Declaring something the event of the century? Bold move. But when you're talking about an all-out battle royale between biplanes, steam cars, buggies — almost any vehicle you can think of from the past 100 years — you can excuse the hyperbole. This past Saturday, on their rolling four-football-field-long backyard, the Collings Foundation (a nonprofit that dabbles in historical reenactments and air shows) held their third annual "Race of the Century," a two-day vintage-vehicle scrum.
The race got underway modestly enough with a bout between a horse-drawn stage coach and a 1904 Franklin Type A Roadster. No contest there: with a top speed of 12 mph, the Roadster proved no match for the stage coach. While the limp of a race featuring a vehicle that could've been lapped by half of my high-school track team doesn't exactly scream edge-of-your-seat excitement, it didn't take long for the races to heat up.
Soon we were up to the Stutz Bearcat racecar, which was taken down by the motorized flying machine piloted by the pompous Frenchman Roughbert Colounge (one of the many characters portrayed by Collings Foundation executive director Robert Collings during the two-hour demonstration), who was in turn defeated by a fleet Pony Express cowgirl. And let me tell you, if you've never witnessed a quarter-mile race between a horse and an airplane, you need to make that happen. That goes double for the nerve-shredding experience of watching someone attempt to actually fly a 100-year-old antique aircraft seemingly held together with tent poles and wrapping paper.
And lest you think they saved the coolest shit for the races, the Foundation's museum houses such artifacts as a Wright Brothers pusher plane and Cadillac limousine once owned by Al Capone. I smell a possible headlining clash for next year's race . . .
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