Oct 08 2018

Mystery Foto #40 Solved: Clearing the 1905 Course for Vincenzo Lancia’s #4 FIAT

 This weekend's Mystery Foto documented three people in a Vanderbilt Cup race car.

Answers to the Mystery Foto questions:

  • Identify the Vanderbilt Cup Race and the location of the image

1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race. On Jericho Turnpike in Mineola, looking southeast from the 1905 press box/officials' stand.

  • Identify the race car and the three people in the race car.

The #4 FIAT driven by Italian Vincenzo Lancia. Annoucer Peter Prunty with a megaphone is in the mechanicia's seat. Mechanician Alissa is sitting backwards over the spare tire.

  • Provide an explanation on what is happening in the photo.

This photograph was taken after Lancia completed the ten laps of the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race.  After Joe Tracy finished the race, Lancia's racer was mobbed by spectators. Peter Prunty and hios megaphone was called upon to clear the coiurse in order for Lancia to go to the official weigh-in station in Albertson.

Lap 10 of the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race

George Heath had carved better than a minute off Victor Hemery’s lead by the start of lap 10, making for high drama among the spectators. The two drivers were so close Heath could see Hemery’s Darracq in the distance.  Telephoned reports from the 15 locations around the course came with updates in rapid succession, building anticipation in the frenzied grandstand crowd. 

Hemery’s Darracq delivered speed when he needed it most, the fastest of the drivers still running that final lap. When Peter Prunty shouted “Two Cars Coming!” as the leaders approached the finish line, most spectators assumed it was Hemery and Heath running neck and neck. Instead, it was Warden, the last of the Mercedes, running well off the pace to complete his eighth lap but near the winner, when, at 10:52:08 a.m.,  Hemery won the race.  Heath’s Panhard finally came across the start-finish line 32 seconds later,  giving Hemery, who started his Darracq 3 minutes after Heath, a 3 minute, 32 second margin at the finish.

Next, everyone awaited the arrival of Lancia’s Fiat. His reputation coming into the race and his dominance during it won over a lot of fans. The crowd had already become unruly and ran onto the course despite the fact that Lancia and American Locomobile driver Joe Tracy were racing for third position and due within minutes. People packed the road and Lancia was forced to bring the Fiat to a crawl before he crossed the finish line.  He was stormed by a horde of admirers who unleashed what The New York Times called a “hurricane of cheers.” With Tracy’s Locomobile due within seconds and third place at stake, officials scurried down the road frantically waving yellow warning flags and begging people to run for their lives.  For the most part these men were ignored, but the bugle blasts from the roof of the press box at last improved the situation. 

Within a minute of Lancia, Tracy’s Locomobile arrived, holding its speed until the last possible moment.  Perilously, the Locomobile parted the foolish crowd more effectively than any official, flag or bugle.  He had done what seemed impossible: make up time on the flying Italian Lancia and his Fiat. Tracy secured third place for America and Locomobile by just over 2 minutes. One report said Lancia developed tire trouble in the final lap and slowed.  The Locomobile had been steady if unspectacular; the only trouble it encountered all day was a slippery clutch that had to occasionally be scraped of oil. Peter Prunty then stepped into Lancia's FIAT and cleared the course.

Comments (7)

Congrats to Brian McCarthy, Steve Lucas, Art Kleiner,  Greg O., and Frank Femenias for identifying Lancia's #4 FIAT.

Kudos to Brian McCarthy and Steve Lucas for recognizing Peter Prunty.


Howard Kroplick


Lancia at the Finish Line

Lancia finishing the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race ahead of Tracy's Locomobile.

Tracy driving the Locomobile pass the parked Lancia.

Spectators come onto the course surrounding Lancia.

Announcer Peter Prunty jumps into the mechanician's seat to help clear the course for Lancia. The #4 FIAT was headed to the official weigh-in station in Albertson.

Announcer Peter Prunty as seen during the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race.


Oct 06 2018 Ted 1:25 PM

This time I’m answering right away, though it might be wrong. the location of this event, Jericho Turnpike in area of Westbury, Old Westbury Gardens and it’s an announcement on the bull horn at the start-finish line. Here goes another guess, the race#16, Old16, I mean. That’s all The time I have right now.

Oct 06 2018 Brian D McCarthy 7:36 PM

*ID VCR and Image Location:  After a fair amount of looking/thinking, I’ll say this is the 1905 VCR ( Oct. 14 ). The photographer likely snapped this image from up high ( Krug’s Hotel ). View is southeast across Jericho Tpke. Mineola, towards the grandstand. Both 1905 and 1906 courses were counter clockwise, and the car is positioned eastward.

*ID race car and 3 occupants:  #4 Fiat ( Italy ). The driver is Vincenzo Lancia, the temporary passenger is Peter Prunty, Track Announcer Extraordinare with his yard long megaphone, and the Mechanician Battista Ajassa or Alissa is temporarily sitting in the rear.

*Scene explanation:  Want to say this image was taken before the race commenced. Being that Mr. Lancia was a “crowd favorite”, perhaps Mr. Prunty was formally introducing him to all. The spectators on the left ( along with the automobile ) are quite far out onto Jericho Tpke for this scene to be capturing the race’s finish. And I don’t believe spectators would be permitted to stand just in front of the grandstand while cars are whizzing through.

Oct 06 2018 Steve Lucas 8:28 PM

The photo was taken during the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race near the grandstand and start/finish line on Jericho Turnpike in Mineola. In the #4 Fiat we see driver Vincenzo Lancia, mechanician Alissa (sitting on the spare tire), and announcer Peter Prunty using a megaphone to try to clear the course of spectators before the fast approaching Locomobile (driven by Joe Tracy) arrives on the scene.

Oct 07 2018 S. Berliner, III 12:29 AM

Wild guess time - telling spectators to stay off the g. d. course!  Sam, III

Oct 07 2018 Art Kleiner 8:16 PM

Identify the Vanderbilt Cup Race and the location of the image: 1905 VCR, Mineola Grandstand

Identify the race car and the three people in the race car.: Fiat #4.  Inside car could be driver Vincenzo Lancia, Mechanician Alissa, and Willie K? 

Provide an explanation on what is happening in the photo.  After an accident b
between Lancia and another car, spectators came onto the track.  Probably warning people to stay off track. Another possibility is taking an injured driver or mech. to see Dr.

Oct 08 2018 Greg O. 10:27 AM

#4 Fiat driven by Vincenzo Lancia at the grandstands at the 1905 or 1906 Cup race, but that’s all I have.

Oct 08 2018 frank femenias 5:50 PM

Guessing, the #4 looks closest to the 120hp Fiat driven by Vincenzo Lancia in the 1905 VCR race. This photo must’ve been taken before Lancia’s accident with Walter Christie during lap 4. As expected, Lancia took the lead early in the race. Perhaps they used his Fiat, the crowds favorite car, to announce the start of the race by the Mineola grandstand.  If correct, Lancia is driving, Mechanician Alissa is sitting on the rear spare tire, and in the passenger seat with bull horn is NOT Willie K. Curious to know if anything above is correct.

Oct 08 2018 frank femenias 11:27 PM

Yay! I got something right. Sam - you cracked me up.

Oct 11 2018 Tom 12:27 PM

Hey Peter, that megaphone looks heavy!

Oct 11 2018 S. Berliner, III 2:05 PM

Second thoughts.  Methinks the captions of “Lancia finishing the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race ahead of Tracy’s Locomobile” and “Tracy driving the Locomobile pass {sic} the parked Lancia” may have been swapped [“past”, by the way].  Sam, III

Leave a Comment