Feb 09 2012

Can You Identify this Mystery Alco Racer?

Rick Rawlins has forwarded this photo of a chain drive Alco and looking for assistance in identifying the car, location and drivers.

Our friends at OldMotor.com have also posted the photo with the following description:

New Information: Chris Paulsen has determined that the California Plate #41661 was first registered in late 1910. It would have been valid through 1913 with state issued plates starting in 1914.
This photo at the moment is a bit of a mystery, that hopefully we can unravel in time. This is an Alco (American Locomotive Company) racing car, that appears to been in the Los Angeles area for a racing event or possibly for a promotional appearance.
The date is an unknown, as it the car and it’s occupants, but possibly a California license plate expert can date the paper plate seen on the car. We have seen this type of plate before on one of Earl Coopers Stutz racing cars. Interestingly at the bottom of the plate we can clearly read the Los Angeles Alco Sales Company printed on it. Presumably being an agency, they issued paper tags.
What we do know about the photo after studying the car, is that even thought the number one, seen on the radiator stone guard, is the same as is seen on Harry Grant’s Alco (a two-time Vanderbilt Cup Race winner in 1909-1910) when he ran it at the Elgin Road Race in 1911, it does not appear to be the same car. There is always the possibility that Alco built a duplicate car for promotions?
A couple of the differences that are quite easy to see, the front upper shock absorber mounts are much higher and the spare tire brackets are round instead of being of a flat section as the Vanderbilt Cup car was. Other differences are; it does not have a shield above the front drive-chain sprocket, it is wearing a pair of side-lamp brackets on the firewall and the wooden firewall is also not of the same shape.
One other big difference noticed, is this car has a pitman-arm shaft which comes through the frame from the steering box and the pitman arm is mounted on the outside of the frame. On Grant’s car it was mounted inboard, as we have seen on most other Alco cars in photos and in person.
So at this point this car is a bit of a mystery, we will try research it in the very near future, to see if a Alco racing car was involved in any race meets in the 1909-12 era in the LA area. If any of our readers has anything to add to this story, please send us a comment. Photo courtesy of David Hong/Rick Rawlins.

Below are photos of the Alco Black Beast at its last documented competition at the 1911 Elgin Trophy Race. I believe that it is further evidence that the California  Alco car was not the Black Beast. Can anyone provide Rick with information on this photo?


Howard Kroplick




Feb 12 2012 penny 6:23 AM

Dear Howard: I’ve looked at a few photos, in my time, for research to do my artwork.  I can’t remember, offhand, another one taken at this extreme perspective with the wheel being the most prominent thing in the photo. The photographer would have to be standing below ground level (i.s. a pit or ditch) or lying down (as I have done) to get a photo from this angle. Just a thought

Feb 12 2012 Howard Kroplick 6:19 PM

Hi Penny:

I agree… it is really an unusual photo.


Feb 12 2012 Howard Kroplick 6:20 PM

From Sam Berliner III:

“The radiator cap is quite different. “

Feb 12 2012 Billy Horner 7:53 PM

I am far from an expert or even know what I am talking about but after reading the information and known history of the Alco and the mystery photo could be in the L.A. area is there a chance that perhaps this is a replica car as indicated and perhaps the location of the photo could be at one of the original Ascot Speedway’s? There was one around the 1910 era. Maybe the driver is not actually a competition driver but perhaps a ‘test driver’ or a sales rep for Alco? Just a thought from the ‘peanut gallery’.

Feb 13 2012 Howard Kroplick 4:55 PM

From John Bayer:

Bill Taylor? 

California Alcos mentioned in the following links, the second mentioning a “Taylor” at Point Loma and San Fran in 1915:

http://books.google.com/books?id=1TwfAQAAMAAJ&pg=RA5-PA113&dq=alco+1910&hl=en#v=onepage&q=alco 1910&f=false (Page 10)
http://books.google.com/books?id=Mk4fAQAAMAAJ&pg=RA16-PA7&dq=alco+racer+1911&hl=en#v=onepage&q=alco racer 1911&f=false   (OCT 21, 1915, page 7 - Taylor, ALCO, Point Loma, 1915)

NOV 1914 Phoenix race and Taylor:

http://books.google.com/books?id=mfUiAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA928&dq=alco+racer+and+“los+angeles”&hl=en#v=onepage&q=alco racer and “los angeles”&f=false

Good coverage of the Point Loma race:

http://books.google.com/books?id=PIVMAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA77&dq=alco+and+taylor&hl=en#v=onepage&q=alco and taylor&f=false

FEB 11, 15, “William Taylor in the veteran ALCO”, page 14:

http://books.google.com/books?id=7UofAQAAMAAJ&pg=RA4-PA14&dq=alco+and+“william+taylor”&hl=en#v=onepage&q=alco and “william taylor”&f=false

Maybe some leads here?


Feb 13 2012 Howard Kroplick 5:10 PM

Hi John:

Good work!

As seen in this link, Billy Taylor may have driven an even different Alco in the California Races:


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