Posts Tagged ‘1908’

Great Race great-grandson gives great talk in IL

August 25, 2008

During the Geneva Concours d’Elegance car show this past weekend in Illinois, Jeff Mahr recalled the incredible story of his great-grandfather, George Schuster, winning driver of the 1908 New York to Paris Great Race. His presentation, “Bandits, Guns and Automobiles” recalls the saga as he heard it as a child combined with ongoing research. The race followed much of what became the Lincoln Highway in 1913 from northern Indiana to the Great Salt Lake. Jeff has a web site devoted to the race and his own work, with images such as the one below showing Jeff with the winning Thomas Flyer:

LHA director Kay Shelton attended the talk and sent back a glowing review:

Jeff Mahl got a standing ovation at the Geneva History Center on August 23. He described how he listened to his great-grandpa’s stories. When he was 14 and had to write a history assignment in school, that is when he realized how famous and important his great-grandpa was. Then he really paid attention to all of the stories, and thought they were better than anything on TV at the time. George Schuster lived until he was 99, he still shoveled snow at age 98, and still had a drivers’ license when he was 95.

Then, Mr. Mahl began his talk by putting on a driving jacket and sitting in a chair, and told the story in first person, like he was Schuster himself, with a PowerPoint. Schuster found out the day before the race that his boss wanted him to be in it and had very little preparation. E.R. Thomas chose him because he was a mechanic.

There will be a documentary out sometime in 2009 on the “Greatest Auto Race on Earth.” It will be released in Canada, Germany, France, and the U.S. He is a very nice man and if anyone gets a chance to have him as a speaker I highly recommend him. There was a $25 charge for the ticket — they brought him in conjunction with the very fancy annual auto show Geneva holds (Bentleys, Lamborghinis, Bugattis, Astin Martins, etc.). He signed the 1966 book I found [see below] and told me that it was very rare. His picture is in it as a little boy. He also re-published The Great Automobile Race: New York to Paris (originally published by the Thomas Motor Company) in 1992 with his own introduction. There is no date on the original book but it has to be 1912 or earlier as that is when the Thomas Motor Co. went defunct

I also have the book – an incredible, enjoyable journey:

Centennial of Great Race Honored with Exhibit

February 17, 2008

February 12 marked 100 years since the launch of the longest and perhaps craziest auto race ever – around the world from New York to Paris. Six cars (seven more never showed up) departed Times Square, at times following the future Lincoln Highway to San Francisco. The American entry, a 1907 4-cylinder Thomas Flyer roadster, would win, driven most of the way by George Schuster, who would later write about his adventures in The Longest Auto Race. The 1965 comedy The Great Race (Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtiss, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk), loosely based on the race, barely touched on the hardships faced by the real racers.


The 1908 race has been honored with a 14-month exhibit at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada, a few blocks off the Lincoln Highway. Through next January, visitors can see the 1,400-pound trophy, the American flag carried the whole way, and most impressively, the restored Thomas Flyer (seen above, in a photo courtesy the museum). Then starting May 30, up to 40 teams will again depart New York City for Paris, covering 22,000 miles, though only half of that driven. A summary of the race and exhibit can be found in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Schuster Book

Another group is rebuilding a 1908 White and plans to retrace the route and pffering educational programs, but their hopes to launch the February 12 have been delayed.

Schuster never did get paid the $10,000 (he thought was proper for a half-year’s work) by the Thomas company – they said the race had cost them too much already. And The New York Times delayed paying him the $1,000 prize for 60 years. Schuster, then 95, was appreciative but noted that a grand was not worth nearly as much in 1968 as in 1908.