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Thread: Mechanical Wonder From an Age Gone By

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    Mechanical Wonder From an Age Gone By

    By JOHN HANC
    Published: October 13, 2011

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    LONG, strong and dangerous, like a gun barrel mounted on spoke wheels, the coal-black 1909 Alco-6 Racer gleams in the late summer sunlight.

    Nicknamed “the Black Beast,” this was one of the most famous race cars of its era. A two-time winner of the Vanderbilt Cup, a major event in the early years of American motorsport, the car was the favorite to win the first Indianapolis 500-mile race in 1911. (It blew a rod, however, and finished 33rd in a field of 40.)

    A century later, the 3,306-pound Black Beast still exhibits its own form of animal magnetism. Sitting outside its garage in the quaint Long Island town of Roslyn, the restored car draws stares, smiles, oohs and aahs from passers-by. Especially when its owner, Howard Kroplick, natty in early 20th-century racing garb, starts the Beast’s six-cylinder, 680.8-cubic-inch engine — an Industrial Age wonder of cast iron, brass and copper wiring.

    Smoke spurting from the three exhaust pipes on the side, the 11-foot chassis pulsating with power, the Black Beast is ready to take a spin.

    “Now that’s a big-boy toy,” says a father to his wide-eyed young son as they watch.

    Mr. Kroplick turns to a passenger, sitting in the adjacent seat that was once assigned to a “mechanician”— a technician who worked a hand pump to maintain fuel pressure and helped to navigate.
    “Ready?” he asks.

    The Black Beast is, in some ways, like the Maltese Falcon; an icon that vanished from sight after its original driver, Harry Grant — who was given title to the car by the manufacturer as a reward for his cup victories — died after a fiery crash in another car in 1915.

    For much of the next century, the Black Beast (no one knows who gave it the name, or who misspelled it in French — B

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  3. #2
    that's very cool.

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