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Bob Burman and The Blitzen Benz – “Makes the Greatest Speed Ever Known”

Legendary racing driver Bob Burman’s, name will be familiar to long time readers of The Old Motor as we have previously covered some of his cars and exploits. Up until now, we have not covered the “Blitzen Benz” in any great detail, but the recent discovery of an excellent photo of him and the “Blitzen Benz No. 2” has prompted us to add a bit more to the story.

We reported earlier about Barney Oldfield  being suspended by the AAA Contest Board after the race that he had staged with boxing star Jack Johnson. In the aftermath he sold his racing cars, including the Blitzen Benz, to promoter Ernie A. Moross which reportedly netted Barney $13,500. In the March 25, 1911 issue of Automobile Topics, we found that by paying a $1000 fine, Moross was then able to get all of the cars he bought from the “Speed King” reinstated with the AAA.

Morass next put “Wild Bob Burman”, as he was known, into the “Blitzen Benz”. Burman was a very skillful driver who could wring every last ounce of speed out of just about any racing car. Shortly thereafter, he raised the mark of 131.72 m.p.h. that Oldfield had set at Daytona in 1910 to an unheard of speed at the time of 141.73 m.p.h. The two photos (above) of the run and the colorful description in “The Horseless Age” of April, 1911 (below), tell the story of this legendary achievement.


Which brings us to the photo (below) of Burman and the “Blitzen Benz No. 2”, as seen here at a track in Vancouver, B.C., Canada two years later. Moross and Burman evidently felt the need to find a replacement for the original Benz and both traveled to Germany late in 1911 with a representative from Benz to do so. The press at the time reported that they were seeking an even more powerful car. The new Benz they purchased was initially reported to be a new 300 horsepower “Jumbo Benz” model, but it seems that statement was just more promotional fanfare. It’s engine was reportedly the same 200 horsepower as the original.

This photo and the enlargements below were taken at a race meet held on the Minoru Park Race Track near Vancouver. The caption of a postcard published at the time showing the same car reads as follows: “Using Polarine and Premier Gasoline, Bob Burman, accompanied by E.B. Conner of the Imperial Oil Co., in his Blitzen Benz, created a new Canadian record of 1 mile in 50 4/5 secs., Vancouver, July 26th., 1913.”

We found that Bob Burman had come to Vancouver at the time with an entourage of professional drivers that appears to have been yet another “Race Meet” staged by Moross. Five exhibition runs were made on the four days of July 18, 19, 25 and 26th. Burman shaved his time for the mile a little bit each day from 55.8 seconds down to 50.8 seconds on the last day. The event promoted the Benz, Polarine oil, Premier gasoline and the Imperial Oil Company. Photo courtesy of the City of Vancouver. More Bob Burman photos can be seen here on The Old Motor.


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