The Züst 28/45 HP was one of the few cars that took part in the historic New York to Paris race in 1908. It was dubbed the Greatest Automobile Race and the thousands of miles traversed and the varying, grueling, and difficult terrain truly made this the greatest automobile race.
Roberto Züst founded the Züst Company in Milan, Italy in 1905. The purpose of the company was the production of commercial vehicles and road-going cars.
The Züst 28/45HP was driven by three drivers and one was Antonio Scarfoglio, a reporter for the il Mattino newspaper. His experiences were further documented in a book published in 1909 entitled Il giro del mondo in automobile, meaning Around the World by Automobile.
During the early 20th century, many automobile builders believed that a good finish at the local track on Sunday meant strong sales on Monday. This was proven true on many occasions. Racing became a way of promoting and proving a product. One of the most daring and adventurous race was the Great Race, an event that took competitors around the world, running across four continents and through the Bering Straits during winter. An important point to remember is that during this early era of the automobile, there were very few roads; the ones that did exist were far from the standards of today.
There was only one running of the Great Race, and it took place in 1908.
The race was sponsored by The New York Times and the Paris-based La Matin paper. The Thomas Flyer represented the United States; other countries included France, Italy, and Germany totally seven teams.
Nearly 250,000 people came to watch the cars start the race at Times Square on February 12th of 1908. The teams traversed the US continent during the middle of winter with the Thomas Flyer entry reaching San Francisco first.
Again, the roads that did exist were often difficult to travel. When roads did not exist, the teams were forced to make their own route. Getting stuck was not uncommon as Mother Nature provided plenty of mud and snow. When mechanical failures occurred, the teams were forced to find creative methods to patch and repair the problem. There was little sleep to be had, especially while traveling through Russia near the Trans-Siberian Railway which was not a friendly place at the time.
The Thomas Flyer completed the entire distance in 169 days. They were not the first to cross the finish line though; the German team had beat them but were later penalized for bypassing the Alaskan part of the trip and for using trains for transportation. This left the US team in first place. The next team to arrive in Paris did so 26 days later.
By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2008
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