May 30 2016

Mystery Foto #22 Solved: Harry Grant Preparing the Alco for the 1911 Elgin National Trophy Race

Chuck Rudy, Jr. challenged you to solve this holiday weekend's Mystery Foto.

Answers to the Mystery Foto questions:

  • Identify the race car, the driver and mechanician. Provide your rationale.

The Alco Black Beast with driver Harry Grant and mechanician George Babcock.  This is the only race where Frank Lee was not Grant's mechanican. Frank Lee competed in the race as the driver of another Alco.

Rationale: Comparative photos of Frank Lee and George Babcock.

  • Which race were they preparing for? Provide your rationale.

The 1911 Elgin National Trophy Race was held on August 26, 1911 on the 8.47 mile Elgin road race course. The Alco Black Beast ran as the #1 car. Despite finishing a strong second , the American Locomotive Company decided to quit racing two weeks later.

The rationale: The 1911 Elgin race was the only race in which the Alco Black Beast had the Bete Noir logo placed on its chassis.

  • Identify the truck in the background

This appears to be a custom-made 3-ton 1911 Alco truck used to transporty one or more of the Alco racers.

Congrats to RC, Steve Lucas, Ariejan Bos, Gary Hammond, Greg O. and Frank Femenias for identifying the 1909 Alco Black Beast. Kudos to Steve Lucas and Gary Hammond for identifying George Babcock, the 191 Elgin National Trophy Race and the Alco truck.

Thank you Veterans for your service!


Howard Kroplick


Harry Grant and George Babcock

Note: The Bete Noire logo below Grant's foot.

1911 Elgin National Trophy Race- Pre-Race

The Alco Team at the 1911 Elgin National Trophy Race. 

Photo courtesy of Lee Ferbin, his grandfather Herbert Carl Ferbin can be seen on the far left.

Harry Grant and George Babcock in their Alco sweaters.

Note the Bete Noir log.

1911 Elgin National Trophy Race

The race was won by the #2 National driven by Len Zengel.

A great shot of the Black Beast at the finish.

1911 3-Ton Alco Truck


May 27 2016 RC 12:18 AM

ALCO? Was American Locomotive Company building cars in that era?

May 29 2016 Steve Lucas 8:53 PM

That sure looks like Harry Grant in the driver’s seat so the racer must be the ALCO Black Beast. But that doesn’t look like Frank Lee next to Grant so it could be George Babcock, the only other mechanician to ride with Grant. If that’s true, then they must be preparing for the Elgin National Trophy Race that took place on October 26, 1911. The truck in the background appears to be an ALCO Power Wagon or 3 1/2 ton truck.

May 30 2016 Ariejan Bos 5:58 AM

The racing car is of course an Alco, probably shortly before the 1910 Vanderbilt Cup race. In 1909 the Alco used friction-type shock absorbers, whereas in 1910 Alco had mounted telescopic shock absorbers, like on the photo. At the wheel Harry Grant, but about the mechanician I have doubts. It isn’t Frank Lee, but I see some resemblance with Ralph De Palma. I can’t think of any reason though why he would sit next to Grant. De Palma was racing mostly Fiat at the time and didn’t compete for the Vanderbilt Cup of that year. The truck is obviously an Alco too. Alco had started truck building in 1909 with a 3 ton truck. Interesting is also the light-coloured car on the left in the background, which seems to be Mulford’s Lozier in touring trim.
I have no idea where the photo was taken. The structure in the background seems to be some kind of hangar, but I couldn’t find it on any other photo in my archive.

May 30 2016 Bob Swanson 8:56 AM

Is that the same ALCO truck that was once owned by Henry Austin Clark and now fully restored living on Long Island? Bob

May 30 2016 Gary Hammond 11:03 AM

I can’t believe that you need help identifying your own car! (Ha Ha!)  This is the 1909 Alco-6 racer “BĂȘte Noir”, the “Black Beast”.  Driver is Harry Grant, and the mechanician is George Babcock.  The event is preparation for the Elgin National Trophy Race in 1911.  The truck in the background is (of course) an Alco (maybe 3.5 ton?)

May 30 2016 Greg O. 1:10 PM

Just a guess;
The ALCO Black Beast prepping for the 1909 Cup race. Harry Grant driving with his mechanician Frank Lee.
ALCO also started producing trucks that year so it would make sense that the team would use a new ALCO truck.

May 30 2016 frank femenias 5:56 PM

Was clueless but after a face match from this site, this could be driver Harry Grant/mechanician Frank Lee behind the wheel of Bette Noir. There’s a faded #8 on the grill (1908), so these daredevils could be preparing for the 1909 Vanderbilt Cup Race (#18)

May 30 2016 frank femenias 10:10 PM

Outstanding quality photos of 100+ years. In the last photo the banner reads, “...1910 Elgin Nat’l Championship.” Was the banner for a prior Lozier? Elgin victory or advertising the current race? Lozier finished 5th in the Vanderbilt Cup race in 1910.

From Howard Kroplick

Frank, I believe the banner which promoted the Lozier which won the 1910 Elgin race

May 30 2016 frank femenias 10:48 PM

Howard, does the Beast still have the converted 1910 telescopic shock absorbers installed? This was apparently a key modification for increased performance. Thanks Ariejan for pointing this out. 

From Howard Kroplick

Nope, the Black Beast was restored to its 1909 configuration.

May 09 2018 leonard caldwell 2:11 PM


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