Nov 07 2015 Exclusive-The Helck Family Memoirs #1: Old 16 at the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup Race

Jerry Helck, former owner of the Old 16 Locomobile and son of the great artist Peter Helck,  has agreed to share family memoirs related to the Vanderbilt Cup Races. In the first post of the series, Jerry recalls when Old 16 was brought to the Old Timers Exhibition of the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup Race and his missed opportunity to meet Tazio Nuvolari.


Howard Kroplick

Old 16 at the Old-Timers Exhibition of the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup Race

Jerry Helck: "The year was 1936 and George Robertson (who was nominally General Manager and Vice-President  of Roosevelt Raceway) drove the car on which he had won the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race It was a "demo lap" around the simulated road course "

Jerry Helck: "We didn't know at the time that Robertson had promised its owner at that time, Joe Sessions, that he'd "take it easy", but, of course he didn't. Couldn't, really.  Anyway, Sessions was furious, threatening to leave immediately.  Probably the only reason he didn't was because the race had started and the big Loco was parked at the end of pit row (as photos in Joel Finn's book American Road Racing The 1930s show clearly)."

Caption: Driver Fred Winnai is shown here behind the Old 16 wheel with mechanic Leo Krasek manning the fuel pump.

Three Vanderbilt Cup Race winners were seen with a1914 Mercer Raceabout at the Old Timers Exhibition from left to right: George Robertson, Ralph DePalma and Ralph Mulford.

Almost Meeting Tazio Nuvolari

Jerry Helck: "One very clear recollection of the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup Race was being with my father under the grandstands. He spotted Tazio Nuvolari approaching and wanted to introduce me (maybe thinking that eighty years later I'd be able to say "I shook hands with Il Montovano Volante"). But, I had just found a well trampled $5 bill on the ground and was 100% focused on finding another.  "

1936 Vanderbilt Cup Race Newsreels


Nov 08 2015 S. Berliner, III 2:47 PM

Having “snuck” my XK-120 Jag onto the course for an illegal lap after the end of the 19 Jun 1960 re-run, I can really appreciate the thrill.  Thank you, Jerry - your Dad was a really great guy, a gracious host to me up at Boston Corners and a welcoming bare-acquaintance at Roosevelt Raceway in 1960, and any more recollections will be most welcome.  Sam, III

Nov 09 2015 frank femenias 12:14 AM

Great stuff! Thank you all gentlemen for sharing this.

Nov 15 2015 Michael A. Lugo 6:38 PM

Wonderful! Bravo!  Good to see the old days.  Thank you Jerry.  Include me it any future Blogs and emails.

May 28 2016 John Hallberg 9:03 PM

I remember Leo Krasek, who was pictured in one of your photos here. I am 70 this year and I was about 15 when I used to go over to Leos garage which was at his home in Bensenville, Ill. He was always in the corner of his shop doing metal turning on his lathe. 1957 he bought a new Ford 2 dr. sedan model which he put fuel injection on and several drivers were over there consulting with him . many good stories about Leo.

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