Jul 28 2012

Film: The 1917 Match Races Among Oldfield, Chevrolet and De Palma in Sheepshead Bay Speedway

In 1917, three of the most famous daredevil drivers were veterans of the Vanderbilt Cup Races; Barney Oldfield (1914 & 1915), Louis Chevrolet (1905, 1908, 1909 & 1910) and Ralph De Palma (1911,1912, 1914 & 1915). On August 17, 1917, over 40,000 spectators came to Sheepshead Bay Track in Brooklyn to watch match races among the three drivers.

Three match races were scheduled at 30 miles, 25 miles and 50 miles. If each driver won a race, a 10 mile race would be added to determine the champion.

Although it had not been previously been identified on YouTube, this is a film of either the 30 mile or 25 mile race:





Howard Kroplick

Barney Oldfield drove the unique Golden Submarine designed by Harry Miller.

The Golden Submarine was designed to be fast and durable and also protect the driver in case of an accident.

The special lightweight four-cylinder engine utilized an aluminum alloy. Rated at 130 HP, Miller believed the "Oldfield Special" could produce a speed of of over 120 mph.

Ralph De Palma drove a cream-colored 12-cylinder Packard 299 that he had just purchased from the company.

Louis Chevrolet drove a Frontenac Racer. The Frontenac Motors Corporation was a joint venture of Louis and his two bothers,Gaston and Andre.

At the start of one the races, the Gold Submarine got an very early lead.

In the 30 mile race, De Palma just edged out Chevrolet's Frontenac with the Golden Submarine far behind. The result was the same for the 25 mile race.

After losing the first two races with the Golden Submarine, Oldfield switched to a green Delage for the 50 mile race. De Palma won again, while Oldfield managed to finish second when Chevrolet met with tire problems.

The New York Times highlighted the sweep by De Palma and noted;"Seldon has a series of races aroused greater interest at the big speedway at Sheepshead Bay. The huge grandstand was a tapestry to the onlooker from across the track."

Match races among these famous drivers continued to be a big spectator attraction throughout 1917 and 1918.


Jul 29 2012 John Syvarth 2:22 AM

great fun

Jul 29 2012 Howard Kroplick 10:31 AM

From George H:

“K-Can’t believe those cars could do 120mph!! “

Jul 29 2012 R Troy 9:01 PM

I can’t believe the tires could do those speeds!  And then there are the brakes…  Of course, if I read right, the Packard won, and Packard has long been my favorite classic car (mine is from 1926).

Jul 30 2012 Mark Sherman 8:26 AM

I spent my childhood in Brooklyn just two miles from the Sheepshead Bay track site.  I never heard a mention of it.  I was only introduced to its fascinating history when I picked up an old copy of Automobile Quarterly in a used bookstore.

Jul 30 2012 Howard Kroplick 10:49 PM

From Florence O.:

“Enjoyed the film. A little before my time but Brooklyn is my hometown and this was another little bit of history I didn’t know about. “

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