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Sports Car Digest Editor Jamie Doyle has assigned me to write a column about the history of sports cars.
Although there are reservations among some historians, it is generally held that Karl Benz designed and built the first workable car propelled by an internal combustion engine in 1885. Benza€™s idea, on the other hand, was to design a then-unique complete unit from scratch whose purpose was to transport people.
The de Dion steam-powered vehicle made the best time at the 1894 Paris to Rouen reliability run. The first international series was established by James Gordon Bennett, Jr., owner of the New York Herald. The first Gordon Bennett to cross borders traveled the 565 miles from Paris to Innsbruck, Austria in 1902. Because a British entrant had won in 1902, the 1903 Cup would ordinarily have been in England.
Because the 1903 Cup was won by a Mercedes, the 1904 race was held in Germany over a 342-mile four-lap course.
Did the AAA racing organization take root and form during this time frame or shortly there after? The author of ten books about photography plus others on different subjects, Evans has written numerous articles for photography and automotive magazines as well as professional journals.
In retirement, Evans pursues pastimes including writing about the fabulous fifties and serving as secretary and newsletter editor of The Fabulous Fifties Association.
For the first one, I thought it would be interesting to look at the first events that established motorsports.


Ita€™s interesting to note, however, that the first competition for motorized vehicles for which I have found a record took place between two steam-driven tractors racing Madison to Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1878. At that time, there were no purpose-built race cars, so the event was for what we would now call production or touring cars. When the first-place de Dion was disqualified, Peugeot and Panhard were declared the winners.
He proposed an annual event put on by automobile clubs of various European countries called the Gordon Bennett Cup. During the fifties, he and his partner, OCee Ritch, had a public relations and advertising company that represented the MG Mitten Company, Devin Enterprises and Gough Industries among other car-related organizations.
His son (of the same name) made a large steam mail coach as well as a smaller steam-driven car in 1885.
Two of the British cars were made by Napier & Son of London and fitted with Dunlop tires. The 1905 and the last Gordon Bennett went back to France and took place on a 137 km mountainous course near Clermont-Ferrand.
The legislators however, reneged, claiming that the vehicles were not a€?a cheap and practical substitute for a horse.a€? In the end, the State ponied up $5,000.
The teams were distinguished by colors, starting a tradition that has continued to this day. Eight people had been killed in the 1901 Paris to Bordeaux and the 1903 Paris to Madrid had to be halted due to many accidents. There had been an annual race from Paris to Bordeaux that started in 1895, so it was decided that the 1901 Gordon Bennett would be run in conjunction.


Because of this, some 7,000 police officers were assisted by troops and club stewards to guard the course. The Duryea brothersa€”Charles and Franka€”were the first Americans to build a successful commercially-available automobile. In addition to the Duryea, there were two electric cars and three gasoline-driven Benz cars.
Competitors were started at seven minute intervals and had to follow bicycles through each town. Although more than 100 cars had entered, only six actually showed up at the start, perhaps due to the heavy snow.
De Dion, however, was disqualified because his steam-driven car required a stoker which was against the rules. In the meantime, a Benz went into the lead until Evanston when Duryea regained first place and held it until the end.
The prize, however, was awarded to both Panhard and Peugeot when it was pointed out that the engines in the Peugeots had been supplied by Panhard.




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