The Salt Beds Of Salduro Chapter 3:

Barney Oldfield is Banned From Auto Racing While Ernie Moross Creates New Stars and New Records

(By Bret Kepner -SCTA Official and member of the Society of Land Speed Historians) – Within sixty days of his resignation from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 9, 1910, renowned promoter Ernie Moross returned to managing superstar Barney Oldfield’s tour with a new rate for booking the World Speed Record Holder for match races and speed runs at $4,000 per appearance, ($97,000 in current value).

Oldfield’s fame was undeniable. He starred in motion pictures and even portrayed himself in a Broadway musical centered on the renowned Vanderbilt Cup road race contested in Nassau, New York. He appeared in advertisements for every conceivable product and was instantly recognized. Despite the enormous amount of money made during his 1910 tour, however, Oldfield’s fortunes turned late in the season. The AAA, already irate over his barely-ethical racing during his tenure with Moross, considered the constant promotion of the undocumented 142 mph “second mile” at Ormond Beach to be an insult to automotive sport. When a deal was struck by Will Pickens, (a scandal-ridden promoter in his own right), for Oldfield to compete in a match race with controversial World’s Heavyweight Boxing Champion Jack Johnson at the Sheepshead Bay race track in Brooklyn, New York, on October 26, Oldfield was sternly cautioned by the AAA not to proceed with the event. Scheduled for three rounds, (each over a distance of five miles), Oldfield, (driving a Knox), defeated Johnson, (at the wheel of a Thomas Flyer), in the first two five-mile heats to win $5,000. With Johnson the source of strained racial tensions, the event and its result were global news. The AAA, however, immediately suspended Oldfield for what was termed “a crime” of competing in an unsanctioned event against a Negro driver.

Oldfield continued to compete in non-AAA races but, after another unsanctioned win at Ascot Park in Los Angeles (CA) in December, the AAA added a year to Oldfield’s punishment and actually disqualified the Blitzen Benz from all AAA competition. The AAA also suspended Will Pickens, banned every racer involved in the event and disbarred the track!

With Oldfield now banished from what was becoming an increasingly regulated sport, he was ineligible to compete in the legitimate major events Moross scheduled for entry in 1911. While Oldfield began a long battle for reinstatement, (which public outrage eventually forced three years later), Moross purchased the Blitzen Benz from Oldfield, (with reported prices ranging from $14,000 to $50,000), and asked for, (and received), reinstatement for the Benz from the AAA. Moross then hired fellow Michigander Robert “Wild Bob” Burman to drive it on tour.

Burman, an outstanding driver in his own right, was close friends with both Moross and Oldfield. Ernie knew he needed publicity for his new pilot so the team returned to Ormond Beach on April 22-23, 1911, for a shot at Oldfield’s record. The AAA was contacted and three key representatives, (Contest Board Referee A. R. Pardington, official starter Fred J. Wagner and official timer H. H. Knepper), were on hand and carefully monitored the attempt using electric timers. With tuning and horsepower for the Benz supplied by ace “mechanician”, (as mechanics were then known), George Benedict, the team’s very first run resulted in a new mile record of 137.83 mph. However, Burman retuned on April 23, (his twenty-seventh birthday), and produced officially-sanctioned runs of 141.732 mph, (one mile), 140.405 mph, (two miles), and 140.865 mph, (kilometer). This performance not only beat Oldfield’s American one-mile and kilometer records by ten miles per hour but shattered the 125.946 mph kilometer mark set by Hemery at Brooklands seventeen months earlier in the same Benz. Initially, it appeared Ernie and “Wild Bob” reset the AIACR World’s Land Speed Record and did it in the United States.

The Moross publicity machine cranked out the results to all points and the press accurately reported the two-day event was officiated by the AAA and all requirements were met. When the news stories containing this information appeared in European newspapers, however, the AIACR responded by negating the kilometer record since no AIACR officials were present. Moreover, the AIACR was incensed enough to convene a meeting within days to reconfigure its LSR requirements by mandating two runs in opposite directions over the kilometer within a mere fifteen minutes to eliminate the influence of weather and course conditions. The average speed of the two runs would stand as the record. The AAA vehemently disagreed with this change of format and continued to accept as records any single run in any direction over a one-mile course.

Undaunted, Moross and Burman returned to their national tour as the undisputed World Land Speed Record Holder, (to Americans, at least). As planned, Moross entered his team in several legitimate AAA events including the inaugural 500-mile race at Indianapolis. Moross returned to the city with his driver hailed as the World’s Speed King. Burman set the track record at 102.127 mph during practice before the team finished nineteenth in the race.

By 1912, motorsports fans on the dirt oval tour demanded more than just two cars battling on the track. While still retaining Burman as his team’s star attraction, Moross expanded his team to include six cars at each event and brokered a deal with Benz to take delivery of what he described as the new Model 300 or Jumbo Benz. In reality, the car was a second Model 200 with slight aerodynamic body modifications and minor improvements to the same 21.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The new Benz was quickly renamed Blitzen Benz II and the car performed exceptionally well. Moross was able to increase again his appearance fees for two Benz missiles on the same racing card.

While attendance increased with Ernie’s new modified format shows, the team did schedule one Land Speed Record attempt to be held on Christmas Day, 1912, on Pacific Beach in what is now Mission Beach near San Diego. Burman covered the flying mile at 128.571 mph but a fractured fuel line filled the cars belly pan with gasoline which was ignited by the exhaust. The car erupted in a fireball but “Wild Bob” managed to bring the car to a halt directly in front of the grandstands. Although he suffered extensive burns, Burman jumped from the Benz and pushed it into the ocean to extinguish the flames. While Burman left the team to successfully recover from his injuries, Moross spent the winter of 1912-1913 rebuilding the car at a cost of $4,000, ($100,000 in current value), which was a paltry amount compared to the car’s career earnings.

Once again, Ernie Moross was in need of a star attraction and he was able to secure one of the most popular and talented drivers in the sport, thirty year-old native Californian Ted “Terrible Teddy” Tetzlaff. Already an auto racing idol of Oldfield’s stature, Tetzlaff appeared as himself in motion pictures and endorsed a multitude of products in advertising. While his nickname stemmed from his notorious abuse of his mule teams when he was driving freight wagons at the turn of the century, reporters quickly adapted the name to his equally-rough treatment of race cars and his win-at-all-costs driving style. (In truth, Teddy was just as rough off the track). Tetzlaff’s accomplishments were legendary despite the fact his first race was only seven years earlier.

Tetzlaff drove for multiple manufacturers from Pope-Toledo to Fiat to Maxwell to Lozier and won dozens of titles in a variety of motorsports disciplines during his first three years of competition. He achieved instant acclaim when he won a major road race at Santa Monica (CA) in 1912 while simultaneously setting the World’s Closed-Course speed record at 78.72 mph. Tetzlaff crashed early in the inaugural 500-mile race at Indianapolis but finished second to Joe Dawson in 1912 and increased his stardom with countless victories on the fair circuit through 1913.

However, a blow was delivered to the team when, on December 16, 1913, Belgian Arthur Duray drove to speeds of 142.480 mph, (15.70 seconds), and 142.935 mph, (15.65 seconds), over a kilometer on a public road at Ostend, Belgium. Duray was at the wheel of a Fiat S76 powered by a 290 hp, 1,726-cubic inch four-cylinder engine specifically constructed to better the records set by the Blitzen Benz. American newspapers touted the accomplishment but few readers understood the speeds, while undisputed, were not official records because, (due to poor weather), Duray was unable to make two runs in opposite directions within fifteen minutes as required by the AIACR. Still, the Duray’s one-way efforts bettered Burman’s speeds over any distance at Ormond Beach.

To make matters worse, 1914 was a rough year for “Terrible Teddy”. He blew an engine early in the Vanderbilt Cup race at Santa Monica. He set a new lap record in qualifying at Indianapolis, (97.54 mph in Ray Harroun’s Maxwell), and even set a sixty-minute record at the Brickyard, (118.722 mph), but lost both records to the Peugeots of Jules Goux and George Boillot before the event even started. In the actual race, valvetrain problems forced Tetzlaff out of the race only thirty-eight laps into the 500 and he finished third from last. Coming out of the two biggest races of the year, Tetzlaff had accomplished little and Moross knew the team’s many sponsors, (a major source of income for Moross), would demand more.

In open competition, Teddy maintained his drawing power but was still far off the nearly-unbeatable pace he enjoyed from 1910 through 1913. On Moross’ exhausting fair tour, however, he remained king. For 1914, Ernie again expanded his team to include eight drivers, each with an enviable racing reputation, and eight vehicles including three Maxwells, a Marmon, a Chalmers Model 24, a Nyberg, a Nyberg-built Endicott Special , a Stutz-Wisconsin and the Benz. Two of the summer’s tour dates were at the State Fairgrounds in Salt Lake City (UT) on Saturday, August 8, and at the Ogden (UT) Fairgrounds on Sunday, August 9. At each of the races, Teddy was scheduled to race his Maxwell but also use the Benz to make an attempt at his own one-mile dirt oval speed record.

During his standard weekly pre-race publicity tour of local auto dealerships and department stores, Teddy was constantly besieged by questions concerning the hottest Land Speed Record topics of the summer. Of course, Duray’s 142.903 mph speed was the main subject. However, another point of contention came at Brooklands on June 24, 1914, when Russian-born Lydston “Cupid” Hornsted drove another of the Blitzen Benz rockets to the first Land Speed Record using the revised AIACR guidelines of the average speed of two runs over a kilometer in opposite directions within one hour. Although the 124.903 mph average speed was far short of Burman’s AAA one-way kilometer record, it was heralded as the new International standard and Moross was feeling the pressure as the news spread. On Wednesday, August 5, 1914, while being interviewed at the White Automobile Company garage about the upcoming races by Salt Lake Tribune Sports Editor John C. Derks, Ernie Moross was introduced to local automotive entrepreneur William D. “Big Bill” Rishel. The conversation between Moross and Rishel included a new concept which would change the face of Land Speed Racing forever.

Although erroneously labeled as 1911, this exceedingly rare video shows the October 26, 1910, match race between Heavyweight Boxing World Champion Jack Johnson and Barney Oldfield the results of which changed Oldfield’s life forever. The actual racing scenes were staged for the film. If the film showed actual competition footage, the camera car would’ve won the race handily.

Chapter 1: The History Of The First Speed Trials At Bonneville
Chapter II: The Opening of the Speedway, the Gold Brick Scandal and the Debut of the Benz
Chapter III: Barney Oldfield is Banned From Auto Racing While Ernie Moross Creates New Stars and New Records
Chapter IV: “Big Bill” Rishel, William Randolph Hearst, the Lincoln Highway and a place named Salduro
Chapter V: Ernie Moross, Bill Rishel, Teddy Tetzlaff and the Blitzen Benz II arrive on the Salt Beds of Salduro
Chapter VI: One Run by the Blitzen Benz Changes the Course of History for the Salt Beds of Salduro
Chapter VII: The Aftermath – What Became Of The Major Players From The First Speed Trials On The Salt

Land Speed Racing America
Land Speed Racing America
This news announcement of the match race between Barney Oldfield and Heavyweight Boxing World Champion Jack Johnson was but a harbinger of the nightmare Oldfield would endure due to the event.
Land Speed Racing America
With Oldfield banned from sanctioned motorsports and the Blitzen Benz also thrown out of AAA racing, Ernie Moross was forced to buy the car from Oldfield in late 1910 to continue the machine’s phenomenal earning potential.
Land Speed Racing America
Michigan native “Wild Bob” Burman took over the reins of the Blitzen Benz in 1911 from Oldfield in early 1911. (Bain News Service photo restored by Charles L. Wilson)
Land Speed Racing America
Before he ever drove the Blitzen Benz in open competition, Burman blasted over the sand at Ormond Beach to clock a new World Speed Record of 141.732 mph as seen in this rare image. (Bain News Service photo restored by Charles L. Wilson)
Land Speed Racing America
The official AAA World Record certificate for Burman’s one-mile record notes the car was classified in the “Free For All” division and was, in fact, racing under no restrictions of any kind.
Land Speed Racing America
The Benz Motor Company wasted no time in promoting Burman’s new record with even greater zeal than had been placed behind Oldfield’s record of the previous year despite the fact the AIACR still denied the new mark’s existence.
Land Speed Racing America
Manufacturers of seemingly every part on the Blitzen Benz spread the wealth to entice the era’s several influential hard-bound automobile periodicals to produce extended coverage of Burman’s new record. Note the pilot’s radical headgear.
Land Speed Racing America
At Ormond/Daytona, Burman took the seat for what may be the most iconic photograph of the original Blitzen Benz yet discovered. (Bain News Service photo restored by Charles L. Wilson)
Land Speed Racing America
E. A. “Ernie” Moross, standing at the left of the image, made certain Burman was the star of the pre-race activities at the inaugural 500-mile race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in late May, 1911. Sporting a fresh coat of paint and new graphics since its Florida record romp, the Blitzen Benz set a new IMS lap speed record during a special attempt to break the 100 mph barrier at the Speedway.
Land Speed Racing America
This monstrous FIAT S76, powered by a 1,726 cubic inch four-cylinder producing 290 horsepower, stunning the world in December, 1913, with a 142.935 mph flying kilometer to became, at least unofficially, the World’s Fastest Vehicle.
Land Speed Racing America
The FIAT S76 was driven by American native and French citizen Arthur Duray, the owner of multiple Land Speed Records since 1903.
Land Speed Racing America
Far less frontal area than the Blitzen Benz was credited as a key to the speed of Duray’s FIAT in an era during which aerodynamics was still largely misunderstood.
Land Speed Racing America
After Burman’s fire in San Diego, Moross hired Theodore “Teddy” Tetzlaff to take over the driving of the Blitzen Benz and its replacement, the Blitzen Benz Model 300, for the 1913 and 1914 seasons. Tetzlaff already earned a huge following across the nation while racking up impressive race finishes.
Land Speed Racing America
Land Speed Racing America
An advertisement posted in the Daily Oregonian on July 9, 1912 proclaimed a a rare on-track meeting of Barney Oldfield, no longer a part of Ernie Moross’ travelling troupe, and Teddy Tetzlaff, who was yet to join the Moross team. Ironically, Bob Burman was busy on the same date at one of Moross’ events breaking Oldfield’s one year-old Oldfield record for the one-mile oval, (67.605 mph), at the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Driving Track before a reputed 12,000 spectators. Two years later, (to the day), Tetzlaff would be en route to the first speed trials on the Salt Beds of Salduro.