In fact, they’re the exact opposite. The cars here are from the early 1900’s, and they’re pitted against each other in a single elimination tournament. The goal is to teach the spectators about the history of transportation in the early 20th century. At the Race of the Century, the cars that are racing are not advanced Nascar or Formula 1 vehicles.
And also to win.
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The Race of the Century features a number of different automobile models, such as a 1903 Pope Waverly, an early electric car; a 1906 Stanley Steamer, a steam powered car, and a number of custom-built racing cars from the 30s. The early car models go up against horse-drawn carriages, planes, and even a bicycle-riding suffragette. The event is put on by the Collings Foundation, which runs “living history” events throughout the year.
One of the first cars ever built—and the first one featured in the Race of the Century—is the 1904 Franklin. The Franklin ran on gas, and it was the catalyst for a number of “red flag laws” that were enacted at the time, where every Franklin had to have a person walking in front of the car waving a red flag because people were afraid of the explosive nature of its engines.
Rob Collings, executive director of the Collings Foundation, drives the Franklin during the race. “Driving the Franklin is kind of a bit embarrassing. It’s really slow,” he says in the video. “But it’s illustrative because you can see how effective the horse and stagecoach was for a very long time.” He does not win.
The idea behind the Race of the Century, more than just showing a bunch of old-timey cars, is to showcase the rapid pace of automotive innovation in the early 20th century. As the race progresses from early cars like the Franklin to the more advanced cars from the 30’s and 40’s, it becomes clear just how quickly automobiles improved.
“We went from a horse to a flying machine to humans on the moon in the span of a hundred years,” Hunter Chaney, director of marketing at the Collings Foundation points out in the video. “It’s this sort of revelation, this unique inspiration as far as discovery, that I really enjoy in this event.”
The Race of the Century is an annual event held outside of Boston, and is scheduled for July 30 and 31 of this year.
Source: National Geographic