Weekly Feature



2018-06-21 / Lifestyles

Two great races bring antique autos, history home to Buffalo

by Alan Rizzo
Reporter


Racing champion and Springville native George Schuster sits behind the wheel of his 1907 Thomas Flyer with Montague Roberts. After 169 days and 22,000 miles, Schuster won the 1908 Great Race from New York to Paris in the Buffalo-built automobile. 
Photo courtesy of the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum Racing champion and Springville native George Schuster sits behind the wheel of his 1907 Thomas Flyer with Montague Roberts. After 169 days and 22,000 miles, Schuster won the 1908 Great Race from New York to Paris in the Buffalo-built automobile. Photo courtesy of the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum On Saturday, the Queen City and the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum will become a nexus of antique automobile racing, bringing two events home to a region that holds a shining distinction in racing history.

Jeff Mahl, an organizer of one of those events, knows that distinction intimately.

After all, it was his great-grandfather, Springville native George Schuster Sr., who won the 1908 Great Race from New York to Paris in a 1907 Thomas Flyer built in Buffalo by the E.R. Thomas Motor Co.

The Flyer was the only American car to enter the race and one of just three automobiles to legitimately travel all 22,000 miles to the Eiffel Tower.


Jeff Mahl, great-grandson of Springville native George Schuster Sr., winner of the 1908 Great Race from New York to Paris, stands with the car that won the race at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. 
Photo courtesy of Jeff Mahl Jeff Mahl, great-grandson of Springville native George Schuster Sr., winner of the 1908 Great Race from New York to Paris, stands with the car that won the race at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. Photo courtesy of Jeff Mahl Mahl is retracing the U.S. leg of that race this month in a 1929 Ford Model A Roadster Pickup, departing from the historic home of Franklin D. Roosevelt in Hyde Park, New York, on June 19 and ending in San Francisco on July 5.

He said the 110th anniversary road tour, which will include a core group of four cars, will be more faithful to the course than a centennial tour he made in 2008. “In many cases, we’ll be paralleling the original route,” he said, noting that it passed through the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge at a time when roads were few. “It’s really hard to determine where precisely the original route was, because there weren’t any route signs or any paved roads. But in the central part of the country, it approximates [U.S. Route 30].”

Mahl and his drivers will pass through Western New York from June 21 through 23, stopping at several locations including the corporate offices of Rich Products in Buffalo, site of the original E.R. Thomas Motor Co. Complex, Schuster’s house in Springville and Springville’s Maplewood Cemetery, where Schuster is buried.

On Saturday morning, they will head west after participating in a joint start at the Pierce-Arrow Museum with teams participating in the 2018 Great Race, a competitive event involving 120 antique cars with a destination of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a first-place prize of $50,000.

Race director Jeff Stumb said his organization chose Buffalo as this year’s starting city due to a longstanding relationship with Jim Sandoro, founder of the Pierce-Arrow Museum and “one of the country’s great car guys.”

“In 2012, the Great Race stopped overnight in Buffalo at our friend Jim Sandoro’s Pierce-Arrow Museum, and we’ve been talking ever since,” he said. “It was just a matter of time before we got back to Buffalo.”

Great Race participants were scheduled to arrive in Buffalo on Tuesday and will compete in a practice rally open to the public at 11:30 a.m. Friday, which is due in downtown Lockport at noon.

Opening ceremonies will take place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Pierce-Arrow Museum on Seneca Street, and drivers will begin leaving at one-minute intervals at 10:45.

Stumb called the nine-day, 2,300-mile endurance race unique in motor sports and a challenge for the operator of any automobile.

Lockport resident Rick McIntosh, navigator of a three-man team traveling in a cherry red 1930 Ford Speedster, said he’s excited to participate in his fifth Great Race and considers just finishing the race a victory.

“You hope you’re bringing the parts with you that you might need, and the tools,” he said. “If you can go 2,300 miles in a 1930 without a roof and not have a flat tire, not have a starter [Bendix gear] blow up, that really is a win.”

Sandoro said it’s fantastic to have both events in Buffalo this year to highlight the city and region’s leading role in the development of the automobile.

“This is a big deal because it’s back to Mecca; this is where it all started,” he said. “When [Vice President] Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in on Delaware Avenue after [President William McKinley] was shot, he met [Edwin Ross Thomas], saw Thomas’ cars, and called him a couple weeks before the race and said, ‘You’ve got to help us. No one else is going to do the race.’ And of course we not only helped; the Thomas won the race. It’s very important to Buffalo history and international history. It’s never been duplicated.”

Sandoro said a 1907 Thomas Flyer on loan from a museum in Michigan will be on display at the Pierce-Arrow Museum through Sunday. Admission to the museum is $15 per person. All of Saturday’s outdoor proceedings are free.

To learn more about the 110th anniversary tour, visit www.2018ny toparis.com.

To learn more about the 2018 Great Race, visit www.greatrace.com.

To learn more about the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum, visit www.pierce-arrow.com.

email: arizzo@beenews.com

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