1908 Great Race-Winning Thomas Flyer Featured at Amelia Island Concours

By Angelo Van Bogart |

The Thomas Flyer famous for winning the historic New York-to-Paris “Great Race” in 1908 will come to the Florida coast for the 13th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance March 7-9.

    The torturous Great Race, contested 100 years ago, covered the width of the United States, including Alaska, before passing through points in Japan, Siberia and Berlin and ending in Paris. It has never been run again.


Crowds will again gather around the 1908 Grace Race-winning Thomas Flyer, this time at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in Amelia Island, Fla.

    With the automobile barely a decade old, the thought of an around-the-globe race was unheard of before the 1908 race, but also very tempting to the adventurers of the day. The New York-to-Paris race was much more than a race; it was about national pride and the quest for automotive superiority among the leading “modernized” countries of the era.

    Sponsored by The New York Times and the Paris-based 777777777777 paper, teams from France (Motobloc, De Dion, Sizaire-Naudin), Italy (Zust), Germany (Protos), and the United States (Thomas) were entered in the grueling challenge. Nearly 250,000 people were on hand Feb. 12, 1908, to cheer the cars and drivers as they started from Times Square. The winning Thomas Flyer covered 22,000 miles in 169 days, a record that still stands today.

    “To have the National Automobile Museum, The Harrah Collection, in Reno, Nevada, loan us this national treasure during their 100th anniversary is more than words can express,” said Bill Warner, founder and co-chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. “It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the attendees to see this car up close and personal. All will be amazed at the primitive nature of the car and what it went through.”

    Famed collector William Harrah found the Thomas Flyer in the early 1960s and, with the help of George Schuster, the only member of the U.S. team to drive the entire 22,000-mile race, he painstakingly brought the vehicle back to its original trim just as it was when it entered Paris in 1908. Weighing in at 4,000 pounds fully loaded, the Thomas Flyer’s four-cylinder powerplant could propel it to 60 mph. The car finished 26 days ahead of the second-place, German-entered Protos.

    On March 7, a presentation by Jeff Mahl, great grandson of George Schuster, will be held by the concours with the original Thomas Flyer as a backdrop. Mahl will relive the events of that epic race with original photos and a first-person account of the competition. The race is considered by many to have ushered in the era of the automobile as viable transportation.

For More Info:
Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
4750 Amelia Island Parkway • Amelia Island, FL 32034
March 7-9 • 904-277-1100 (during event)
www.ameliaconcours.org

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