Tag Archives: Barney Oldfield
Barney Oldfield and Lincoln Beachey, two famous early showmen have been covered here on The Old Motor before. Just found in the collection of the San Diego Air & Space Museum is a photo album that belonged to Warren Samuel Eaton, seen here from it are pre-WWI era photos of the dynamic barnstormers and their machines.
The Museum describes Eaton’s role in early aviation as follows: ”He was born in South Dakota on June 12, 1891 and moved to Los Angeles as a child. He formed Eaton Brothers Aircraft with his brother Frank, and they built several aircraft together. Warren teamed up with Lincoln Beachy and barnstormed with him. He also built some of Beachy’s airplanes. Later, he assisted Glenn Curtiss with the design of an amphibian aircraft”.
Lincoln Beechey with his two Curtiss-type airplanes, one powered by the makers V-8 on the left, and a smaller craft powered by a Gnome rotary engine is seen in the center and on the right.
Eaton no doubt, also knew Barney Oldfield as he and Beechey preformed their airplane and car expositions together on racetracks all across the land. Two of the photos posted here from the collection show a pair of Oldfield’s cars. The first car that Barney is seen posing in is a very sporty Simplex at the top of the post, wearing a custom body, it features: wire wheels, a frame-mounted oil tank and Rushmore headlamps. There is a good chance that this car was owned George R. Bentel who had the Pacific Coast distributorships for the Simplex and Mercer automobiles at the time.
The Christie he is posing in below is much more well-known and was used between the 1912 and 1916 period by the speed king. This image gives a very good side-view of the car, including Christie’s assembled metal wheels. Just below are drawings and a photo showing the very interesting details of its construction.
If you can tell us anything about the Simplex, or who built the coach work, please send us a comment. You can refer to our earlier articles here on Oldfield and Beachey and also on Barney Oldfield himself. More photos and information on the Simplex can be found here.
The names of Ralph DePalma, Tommy Milton, Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmie Murphy, and Dario Resta are all writ large in the earliest days of motor racing, but none had quite the same flair for self promotion as Barney Oldfield. Whether in organized competition or barnstorming across the country in special events that he and promoters arranged, Barney gained a level of name recognition that few drivers have equaled since. So it made perfect sense that he would lend his name to a product that drivers of the day would easily identify with his well known achievements when he finally retired from racing.
“Auto Trade Journal” June, 1919 – “Motor Age”, March 1919 – Auto Trade Journal, 1921 tells of racing wins
In 1919, he joined forces with Firestone and formed the Oldfield Tire Company after having used the company’s tires for years. More than just a simple celebrity endorsement of a product, he implied that the customer who bought an Oldfield tire would benefit directly from his many years of experience on both the road and track. In an interview published in the March, 1919 issue of the Automobile Journal, he’s quoted as saying, “The Oldfield tire is my idea of what a tire ought to be. It has built into it all that I’ve learned in more than half a million miles of racing and touring.” The same article states that the company was producing 2500 tires a day at the time.
The supreme confidence he expressed to potential retailers in the promotional material you can read in this post evidently wasn’t all talk. When Gaston Chevrolet won the 1920 running of the Indianapolis 500 on Oldfield tires without a single tire change, he didn’t hesitate to exploit that remarkable performance to it’s fullest as you can see in our lower photo. And while Oldfield drove a wide variety of cars during his long and illustrious career, we’re not exactly sure what he’s piloting in our top photo and invite you to give us your best guess about it’s identity. Our top photo is courtesy of Wayne Petersen great-great nephew of Barney Oldfield.
By the time this interesting photo above of the Fiat Cyclone was taken, it had to have been in the racing game for close to seven or eight years. It was one of the cars in Barney Oldfield’s stable that he was using for his match and exhibition racing activities after Lincoln Beachey’s death. The car by then had been raced hard by many star drivers and crashed and repaired many times over.
Evidently Oldfield liked the small, good-handling car and so had it rebuilt yet again with new bodywork and a taller radiator. The car also had received a transplant of a 16-valve Duesenberg walking-beam racing engine. It is seen here without a hood and minus it’s tubular exhaust header, no doubt to provide additional thrills for the fans in the grandstand with flames belching out of the four exhaust ports visible at the top of the cylinder block. You can see some pictures of it and learn much more about this very unique form of engine here.
We would like to know more about the circumstances behind how this engine ended up in the Cyclone if you can add to the story. We are also interested in any period photos or literature that our readers might know of about these eight or sixteen valve walking-beam engines or the whereabouts of any others. The top photo is courtesy of Racemaker Press.
Above and below are some earlier photos of and details about the Fiat Cyclone. The 60 HP overhead valve special seems to have first appeared here in America at the hands of Emanuel Cendrino for the 1908 Ormond Beach Speed Meet, seen behind the wheel above. There are many more earlier photos of the Fiat here on The Old Motor along with details covering his all-too-short racing career.
After Cendrino’s involvement with the car, it was rebuilt. It’s next pilot was well known racing ace Ralph De Palma. who also used it in his match racing activities. The excellent article below tells all about a race meet at the Brighton Beach race track, on July 27, 1910 where he raced 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race winning driver George Robertson in the Simplex Zip. Take a few minutes to read all the interesting details about this event, as it really gives you a taste of what early match racing was all about.