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The 1911 Running Of The Algonquin Hill Climb

The Algonquin Hill Climb south east of Chicago was a well known and followed event on the racing and hill climb calendar. The postcard above shows well know racer Louis Strang, who along with his Case team won both classes that they were entered in, taking both 1st and 2nd places. The article below from The Automobile, June 15, 1911, is quite interesting and tells all about the famous climb. The Old Motor postcard.  

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4 responses to “The 1911 Running Of The Algonquin Hill Climb

  1. Those sharks teeth on the 1911 Case set me thinking. For years this motif has been popular with hot rodders, but was the Case the first car to be so adorned?

    In a sense the answer is ‘no’ as the Turcat-Mery at the 1904 Circuit des Ardennes also had teeth painted on its hood. The car was nicknamed ‘La Tarrasque’ which, according to mediaeval legend, was a sub-water creature of the Rhone which periodically emerged to devour young virgins. In some southern French towns they celebrate a festival to La Tarrasque in which a huge mannequin representing the monster is carried through the town.

    How the monster came to be painted on the car’s hood is even more surprising. Initially the car was merely named ‘La Tarrasque’ without any illustration. However, shortly before the start of the 1904 Circuit des Ardennes race, there was an almost unwashable imprint of the greasy hand of a mechanic on the car’s light enameled body. Rather than try to remove the imprint, they simply painted an effigy of La Tarrasque over it.

    So there you have it, those teeth on the Turcat were not sharks teeth at all, but those of a creature of legendary significance.

    Over to Case. I found four quite long articles on Case’s racing history. Only one of them specifically mentions the sharks teeth, but of course all have photos of the cars at the inaugural Indianapolis 500 of 1911. “The drivers wore heavy turtleneck sweaters emblazoned with the Case logo, and the hoods of the cars were painted to represent the teeth and eyes of a shark.”

    If the Case racing cars weren’t the first to bear teeth, they may have been the first with sharks teeth.

    Perhaps more interestingly, how did those teeth get to be on the cars? I don’t have an answer, but I do have some hypotheses, or rather three possible culprits.

    Lewis Strang was not only a racing driver with a long pedigree, but in 1910 he became the manager of the Case racing team. Until I read these articles I was not aware that he had spent some time in Europe, apparently appearing at Brooklands, though there is no mention of him in Boddy’s detailed history of the Weybridge track. Through his European connections he may may have been aware of or seen photos of the La Tarrasque and in his position as team manager he could have authorized the painting of the sharks teeth.

    The second possible culprit is J. Alexander Sloan, who had apparently become the new team manager by the time of the 1911 Indianapolis 500. (Strang was now designated ‘team captain’.) As one of the foremost racing promoters of his age, Sloan could have been attracted by the extra publicity which the sharks teeth would have generated for the Case entries.

    Third, and by no means least is Joe Jagersberg, another of the Case drivers at Indy. Apart from his driving credentials, he had served an apprenticeship at the Daimler factory in Germany. Of the three, he was most likely to have been aware of the Turcat-Mery hood.

    I realize that these are mere hypotheses, but someone in the Case team must have been responsible for those sharks teeth.

  2. In the 65 years I’ve lived in the Chicago area, Algonquin Illinois has always been Northwest of Chicago. I only heard of the hill climb a few years ago. But certainly there are enough hills near there. It is somewhat north of Elgin Illinois, site of the Elgin road races. Also between the two is what is left of the old Meadowdale Raceway.

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