Feb 17 2011

Mystery French Driver of an American Thomas Racer: Gustave Caillois

Last Sunday at the Smithtown Automobile Flea Market, Arthur Gould challenged me to identify this photo of a driver and his mechanician. His hint: the driver was French and drove a Thomas in a Vanderbilt Cup Race event. Arthur, here's the answer:




The driver was Gustave Caillois, one of the drivers of the three identical 115 HP Thomas Flyers that competed in the 1906 American Elimination Race. Caillois' mechanician was Marcel Pouxe.


Born in France in 1875, Caillois was a racing bicyclist at the age of 18. Reflecting his parents' objection to his competing, he raced under the name Siolliac, his name spelled backwards. He soon became interested in automobiles and worked in 1900 to 1901 as an engineer and designer for Peugeot. After working for Serpollet, a maker of French steam-driven vehicles, Caillois joined the Brasier company. In 1905, he finished second in the elimination race for the Gordon Bennett Cup and finished a strong fourth in the final. As an enticement to race the Thomas in 1906, he was offered a six year contract as the French agent for the Thomas Flyer when he returned home.



Prior to the American Elimation Race to determine the five cars that would compete in the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race, Caillois could be seen driving the #4 Thomas at the company's headquarters at Krug's Hotel in Mineola As reported in the September 13, 1906 issue of The Automobile, Caillois predicted the winner of the Elimination Race:

"The car that averages sixty miles per hour will finish first or second. In all, there are eleven turns. At every one of these it will be necessary to slow down. Time will be lost not only in approaching the curves, but in accelerating the speed afterward, since no matter how powerful a car may be, time is lost in regaining the maximum."


Caillois at the Hairpin Turn in Old Westbury.


Caillois passing Krug's Hotel at the corner of Willis Avenue and Jericho Turnpike in Mineola.


Caillois finished 7th in the American Elimination Race, retiring with magneto problems on lap 6.

Links to related posts on VanderbiltCupRaces.com:

Starting Lineup: The 1906 American Elimination Race

Index: 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race

Hubert Le Blon

    See more:


Mar 06 2011 Howard Kroplick 12:16 PM

From Jean-Yves:

Just few words about this French driver… to complete your good work. The right spelling of this name is CAILLOIS… and your right about his pseudo “Siollac”, that sounds better in french than Siolliac!

His best bicycle result was a victory in the “Grand Prix de Paris” held on October 21, 1894, on tandem bicycle with Échard. He entered motorbike racing in the “Coupe des Motocycles” (race between Orléans and Vierzon, about 56 miles), always as Siollac, in May 14, 1899, but did not finish.

For his first automobile race, he ran a Peugeot 15-hp in the “Grand Prix Automobile d’Ostende” (Wellington Hippodrome, 31 miles) held on September 3, 1900, with relief driver Eugène Renaux.

His participation in major races: In June 26, 1902, he did not finish the first stage of the Paris/Vienna race, also in a Peugeot (light car class).

With Gardner-Serpollet, he finished 73th in the first stage at Bordeaux of the tragic Paris/Madrid in May 1903, and DNF the “Circuit des Ardennes” in June.

Joined Richard-Brasier in 1904, he failed to qualify in the Gordon Bennett Cup, finished 6th in the French Elimination Trial held on May 20th on the Argonne circuit (north of France).

In 1905, as you wrote, he finished 2nd in the French Elimination Trial for the Gordon Bennett Cup and 4th in the race (June 16th and July 5th).

And in 1906, did not finish the American Elimination Trial for the Vanderbilt Cup with a Thomas.

In 1907, he joined the Darracq team, when Louis Wagner and Victor* Hémery quit the company. (*Théodore Eugène, please forget Auguste!) wink.

He finished 6th in the “Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France” in Dieppe on July 2nd.

In 1908, he drove for Renault and finish 15th in the “Grand Prix de l’A.C.F.” also at Dieppe on July 7th, with Vivet as riding mechanic. Then the brothers Renault decide to quit racing and Gustave Caillois ended his driving career.

He made a come back in 1912 and 1913 with Sunbeam, running the “Grand Prix de l’A.C.F.” respectively at Dieppe and Amien. In both races he did not finish. He then put a definitive end to his driving career and completly retired from racing.

I don’t know when he died but probably old and quiet. grin

And now a little picture for you from a very interesting blog! wink http://theoldmotor.com/?p=6037


Mar 06 2011 Howard Kroplick 12:21 PM

Hi Jean-Yves:

As always, super job!! Thanks.



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