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Homepage. This page: A vintage photograph of what was billed as 'The First Cycle Car Race', held in 1914.
A race for cyclecars in 1914

A race for cyclecars held in 1914.

Todd sent some photographs of an original picture he owns and is trying to research the background to. It shows a number of lightweight "cycle cars" at a dirt track somewhere in America, lined up with their drivers and co-drivers/riding mechanics sat in their motorcars.
Cyclecars were popular forms of transport here in Europe in the 1910s and early 1920s, with many cars produced by backstreet motor-car engineers to satisfy the demand for affordable, petrol-driven motor-cars. This is the first photo I've seen of cycle car race meeting in the US though, and if anyone can shed light on the International Cycle Car Race itself, the drivers, and/or the venue then please get in touch.
Beneath each car in the line-up is a handwritten name, presumably the name of each car due to compete.
Todd adds:
"I have a original picture of the 1st cycle car race of 1914, and I'm interested in getting it appraised and learning more of the race. I have enclosed some pics of it but do not know how much of it you can make out. The cars from left to right are:
Morgan cycle car
  • Saginaw
  • Twombly
  • Princess
  • Coey
  • Detroit
  • Morgan
  • Downing
  • Vixen
  • Be Be Peugeot
  • Mercury
  • Saginaw
  • Malcolm
  • Twombly
  • Twombly
  • Vixen
  • Zip
There are 16 cars in all. It is signed too but I can't make it out, it is 44 1/2 X 7 1/2 and is in a black frame. The picture is in very good shape and I have had it for a while. The story behind it is my great grandmother had an extra room at her home in Mandeville, La and rented it out, the man she rented it to says he was the winner of the race, and gave her the picture and the trophy for letting him stay there for a while. I dont know what happened to the trophy but I still have the picture. I have done lots of research on the web and cannot find anything on the race, any help would be appreciated."
Here are close-ups showing some of the cars that feature in the line-up, and a few snippets of info I've found about the manufacturers of the cars shown:
Cyclecars
Reading around, it seems there was an earlier cycle-car race held at Brooklands, in 1912, so perhaps the race shown here was the first race held in the USA for cycle-cars? I found mention of Coey, a small cycle car firm based in Chicago between 1913 and 1917. Their cycle-car was called the Coey Bear, so perhaps the racing Coey shown above was based on this model? most of the cars shown look like stripped-down versions of roadgoing versions.
The Detroit Cyclecar was built in 1913 and 1914 so ties in nicely with the date of this photograph. It was powered by a water-cooled four cylinder engine. Morgan is one of the better-known makers shown above, and happily is still in business. The Downing shown is possibly the Downing-Detroit, a cycle-car built between 1913 and 1915.
Cyclecars
I've not found much information about the Vixen, other than that it was built in Wisconsin. The Peugeot Bébé is probably more likely to be familiar to European car enthusiasts than the US-built cars listed here. The model first saw light of day in 1901, the 1912 incarnation with a larger engine was designed by Ettore Bugatti no less. The Mercury was made in Detroit during 1914 only, and employed an early form of monocoque (ie chassis-less) construction.
Cyclecars
The "Malcolm" could well be an example of the 1914/1915 Malcolm Jones cycle-car, again a product of Motor City (Detroit). The Twombly cars were built by the Twombly Car Corporation of New York City , and were powered by a water-cooled four cylinder engine. In 1914, a roadgoing two-seater Twombly would have cost $395. The passenger sat behind the driver, as in the Malcolm Jones. The fad for cycle-cars in the US was a short-lived one, their relative fragility meant that most were not really up to the job, and the growing popularity of the cut-price Model T Ford made more sense to most motorists, just as happened here when the Austin 7 really caught on.
Cyclecars
If any more information comes to light about this American cycle-car race, I'll add it on here.
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