30,000 MILES IN 26,326 MINUTES

Total Elapsed Time

The President Eight Eclipses Famous Commander Record

by 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 cars.

            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 are.

            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.

            Ready!

            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 defied.

            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 sunburn.

            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 jaunt.

            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 stabbing headlights.

            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.

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            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: 40 seconds.

            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 a board.”

            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 blasts.

            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 crews.

            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 triumphant grin.

            “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 other.

            “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 splinters!”

            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.  28,500 miles.

            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 time.

            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.

            Such cars!

            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!

            29,900 miles.

            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 clothes!”

            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 industry combined!”

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            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 service.

            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 world.

            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 cheaper cars.

            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!

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            The four cars which completed the historic 30,000 mile run had the following serial and engine numbers:

 

Body Type                  Contest No.                Serial No.                   Engine No.

 

Roadster                              1                          7002746                      FB3441

Roadster                             2                          7001763                      FB3443

Sedan                                   3                          7002626                      FB3265

Sedan                                   4                          7002625                      FB3267

 

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 start.”

 

Cliff Bergere

            “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.”

 

Zeke Meyer

            “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.”

 

Jimmy Gleason

            “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.”

 

Johnny Krieger

            “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 performance.”

 

Fred Winnai

            “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 automobile.”

 

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.”

 

Tony Gulotta

            “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.”

 

Babe Stapp

            “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.”

 

 

 

 

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