Jun 22 2011

Providence Journal: “Rehoboth’s Manny Souza’s Alco got a piece of the 500”


Providence Journal's Projo.com profiles Manny Souza's 1908 Alco Touring Car which participated in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Celebration of Automobiles on May 14-15, 2011:



 

Rehoboth’s Manny Souza got a piece of the 500

Saturday, May 28, 2011

By Peter C.T. Elsworth

REHOBOTH, Mass. — Sunday’s running of the Indianapolis 500 marks the 100th anniversary of the famed race and the post office has issued a commemorative stamp featuring the first winner, Ray Harroun, driving a Marmon Wasp.


Last weekend, local restorer and collector Manny Souza helped celebrate the occasion by shipping his 1908 Alco Touring Car out for a show and cruise on the track.


“They wanted a car for each car that competed in 1911,” Souza said, noting an Alco was one of 33 cars that competed.


Overall, 250 vintage cars attended the show that included a couple of laps around the track.


“My car was fast,” he said of the 60-horsepower Alco. “I guess I may have touched 50 or 55 mph.”


He watched Indy practice runs and a race between a 1925 Hispano Suiza H6b Laundolet and a 1929 Stutz Blackhawk L6 Speedster, with the Stutz winning “by two feet after five laps.”


“They were really sailing around that track,” he said, adding that he also got to attend a banquet and talks from former Indy 500 winners Parnelli Jones, Danny Sullivan and Al Unser Jr.


“I had more fun than a barrel of monkeys,” he said.


Souza’s Alco was built at the former Rhode Island Locomotive Works (RILW) plant on Hemlock Street in Providence.


RILW was one of eight companies that were merged in 1901 to form the American Locomotive Company (Alco). Headquartered in Schenectady, N.Y., Alco was the nation’s second-largest builder of steam locomotives.


In 1907, the company started manufacturing Alco cars and trucks in Providence under a license from Berliet of France. Two years later, it switched to its own designs and produced about 600 vehicles before closing its auto division in 1913, according to Souza.


Alco racers won the Vanderbilt Cup on Long Island in 1909 and 1910 in addition to competing in the first Indy 500.


Souza said only nine Alcos are known to have survived — eight cars and a truck — and only three of the cars run.


He acquired his Alco, which had previously been owned by Rhode Island collector George Waterman, in 1983. He said he completely restored the car, including the engine, mechanicals, body and wheels, with the help of Arthur Pierce over many years, finally completing it about five years ago.


The car is massive, with a step on the running board needed to get into the rear passenger compartment. The large pleated rear seat is augmented by a couple of fold-out seats that still allow for plenty of legroom.


Overhead, the gray convertible top provides plenty of headroom and the wooden bows are equipped with small brass inserts that ensure a tight fit when they are folded down onto leather clad supports at the rear.


Indeed, such attention to detail is a theme throughout the car. Souza pointed out patterned flourishes in the body work that he had highlighted with his color scheme of dark purple (“blurple”) with black accents and red pinstriping.


And the brass car lives up to its name with fixtures throughout, but notably on the dashboard and in front with its massive acetylene headlights and gasoline sidelights.


The wheels’ wooden spokes are purple and the hub a large brass nut with American Locomotive Motor Car engraved around the edge and License Berliet across the center. The massive 6-cylinder engine is remarkable for the copper tubing and dual spark plugs assigned to each cylinder. The driver has the option of running the engine with one plug or two, although Souza said it runs better on two.


Souza also has a 1912 Alco Touring Car in the car barn behind his house. He owned it before buying the 1908 Alco and sold it six years ago, but the buyer has yet to pick it up. His own collection of big brass cars includes a 1906 Winton, a 1907 Renault and a 1909 Austin.


Meanwhile, he and his wife, Lucy, have many memories of the Indy 500. They drove out for the race on their honeymoon 60 years ago and on the way back stopped at a car collection in Bridgewater, N.Y.


“The (car collecting) hobby was in its infancy,” he said. “We got the bug. No boats, no golf, (just) cars.”


pelsworth@projo.com




Links to related posts on VanderbiltCupRaces.com and the Internet:


Manny Souza’s 1908 Alco &the Amazing Heritage Museums & Gardens J.K. Lilly III Automobile Collection

Archives: In Search of the Alco "12"

Indy Celebration of Automobiles

Film "Alco Cars 1908-1913"

Archives: American Locomotive Company


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Comments

Jun 27 2011 Walter McCarthy 8:33 AM

I sure hope the sidelights are not gasoline! Manny is a good guy, and real collector.

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