swore it was champagne.  Goux, therefore, was the first European to win the Indy 500.  Having won the race, it was back to continental Europe for the French Grand Prix, later that summer.

The 1913 French Grand Prix.

In slightly smaller form, a set of similar 5.7 liter Peugeot’s turned up for the 1913 French GP.  Zucarelli had previously been killed testing the car when it struck a cart.  Georges Boillot noted, “we lost not only a close friend but an engineer of considerable ability.”  Boillot and Goux were both back to pilot Peugeot’s at a much shorter track for an also shorter Grand Prix.

The 5.7 liter incarnation of the Henry system was consistent with the general trend of the day.  The huge displacement titans had become dinosaurs and were disappearing in favor of smaller, nimbler cars.  Yet, engineering such as that by Ernest Henry ensured rising power in spite of falling displacement.  In any event, the success of the Henry system at the 1912 French Grand Prix resulted in a substantially similar, albeit smaller, engine for the 1913 races.

The 1913 French Grand Prix instituted a new formula.  In a parallel to the current 2015 rules, the 1913 French Grand Prix race sought to slow the cars by limiting fuel consumption.  Fuel consumption was limited to 20 liters of petrol per 100 kilometers.  This required each car to run at least 14.12 miles per gallon.  Cars also had to weigh between 1,763 pounds (800 kg) and 2,425 pounds (1,100 kg) ‘dry.’

There were three early morning practice sessions.  These were largely devoting to fuel testing by the various entrants.  On race days, dense crowds were ready for the race at 5:00 am; however, the fog was even denser and caused the race to be delayed by a half-hour or so.  According to David Hodges, “At 5:30 visibility had improved somewhat, although the ‘yellow advertising balloons presented mere dim outlines in the sky,’ and the race was started.

After the first lap, Boillot was fastest and Goux was second fastest.  The gaps between the first three were increased during the second lap.  On the third lap, Boillot had to stop to fix a broken ignition wire.  This allowed Goux, in his Peugeot, to take over first place.  However, Boillot immediately put in the fastest lap of the race, thus far, at 16:15.  The fog began to clear and the morning progressed and lap times dropped consistently.  It soon became clear that only the Delages and Sunbeams could compete with the Henry-designed Peugeots.

By lap 12, Boillot had moved into second place, in spite of a stop for his riding mechanic to repair a “lubricant sight-feed” according to Hodges.  Just beyond half-distance, the order was Guyot (4:02:32); Boillot (4:03:51); and Goux (4:05:09).  However, on the next lap, Guyot gave the race over to the Peugeot’s when he ran over his mechanic.  According to Hodges, the mechanic had jumped out while the car was still moving.  However, the car was moving faster than he expected.  He was knocked down and run over.  “No bones were broken but Guyot had to lift him into the cockpit once he had changed the wheel and slowly complete that lap.”

Thereafter, there were essentially no changes to the order and Boillot won the French Grand Prix for France for the second year in the row.  Boillot had averaged 72.12 miles per hour over the course of the race.  His win made him a national hero of the day.  Goux came in a strong second.  Thus, the Henry designed inline four cylinder again proved its relative dominance over the large displacement titans that had come before.

In Conclusion.

Peugeot’s success with these cars was modest, as compared to the sheer magnitude of Ernest Henry’s impact on overall modern engine design.  It was Ernest Henry who proved that a smaller, more efficient engine could beat the huge-engined chain-driven titans that came before.   As just one example, the Offenhauser engine that was so dominant in American racing owes its fundamental design principles to those employed in the Henry system.  We may never know whether Ernest Henry was a mere draftsman or the driving force for the ideas.  However, before the age of 30, Ernest Henry forever altered the direction of motorsport engineering.

 

Works Relied Upon.

Court, William, Power and Glory: The History of Grand Prix Motor Racing, Vol. 1: 1906-1951 (1988).

Fox, Jack, The Indianapolis 500: A Pictorial History of the Greatest Spectacle in Automobile Racing (1967).

The Henry Affair, Motor Sport Magazine, 38 (July 1974).

Hodges, David, The French Grand Prix: 1906 – 1966 (Temple Press Books 1967)

Racing Car Evolution, Motor Sport Magazine, 3 (September 1942).

Wikipedia, Ernest Henry (engineer), https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Henry_(engineer) (accessed November 5, 2015) (establishing the basic biographical details of Ernest Henry’s life.  This resource was used cautiously, and only in the absence of other sources, to identify the basic timeline of Mr. Henry’s life).

Pomeroy, Laurence. The Grand Prix Car Vol 1. S.l.: Motor Racing Publications (1954).

The Distant History of the Automobile

A Tortuous Journey.

Most of use a car every day.  Those who do not still rely on an internal combustion energy, in some capacity, as we enjoy life’s modern conveniences.  This (rebooted) blog is a celebration of motorsport.  However, to understand motorsport, it is only proper to begin with the story underlying it all: the story of the car.

Some time ago, I decided that it was absurd how little I knew about the inception of the automobile (in light of my passion for cars).  Sure, I knew that Kark Benz and a 19th century patent had something to do with it.  In fact, I even knew that the car came about, more or less, in the 1880s.  Yet, I could not have told you much more with any reasonable degree of certainty.  What surprised me was the twists and turns humanity took in its quest to find a means of horseless (or animal-less) land propulsion.

It Was a Matter of Vision.

By the 17th century, a strong societal need was emerging for horseless propulsion.  Global trade was flourishing and the horse and carriage of the inland was outmatched by the galleon of the seas, when it came to moving people and goods.  In the case of the automobile, necessity was very plainly the mother invention.  Even when its need was becoming paramount in the 1700s, the landscape lacked someone with both the engineering genius and futuristic vision to create something as wild as the “automobile.”

You see, a lot needed to happen before the everyman could hop in his ride and take a cruise around town.  First, there needed to be roads suited for the wheels and tires of the time.  Second, a power sourced was necessary to move the vehicle, which was unencumbered by excessive weight.  Third, a method of transmitting the rotary power of the internal combustion engine to the road was required.  Fourth, the vehicle needed to be reasonable capable of getting up to speed, maintaining speed, and turning.  It also needed to stop in a safe matter.  These are merely the most prominent features required of a self-propelled vehicle.

This was a tall order.  Certainly, the need for horseless propulsion had been growing since the early days of the enlightenment, if not before.  While need may be the mother of innovation, need does not in and of itself necessitate invention or progress.  That takes perseverance and vision.  There were those such as James Watt who never believed a society driven by vehicles would be possible; however, were willing to register patents to impede the progress of others.  Yes, I am suggesting that the man for whom the unit of power is named was also something of a patent troll.

There were technical problems as well.  For example, how do you turn a car?  It is easy to get the front two wheels to angle left or right in unison.  But, how do you get the driving wheels to turn at the slightly different speeds critical for executing a turn?  It is these types of problems that caused over 150 years of trials and tribulations before Karl Benz invented what is generally accepted as the grandfather of the modern car.

Having set the stage, I will leave things here until the next post, which will deal with the ancient history of locomotion.