Apr 23 2013

Profile: Frank Lee, Mechanician for the Alco Black Beast

Frank Lee was the mechanician for driver Harry Grant's Alco Black Beast for 15 of the car's 16 major races and all six major victories. Grant considered him of "inestimable value".

Below  is a tribute to Frank Lee and his two family members who I met two weeks ago.


Howard Kroplick



In a 1911 Alco brochure, Harry Grant praised his mechanician Frank Lee:

"During preparation and in the race, Frank H. Lee, who rides with me , is of inestimable value. He is my eyes. He is looking all about us, looking behind for other cars and looking ahead for the turns, while I am watching the road and driving. Lee has certain landmarks that he memorizes as the places to begin slowing down for a turn, and to pick up speed coming out of one. It is important that he should often look behind in order to give me warning in case of another car trying to pass. Another thing, he must keep watch of the condition of the tires. He may be able to save time by warning me to stop and change a tire before it blows out. Great credit is due to the mechanic in any race. In every emergency the driver knows what he is going to do, but the mechanic does not. He has to trust the driver, and in a big race, such as the Vanderbilt Cup, his confidence has to be good and strong. I most certainly would rather drive than ride in a race."

1909 Vanderbilt Cup Race

1910 Vanderbilt Cup Race

1911 Indy 500

1911 Elgin National Trophy Race

The only race in which Frank Lee was not the mechanician for Harry Grant in the Alco Black Beast was the 1911 Elgin National Trophy Race where Lee drove the #5 Alco. Lee and his mechanican W.R. Schoonmaker drove the Alco to a fourth finish of the ten entries.

2013 St. Patrick's School Car Show

On April 14, 2013, Jan Lee, the great-granddaughter of Frank Lee, and her son Mike Lee, drove 6 hours from Maine to see the Black Beast.

Harry Grant's Own Story (1911)

PDF of brochure "Harry Grant's Own Story" Allow a minute for the download.


Apr 24 2013 Ted 1:34 AM

Thanks for the pics and story which was very interesting. That Beast was a very unique and still is

Apr 24 2013 Mark Dill 11:00 AM

More great stuff Howard - as usual. You photos are always so amazing. I am sharing on Facebook.

Apr 28 2013 Tom Grant 8:00 PM

Thanks for the terrific post!!  It was great that you were able to connect with the Lee family.  Hope all is well with you.

May 08 2013 Ted 1:36 AM

What a historic day that was for you, Howard.

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