Race of the Century
The Heroic True Story of the 1908 New York to Paris Auto Race
By Julie M. Fenster
(Broadway Books, Paperback, 9780307339171, 400pp.)
Publication Date: June 27, 2006
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17 men, 6 cars, and a 21,000-mile race across 3 continents
On the morning of February 12, 1908, six cars from four different countries lined up in Times Square, surrounded by a frenzied crowd. The men who competed in the New York to Paris auto race were an international roster of personalities: a charismatic Norwegian outdoorsman, a witty French nobleman, a pair of Italian sophisticates, an aristocratic German army officer, and a cranky mechanic from Buffalo, New York. At a time when most people had never seen an automobile, these adventurous men set their course over mountain ranges, through Arctic freeze, and desert heat. There were no gas stations, no garages, and no replacement parts in case of emergency.
Two men rose to the top. Ober-lieutenant Hans Koeppen, a rising officer in the Prussian army, led the German team in their canvas-topped 40-horsepower Protos. His amiable personality belied a core of sheer determination, and by the race’s end, he had won the respect of even his toughest critics. His counterpart on the U.S. team was George Schuster, a blue-collar mechanic who led the Americans in their lightweight 60-horsepower Thomas Flyer. A born competitor, Schuster battled Koeppen until the very end. Ultimately the German and the American would be left alone in the race, fighting the elements, exhaustion, and each other until the winning car’s glorious entrance into Paris, on July 30, 1908.
Julie M. Fenster is an author and historian who began her career at Automobile Quarterly, where her book Packard: The Pride won the Best Book award from the National Automotive Journalism Conference. She is also the author of the award-winning Ether Day and Parish Priest, with coauthor Douglas Brinkley. Fenster lives in upstate New York.
"If America dreams driving, this is when the dreams began." —Men's Health
“Fenster has saved an important part of the history of the automobile and adventure. All in all, it makes Race of the Century impossible to resist.” —Cleveland Plain–Dealer
“Fenster tells her story with zest and humor.” —American Heritage
“Fenster is a superb storyteller.” —Kirkus Reviews