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The 1905 Thomas Flyer Vanderbilt Cup Racer

The E.R. Thomas Company of Buffalo, New York, built this monster of a 60 h.p. 6 cylinder racer with hopes of entering it in the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race. Specifications of the car are hard to come by, but we do know that it had a 750 c.i. engine with a 5.38″ bore x 5.50″ stroke and featured a 96 inch long hood. If that dimension is correct, and since the hood is about half of the length of the distance between the axles, the wheelbase must have been about 190 inches long.

The photo appears to have been taken at the Thomas factory shortly after it was finished and testing was underway. In photos we’ve seen of the car at the Elimination Trial, it was painted a dark color and carried the number eight on the radiator and cowl and a second set of louvers had been added to the top of the hood. The large funnel-shaped object in the middle of the cowl was a gas tank filler that featured a hinged cap. It might very well have been the first quick release racing gas cap.

Montague Roberts drove the racer in the 1905 American Elimination Trial that was set up to select five American cars to participate in the Vanderbilt Cup Race. According to the rules, the U.S. could enter a maximum of five automobiles in the event and on September 23, 1905, the Trial was held to determine which five of the ten entries would qualify.

After the 113.2 mile race was run, the Race Commission changed it’s protocol and retained only the top two finishers, the Pope-Toledo and the Locomobile eliminating the Royal-Tourist, the Haynes and the Thomas. The Commission then selected the Christie, the White Steamer, and another Pope-Toledo, cars that they thought more likely to perform better in the race. The results of the Elimination Trial are shown in a listing from the September 30, 1905 issue of Automobile Topics (above), along with their take on the matter. The decision of the Commission led to an understandably huge outcry in the press, by the manufacturers and the general public as well. Photo courtesy of Buz Ras.

6 responses to “The 1905 Thomas Flyer Vanderbilt Cup Racer

  1. David,

    Sounds like last week in NASCAR. The Christie bumped into the chase coughed and sputtered around until Vincenzo Lancia’s FIAT slammed into it and tore off the rear wheels. Gordon was not put back in the chase, but Europe got the sliding pillar suspension for free.

  2. Christie getting bumped into the main event was very controversial. In his defense, he had been racing all year against the best in America, and he had done reasonably well. He put George Robertson in to drive the Elimination race, and it seems that George didn’t get the hang of front wheel drive. He kept tearing front tires off the thing. So Christie may have agreed to drive the main event if they bumped him in. But while tuning the car the night before the race, he over revved and broke a rod. An all night rebuild got him to the starting line 28 minutes late. Lancia is generally blamed for pulling out in front of Christie, I don’t think Christie was ever blamed for the crash.

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