The Machines

This is a story that is as much about the automobiles as it is the men who drove them in the Great New York to Paris Race. Four cars made it across America and over to Vladivostock. Replicas of each will be built for the purpose of dramatizing critical events that took place along the way. 

The Zust

  • Italy also entered just one car into the Great Race of 1908, commonly referred to as the ‘Zust’.
  • This 40 horsepower, four-cylinder, four-speed automobile had a top speed of 60 miles per hour.
  • Laden with a series of metal chests built into rear seats, spare tires, gasoline tanks and an assortment of luggage and equipment, the Zust was the smallest with a wheelbase of only 114 inches.

The De Dion

  • France entered three cars into the Great Race of 1908, but only the De Dion landed in Vladivostock.
  • The best known of all the entries, neither the size nor the power of the De Dion was exceptional.
  • Powered by a four-cylinder, four-speed transmission it was capable of reaching 50 miles per hour.
  • To preserve the steel frame from extreme cold it was filled with wood, wrapped in felt and covered in rubber. Provision was made to protect the crew by warming them with exhaust heat. Ship sails were intended to harness winds and carry the car across Siberia, and two long planks along the De Dion’s exterior served as shelves. In extreme conditions these planks could be detached to serve as bridges.

The German Protos

  • The lone German entry — a virtual unknown — was manufactured specifically for the Great Race of 1908.
  • Six hundred workers in the Berlin factory built the car in just sixteen days.
  • Powered by a 40 horsepower four-cylinder engine, it was capable of reaching speeds of 70 miles per hour and sported six separate fuel tanks molded around the chassis and body. ‘Fill ‘er up’ took 176 gallons!
  • Just over 6.5 feet wide, 16 feet long, and weighing in at 6,000 pounds, the sheer size of the Protos was remarkable. The Protos was, by far, the most rugged and best-equipped automobile for this race.

The Thomas Flyer

  • Representing America, the Thomas Flyer was also a solo entry for its country.
  • Unlike all the other cars, each built specifically for The Great Race, the ‘Flyer’ was a last-minute entry. Just three days before the start of the race, E.R. Thomas sent a telegram to his Buffalo plant and directed Production Manager George Whiteside to choose from the four completed cars on the lot.
  • Mr. Whiteside selected the most powerful and sturdy – a 1907 Model 36, four-cylinder, four-speed transmission, 60 horsepower Flyer. It could top 60 miles per hour on a good road.