Jul 04 2013

William K. Vanderbilt Jr.‘s Lucky Cracked Cylinder in the “Race to Death”

From 1902 to 1903, William K. Vanderbilt, Jr, competed in races throughout Europe.


His best 1902 performance was a third place finish  in the  Belgian Circuit des Ardennes Race, competing against the world's best road racers. He  returned to Europe in May 1903 to compete among 216 cars in the infamous Paris-Madreid Race driving his 80-HP Mors. His derby was his only safety equipment.

While it must have been disappointing at the time, a cracked cylinder on the first day of competition spared him exposure to the numerous accidents that earned the event the name "Race to Death."

At least eight people  were killed during the race, including car maker Marcel Renault, ending the first great era of  motor racing, the European city-to-city races on open roads.

Driver Charles Jarrott described "The Race to Death" in his autobiography.

Enjoy the Fourth!


Howard Kroplick


Jul 05 2013 Ted 12:37 AM

Had a very busy day today,but always have time to check out this site. It certainly was the Race to Death. Hope you all had a safe and happy Fourth

Jul 07 2013 Randy Reed 11:01 AM

The Mors was a very impressive racer for it’s day. Cracked cylinders may have been it’s achilles heal. Dave Uihlein brought his 1908 Mors to one of the early Monterey Historics at Laguna Seca. Sadly, it retired with a broken cylinder. Allegedly it had been found in Argentina with the crankcase broken in half. As Colin Chapman would say, maybe they added a bit to much lightness.

Jul 07 2013 E. Nystrom 11:04 AM

After the fact, a few newspapers accused him and at least one other American who had entered but didn’t run the race, of cowardice. Of course this was not true, but made news on the continent where Willie k. Vanderbilt Jr. was well know.

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