An Entertaining & Informative Vintage Automobile Internet Magazine

Exclusive Photos Surface: Bob Burman and the Blitzen Benz at Brighton Beach


Thanks go out to everyone for your patience and feedback during last week’s shut down for a site overhaul. The Old Motor is back in operation today with exclusive photos courtesy of Roy Bertalovitz who wrote:

Updated – These photos of Bob Burman, the “Blitzen” Benz, and other racing cars and drivers originate from a small photo album apparently assembled during a single summer season spent on Long Island, New York. Other images in the scrapbook show young socialites sailing and playing on the beach. All of the original Kodak prints are from the same type of bellows camera.

The “Motor Races” banner identifies the location as the Brighton Beach, New York race track, and the pictures are all taken at the start and finish line. Burman can be seen inspecting the spokes on the left rear wheel of the Benz before a run. Other archived pictures peg the young man with the newsboy cap and cigar at the left in front of the car looking down as the riding mechanic. To totally confuse things if you compare the photos closely you will see that the Number “Blitzen I” in the second photo is a different car.”

  • Three cars lined up for a race front to rear: Mystery chain driven car built for sprint races, possibly imported, note the huge front sprocket, the “Blitzen Benz I” with a different version of the crest on its cowl and an unpainted radiator, and the White Special. The banner on the far-right apparently lists the star racing drivers who were scheduled to run in theevent event: Burman, Ray Harroun, Billy Knipper, and Cecil Patsce?

Update – Editors Note: The Daimler Company history of the six Benz 200-hp cars dates this race at Brighton Beach as taking place on September 30, 1912. It the first time that “Blitzen I” and “Blitzen II” were together at a race event.

The Number “2” Stutz most likely with Dave Lewis at the wheel in the pole position in the image below also dates this set of photos to 1912. View a later 1913 photo of the “Blitzen Benz II” and Burman in an earlier article covering both “Blitzen Benz” cars.

An article in the Automobile Topics October 5, 1912, issue covered this race, if you can find a copy of it do let us know. Tell us what else you find of interest in this set of photos or if you have and information on this meet.

  • Racing cars lined up for a race front to rear: White special, unidentified numbers “9” and “999”, and on the pole a Stutz – below “999” and the Stutz.  

25 responses to “Exclusive Photos Surface: Bob Burman and the Blitzen Benz at Brighton Beach

  1. No problem here being patient while your system gets a needed update; I always look forward to what’s new here and I find myself looking forward to 50’s Fridays Kodakromes!
    VERY glad to see you back up & running!

  2. Welcome back. And what a way to relaunch the site.

    There is a wonderful video on Youtube of the Blitzen Benz being started up in Pebble Beach. They didn’t even try to crank it over. Just primed it, used the crank to drag one piston to TDC, and hand-fired the spark. After seven or eight minutes of trying, she fired right up.

  3. I love these old racing pictures, but they scare the heck out of me with their total lack of safety features. Then, we see smoking around the cars and spectators standing close enough to the races to be humans sacrifices. Those were brave men.

  4. David, once again let me say this is one of the best auto pages world wide, thanks for your work.
    This Benz material is priceless.

  5. Feeling better, David? ( noticing dark sun tan) I’m glad to see the “overhaul” didn’t include a radically new site. I panic when that happens, and can’t find anything. I know nothing of these cars here, except, that’s some impressive gearing on the final drive. Thanks for all.

  6. Now that is a cool photo. I have never seen this one before, and I thought I had viewed about every photo there was out there of this Benz. Just two years later, Tetzlaff would be driving this same car, No. 2, across the salt at Salduro Utah.
    Keep up the great work, David. The Old Motor is one of the first things I look at every morning. Almost everything else is too depressing.
    See Ya.

  7. Thanks Dave, for stopping by. Your feature was well worth the wait!

    Hey Dave B. As I imagine to myself about working with, standing near, or driving those burning, belching, behemoths. I believe I get what they meant, when they said, “When men were men”.

  8. Hi Everyone. We may make some connections with one newspaper ad found thru Google featuring ‘Burman and a cast of daring drivers’ with names as Meneghetti, John Reimey, McDonald and Hickman. This piece is my actual laptop background screen.
    The other name to search may be Cyrus Paschke who helped Harroun win the 1911 Indy 500.

    Stephane Courchesne
    Drummond,Quebec (Canada)

    • The Hickman who was a participant in the Moross traveling circus circa 1912 apparently appears suddenly on the scene here in America in 1912. Hickman is described variously in the press the sum total being something along the lines of:

      Henri Hickman straight from the Mercedes factory in Stuttgart driving the Jenatzy Mercedes.

      Hickman appears in press mentions and race results for approximately 12 months driving at first the Jenatzy Mercedes, but Hickman was soon reported as operating many of the cars in the Moross stable. The repeated attempts to have the prospective spectators believe this Hickman is a ‘factory driver’ for Mercedes are obvious- and probably were good for ticket sales.

      Then suddenly this “Henri Hickman” disappears from the historical record, almost as suddenly as he apparently appeared.

      Does anyone know anything concrete about this “Henri Hickman” besides his brief appearances with his fellow Moross drivers circa 1912?

  9. After reviewing the entire Automobile Topics October 5, 1912 number I find the only Brighton Beach race coverage with a mention of the Blitzen Benz (or the “Jumbo”) to be that for the race on (Saturday) September 7, 1912 and Burmans new record.

    Other details located include:

    The Saturday Sept 7 race date was a rain date for the Brighton Beach Labor Day race (Monday) Sept 2 1912.

    The presence of Berman’s “300 hp “Jumbo “Benz” was advertised in advance of the Sept 2 date.

    Race results (a number of contemporary reports coincidentally with the date of publication September 14, 1912) for the September 7 date show Berman driving both the “new Jumbo Benz” and the “Blitzen Benz No. 1”, with the Blitzen Benz reported to have been damaged in a collision with a Mercedes driven by Henri Hickman.

    Also that day the results show Burman as the winner of a 40 mile race for non stock under 600 CID in the “999 Ohio”.

    Other cars in the pictures appear in the race results and at other events not long before and after the Brighton beach dates of Sept 2 and Sept 7, 1912.

    A curiosity is that the very clear picture of Berman in one of the Benz in the Sept 7 1912 issue of Automobile Topics (page 251) clearly shows a dark double pinstripe encircling the entire left side of the body, and a much darker radiator shroud, apparently consistent with the Benz with the large 1 on it in the starting line lineup (but seen from the right side) in the TOM post. The 1 also looks like it was perhaps a darkroom addition to my eye.

    Did I forget to say WELCOME BACK The Old Motor?

    • Thanks for the great additional research input. These candid snapshots add to the knowledge base of the famous Benz but along the way I’d love to know what that bold….’G’ said painted on it’s tail ….. We naturally assumed LightinG but looking close, probably not….’Blitzen’ is arched over the German Eagle but could that be a Red, WHITE and Black pre-war German flag painted under the Eagle in the BxW photo and not the roman numeral 2? Damn, if they could only talk.

  10. How often do you change the drive chain? Do they break often? Talk about men being men. A smoke seems tame to this!

  11. Apparently the photos show a mix of the 2nd and 7th September 1912 Brighton Beach races. From the reports and other photos it can be deduced that we see on the second photo from left to right: Hickman on the chain-driven Mercedes, Burman on his BlitzenBenz and Kyle on a White. This must have been the run for the Remy Brassard Cup on September 7th. The third photo shows from left to right Kyle’s White, the Zust of Menenghetti, Burman’s Ohio and Lewis on Stutz. Both the Stutz and Ohio can also be seen on the last photo. It seems that the stripeless Benz was the Jumbo Benz (as seen on a very hazy photo in The Motor World of Sept. 12th).

    Although I was on holiday and therefore ‘missed’ the week of absence, I’m of course glad that The Old Motor is in the air again. Checking the site is normally part of my daily routine!

  12. 999 Ohio……..Is it just me or I could see a direct reference towards Barney Oldfield…..especially since that car looks a bit like the Fiat Cyclone.
    Yes….Heckman could easily become Hickman or Hackman when ‘repackaging’ a racer would be necessary just like in pro wrestling…

    • The 999 Ohio was one of at least two built for use by Burman/Moross by “Ohio Motor Car Co” of Cincinnatti Ohio. The “999 Ohio” was reportedly under 600 CID displacement, and then there was a “99 Ohio” under 300 CID. Both driven by Burman and others.

      See Motor World November 9 1911 page 454 for some details of the 999 construction.

      Also see The Automobile July 4, 1912 page 23 for race results with John (sometimes Johnny) Raimey driving the 99 Ohio.

  13. Hi David – Great photos of the Blitzen Benzes! Just loved them. One minor correction: I believe that the driver of the Number 2 Stutz was Jack LeCain, as he was listed as driving this car a number of times during 1912, including races in the fall, including a 50-miler at Rockingham, New Hampshire. I have other photos of him racing at Brighton Beach. I think Dave Lewis would have returned to the West Coast by this time in the season.

  14. The rarest car is the 6cly White, notice the screen in front of radiator, frame looks stock but lowered with regular passenger car steering wheel.

  15. As to the huge front sprocket: If one examines an early truck — the front (transmission output) sprocket will be 7:1 very small : (Low speed hill climbing with a Load) capability. The RATIO of the Racer will be more like 2, or 1.5 to 1 for high speeds (only). Chain lubrication : It was not uncommon to melt very thick (tar like) grease and immerse the whole chain in it — to retain as much lubricant as possible during a race. Any Differential device would be on the trans. output sprockets cross-shaft.

  16. I was looking at some results for the 1/2-mile track at the State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson, KS once, and found a featured race with a Blitzen Benz driven by Barney Oldfield. It was about 1913.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *