Vintage Car Race Rolls Through Town

'Longest Auto Race Centennial' Attempts to Recreate The Great Race of 1908

In 1908, the New York Times and a Paris newspaper sponsored a car race that ran from New York to Paris.

The race covered more than 22,000 miles and was won by the Thomas Flyer driven by George Schuster of New York.

One hundred years later, Schuster's great-grandson and a caravan of vintage cars are reenacting the American leg of the trip, stopping off in one of the original route stops, east Bakersfield.

Race participant, Brian Perry said, "Well, it's an important milestone. It happened in 1908 and it sounded like a fun thing to do."

Tom Steele of Bakersfield said, "Oh, it's a great deal. These people put their money on the line for nothing. And they run across the country just to have fun. I mean, it doesn't get better than that."

The group of eight to 10 vintage cars started the race, which it's calling "The Longest Auto Race Centennial," on Oct. 18 in New York and followed the Great Race's original route through the Midwest, leading it through east Bakersfield.

George Schuster's great-grandson, Jeff Mahl, said, "To be here a century after my great-grandfather came through is not only an emotional experience but also revealing."

The group said it's picked up and lost enthusiasts along the way. Some folks joined the race from as far as Canada, Ireland and Germany.

Ray Fowler traveled from Canada to join the race and said, "We've become a family after all this. We started off not knowing each other, and it's really an interesting group."

It's a diverse group that shares the same passion and challenges.

Fowler said, "It's not for everybody. It hasn't been an easy thing, not just maintaining our automobiles and getting from point A to point B, but physically we only average about four to five hours of sleep at night, if that."

The group averages 200 miles per day while driving at top speeds of 40-45 mph, just like the cars that participated in the Great Race 100 years ago.

Mahl said, "It is hard to even comprehend the endurance, stamina and determination to accomplish something that today would be comparable to send a man to the moon."

The group plans to arrive at the ferry building in San Francisco Friday morning.