Oct 30 2010

National Speed Sports News “Black Beast Is Among Last Of A Unique Era of Racers”

In the October 27, 2010 issue of National Speed Sports News magazine, an article by Ron Hedger Black Beast Is Among Last of A Unique Era of Racers" provides a summary of the Alco Black Beast.

Below is the article supplemented by photos:

National Speed Sport News, October 27, 2010

Black Beast Is Among Last Of An Unique Era Of Racers

Written by Ron Hedger


The American Locomotive Co. was headquartered in Schenectady, N.Y., though a factory in Providence, R.I., actually built the ALCO-6 Black Beast, one of four racers in a run of 1,100 cars built between 1908 and 1913.

Only 12 of the 1,100 still exist, with the Black Beast the only racer to survive. Wherever it appears today, a huge crowd gathers immediately, drawn by both its appearance and the noise it produces.


Winner of the Vanderbilt Cup on Long Island in 1909 and 1910, the Black Beast sports a 680.8 cubic inch, six-cylinder engine capable of propelling the 3,300-pound car to a top speed in the 120-mile-per-hour range. The car features two-wheel inboard mechanical drum brakes as well as a transmission-mounted drum brake, a four-speed transmission with double chain drive, a dual ignition system, and impressive brass and copper plumbing.


At Indianapolis in 1911, the engine seized a bearing, putting it 33rd in a field of 40, and after one more race at Elgin, Ill., the car disappeared from the racing scene. Driver Harry Grant went on to race a Lozier, a Sunbeam, a Stutz and an Isotta, and again ran the Indianapolis 500 in 1913, ’14 and ’15.

Grant was severely burned when he crashed while practicing for the Astor Cup Race at Long Island’s Sheepshead Bay in September 1915. Drivers Earl Cooper and Eddie Rickenbacker helped extricate Grant, but he later succumbed at Coney Island Hospital, making him the only Long Island Vanderbilt Cup winner to die in a racing accident.


Ownership of the Black Beast had passed from ALCO to Grant, its only driver, in 1911, with a number of owners tending to it from 1913 to 1945, when it passed to Joe Loecy, Jr. of Chardon, Ohio. Joel Finn, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., owned the car from 1968 to 1975 and did a comprehensive restoration.


It was displayed in the Harrah’s Collection in Lake Tahoe, Nev., until Ed Hubbard acquired the Black Beast in 1988 and installed it in a private museum in Radlettin Hertfordshire, England, through 1994 when it passed to Jean-Louis Duret in Annecy, France.

In 2009, the famed racer returned to Long Island courtesy of present owner Howard Kroplick of East Hills, N.Y. Kroplick reconditioned the car and the engine to driveable condition. An expert who has lectured extensively on the Vanderbilt Cup races and recently authored a book, “Vanderbilt Cup Races of Long Island,” Kroplick has generously shared the racer with enthusiasts at numerous events on Long Island, in New York City and Connecticut, and in August the car was driven around Schenectady before being displayed at the Saratoga Automobile Museum.


Prior to the car’s arrival, historians at Schenectady City Hall, where more than 30,000 ALCO pictures of trains and other machinery are on file, found a number of century-old photos of the Black Beast on the original glass negatives. These photos confirmed that the car remains in near-original configuration.


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