The Story of This Car
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
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.