We found an American treasure in the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.
Hidden in plain view among hundreds of classic cars is the 1907 Thomas Flyer, the winner of the first and only Around the World Auto Race.
After decades of neglect, in 1964 the dilapidated Thomas Flyer was painstakingly restored to her original condition by forty car craftsmen in the Harrah’s Classic Car Museum workshop.
The project took six weeks and the end result was the Flyer, exactly as she looked, when she crossed the finish line in Paris on a hot summer day in July, 1908.
Today, this matriarch of motor cars sits silently in the National Automobile Museum. However, if you stand before her and close your eyes – you can imagine the roar of the 350,000 people cheering her as she crossed the finish line in Paris.
Listen quietly for the exhilaration of the crowd at the huge Manhattan ticker-tape parade held for her and her drivers on their victorious return to New York City.
Feel the vibe of a quieter time in the company of President Teddy Roosevelt at his summer White House in Sagamore Hill, Long Island – she was there for all of them – over a century ago.
The amazing story
Interested in boosting circulation in the early part of the 20th century, the New York Times and the French Le Matin newspapers conceived and sponsored an arduous automobile race that would start in Times Square in New York City, and end in the City of Light, Paris, France – a total distance of 22,000 miles across three continents.
Four countries rose to the challenge, and on February 12, 1908, six automobiles representing France (3), Italy (1), Germany (1) and the United States (1) headed west on a route to Chicago, San Francisco, Valdez, Seattle, Yokohama, Kobe, Vladivostok, Omsk, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Berlin, and on to Paris.
The torturous race was won in five-months and 19 days on July 30, 1908 by the United States entry.
The race was started in winter so the competitors could drive across the frozen Bering Straits, but the weather was so bad in Alaska that the course was re-routed back to Seattle, where the cars were shipped across the Pacific to Japan and on to the continent of Asia.
The Great Race of 1908 was the first time an automobile had crossed the United States in winter, and is the only global race of its kind on record. The feat has never been equaled, and it was undertaken at a time when there were few paved roads and no roads at all in many parts of the world.
The winning driver of the Thomas Flyer was George Schuster, a mechanic with the E.R. Thomas Motor Company, of Buffalo, New York. George died in 1972, but not before seeing his beloved and restored Flyer placed in the Reno museum.
The publicity from the punishing 1908 race is given credit for the advancement of the motor car as a dependable means of transportation, and for instigating plans to pave roads and provide automobile road services in many parts of the world.
The Flyers present home
The National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada is home to the Thomas Flyer and more than 200 other beautifully crafted and renowned motor cars that make up the history of the automobile.
Among other famous cars to grace the museum are James Dean’s 1949 Mercury from “Rebel without a Cause”, Elvis Presley’s Cadillac Eldorado, James Garner’s Oldsmobile 442 from the Rockford Files. Frank Sinatra’s 1961 Ghia L6.4, John Wayne’s 1953 Corvette (too small for Big John), and John F Kennedy’s 1962 Lincoln Continental.
The museum also houses the trophy won by the Thomas Flyer Team in 1908. It is the world’s heaviest sports trophy and weighs over 1,600 pounds.
The museum is located at the corner of Lake and Mill Streets in downtown Reno. Don’t miss it.
Get more information from www.automuseum.org
While in Reno, we stayed at the GSR, Grand Sierra Resort and Casino. Great gaming, entertainment, and restaurants that we will present in upcoming articles.
© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff
Photos © Judy Bayliff
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