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The New York to Paris race Thomas Flyer and crew

December 1st is here and it is snowing this morning in Vermont. So this is a perfect time to start showing you some winter scenes with cars and we decided to start with one of the best.

In 1908, an American-built 1907 Thomas Flyer won the New York to Paris automobile race. The race took 169 days, covered 22,000 miles and spanned three continents. This lantern slide image shows the race winning 1907 Thomas Flyer with passengers, traversing the snow and cold somewhere in New York State not long after the start.

The photo is courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford and the slides are a part of the collection of  Henry Austin Clark, Jr. photographs collection, that he donated to the museum. You can take a look back here on The Old Motor, at earlier NY to Paris lantern slides of the Thomas during the race and learn much more about the event. You also can see many more Thomas Flyer photos and more info here.  Many other Henry Ford Museum photos (scroll down), are to be found on The Old Motor.

The race-winning Thomas-Flyer was displayed for quite some time at Henry Austin Clark’s museum and he later sold it to the Harrah Collection. The car and the trophy it and the crew won, can be seen on display at the National Auto Museum. It was authenticated by Harrah’s Auto collection and George Schuster, who drove it through most of the race, before being sympathetically restored in the 1970s (be sure to read Walt Gosden’s comment below). Photo courtesy of the UVOCC.

Above is a promo clip for “The Greatest Auto Race on Earth”, a two-hour documentary that tells the story of the men and machines, which traveled around the world from New York to Paris during the race. For more information visit thegreatestautorace.com

5 responses to “The New York to Paris race Thomas Flyer and crew

  1. Austin Clark as many know had the NY to Paris Thomas on display at his Long Island Auto Museum in Southampton, N.Y. for years . When ever he spoke of the car in the years after he had sold it to Bill Harrah, he always brought up the fact that the driver of the Thomas , George Schuster would never come to the LIAM to see the car. Austin told me ” I even offered to come get him and put him up and take him home “(Schuster lived in N Y State) but still Schuster refused, adamantly stating and believing that the car was not the one he drove. As Austin said “He wouldn’t even have a look, just said it wasn’t the car”. Later on of course when Harrah’s restored the car they saw evidence it was, showed Schuster photos of this and then he admited that it was the car after all. This really annoyed Austin no end. I recall him saying to me “you know how many times I offered to let him see the car and he refused to believe it was the real thing?” Austin would shake his head and throw up his hands in bewilderment.

  2. David –
    I am in Chapter 7. I have an on-camera interview and yammer on about the trail through Wyoming and the West. It was shot at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in a huge warehouse filled to the rafters with old cars. The vehicle used as the backdrop for my shoot was an unrestored 1908 Mitchell that lives there. I was like a deer in the headlights for most of my shoot and extreamely nervous the entire time – and it shows, but being associated with the making of this film was one of the funnest things I have ever done. I remain friends with the producer, Michael Hamm, and several others who appear in the film, including Jeff Mahl. A number of my original images were used in the production. I never tire of researching, or talking about New York-Paris. At Michael’s urging, at the time of the filming, I continue to work and have almost completed, a book manuscript that tells the complete story of the passage of NY-P through Wyoming, Utah and Nevada, a part of the story that has often been ignored or inncorrectly told by past historians.

  3. Very well done article! As the Great-Grandson of George Schuster, driver of the American built Thomas Flyer and winner of the 1908 New York to Paris Race I have heard the story many times as I grew up.

    Walt Gosden makes some interesting references about the period Austin Clark had what turned out to be the Flyer in LIAM. Great Gramp had seen the car twice prior to the purchase by William Harrah from Austin. The last time, on the TV show “I’ve Got A Secret” with host Garry Moore July 16, 1958. There is even a classic video clip of that TV show on: http://www.TheGreatAutoRace.com

    Many things had been changed on the Flyer from the configuration Great Gramp was familiar with at the end of the 1908 Race. For that reason he was quite certain it was not the Thomas he drove. It was not until he saw the evidence (including repairs he had made during the Race) as the car was disassembeld at the Harrah collection in Sparks, NV that the Flyer was in fact the one that he had driven.

    There was quite a discussion at that time about how the Flyer would be restored? Bill Harrah was famous for his “5 Diamond” restorations (perfect new car condition). Great Gramp reminded Bill that the importance of the Flyer was how it won the epic Race in Paris, not in how it started the Race in NYC. Harrah made one exception in his collection, and that is the Thomas Flyer which was restored in the exact condition it crossed the Finish Line in Paris (right down to the broken left front headlight).

    For his victory, George Schuster was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame on October 12, 2010. He now joins other automotive legends including Ford, Olds, Andretti, Shelby, and Ferrai.

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