30,000 MILES IN
Total Elapsed Time
The President Eight
Eclipses Famous Commander Record
Morgan W. Gibney
(This article copied from The Studebaker Wheel magazine for
Oct. 1928. Photos and captions from the editor)
In a demonstration of endurance and
stamina without an equal in history, two fully equipped stock model
President Eight Sport Roadsters have each traveled 30,000 miles in
less than 26,000 consecutive minutes. This feat, accomplished on
the Atlantic City Speedway between July 21 and August 9, not only
eclipses the previous greatest achievements of motordom, but also
finds a parallel in sustained speed only in the flight of comets,
meteors and other heavenly bodies.
During the same period, two fully
equipped stock President Eight Sedans established a new standard of
endurance and stamina for fully equipped stock closed cars by
traveling the same distance at speeds only slightly less than those
set by the President Roadsters. The speed averages maintained by
the two Roadsters in this epic run were 68.37 and 68.36 miles per
hour respectively, while the two Sedans averaged 64.15 and 63.99
miles per hour.
The entire run was timed and
supervised by the American Automobile Association, whose technical
representatives also certified to the strictly stock design of the
This test was the first to be run
off under the new rulings of the American Automobile Association
governing stock car runs – infinitely more stringent than those
previously in vogue. Not only did this body supervise and check the
race throughout, but its officials picked at random the motors and
chassis to be used. Before the race the cars were completely torn
down and rechecked by the A.A.A. Technical Committee and seals
applied to vital parts on each car so that repairs or replacements
could not be made without their knowledge.
Only the Studebaker Commander ever
approached these new records. Last fall two Commander Sport
Roadsters each covered 25,000 miles at an average speed of 65.31
miles per hour and a Commander Sedan attained an average for the
same distance of 61.98 miles per hour.
On the morning of July 21 the stage
was set and ready for the start of the test. The American
Automobile Association official timers and checkers were ready in
their booths – men of split-second calculations armed with a battery
of mathematical machine guns. The men in the pits where reserve
supplies of gasoline and oil were stored were ready. The drivers,
their various “watches” allotted, were ready and impatient for the
start. And, of course, the four Presidents were ready – they always
Down in the inner rim of the great
bowl which is the Atlantic City Speedway, A. H. Means, secretary of
the Contest Board of the A.A.A., called the leadoff drivers together
for a last word. His words were short and he mopped his brow as he
talked. The sun was just getting into position to deliver a day of
terrific heat – the first of several to come. The starter shifted
uneasily, visioning a hurried trip into the shade.
Not a sound. The pits and the
checkers’ booths were deadly silent.
Go! The flag snapped down. The
cars slid ahead and disappeared around the turn – away on the run
which was to end nineteen days later with records achieved that
would make all motordom sit up and rub its eyes; away on a run in
which numerous unforeseen obstacles were to be thrown in their way;
in which the weather was to change from unmerciful heat to blinding
cloudbursts; to fog so thick that the checkers could scarcely read
their instruments and to driving hazards imposed by the board track,
which was to go to pieces under the strain that the cars valiantly
All through, the test was a
dramatic battle of heroic men and no less heroic mechanics against
the elements. After the opening day’s promise of heat, the weather
got hotter. Inside the bowl, where not a breath of air could
penetrate, the heat was almost insufferable. Driving at high speeds
made the discomfiture even greater, for the draft instead of cooling
was like the heat from the mouth of a furnace. Drivers were
stripped to the waist. The approved driving costume soon consisted
of helmet, goggles, running trunks, shoes – and a lavish coating of
Yet, even when the temperature
stood at 104 in the shade, out on the track where there was no shade
the cars continued on without showing any ill effects of the heat.
“How’s she running?” asked a
mechanic as a Roadster pulled up for gas.
“Say, I’d just like to hop in that
radiator and cool off,” was the driver’s reply.
Then came the rain.
In the infield, all unoccupied
mechanics and checkers stood out in the deluge and cooled off. But
on the track the rain was not so welcome. The planking of the
track, soaked with grease and oil, became as slippery as a buttered
pie tin. On the straightaway, where the incline was least
pronounced, it was impossible for a man to stand. On the turns not
even a cat could maintain a foothold, yet the cars continued their
On and on sped the cars, through
many days that were infernos and nights that were either stifling
hot or blinding with rain or fog. But the elements could not deter
the cars or the men who drove them. Lips that were cracked by the
sun spoke jests that brought grins to blistered faces.
“Well, I think I’ll take a bit of a
spin down the boulevard this afternoon,” says a driver as he swings
into the seat of a Roadster. “This clear sweet air certainly makes
one feel bully.”
A moment later he was running into
the “blow-torch” with unspoken thoughts that must have made the
weatherman’s ears burn.
During the nights of rain and fog
the only guide for the speeding cars was a row of lanterns strung
along the edge of the track and the restricted view afforded by the
Yet the cars went on and on and the
drivers keep on and on with an esprit de corps and a sense of humor
that no amount of inimical weather could change.
Those nineteen nights and twenty
days are forged into one single experience for those who witnessed
the run. The great adventure resolves itself into a series of
impressions rather than a connected and progressive chronicle.
Down in the pits life becomes just
a hectic job of watching four cars whirl around and around the
wooden saucer. Night falls. Some turn in. But the night crew must
stick. Cigarettes glow and fade around a portable Victrola,
crooning a “Mammy” song. A mechanic slaps at a famous Jersey
mosquito. Someone calls “Coming in.” A quick hand chokes the
phonograph. Cigarette butts are heeled, and there is a quick
grouping of the pit crew, ready for any emergency. The car seems to
slide into their arms – gas, oil, water, tense faces, half-lit in
the glow of a flood light. A muffled exclamation as someone touches
a hot manifold. Quick hands moving with unerring speed. The A.A.A.
pit observer notes gas, oil, water. Bergere in; Gulotta out. Time:
Fourteen drivers pilot the four
President Eights in “the longest ride ever made without going
anywhere.” Four hours on and eight off is the schedule. As the run
progresses intense rivalries spring up between the crews. On No. 1
Roadster are Tony Gulotta, Johnny Krieger and Cliff Bergere. No. 2
Roadster is handled by Jimmy Gleason, whose speed duel with Gulotta
at the last Indianapolis race thrilled every fan in the crowded
stands, Ralph Stewart and Freddy Winnai. The diminutive Babe Stapp,
Norman Batten of blazing car fame, and Frank Farmer on “3” Sedan.
The other Sedan is piloted by Lou Wilson, Doc Meyer and Lieut.
Eugene C. Batten, Air Service, U.S. Army. Ab Jenkins, famous
transcontinental road driver and Zeke Meyer act as relief pilots.
At about the 10,000-mile mark
disaster nearly overtakes one of the Roadsters. Shortly before
dawn, when the driver’s vitality is at its lowest ebb after a night
of fighting the rain, one of the Roadsters starts to pass the other
Roadster. Ordinarily the feat would be easily performed, but due to
the slippery footing the car swerves, goes into a skid that carries
it to the top rail guard then back across the track to strike
against the inner rail with terrific force.
It seems that the car must be a
complete wreck, but when the mechanics reach it the driver alights
uninjured. Inspection shows that the greatest damage has been
sustained by the side of the frame, fenders and wheels. Four hours
and forty minutes of precious time slip by while mechanics toil in
an inch of water to repair the car. At the end of that time the car
takes the track once more. What greater tribute to sturdy
Studebaker construction than the fact that after suffering such a
delay the car actually MAKES UP ALL THE LOST TIME AND FINISHES AHEAD
OF ITS COMPANION CAR?
Nearly 15,000 miles have elapsed
and the cars are swinging past the pits with clock-like regularity.
In the wooden shack a radio has been hooked up and the crew, with
the exception of the ever-watchful sentry, is listening to the
progress of the Tunney-Heeney battle in New York.
The instrument, erected in
makeshift fashion, emits weird squawks and yowls and ears strain to
catch the voice of the announcer. A car whizzes past and there is a
frantic sound of a horn. Instantly the radio is forgotten. The
crew leaps out into the pits with the alacrity of soldiers ready to
repel a night raid. What can it mean? The car has gone on
apparently in need of no attention. Why the warning of the horn? A
score of unspoken questions hang unanswered.
Here comes the car again. Ab
Jenkins is at the wheel. Will he stop? No. Without diminishing
speed, the Sedan flicks by with another blast of the horn. In its
wake flutters a piece of paper. A mechanic pounces on it and
unfolds it under the sizzling arc-light.
“How’s that fight coming? Give us
Ab Jenkins, an ardent fight fan,
has written this note using the windshield for a desk. During the
few seconds that the car is rounding the bank of the turn it
practically steers itself and Ab has used these few seconds on a
score of laps to write this message.
The mechanic grabs a huge
blackboard – used for communicating with the drivers – and writes in
large letters: “Round 5 – Tunney well out in front.” A searchlight
is played on the board as the four cars pass and from each in turn a
cheer can be heard faintly as they swish by.
So for the rest of the fight
bulletins are given the drivers which they acknowledge by horn
The 20,000-mile point passes, the
cars running without a falter. The pit crews, with the exception of
the lookout, are withdrawn a few steps from the pit pitching horse
shoes. Far down the track a dull explosion is heard. The last shoe
falls, unheeded and the men are instantly at their posts of duty.
The car limps in on a flat tire, a long splinter protruding from its
side. Wheel off. Wheel on. Gone. Time: 48 seconds flat.
The pit crews work with the
precision of trained soldiers. And why not? Commanding one shift
is Ralph Hepburn, a racing driver whose knowledge of mechanics and
organization makes him infinitely more valuable in the pits than
behind the wheel. Commanding the other shift is Riley Brett,
equally well versed in mechanics and with the same bent for
organizing team work from his mates.
Just as rivalries spring up among
the drivers, so competition develops between the two mechanical
A mechanic of Hepburn’s crew
watches Brett’s men change a tire. He holds a stop watch in his
hand. As the car slides away with a new “shoe” his face assumes a
“Doggone near a minute,” says he.
“Why, we can beat you by 10 seconds on any tire change.”
“Is that so,” remarks one of the
perspiring men wiping his hands.
“Yes, that’s so,” maintains the
“Yeah, you’re pretty good on giving
gas, too, aren’t you,” jeers the Brett partisan, “when you let
fifteen gallons out of the tank, five go into the car and the other
ten on the track. And slow; say, they could drive into Philadelphia
and get gas from a station and get back to the track again in
quicker time than you fellows make.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, that’s so – g’wan, beat it,
‘Lightning,’ here comes ‘2’ for another tire – darn those
At 25,000 miles there is a
tension. At this point the Commander finished its history-making
run last fall. Now the records are well ahead of those of the
lion-hearted Commander. Heads hover over the shoulders of the
unhurried, unruffled American Automobile Association officials.
All hands are at the track side.
The cars continue at their customary pace and to an outsider there
is no evidence of anything different from the preceding thousands of
miles of travel. Yet pulses are beating faster, gas, oil and water
are poured into the cars even faster, if possible, than at any other
29,000 miles. The tension
increases. Voices are hushed. The usual raillery is noticeable by
its absence. As if in response to this tension, the tone of the
motors in the Roadsters deepens and the speed averages climb.
After 29,000 miles of travel
without parallel in the history of transportation, after three years
of average driving crowded into less than three weeks, these cars
have the stamina and endurance to RUN THE LAST THOUSAND MILES FASTER
THAN ANY OTHER!
Just a few more laps. Each lap the
signal boards flash a new greeting of congratulation. A. H. Means,
secretary of the American Automobile Association, crosses the track
with checkered flag in hand. No. 1 Roadster leaps ahead with a new
burst of speed and zooms down the track in front. The flag snaps
down and pandemonium breaks loose. Hats and caps sail aloft and
cheers that make up in volume what they lack in individual numbers
arise from the pit men and relief drivers.
There are elements of comedy mixed
in with the thrilling drama of the last few laps. A relief driver
refreshing himself under an icy shower sticks his head out and
demands, “How long before the finish?”
“Two laps,” is the response.
“Why didn’t you say so – where are
those clothes; where ARE those clothes? Hey, someone has hooked by
And as the Roadsters flash by at
the finish there he stands, cheering and waving with one hand, the
other clinging desperately to a slipping Turkish towel.
Still unruffled, the American
Automobile Association checkers compile the figures.
“Let’s see – that gives Studebaker
a total of 114 official records for speed and stamina. My word,
that’s far more than the records held by all the rest of the
Of the six seals placed on the
engines of the two Roadsters, not one was broken during the run. In
traveling 30,000 miles in less than 27,000 minutes the total up and
down travel of each piston was 49,087,500 feet and the total number
of explosions in each cylinder was 33,660,000. Despite this
terrific ordeal of continuous driving at high speed, both Roadsters
completed the run without a single scored cylinder or burned
bearing, ready for thousands of additional miles of carefree
Among the features of equipment on
the Presidents which came in for a considerable amount of
observation during the run were the ball bearing spring shackles.
True, these spring shackles had been tested in 177,000 miles of
running on various cars on the Studebaker Proving Ground and all
over the country. But never had they been given a high-speed test
of the length of this run.
These shackles stood up under the
test with flying colors. Studebaker recommends that they be
inspected at intervals of 20,000 miles; but these shackles went
30,000 miles on each car without any attention whatsoever. And at
the close of the total 120,000 miles of tests, the shackles were
functioning as quietly as the day the four cars started their run.
There was not a single instance of shackle failure in all that run.
The punishment these heroic cars
withstood during their epic test is perhaps best appreciated by
comparison with other fast vehicles. The fastest railroad train
seems slow when compared with the speed of the President – and the
crack trains change engines every couple of hundred miles. There
was no relief for the President engine, however, for 30,000 miles.
Airplanes travel faster than the
speed records established by the President, but even the latest
developments in aircraft engines demand overhauling at the end of
every 100 hours of flying. The motors in the Presidents ran nearly
500 hours without overhauling, and at the end of that time were in
such good condition that they could drive the cars faster during the
last 1,000 miles than at any other time during the run.
Specially-built racing cars,
stripped down, and stream-lined “to a gnat’s eyelash,” turn their
500-mile races and are then torn down and rebuilt for the next
event. The President was running sweetly after 30,000 miles.
These Presidents were not built for
the test. They were taken from the regular production lines of
Studebaker plants, picked at random by officials of the American
Automobile Association. Had it not been Fate’s decree that they
should be selected for the 30,000-mile run, they would have been
shipped to some Studebaker dealer. Perhaps you or your neighbor
might have purchased one of them. At all events there are
Presidents at your dealer’s showroom today which are exact
duplicates in every detail – except serial number – of those which
established this record.
The true import of the President’s
victory over time and space lies far deeper than the smashing of all
records for sustained fast travel. This feat is as significant to
the lay motorist as to the engineer and scientist.
That these cars were able to
accomplish what no other automobile in the world has ever even
attempted proves beyond all question of a doubt the following facts:
1. The President Eight is
an expression of engineering genius without peer in the automobile
2. In fine materials,
precision manufacture and rigid inspections the President Eight is
worthy of the engineering genius manifested in its design.
3. In the long run the
economy of the President makes it more thrifty to operate than
4. The President Eight has
performance resources which you cannot exhaust.
For even a specially-designed and
constructed motor car to withstand the terrific stress and strain of
30,000 miles at sustained mile-a-minute speed would be an
achievement to reflect credit upon its builders.
For one stock car to make such a
record might be attributed to a “lucky break.” But for four
strictly stock cars taken from regular production to accomplish such
a feat – never before equaled in the history of transportation – is
proof positive that the President Eight has built in it the
qualities of an endurance and stamina champion!
The four cars which completed the
historic 30,000 mile run had the following serial and engine
Body Type Contest No.
Serial No. Engine No.
What The Drivers Had To Say
Who is better qualified to testify
to the stellar performance of the President’s run of 30,000 miles in
less than 27,000 minutes than the men who actually drove the cars?
They lived with the cars, driving them day and night through
blistering heat and blinding rain for 19 nights and 20 days. They
crowded three years of average driving into less than three weeks
and saw for themselves how the cars reveled in the strain of better
than mile-a-minute performance. Their enthusiasm for the President
is perhaps the greatest tribute which could be paid the car.
Ralph L. Stewart
“The endurance and speed of the
President Eight are beyond comparison. In eighteen days on the
speedway we drove farther than the average owner travels in two
years. Yet I never had the slightest trouble with my roadster, and
it was running faster at the finish of 30,000 miles than at the
“I’ve never in my life seen
anything like that automobile – The President Eight. It is the most
wonderful stock car I’ve ever driven.”
“When you’re hitting 72 on a wet,
slippery track around 3:00 A.M. and the fog is thicker than soup,
you’ve got to have a well-balanced, easy-handling car to stay right
side up. Under these trying conditions, the President Eights showed
the fine engineering skill that built them. They are unquestionably
the finest stock cars I ever drove.”
“I’ve driven in all the Studebaker
endurance runs at the Atlantic City Speedway, and of all the
Studebakers, this new President Eight is the finest of the lot.
After helping to drive it 30,000 miles, I can say it is the greatest
stock car I ever handled.”
Eugene Batten, First Lieut., A.C., U.S.A.
“I’ve owned Studebakers for eight
years, but this President Eight is the finest car they have ever
built. The roadster is the sweetest running and nicest handling car
I’ve ever driven. I’m buying one myself.”
“The President Eight is worthy of
its name. It’s a born leader among automobiles. I’ve driven cars
from coast to coast, but I’ve seen none that equals its
“The responsiveness, acceleration,
speed and easy handling of the President Eight were just as fine at
the end of 30,000 miles at an average speed of more than 68 miles an
hour as they were after the first 100 miles. That’s a real
Harry A. “Doc” Meyer
“I’ve been driving cars fast and
hard for thirty years, but I’ve never seen cars take a more severe
hammering than we gave those President Eights in the 30,000 mile
run. Any car that takes the hammering we gave the Presidents has to
be a great automobile.”
“The fact that we drove the last
1,000 miles of the 30,000 mile run around 78 miles an hour – that
the average speed for the laps between 29,999 and 30,000 miles was
faster than any previous speed during the entire run – speaks
volumes of praise for the President Eight. It is a great car.”
“In all the world there’s never
been a trip like that 30,000 miles in the President Eights on the
Atlantic City Speedway. And in all the world there are no finer
cars we could have made it in.”