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Car that won 1908 NY-Paris race out for Reno spin
by Scott Sonner - Associated Press
Apr 26, 2011 | 3208 views | 1 1 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/John Byrne - Jay Hubbard, the automotive collection manager at The National Automobile Museum the Harrah Collection, drives the world famous Thomas Flyer through the streets of downtown Reno Tuesday morning. The 1907 Thomas Flyer, winner of the world’s first around-the-globe auto race in 1908, was the honorary vehicle that led the vehicles participating in the current leg of the World Race 2011 out of Reno to the West Coast. The teams will continue their race along a course that includes stops in San Francisco, Beijing, Moscow, Berlin and, finally, Paris.
Tribune/John Byrne - Jay Hubbard, the automotive collection manager at The National Automobile Museum the Harrah Collection, drives the world famous Thomas Flyer through the streets of downtown Reno Tuesday morning. The 1907 Thomas Flyer, winner of the world’s first around-the-globe auto race in 1908, was the honorary vehicle that led the vehicles participating in the current leg of the World Race 2011 out of Reno to the West Coast. The teams will continue their race along a course that includes stops in San Francisco, Beijing, Moscow, Berlin and, finally, Paris.
slideshow
Tribune/John Byrne - A detail image of the front seats and steering wheel of the Thomas Flyer illustrates the unrestored state of the vehicle. Bill Harrah decided when he purchased it to leave the world-famous automobile in its original condition.
Tribune/John Byrne - A detail image of the front seats and steering wheel of the Thomas Flyer illustrates the unrestored state of the vehicle. Bill Harrah decided when he purchased it to leave the world-famous automobile in its original condition.
slideshow
RENO (AP) — Jeff Mahl is one-fifth of the way into a race around the world, but he made time for a special pit stop in Reno on Tuesday outside the National Automobile Museum.

Mahl is re-creating his great-grandfather's victory in the 1908 around-the-world automobile race that he says for its day "was like launching a man to the moon."

Mahl is driving a replica of the Thomas Flyer that George Schuster took to victory in the race from New York to Paris 103 years ago. In Reno, Mahl got to ride around town in the back seat of the original.

The restored 1907 vehicle is rarely driven and has been in Reno since the late casino mogul Bill Harrah found it and restored it in the 1960s.

Mahl, who lives in St. James City, Fla., made only a ceremonial trip around town before changing vehicles and heading off with 30 other racing teams for San Francisco on day 14 of the trek.

They started in New York City on April 14 bound for Paris on July 21. On Wednesday, the cars are to be loaded on a ship to China, where the teams will be reunited with their cars on June 14.

The re-enactment originally was set for 2008 in conjunction with the race centennial but was scrapped when the Chinese government revoked travel permits following demonstrations in Tibet.

Mahl said his great-grandfather's race still holds spots in the Guinness Book of World Records. He said the trip's lengths of 22,000-miles and 169 days are both records.

Jackie Frady, the museum's executive director, joined Mahl on Tuesday in the car she said is "one of the nation's most celebrated pieces of automotive history."

"I think it is so significant that the car remains today," Frady said. "I was so thrilled to ride in it."

That it is still around is a story in itself.

Harrah became interested in the car after reading Schuster's account of the race in The Readers Digest in 1963. He eventually found it in poor condition at the Long Island Auto Museum in New York.

"It was just sort of rusting away," Frady said Tuesday.

Schuster, who died in 1972 at the age of 99, long had believed the car was sold for scrap during World War I. He dismissed requests over the years to inspect various vehicles before accepting Harrah's offer to fly him to Reno in 1964 to try to authenticate it.

Mahl said Schuster — 91 at the time — looked the car over and told Harrah flatly: "You are wasting your money and my time. This isn't the Flyer."

It wasn't until they dismantled it piece by piece the next day that Schuster was able to identify three repairs he'd made that no one else would have known about. Finally, he was convinced.

"Great-Grandpa said to Mr. Harrah, 'The worth of the car, the importance of the car is how it finished the race, not how it started,' " Mahl said.

Harrah agreed and "restored the car to its condition at the end of the race, right down to the broken front, right headlight," he said.

The headlight nearly kept Schuster from finishing the race after a pigeon hit it outside of Moscow, Mahl said. Prohibited from entering Paris without two working headlights, they found a bicyclist and bought his bike. When they couldn't get the light off of the bike, he said, they hoisted the bike onto the hood of the car.

"They crossed the finish line to win the race with a bicycle strapped to the hood of the Thomas Flyer," Mahl said.
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Michael Hamm
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September 03, 2013
The documentary on the race is at www.thegreatestautorace.com . The full size replicas, hundreds of never before seen photos, and accurate re-enactments make this multi award winning film a must-see.
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