The Historic 1907 Züst
Famed finisher in the Greatest Automobile Race on Earth in 1908
Zust - the Tipo 1906 Zust which completed the 1908 New York-Paris automobile race, the greatest race on Earth

Zust crossing the Mississippi River at Fulton,  Illinois in March, 1908
The Züst crossing the Mississippi River at Fulton, Illinois in March, 1908

Home Page
The Story of This Car
Contact Us
NEW! Click Here for the Zust story by Dr Patchett from Automobile Quarterly (4th quarter, 2008)

The Story of the 28/45 HP Zust #127
Great Race - New York to Paris - 1908

By Dr Barry Patchett, Professor Emeritus of Engineering

The Great Race from New York to Paris in 1908 was inspired by the Pekin - Paris event in 1907, won by an Itala, which is now in the Museo dell' Automobile in Turin. Le Matin of Paris and the New York Times were the co-sponsors of the Great Race. The Automobile Club of America was put in charge of the arrangements in North America. Six cars started the race, which should really have been described as a trial or raid. These cars were a Thomas Flyer from America, a Protos from Germany, a De Dion, a Moto Bloc, a Sizaire-Naudin from France, and a short wheelbase 28/45 horsepower model (with a reinforced frame and lower gearing) manufactured by the Zust Company of Milan, Italy. Zust automobiles had a successful European racing history, with good placings in the Coppa d'Oro, Targa Florio and other events.

Zust cars had been introduced to the United States in January of 1906. R. Bertelli & Co. of 144 West 39th Street, New York was the sole importer and Paul de la Chesnaye the only selling agent. There was a factory in Milan and a machine tool company and foundry in Intra when experiments with automobiles began in about 1900. Production of automobiles began in 1905 at Milan with two models, the 28/45 horsepower 7.4 litre car and a 40/50 horsepower 11.3 litre car. These were large and expensive automobiles. The minimal bodywork on the Great Race car was by Schieppati of Milan.

The Great Race Zust left Milan for the 890 km journey to Paris by road with Antonio Scarfoglio, Emilio (Giulio) Sirtori and Heinrich (Henry or Henri) Haaga aboard. It was erroneously described as a "Brixia-Zust", an identity problem surrounding the car that survives to this day. A branch company was started in 1906 in Brescia to produce smaller, less expensive models, but the 28/45 model was never made in Brescia, only in Milan. Even family members made incorrect statements about the race car. The noted British automotive historian, David Scott-Moncrieff, made several errors in his book on "Veteran and Edwardian Motor Cars", including the starting date of production (1907 vs. 1905), the location of early production (Brescia vs. Milan - Intra) and the entry of a car in the Pekin - Paris Race. He also stated that only one car, the Thomas Flyer, finished the New York-Paris race. It is not now possible to determine the sources of these errors.

The Zust arrived in Paris on January 27, 1908 to a tumultuous welcome. The Zust then drove the 220 km to Le Havre with the French entrants and left for New York on February 1 on the steamer La Lorraine of the French Line. The cars arrived in New York on February 8. The crew was the journalist Scarfoglio, engineer/driver Sirtori and the mechanic, Haaga. The car was painted gray, with the green, white and red of the Italian flag on the hood. "Zust" was painted in large red letters on the front of the radiator. The car, unlike some other competitors, had a New York State license, 19101 NY, attached to it for the start of the race.

The race started on February 12 in Times Square and the Zust made it as far as Hudson on the first night, in company with the Thomas Flyer and the De Dion. Arthur Ruland, a sales manager of Zust in New York, was the fourth member of the crew. The Zust arrived in San Francisco and was shipped to Seattle with the De Dion on the "City of Puebla" of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company on April 10. Both cars left Seattle for Japan with the De Dion on the "Aki Maru" of the NYK Line. The sensational news in May was that the Zust Company withdrew the car from the race and recalled Sirtori to Italy. The withdrawal was denied in early June, as the company sent a Russian nobleman, Baron Scheinvogel, to take over the car and replace Sirtori. The car arrived in Berlin on September 6 and Paris on September 17, long after the winning Thomas Flyer and the only other finisher, the Protos.

Scarfoglio left the next day for London via Folkestone at the behest of the Daily Mail, which had paid him for dispatches throughout the progress of the race. The car visited the offices of the Daily Mail, the Zust concessionaire on Long Acre and the Franco-British Exhibition at the White City. The car broke down on the way back to Folkestone and suffered a fire as petrol was removed for rail transport at Bromley South rail station on September 25. Scarfoglio was very upset after the fire, declaring, "The car is dead. It is irreparable." This probably caused the impression, which persists to this day, that the car was destroyed in a fire after the race was completed. The same report indicates that the local fire department saved the front portion of the car and only the rear wheels and wooden body were severely damaged. It also mentions that some damaged parts, including the rear wheels, were taken back to the Zust showroom at Long Acre, near Covent Garden in London, and the remainder of the car was looted for souvenirs by the local populace. The damaged and vandalized car was allegedly sent back to Milan with Scarfoglio, both leaving on the Folkestone ferry on Sunday, September 27 on the mid-day boat. The car was intended for a new body and wheels in time for the Paris Salon. However, there is no mention of the car or the Zust Company in the program for the 1908 salon. The movements of the car from Folkestone are not known. However, the car is now fitted with Healy rims on the rear wheels, a repair that was only available in America in the early 1900's.

The original route for the race included a foray across Alaska and the Yukon, including Dawson City, prior to crossing the Bering Sea on the winter ice. The organizers altered the route during the race, and the only car to make it to Alaska, the Thomas Flyer, was sent back to Seattle. Local anticipation of viewing the cars in Dawson City was dashed.

The 28/45 Zust with chassis number 127, Tipo 1906, was obtained by mining engineer O. B. Perry of the Yukon Gold Company and taken to Dawson during or prior to mid-1910, where in early August it was "the only car in use" until Joe Boyle brought in a Flanders. Perry was the general manager and a director of Yukon Gold, which was run by the Guggenheims of New York. The "Guggenheim Automobile", driven by George Potter, was still making news in Dawson in 1913, completing a winter road journey from Whitehorse to Dawson.

The ownership of the Zust from that time is undocumented, although it did stay in Dawson City. It was in Dawson until the 1950's, when Buck Rogers, an avid collector, bought it and removed it and to his residence in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. The chassis was in two pieces by then and the car was inoperable. There it stayed, untouched, surviving an attempt to purchase it by William Harrah of Reno, Nevada, who already had the race-winning Thomas Flyer. In the 1980's it was sold and came to Vancouver Island, where it still resides.

There are many reasons that #127 is the actual Great Race car, of which the following are the most important:

The frame, as noted by the New York Times in 1908, is stiffened and reinforced by the addition of top and bottom cover plates riveted to the frame channel sections from the front spring hangers to the cross member behind the flywheel. The gearbox also shows evidence of the altered gear ratios, accomplished by increasing the diameter (and number of gear teeth) on the two drive pinions and the first and second gear wheels on the counter shaft. There are slots cut in the side and rear of the standard rectangular short wheelbase aluminium gearbox casting to accommodate each of these four larger gears.

The front cylinders are unadorned cast iron, while the rear two have "Zust" cast into the top surface. The chassis drawing of the short wheelbase car shows each cylinder with the "Zust" cast on top. The car suffered an oil line failure on February 10 in New York and had the front two cylinders replaced. The oil line is called a "broken tube of the injector" in the translated version of Scarfoglio's book and has been mistaken for the carburetor. The solder repair to the oil line is still on the car.

The car broke a driveshaft pinion in Paxton, Nebraska and had a new one shipped from New York via Omaha. The countershaft (driver side) pinion in the car has neat, even, factory rivets fastening it to the driveshaft, while the mainshaft (passenger side) pinion is obviously hand riveted.

There are several other items of evidence, which are consistent with #127 being the race car, but are circumstantial in isolation. These items include many extra spring hanger holes in the channel section of the frame at both front and rear of the chassis. The car broke many springs in the race and had to adapt whatever was available at the location involved. There are also fishplates added vertically to the inside of the frame channels where fatigue cracks have started from stress concentrations, such as drilled holes. It is unlikely that more than 200 of the 28/45 model were produced in the 1905-08 production run in Milan, so the chance of another car having all of these characteristics is vanishingly small.

In early 1910, the trophy for the New York to Paris race was awarded to the Thomas Flyer team in New York. It is over 6 feet high and weighs in excess of 1,600 pounds. The base is a combination of green Italian and pink French marble. There are medallions of German bronze depicting the coats of arms of the competing countries and the trophy is topped by an American eagle. It is now in the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada with the Thomas Flyer, as restored by William Harrah. The Protos was restored by the Siemens family and is in the Deutsches Museum in Munich. Therefore, the only finishers of the longest automobile race ever sanctioned all still exist, and all are about to have their 100th birthday.

Website hosting & design provided by Vancouver Island's favourite webhost