A Legendary Lexington (part one)

A surviving unrestored race car from the 1920’s. How many times do you see one of those ?  How can a car designed to race in Hill Climbs survive for 96 years and not be well known ?

The Lexington Automobile Company history is covered in depth by Richard A. Stanley, in his book”The Lexington Automobile a Complete History”. Check out his wonderful book and learn the about the company history from the  beginning in 1908 until its demise in 1926.

https://www.amazon.com/Lexington-Automobile-Complete-History/dp/078646934X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1484930462&sr=1-1&keywords=lexington+automobile

The story I want to tell is about the Lexington Thoroughbred race car serial number 16585 or better known as Lexington #7.  From the factory numbers of the chassis it is assumed to be an early 1920 model. Coming standard with 272 cubic inch Ansted overhead valve, six cylinder engine. Factory rated at 75 horsepower . (Number “7” saw many updates and modification during the four years it raced Pikes Peak )

Automobile manufactures where still milking the press from the 1st Pikes Peak Hill Climb race in 1916. Being considered the highest highway in the world at the time . Lexington wanted a piece of the pie, the exquisite Penrose Trophy and the prestige that came with it.  Two cars were prepared and sent by rail to the 1920 race. One to be driven by Al Cline with mechanic Garner Lewis # 6 and the other driven by Otto Loesche #7 . Otto, an experenced racer decided to save the extra weight and NOT take a riding mechanic with him.

The cars ran without fenders, running boards and the main body removed. Two seats were added to #6 and only the one in #7.   On race day once again there were three events and in  Event Number Two AND the Main Event Number Three the Lexington’s shined. Otto taking 1st and Al taking 2nd in both events. Unheard of at the time. The only class they didn’t win was for smaller displacement motors. Lexington threw a huge party in Connersville  . Once it was shipped home the Hill Climb trophy was displayed in the front window of the main dealership for all to see.

Otto Loesche became a celebrity after the win and Lexington pushed the Pikes Peak victory in newspapers and magazines nationwide.  Race car number “7” and Otto Loesche were taken on a tour traveling to dealerships and many other points of interest. (Most of the early photographs you see of the Lexington race car for sale nowadays comes from the 1920 publicity tour)

The Connersville Indiana area at the time was a thriving automobile manufacturing area and could almost be called the little Detroit of the automobile industry.  The race cars ran a few aftermarket parts made outside of the typical Detroit area. Buffalo Wire Wheels , Connecticut Ignitions.  and a Rayfield carburetor.  Number seven still wears its Buffalo wheels and its  truck-bus Firestone Gum Dipped Safety-Lock tires, which may be from the 20’s.

Lexington would continue to come back to Pikes Peak and gather four first place wins and taking permanent ownership of the Penrose trophy in 1924. A feat that no one thought possible. To this day at the Fayette County Historical Museum in Connersville Indiana, that original trophy still survives.

Times for Otto Loesche using the same car # 7 at  the PPHC races.

1920-  1st place Event #3- 22:25,  1st place Event #2 -(time unknown)

1921 –  1st place Event #2 -19:47 9  (only race entered)

1922- Did not attend, ( no factory sponsored Lexington’s)

1923 -1st place Event #2- 19:29.8, 3rd place Event # 3 (time unknown)

1924- 1st place Event #2-  18:15 (new course record)

An amazing record for the period . A billboard was constructed in 1920 by the entrance to the Pikes Peak Highway to remind folks that Lexington was the King of the Mountain.  ( photo from 1924 below)

Stay turned for more of the story in Part 2 of the Legendary Lexington