Category Archives: Auto Racing Photos 1894 – 1942
The Bebe Peugeot was the perfect car to clown around with and Frank Clarke, a stunt flyer in Hollywood during the twenties and thirties, can be seen doing just that here in a pair of photos, taken in February of 1921. But putting all fun aside, it was actually a car designed for a purpose by no less than Ettore Bugatti. It was introduced by Peugeot during 1912 as their entry into the cycle car craze, which was sweeping the automobile community on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean at the time.
The Bebe as it has been nicknamed was built between the years of 1913 and 1916 and was aimed at economy motoring and lower road use taxes. It featured an 850cc, ten HP T-head engine, with a 2-inch x 3.5-inch bore and stroke. The engine block and crankcase, which used a removable lower oil pan was cast in one piece, it was initially backed-up with a two speed transmission that was later replaced by a three speed unit. Top speed of the little car was limited to 37 MPH. Some three thousand were made during the production run.
The pint-sized car was raced in cycle car events that were popular at the time, and one was even reported to have won its class at the famed French Mont Ventoux Hill Climb. Full details can be found in The Automobile, October 31, 1912 issue above. Photos courtesy of the San Diego Museum of Air & Space and the French National Museum.
Today’s post starts out above with an interesting video showing the Opel Rennwagen. It was produced recently by the Opel Klub of Denmark, when the automaker brought the car back to Fano Island, eighty-nine years after its record setting runs there on the hard-packed sand beach. Information on this special is hard to find, but it appears to have been built in 1914 just before the outbreak of World War I. What follows is the story that we were able to piece together about a pair of the company’s early racing cars.
Opel first started out in the metalworking business, with its first product, a sewing machine in 1862. Later in 1886 the German company entered into the production of bicycles. The first automobile followed in 1899 and was named the “Opel Patent Motor Car, System Lutzmann”. During the year of 1901, an Opel won the Konigsstuhl Hill Climb, and the company also signed and agreement with the French car builder Darracq to produce that car under license.
Around the year of 1902, Opel went back to the drawing board and designed another car of their own that finally entered into production in 1906. By 1907, the 60 hp racing car seen above was built, and the company test and racing car driver Carl Jorns finished third in the Kaiser’s Prize Race behind the wheel with it; the car was also selected by the emperor to win the prize for the best German automobile and thereafter became the official car used for his court.
In 1913, the firm designed and built a shaft and bevel gear-driven SOHC engine much like that produced by Mercedes, in both 4-liter and 4.5-liter sizes for its Grand Prix racing car. The photos of this engine below, were found the following year in The Automobile magazine, July 9, 1914 issue, which covered Grand Prix engines and developments for the season.
Also in 1914 or earlier, it appears that the decision was made to build the Opel Rennwagen record car, with a larger four cylinder sixteen-valve engine of 12.3 liters (750 CI) that was quite similar to the Gran Prix version. It appears to have shared the same basic design with the exception of the rocker arms actuating the valves from below the valve springs.
World War I may have intervened with plans to run the car as we were unable to find any mention of it running until the postwar era on Fano Island. There, off of the coast of southwestern Denmark, was the location of the Speed Trials that were held on Fano Beach from 1919 to 1924. The first reference we were able to find of this car running in an event was there in 1922, where Carl Jorns covered the flying kilometer 19.81 secs.
The video above is captioned that he returned to Fano in 1923 after being the Champion of the event in 1922, it also states that he “brought an even bigger car” in 1923. Wolfgang H. Scholz states in the video, that this car was a one-off, which would seem to indicate that the engine size was larger for the second running. That year Jorns ended up finishing second, after having set a time that would have been good for a record in an earlier qualifying run. In 1924, the last year trials were held, he again won the event with the Opel.
Opel Media, who provided the racing car photos in this post reported that Jorns once more ran the 12.3 liter 260 HP record car in the Schauinsland Hill Climb. During the August 1925 competition, running in the over 5000 cubic centimeter class, he and his mechanic again finished in first place. In the photo below, it appears to have lost the aerodynamic tail visible in the image above. If you can add anything about this interesting car or its history, please send us a comment.
The recent post that covered Barney Oldfield’s Christie racing car, struck a cord with our readers, so it seems that this follow up coverage on the complete construction details of the car is in order. Thanks to Lee Stohr for passing along the earlier photos posted here of the car, and for leading us to this article in the August 5, 1909, the Automobile magazine. The details of this extraordinary car can be found below.
The engine in this car is worthy of a closer look. It was a shaft and bevel gear driven SOHC V-four with a 7.5-inch bore x 7-inch stroke, which yielded a whopping 1237 CI. It featured 30.5-inch long connecting rods, combined with the inclined top end of the engine resulted in very good weight distribution.
The forged steel crankshaft with two throws was only nineteen-inches long. It was supported by two ball-bearings that were almost nine-inches in diameter and used 1.375-inch diameter balls. The main bearing journals were 3.5-inch in diameter, and the crankpins were 3-inch in diameter and 4.5-inches long. In the center of the shaft, the web between the two crankpins was an eleven-inch diameter by one-inch wide spur gear that drove the upper shaft.
Another interesting detail was the use of manganese bronze castings apparently for the entire front axle, crankcase and the front part of the frame. Behind this were channel-shaped steel side members that supported the springs and the rear of the car. The rear axle was constructed of 2.25-inch diameter steel tubing, with 1.75-inch diameter axles shrunk into each end and then pinned. You can take a look back at the other earlier photos and drawings here.
Just below is another short article that followed the piece in the Automobile magazine. It describes just how well Christie’s “space-eater” preformed at the Grosse Point, Michigan track, shortly after being finished. There it broke track records and traveled at a speed “over 100 miles per hour”.