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1908 New York to Paris Race


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Although I'm not a Thomas owner, I would definitely be interested in joining and following a Thomas Registry. I've always had an interest in Thomas cars, and have known about the NY to Paris race since I was in elementary school.  I have seen a couple of Thomas cars in museums, but don't remember which ones.  I have never seen the actual race car, but no doubt it would be worth a trip to Reno just for that.   The registry would give owners an exclusive format for restoring and/or maintaining their cars, as well as a base to exchange information, schedule Thomas reunions, etc.  It could also be used to preserve and continue George Schuster's legacy.  I think a Thomas Registry is an excellent idea.  But of course the downside is someone would have to commit to the time and effort to establish and manage it.  That someone should be a Thomas owner, or George Schuster descendent.

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Sounds like a great idea - though not many cars are around it would be great to have a collecting point for company history as well as model specifications etc.

 

A few years ago there was an alleged 1907 Thomas G 3 6-60 advertised by a private seller on Prewar Cars. When I looked at the motor I realized it was a model "L" Wisconsin T-head that post dated the car by at least 1913. Someone had gone through a lot of trouble to etch a fake Thomas id into the intake manifold and top of the 

block. The rest of the car was pretty much a mashup as well. Sad part is that engine (unmolested) was probably worth more than the frankin-chassis.

 

The built-up exhaust manifold and welded rear motor mounts didn't help with authenticity and they had buggered-up the water pump.

No idea where it ended up. 

 

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2 hours ago, Terry Harper said:

Sounds like a great idea - though not many cars are around it would be great to have a collecting point for company history as well as model specifications etc.

 

A few years ago there was an alleged 1907 Thomas G 3 6-60 advertised by a private seller on Prewar Cars. When I looked at the motor I realized it was a model "L" Wisconsin T-head that post dated the car by at least 1913. Someone had gone through a lot of trouble to etch a fake Thomas id into the intake manifold and top of the 

block. The rest of the car was pretty much a mashup as well. Sad part is that engine (unmolested) was probably worth more than the frankin-chassis.

 

The built-up exhaust manifold and welded rear motor mounts didn't help with authenticity and they had buggered-up the water pump.

No idea where it ended up. 

 

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I think I remember seeing that "project" advertised someplace? The pictures and description all looks familiar. Since a longtime good friend owns one of the best 1907 Thomas Flyers in the world, I tend to notice such things.  I am one of the people in the world that can honestly say I have ridden in a 1907 Thomas Flyer!  Just not THE 1907 Thomas Flyer. I remember when I saw the ad, I wasn't very impressed by it.

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Though I'm new as a forum contributor, I see a great value in this resource.  Fortunately, with many real events on hold the virtual classic car world is still alive and well.  The Flyer did extremely well in a 2020 event, and was awarded the Most Historically Significant Car out of 245 world class automobiles with judges including Wayne Carini, McKeel Hagerty, Lyn St. James and Bill Warner:   1907 Thomas flyer Model 35 - Concours Virtual

 

Hopefully, we can get back to the "real world events" soon!

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A few car owners/enthusiasts are in the process of putting  a list together of survivors. The number stands at approximately 50 cars so far.   
    I feel very lucky to be the temporary car taker of a 1911 670KC.  They are great cars to drive.  Its currently getting readied for the Transcon tour in the Spring.  Jeff

https://www.pathfinderstranscon.com/

 

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On 11/2/2020 at 3:38 PM, George Cole said:

Although I'm not a Thomas owner, I would definitely be interested in joining and following a Thomas Registry. I've always had an interest in Thomas cars, and have known about the NY to Paris race since I was in elementary school.  I have seen a couple of Thomas cars in museums, but don't remember which ones.  I have never seen the actual race car, but no doubt it would be worth a trip to Reno just for that.   The registry would give owners an exclusive format for restoring and/or maintaining their cars, as well as a base to exchange information, schedule Thomas reunions, etc.  It could also be used to preserve and continue George Schuster's legacy.  I think a Thomas Registry is an excellent idea.  But of course the downside is someone would have to commit to the time and effort to establish and manage it.  That someone should be a Thomas owner, or George Schuster descendent.


Sounds like a great idea and I have a friend who is writing a book and one chapter is devoted to Thomas cars.  Though not race cars, but we have a 1908 and a 1910. 

I have our green 1910 Thomas Flyer Tourabout M6/40 about ready to tour. It was a trailer queen for about 20 years. As with most trailer queens it had zero lubrication in any grease fittings and much more as it was never driven more than a few feet to the showing field and back to the trailer. 

This concept is alien to me. ALL cars MUST be driven (in my estimation). The mechanic has driven this car on 30 mile checkouts. I am ready for touring.

Our red 1908 Thomas 4/60 is also being ready for touring, hopefully when the corona virus is over.

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Bill; There is no doubt bringing a "trailer queen" out on tour is something special.  There is much to be said for the experience it gives to folks, watching (and hearing) a 110 year old automobile like the Thomas pass by especially when they don't expect it!  It leaves a lasting memory you just don't get from seeing the same classic behind velvet ropes...  Sometimes I feel I must have inherited that "what's over the horizon" gene myself from Great Gramp?

 

Since taking THE Flyer across country is no longer an option, I have to settle for the next best thing.  My 1929 Model A Roadster pickup has made the original route from NY to San Francisco.  The goal is simple (when the world stabilizes medically and politically) to park it at the Eiffel Tower...

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I just finished reading The Longest Auto Race by George Schuster and the Race of the Century by Julie M. Fenster.  The former is George Schuster's personal account and focuses mostly on the Thomas Flyer.  The latter is a more broad account, telling the story of each of the 6 race cars and their teams.  One interesting note from Fenster's book was when the teams reached Yokohama, Japan, the French De Dion factory owners decided they were no longer willing to fund their race team for several reasons.  Eliminating Alaska and changing the course to a more southern route through Asia would put them on a route similar to the 1907 Peking-to-Paris race, where De Dion cars finished poorly the previous year.  They also expected the Thomas car to get bonus days for going to Alaska.  And the prospect of De Dion press exposure resulting in sales in that area was expected to be minimal to none.  The 2 other French teams were already out.  Rather than suffer a potential repeat embarrassment of rolling into Paris last, or worse yet not being able to finish because of mechanical difficulties, the owners made the decision to withdraw.  The race team (St Chaffery, Autran, and Lascares,) did not agree and decided to continue using their own personal funds.  They forgot one thing...they didn't own the car, the De Dion factory did.  They made it across Japan and shipped the De Dion to Vladivostok, winding up in second place behind the Zust.  As soon as the team checked into a hotel they received a stack of telegrams from the De Dion owners advising them the car had been sold.  The new owner immediately took possession of it and shipped it to Peking.  They never saw the car again.  

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For anybody interested, there are two on-the -road shots of the NY-to-Paris Thomas (at that time it belonged to the Harrah's collection) in this video, one at 12:15 and another at 28:54. 

Does anyone know if the Thomas got to the top of Pikes Peak on the tour?

Not great quality, probably typical made for  TV in 1965.  Heavy on the CONOCO ads.

There are some interesting comments on future antique autos.

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11 hours ago, JimKB1MCV said:

 

Does anyone know if the Thomas got to the top of Pikes Peak on the tour?

 

 

Jim;  Pike's Peak was little challenge for the Flyer, and yes it made it to the top in the 1964 Glidden.  During the 1908 Race, mountains were a real obstacle with no paved roads, guard rails, etc.  In Japan George hired over 30 locals (men and women) to attach the rope carried on the cowl, and in low gear pull the 5,000 pound Flyer to the summit of a mountain.  At the top they posted a guard that night to protect the Flyer from wild monkeys that roamed the country side.  The next morning the villagers returned to attach the rope to the rear of the Flyer, and step-by-step lowered the Thomas down the back of the mountain.

 

They were paid $25 for their labor, and very happy with the American's generosity!

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It might be important to point out and realize with these early cars it is not so much about horse power as torque. The Thomas Flyer is rated at 60 hp, which according to today's standards is a ridiculously low number. The torque produced by the 60 hp is astronomical, however. Torque is what gives a vehicle pulling power. Cars produced in these years encountered sand fields and mud holes that would sink a car up to its axles and beyond. Most cars had belly pans that covered either the motor or sometimes the whole bottom of the car. The car had to push its way through these obstacles. Though many cars were advertised by speed, it was really the torque that sold the cars. Anybody who bought a car back in those days was concerned about whether the car would be able to pull its self through a mudhole or would it stall out, leaving the owner to hike out of knee deep mud to find a farmer with a horse to pull the car out. Nobody wants to take his best girl out for a Sunday drive and get stuck!

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A great example is the Robert E. Lee, fastest boat on the Mississippi. 15hp at 44 rpm. 1800 lb-ft torque.

Unfortunately a quick search just found that the '07 Thomas had a 522 cid 4 cyl  but no torque or hp/rpm numbers.

 

Anyone have any RPM figures ? If at 1,000 rpm torque would be about 315 lb-ft. Lower rpm, more lb-ft.

 

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1 hour ago, padgett said:

Are those the leather front fenders that became sandals ?

 

When the Flyer leather fenders were taken by the ship's crew to make their sandals, the Captain ordered sail canvass replacements to be made by the Ship's carpenter.  The SHAWMUT was a steam ship, but they still carried sail canvass onboard.... 

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I believe for most early car's, hp is rated around 1,000 rpms. The Thomas was probably rated at 60 hp at 1,000 rpms. Because of the long stroke and construction, it's  unwise for the motor to turn much over this number. Early cars are built on a completely different set of engineering principals.

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So about 300 lb-ft of torque. The other variables are the gearing particularly the low gears and the driven tire diameter. This is way before what we know now about high flotation and fractals. So far have seen no mention of the use of skis on the front which is a surprise.

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8 hours ago, padgett said:

So far have seen no mention of the use of skis on the front which is a surprise.

 

Hans Hansen (a Norwegian ship Captain) began the Race with the French team.  He proposed mounting a sail on the De Dion and skis on the front wheels, using favorable winds to sail the car across the frozen tundra of Siberia.  Hans transferred to the American Flyer well before that could ever be attempted.  Jules Vern would have liked Hansen's imagination...

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2 hours ago, T Flyer said:

 

Hans Hansen (a Norwegian ship Captain) began the Race with the French team.  He proposed mounting a sail on the De Dion and skis on the front wheels, using favorable winds to sail the car across the frozen tundra of Siberia.  Hans transferred to the American Flyer well before that could ever be attempted.  Jules Vern would have liked Hansen's imagination...

 

And as mentioned above, the De Dion company sold the car out from under the remainder of the team in Vladivostok.

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On 10/24/2020 at 4:32 PM, wayne sheldon said:

Teddy Roosevelt knew E. R. Thomas, both being from New York state, and major players in the business and politics of the state. I have read that it was T Roosevelt that asked E. R. Thomas to run for the good of the nation, but I do not know any details and am not certain of that fact.

Urge you have a look at "The King of All Men" A wonderful kindle book about the personal relationships, the hardships and their joys. Utterly fascinating read, not only for us hard, brass, men, but also for our softer counterparts. Wives loved the book and became more interested in our hobby.

"The year is 1908. Six motorcars--three French, one German, one American and one Italian--set off on the greatest sporting challenge of all time: a race around the world. Get into the driver's seat of this fact based adventure story. Experience what motivated these iron men to cross rivers, mountains, oceans and deserts even as their country's leaders manipulated the race and plotted war." 

https://www.amazon.com/KING-ALL-MEN-G-Singer-ebook/dp/B006Z2ERIS/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1530539302&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=kingof+all+men+singer

FREE ON KINDLE!

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16 hours ago, AHa said:

I believe for most early car's, hp is rated around 1,000 rpms. The Thomas was probably rated at 60 hp at 1,000 rpms. Because of the long stroke and construction, it's  unwise for the motor to turn much over this number. Early cars are built on a completely different set of engineering principals.


True. The early engines, like the 4/60 Thomas had "splash and dip" lubrication. No pressurized oil system. The idea of a counterweight crank had not been done. My 1908 Thomas has a 577 cubic inch engine and each piston weighs about eight pounds. My 1908 cruises at 65mph at 1200 rpm. I would not push it over this number.

The 6/70 Thomas has the same size pistons. Six cylinder.

Picture shows Thomas 4/60 piston with a six cylinder Hupmobile. Business card for sale.

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1 hour ago, CatBird said:
On 10/24/2020 at 4:32 PM, wayne sheldon said:

Teddy Roosevelt knew E. R. Thomas, both being from New York state, and major players in the business and politics of the state. I have read that it was T Roosevelt that asked E. R. Thomas to run for the good of the nation, but I do not know any details and am not certain of that fact.

 

Teddy was the reason the US entered a team.  After Henry Ford and Ransom Olds said such a Race was impossible, Teddy prevailed upon his friendship with E.R.  Great Gramp always said Teddy "encouraged" E.R, but given the President's "big stick" reputation E.R. agreed to enter a Thomas.

 

Great Gramp was in Providence RI when he received a phone call on FEB 11, 1908 (one day before the start) that he was to be in Times Square the next morning to begin a Race around the world with the Flyer.  George had a cold and a suitcase full of dirty laundry, but upon hearing that his boss and especially the President wanted this to happen he agreed.

 

George had two heroes in life, one was Teddy and the other was John Wayne.  The rest is history.....

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5 hours ago, CatBird said:


True. The early engines, like the 4/60 Thomas had "splash and dip" lubrication. No pressurized oil system. The idea of a counterweight crank had not been done. My 1908 Thomas has a 577 cubic inch engine and each piston weighs about eight pounds. My 1908 cruises at 65mph at 1200 rpm. I would not push it over this number.

The 6/70 Thomas has the same size pistons. Six cylinder.

Picture shows Thomas 4/60 piston with a six cylinder Hupmobile. Business card for sale.

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It is interesting reading discussion about the revs these early engines run at. I have no direct experience with bigger pre WW1 stuff but I have heard that a few LaFrance speedsters have destroyed themselves through being run too fast - I think 1500 rpm is plenty. Someone commented they get like a dog shaking its tail - maybe?

 

There is not much printed info on the subject but The Standard Catalog does quote some figures for Packards. They seem to be inconsistent and I don't know where the info came from. For the early singles the power figures are quoted at 900 rpm but for the 18 and 30 model fours that figure is at 650 rpm. Oddly for the early big sixes the figure is 1720 rpm which seems high, but for the last two years of the 48 hp the figure is 1200. Of course once you get into the Twin Sixes it is a different world.

 

I wonder how many have actually had a tacho added to see just what they run best at.

 

Here in NZ we have the recreated 1906 Darracq (four cylinder) GP car.  I haven't heard what revs it runs at but I could contact the new owner and find out. It is quite over square with a stroke of only 140mm (5.5") - vs a bore of 180mm(7").

 

My guess is the four cylinder ones are more rigid that the big sixes - maybe?? Or do they sixes have better balance?? Just asking questions out of curiosity rather than offering answers.

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The early auto engineers were brilliantly working within the confines of what they had to work with. American Lafrance trucks were not designed to go fast. They were designed to carry heavy loads and be dependable. When you start changing wheel size and driving the trucks like race cars when they weren't designed for that, you have entered into uncharted territory. Also, the timing on these old vehicles is adjusted by the driver. Do it wrong and you can pound out the babbit in the bearings and then the motor goes.

 

The standard for American engineers did not come into being until the mid teens. Before then each manufacturer  used its own formula for figuring horse power. The actual horse power is usually somewhat larger than the advertised horse power. In order to enjoy these early cars, you must appreciate the limitations of the period of their construction.

 

 

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21 minutes ago, AHa said:

The early auto engineers were brilliantly working within the confines of what they had to work with. American Lafrance trucks were not designed to go fast. They were designed to carry heavy loads and be dependable. When you start changing wheel size and driving the trucks like race cars when they weren't designed for that, you have entered into uncharted territory. Also, the timing on these old vehicles is adjusted by the driver. Do it wrong and you can pound out the babbit in the bearings and then the motor goes.

 

The standard for American engineers did not come into being until the mid teens. Before then each manufacturer  used its own formula for figuring horse power. The actual horse power is usually somewhat larger than the advertised horse power. In order to enjoy these early cars, you must appreciate the limitations of the period of their construction.

 

 

 

I have often wondered if the out put of these older engines can be improved without increasing the revs. Modern fuels and lubricants must be a help but is there anything to be gained by an increase in compression ratio or a reground cam? I guess making sure the engine is oiled properly and reliably and runs at the best temperature is also important. I gather most of this big brass era stuff still relies on relatively primitive oiling. Who was the first to provide full pressure lubrication?

 

Re the LaFrance I know of one here in NZ that has been substantially modified, at least in appearance and chassis structure. Regarding it engine I don't know.  I am hoping to see it at an event I entered in February. I might find out more then. 

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The 1912 Mercer catalog describes the series C and D motors (4 3/8 inches bore and a 5" stroke) as having a rated HP of 32.4 at 1700 rpm's and an actual dynamometer rating of 58 hp at 1700 rpm's..."is required before leaving the factory". Under Specifications the rpm range is 200-2200. The 2200 figure is known to be much lower than actually achieved when racing.

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According to the sales brochure my big Wisconsin T-head (6 cylinder, 5-3/4"x7") peaks at 104 hp. @ 1,200 rpm. It doesn't look like much but the torque is approx. 525 ft/lbs. The big T-head engines this era were slow revving for a number of reasons. To reduce vibration from unbalanced crankshafts and heavy pistons and allow for easier (and less) shifting. With all that torque the need to change gears was far, far less than we are use to today. Its almost as if they were trying to emulate as close as possible the smooth power and massive low rpm torque of a steam engine. Plus an overbuilt, slow turning, unstressed engine has a very long life. Albeit shortened back in the day by ingested dirt and grit, the need to grind the valves and seats into oblivion and crude oil filtration.

 

Yes, T-heads (or any engine with paired or separate cylinder blocks) are at a disadvantage in regards to rigidity and torsional strength of the crankcase. In fact a number of high end manufactures such as Locomobile used manganese bronze for the crankcase simply because it had far more rigidity than cast iron or aluminum. Recently I salvaged the remains of a big four cylinder L-head with the cylinder blocks cast in pairs dating from 1916. It had only three main bearings which if you ever studies mechanical engineering and forces acting on a shaft you know is a no, no since it statically indeterminate.  Yet it was so common. To add strength, this engine used a barrel shaped crankcase. However, this did not allow the crankshaft to be installed from the bottom so it had to be inserted from the end. To allow that to happen they used removable split webs that carried the main bearings. Aston Martin used a similar design in the 1950's. 

 

Anyway, lot of neat engineering happened back then. In the photo below you can see the two halves to the rear main and how they

are inserted into the crankcase. This engine was a 735 cid four cylinder (6"x6-1/2").... yup.... that is correct.

 

 

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Edited by Terry Harper (see edit history)
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As said earlier, horsepower then was computed by each manufacturer. Cadillac with their V16 (early 30s) would not comment on its horsepower so as not to be compared to other car manufacturers. In the early 1970s when the big muscle cars were underrated in order to get better insurance rates. Then the manufacturers began "dumbing down" the engines. A big block 1970 Cadillac put out 400 hp, within a few years the same displacement engines were less than 200hp.

Back to the pre-war cars. They had incredible torque. Our 1910 Thomas had the transmission gears to only have "high gear" and reverse and the 6/40 Car was driven up and down mountain roads unable to only using High gear.

Am tired, tonight, and heading off to sleep.

1910 Thomas1 .jpg

1910 Thomas.jpg

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Early motor builders had to work within the limitations of the era to build what they did. It is not wise to forget that, or try to work around it, or improve it without understanding why it was done as it was. Terry's example of the L head block above is a great example. At the time the engineers had a problem to overcome. They overcame that problem by making removable main bearings. The 1911 Buick model 27 has the same crankcase design. When you change one aspect of these motors, you add stress and potential failure to the adjoining part. Back in the day it was a simple enough matter to order a replacement part but today that part has to be cast and machined at considerable time and expense.

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Can better performance be gotten out of those early engines? Oh YEAH!

Unfortunately, one of the big mistakes this hobby has made through the decades, was to do just that. Back in the '60s, throughout the '70s, and even in the '80s, a lot of horseless carriage crowd did just that. They raised compression. Enlarged valves. Light aluminum pistons, balanced crankshafts and improved oiling. And then they drove their cars faster. And they went up hills faster. And now a lot of those cars have bad crankcases, and blown cylinders. Cracks have formed where there weren't any thirty years ago. 

I like some of my antiques to go fast! That is part of why I like model T speedsters. I also try to keep my model T speedsters as close to era correct as I reasonably could.  I have never fallen for the allure of raising compression ridiculously. I have never shaved a head or block any more than was needed to make the gaskets seal properly. I did have an original era model T engine modified with valves as large as could possibly be put into a model T block. That block had problems because of the original extreme modifications to it. But it was an original era piece, and I wanted to hear it run and drive it!

 

I have never been in favor of modifying good original engines to any extreme. I usually keep them very close to original specs and methods.

I have known of a few too many people in the past thirty years trying to undo the damage done by "go-fast" rebuilds of a few years earlier.

One, I knew the people and car fairly well. I won't give their names, nor the marque of the car. It was an about 1910, a nice smaller four cylinder touring car. One of less than three known survivors of its marque (one being barely a parts car), and the only one in driving condition. And the restoration was beautiful! With the non-remarkable modifications, the car could keep up with smaller mid-size four cylinder cars of the era. After maybe twenty years of mostly local touring, it began to have problems. Followed by some very expensive repairs. After which it was tourable for a couple more years. Followed by some more very expensive repairs. I saw it on local tours, twice. When I joined the local regional group about thirty years ago, the car was already in serious trouble. The old owners (now gone), were already searching the world for a replacement engine. As is typical, the engine was from one of the numerous engine supplier companies (I don't recall which one offhand), and the engines were used in a few other cars. But no engine was ever found. Last I heard, the car was back on tours, with a later model A Ford engine in it. 

The crankcase and cylinder blocks were totally ruined, by over cutting and too high speeds.

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The model T is the exception to the rule. It is an integrally cast iron crankcase and cylinders, as modern motors, and has a removable head. Still, hotrodding a model T seems anathema to the hobby, at least to me. Once you remove the body and add a speedster seat, you have already lightened the car considerably. This was what was done in the early days to make race cars out of production cars. If a company wanted a go fast car, they cast a larger motor. They understood the limitations of the materials they worked with.

 

Again, though, these cars were designed to be driven through knee deep mud and muck. Years ago, a Christian comedian talked about "wait a minute vines." He was talking about vines with thorns on them in Vietnam that would reach out and grab you as you passed by to say, wait a minute. The roads of the brass era were like that. People were forced to drive off in these quagmires that would grab hold of a car and try to keep it from moving. The cars were designed to tackle every known obstacle. They were not designed to travel 60 mph on smooth pavement. They will, and quite gracefully, but it is wise to realize they were not designed for that.

 

The early Mercers are also an exception to the rule. The cars were designed not for the muck and mire of every day roads; the cars were designed for the race track. From Catbird's posting above it is clear the Thomas was designed to be driven from high gear on good roads, thus negating the need to shift gears; the lower gears were designed to be used through these impossible conditions.

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On 11/2/2020 at 2:35 PM, Terry Harper said:

Sounds like a great idea - though not many cars are around it would be great to have a collecting point for company history as well as model specifications etc.

 

A few years ago there was an alleged 1907 Thomas G 3 6-60 advertised by a private seller on Prewar Cars. When I looked at the motor I realized it was a model "L" Wisconsin T-head that post dated the car by at least 1913. Someone had gone through a lot of trouble to etch a fake Thomas id into the intake manifold and top of the 

block. The rest of the car was pretty much a mashup as well. Sad part is that engine (unmolested) was probably worth more than the frankin-chassis.

 

The built-up exhaust manifold and welded rear motor mounts didn't help with authenticity and they had buggered-up the water pump.

No idea where it ended up. 

 

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Those might be my images taken when I picked up the car for transport to Washington state from the Denver area.

 

I am curious by nature so I researched the story of The Great Race along with the story of this car while en route to drop it off.

 

There was a lot of extra sheet metal along with many miscellaneous parts that accompanied the car on the trip.

 

Jim

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Mention has been made of the seemingly crude oiling systems of the day. No doubt a few "hopped-up" T-heads owe their demise to performance expectations

being pushed beyond the capabilities of the lubrication system. However, that doesn't mean the drip feed or splash system (for instance) was a "bad design" that needs to be "improved" or replaced during a restoration - often causing more problems than they solve.

 

These early systems are simple and indeed reliable when working within the design envelope. Remember that back then almost all machinery from locomotives

to the big traction engine busting sod to the planner in the local sash mill all used similar systems. People were used to working with them - counting the drips through

the site glass was second nature - same with giving the grease cups a gentle turn every now and again.  Our expectations are different today. For instance I work on one vehicle that I know (at last count) has over 50 grease fittings. Every time I work on it I find more! While that would be unacceptable today it was accepted back then and indeed could be considered a mark of thoughtful engineering and quality. (i.e. it won't wear out soon) We are use to drive and forget vehicles - I just bought a new truck back in July and I still haven't even lifted the hood! Again its tempering modern expectations with reality of a time long gone.

 

 

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20 hours ago, padgett said:

Want big, look at marine engines. Cars were not designed in a vacuum. Napier Lion for instance.

 

The Napier Lion engine, even though it began production in 1917 is a much more advanced engine.  It takes good war to spur rapid technical development.

 

This thread seems to have spilt into several parts but your mention of marine engines prompts me to ask if anyone remembers the series of articles that ran in Cars and Parts magazine (I think it was) back in the 1980s about Jumbo, the big Robinson fire truck. I recall it had metallurgy issues, and was not going to be repaired at the time. I don't know the dimensions of the engine but I think it had originally been designed as a marine unit.

 

Another big early engine I have heard of but can find no more info about is the bigger American LaFrance Type 15 pumping engine. Basic details of it are in my copy of Floyd Clymer's catalog of 1914 cars.  LaFrance's 5 1/2" x 6" engine in both four and six cylinder forms, used for quite a few years in several different models,  is relatively common but I have seen nothing about its bigger - 7 1/8" x 8" - brother. At 1914 cubic inches it was more than twice as big as the more commonly seen models. 

 

Of course, as someone else has noted, these were not 'performance' engines, they were designed for constant rpm pumping. 

 

American LaFrance Type 15 (1913–1925) wallpapers (640 x 480)

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There was an officially sanctioned SAE horsepower formula before 1910...Hedlt mentions it in his book.

 

As to modifications to brass era engines...balancing and lowering reciprocating weight decrease stress on parts like the crankcase and jugs...

Changes to the oiling system - replacing drip feeds with low pressure, high volume oil flow cools the bearings. There are several reasons why a brass engine that has survived 100 years might fail under modern circumstances that have little to do with careful and well thought out modification.

 

In the first place, many of the inexpensive and middle price cars weren't particularly well made to begin with. This was not because the engineering knowledge wasn't available. It was, but the specialized machines that allowed workmen to produce repeatable, precision parts were just beginning to appear. If you were building cars in 1910, all of your senior machinists (say, with 20 years experience) started working in 1890 and were probably born in 1870 and all of your machines had to be what was available in 1910 or before. This was usually very good equipment and was capable of very good work but that work was labor intensive and, despite the often heard remark that "labor was cheap" in those days, skilled labor wasn't cheap and doubling the time it took to make something made it much more expensive. When a product has to be built to a price, and that price is relatively low, the effort that goes into it has to be reduced.

 

It has been my observation that most surviving brass cars show evidence of very little mileage. Despite the much improved conditions of today a car that is regularly used over 10 or 15 years may well accrue more actual mileage in modern times than it did during it's working life. We simply don't know how well they would have survived heavy use in period because relatively few were used that way. Yes, they sometimes had to negotiate quagmires, but that was probably the exception and the person who took their car out under those conditions was likely unusual. Most were put up for the winter if they were in a place where the roads became impassable.

 

As to compression, I agree that this can be overdone. The addition of electric starters to brass cars makes it even easier to overdue the compression but a modest rise in compression will not harm an engine and may well make it more suitable to the fuel we have today. They did understand that raising the compression was desirable but were limited by the available fuel which actually got worse in the period 1909-1913 as car ownership burgeoned and the oil companies couldn't keep up with demand.

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Of the 6 official entrants, the Thomas Flyer had over double the horsepower of all but one of the other cars.  This may have worked to their disadvantage as several times they stripped transmission gears while accelerating out of mud holes.

 

car                      country      weight     cylinders     horsepower      drive

Sizaire-Naudin   France     3,300 lbs          1                    15              shaft

Moto-Bloc          France     6,400 lbs           4                   30             chain

De Dion              France      6,800 lbs           4                   30             shaft

Protos                Germany    8,000 lbs          4                   40             shaft

Zust                    Italy           3,500 lbs           4                   30             chain

Thomas Flyer     US             5,700 lbs           4                    60            chain

 

Specs quoted from the Book: The Great Race The Amazing Round-the-World Auto Race of 1908 by Gary Blackwood, pg 25.

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Gary Blackwood's book also states there was an unofficial race entry.  A vehicle built by the Werner company in France, and initially driven by a Frenchman named Lelouvier, showed up in NYC.  The Werner was smaller than the Sizaire-Naudin, and likewise had 15 horsepower.  He had expressed disagreement with practically everything about the race, including the starting day.  The day before the official race began, he set out on his own on a more southernly route, taking him through Philadelphia,  Pittsburg, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. The day the Thomas Flyer departed by ship for Japan, the Werner showed up in Seattle as well.  The driver claimed to have driven completely across the U.S., but witnesses claimed to have seen the Werner on a train.  Upon investigation it was discovered the Werner had broken down in Columbus, OH and was transported on an open rail car as far as St. Louis, where it was transferred to an enclosed box car to continue it's rail journey safe from prying eyes.  No further mention of it was made in the book.  One can only assume that as it was never a serious contender, it was disqualified.

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