The first race was split over two days. Motorcycles raced on day one and automobiles day two. On the second day there was three events. The cars were divided in two events by engine size and the third event was a “Free for All” and considered the main event with the Penrose Trophy going to the winner.
A strange ad from the Rocky Mountain News in Denver Colorado prior to race day. The Briscoe Motor Company was banned . (?)
With three events more then one car company had the ability to claim to be the winner of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. While some hide the fact, others went as far as listing which event they won.
The Hudson Super-Six ” You don’t care to climb Pike’s Peak at the speed the Super-Six showed it could”
WW2 halts the race in 1917,1918, 1919
Lexington wins in 1920 !
1921 King Rhiley wins
The ad above was the first ad in the local newspapers that used a race photograph instead of a drawing or dealer image. The ad mentions the victory in the snowstorm and also refers to the Hudson’s win in 1916. The ad below for the Lexington shows a more typical drawing based ad, with a very nice representation of the road to the summit.
1922 PPHC “Official Ambulance”
The Ford hot rod driven by Noel Bullock made a huge splash in 1922 winning the race overall. Western Auto Supply Company from Denver Colorado used the”Rajo Head’ PPHC win in their ad. To the right, a local Ford dealer featured him in their 1922 ad haling the first win ever for a 4 cylinder at Pikes Peak.
One of my favorite ads from the early 1920’s from the Pikes Peak Hill Climb
Nice to see several pictures of the race cars and drivers. Seeing the early service station is nice too.
1924 Pikes Peak Hill Climb
The Lexington camp went all out in 1924 taking the overall win and being awarded permanent possession of the Penrose trophy. The local Triangle Gasoline station took out this amazing advertisement to honor the win.
Below, the first Firestone Tires ad at Pikes Peak was in 1924
Below is a rare photograph showing the local Firestone Tire Shop in Colorado Springs. The winning Lexington race car is at his shop.! Hard to see, but that is also the Penrose trophy to the right of the Earl Udick. Great period photograph.
Hope you enjoyed seeing this group of advertisements from the 1920s.
If you would like to see additional ads from other decades contact me with what years you are interested in and I can put something together for the most popular requests.
Altitude at start line for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb race is at 9,300 feet and finish line is 14,115 feet above sea level. Air pressure is less any time above sea level . The higher you go the less oxygen you have for combustion. This effect on an engine is explained by a percentage of loss of horsepower as you climb up in altitude. As an example, a car has 100% of it’s available horsepower at sea level , at the Pikes Peak start line (9,300 ft) you only have about 70% of available horsepower. A loss of 30% power. At the summit you are down to about 60% available horsepower, a loss of 40% power. Race car builders for years have thought bigger is better. If you start out with huge horsepower even with the loss as you climb you still have tons of horsepower at the top. The problem is , with more horsepower usually comes with more weight and a loss of traction. Here are a few different approaches to the challenge.
The first race, and a airplane engine.
The Romano Special from 1916. Huge horsepower and a light weight car. The car builder and owner was Jean Romano with Rae Lentz as a driver. Before attending Pikes Peak, Rae and the Romano Spl. won many races on the West Coast. The eight cylinder Hall-Scott Aviation motor developed 125 horsepower. Newspaper accounts at the 1916 Pikes Peak Hill Climb made a big deal of an aircraft engine in the car. At the time most folks wrongly assumed it was the well known Curtiss Aviation motor. The big race for the “Penrose Trophy” was on day two, Event #3. Lentz with mechanic Henry North took the win and a time of 20:55.6.
1923 the “Marcus Special”
The big changes in rules for 1923 had to deal with “Freak Cars” . Yes that is what they were calling the stripped down light weight cars that would go on to be called jalopies in the 1930’s. ( I like to call it the Noel Bullock Rule, but that is another story.)
Minimum weight requirements were set in each cubic inch class. Smallest engines 183cc or less with 1600 pounds minimum weight. Class “C” the 184 -300 cubic inches with at least 1800 pounds. Lastly the big boys Class “E”, with more then 300 cubic inches and no less then 2,000 pounds.
The ” Marcus SPL.” would be running in the Class”E” event.
Not much is known about the car other then the aviation motor, a long and low specially built chassis and the airplane sized wheels. Hal Brinker was from Denver and a favorite for years with Colorado road racing fans. He had been racing Pikes Peak since the first race in 1916 and raced continued until 1924. Fun fact about Hal, he was disqualified from the PPHC in 1920 for Outlaw Racing ! ? !
No time trial results are available for 1923. The high horsepower heavy car with shinny tires must of had traction problems for sure. On race day Hal (Harold) gave the fans near Glen Cove a thrilling spectacle, as he pulled to the side of the road in a cloud of smoke as his car caught fire! ( Gazette 9-4-23).
In those days finishing position went out to anyone that started and based upon how far up the road you made it. Sixteen cars started and even with the fire, and a did not finish, the “Marcus Special” was awarded 12th place.
if you know more information about this car or driver please contact me.
The Butterball with a Steyr tank engine
Bill Milliken is a automotive engineering genesis.
Please read his book ” Equations of Motion”. There is a chapter plus of his time at Pikes Peak from 1947-1953 with his Bugatti , the FWD Miller and the Butterball race car. Tons of great information and detailed charts of his PPHC testing and race day achievements.
Archie Butterworth built the race car in England ,that would be later nicknamed “Butterball’ by the FWD racing team. The car is powered by a German war-surplus, air-cooled, Steyr tank engine and it is also four wheel drive ! The great news is the car still survives and is available to be seen, by the public at the FWD Museum in Clintonville Wisconsin . Check this article for more info :
Bill Millinken bought the car in 1951 and shipped it to the USA. The FWD team entered it in the time trials at Pikes Peak in 1953, During qualifications the shift linkage broke and the car was stuck in third gear. With no time remaining at time trials for repairs the team did not qualify . The tank engine was just too hard on the equipment.
Limited pictures are available .
Overall results of the aviation and tank engines at altitude
Bringing large horsepower engines to Pikes Peak Hill Climb to commentate for the loss of 30-40 percent of your power as you climb, had it’s disadvantages . Larger motors bring more heat and weight and they are harder on the equipment. In the early days the weight distribution of the heavy motors in the front , also lead to a massive loss of traction with the skinny tires available. Overall just building a race car with an aircraft, or a tank engine is considered a success. Just not the success the the owners and drivers wanted on race day.
In modern times, the development of rear and mid-engine race cars has helped with weight distribution. Lighter materials have helped with horsepower to weight issues and tire developments have came a long way in the means of available traction. The European Group “B” rally cars of the 1980’s has shown the light, on what all wheel drive traction can do and still remains the “Must Have” principle to go fast on the all paved road to the summit.
The faster cars on the horizon of Pikes Peak seem to be in the Electric cars. Those cars are reliving some of the same problems that ,Rea Lentz, Hal Brinker and Bill Milliken had to deal with…. WEIGHT ! The tank and aircraft motors with huge horsepower, were used to help deal with the loss of power by 30-40 percent as you climb. but the trade off was more weight. The electric cars don’t loss any horsepower no matter the altitude, but the extra horsepower needed requires large and HEAVY battery packs.
In the end from 1916 to this years race, have things haven’t really changed that much overall ? Or have they ?
If you like what you read at this site, tell a friend. Sometime in May , I plan to officially open it up to the public. Thanks for being here !
Most folks have heard about the stories of the first Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Lets look at a different view by the seeing a couple of the manufactures advertising after the race. There were three races (events) over two days , August 11th and 12th 1916. Having several events on the race over two days has lead to some confusion over the winners . Three separate races, events as they were called. With events number one and two happened on the eleventh . Event number three “Main Event”on the 12th of August.
DAY ONE :
Event No.1 Class “E” Non-Stock-Open to Class “C” cars with piston displacement of 230 cubic inches and under.
Winner was Fred Junk in the Chamlers Special, with a time of 23:04.6
Event No. 2 Class “C” non-Stock-Division 6c, for cars with piston displacement of 231 to 300 cubic inches.
Winner was Ralph Mulford in a Hudson Super-Six Special. at 18:24.7 . Ralph sets the bar for the course time record on day one.
The Main Event No. 3 on August 12th was a Class “D” Non-Stock-Free for all. Open to ANY gasoline car which complies with the definition of a motor car.
Winner was Rea Lentz in a Romona Demon Special . 20:55.6
The car was a homemade racer with a 402 cubic inch 125 horsepower airplane motor. Event number three was the big money race and the winner received the Penrose Trophy. Above photograph taken with the trophy in the town of Manitou Springs at the foot of Pikes Peak. Few pictures exist of the Romona special and there is some debate on the type of aircraft motor used. Some have it listed as a Curtis engine which may not be correct. Below photograph is from “The Sunday Oregonian” newspaper July 23,1916 . This picture was from prior to the Hill Climb race . Best known picture of the Romano Demon Specials aircraft engine.
Postcards also become available of a couple of the 1916 Pikes Peak Hill Climb race car drivers.
The first Hill Climb was a success and would begin the discussions of factory cars running with the home-built race cars . Freak cars as they would call them later. Having the three events also allowed more then one person or factory to claim they won the first Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Some feel that Ralph Mulfords’ time of 18:24.7 on day one,should have been the overall winner , as it was the fastest of the all three events.
World War One would stop the race until 1920 and there would be still be multiply events when the race returned. The Free for all Main Event #3 being the one to win. ( only one combined class started in 1925 )
So goes the lesson learned from that inaugural Pikes Peak Hill Climb race
Most people think of the automobiles in the inaugural Pikes Peak Hill Climb in August of 1916. The press then and now seem stuck on the four wheeled racing to the summit. It’s crazy if you ask me.
There were four classes of motorcycle events in the first Hill Climb . Stock Sidecar bikes 61 cubic inch and under with combined weight of driver and passenger to be 270 pounds or over., Professionals with 61 cubic inch motors or less, Colorado State Championship , only for in state racers 61 cubic inch or less,and a free for all class called Event Four Professionals. The 1916 Hill Climb divided the cars and bikes into separate days. Flying start of 200 feet in all events. Bikes would start things off on August 10th with the cars having two days of racing on the 11th and 12th.
Motorcycle pictures from the first Pikes Peak Hill Climb are super hard to find.
(Above Doc and Bob)
Event Number One, Side car winners with a time of 29:23 was “Doc” Vanderhoof and passenger Bob Perry. That is the Summit house in the back. They rode on a Harley Davidson .
(Above Floyd Clymer)
Event Number Two, Professionals was taken by Flyod Clymer on his Excelsior with a time of 21:58. His 61 cubic inch twin bike was a single speed big valve Excelsior with 28 inch Goodyear Blue Streak tires running 80lbs of pressure , Bosche magneto, Renold chains and a Schebler carburetor . The frame was cut down to lower the center of gravity. Handle bar clutch controls, bike was said to be able to do 75 miles per hour on the straights of Pikes Peak.
(Above Frank at the Summit)
Event Number Three “Colorado State Championship”
Frank Kunce won with a time of 22:03 , just seven seconds ahead of second place. Franks’ Harley Davidson was also a single speed bike, running Goodyear Blue Streak tires, Bosch magneto, Duckworth Chains and Wright Spark Plugs.
Event Number Four; The free for all was won by Floyd Clymer with a time of 21:58. That time would stand for many years until the bikes came back in the 50’s . This should have been riding the same bike he won number two event .
One of the more interesting newspaper articles after the race came from the Rocky Mountain News. “Mountain Boys Show How Pop-Pops Can Climb”
Clymer was from Greeley Colorado and Krunce was from Loveland Colorado.
There was a major motorcycle accident that day of the first race. Art Davidson of Denver, lost control of his Thor on the way back DOWN…. near the 12 mile marker. He was found unconscious in a ditch. A first aid station was set up at Glen Cove and the nurses attended to his head wound and wrenched arm. Art was taken to a hospital in town by automobile and was later released.
The factory team, cried foul after the race, claiming the locals had better training of the course layout giving them an unfair advantage. “Buffaloed” the eastern factory teams claimed. (funny)
What a mix of American motorcycle companies at the first Pikes Peak Hill Climb race. Harley-Davidson, Indian, Thor and Excelsior , the locals took most of the glory and the road proved to be a successful course for racing. Unfortunately World War One would stop the racing for a few years and when the race returns motorcycles would not be in the lineup again until 1954.
Spenser Penrose’s first great race wasn’t just for automobiles. Not that a person would easily notice the motorcycle classes in the advertisements preceding the event. Colorado was a hotbed of early motorcycles at the time. Denver Colorado had massive bike races at Overland Park race track. Those races drew nationwide contenders.
Part of the original draw of riders for the first Pikes Peak Hill climb was the upcoming races in Denver the following weekend. Giving the riders a two for one trip to the Rocky Mountain by entering both races in August of 1915.The success of hill climb was an unknown at the time, but racing and winning at Overland Park would surely gain press , prestige and nice winnings.
Advertisement below for the Overland Park races in Denver,on August 12, 1916 race. (Two days after Pikes Peak)
History has been kind to the memories of motorcycle racing on Pikes Peak. But after one hundred years who remembers Overland Park motorcycle racing ?