Wow! a mile

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North Miami Senior High School

Saturday Success Academy

Grades 9-10 Reading

April 13, 2013

Read the article "Wow! A Mile a Minute!" before answering Numbers 1 through 9.

Wow! A Mile a Minute!

But 60 MPH was a breeze Oldfield, better known as the "Speed K1ng" ofthe Horseless Carriage World

by Michael Kernan

ou have every sensanon of being hurled through space. The machine is throbbing under you with its cylinders beating a

drummer's tattoo, and the air tears past you in a

gale. In its maddening dash through the swirling dust the machine takes on the attributes of a sentient thing ... I tell you, gentlemen: no man can dnve faster and live'"

It is June 20, 1903. Barney Oldfteld, billed

as "America's Premier Driver," has just become

the first man in America to drive a gas-powered

automobtle around a dirt track at-think of

it-a mile a minute' Now his agent is telling a group of rube reporters about the thrilhng rigors of uuimaginable speed. "The chest of a driver is forced in," he says. "Average lungs can't overcome the outward force and the result is like

strangulation. Blood rushes to t):le head, temporary

but complete paralysis of mind gye': body qecurs." The thrill of such speeds, ' ·' ·(

and such hype, was not f

confined to flacks.

A month later Old field drove even faster at the Empire City Track in Yonkers, New York, and The Automobile magazine described him taking a curve: "The rear wheels

slid sideways for a distance

of 50 feet, throwing up a

huge cloud of dirt. Men

were white-faced and breathless, while women covered their eyes and

They named cars in those days; that day Oldfield was driving old 999-named after the record-breaking locomotive on the New York Central line. The car had been designed and built by Henry Ford, an obscure Detroit automaker. Ford had driven 999 himself in a few races, but

m 1902 he turned it over to this 24-year-old bike racer from Ohio. It was Barney Old field who made Ford a household word. "Race on Sunday, sell on Monday" was the watchword. Of course 999 was nothing like the regular cars Ford made, but they were preuy good, too.

It would be nice to report that the Smithsonian

owns 999, but it belongs to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, where it has resided since 1919. But Oldfield, who dominated car rac1ng for Len years, seL records in the object at hand, namely a Winton Bullet, one of ·•

by the Smithsonian and now on lontQ-t. n

sank back, overcome by the recklessness of it all."

Henry Ford (R), American auto maker, standing outside his race car, the "999",

which set the world speed record in 1902 of over 90 miles, 1902. In the driver's seat is racer Barney Oldfield, who began his racing career in this car.


34 Florida Reading

the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland.

Just after the turn of the l20th] century the whole world was car-crazy. In the United States, there were scores of automakers, and most of

them built for the rich. Ford made history-and a

fortune-by building for the masses. In 1908 he came out with the great Model T, a simple machine (''the customer can have any color he wants so long as it's black," he said) that could be fixed with a hacksaw, a hammer and a pair of pliers, and cost

$825. His idea was to produce cars that his workers

could afford to buy, a radical concept that, some historians say, helped ensure that America would never have a worker-led revolution.

The more you read about the early cars, the

more you realize that some of the wind-whtstling hype was true-at least driving them was often a very dangerous adventure. Before one early race,

999's engine began to sputter for lack of fuel. Quick

as a wink Oldfield cut a hole in the gas tank, stuck in a hose and kept blowing air in as his partner, seizing the tiller, drove all the way around the track. Thereafter, he It ked to call himself a human

gas pump.

Soon every small boy in the country was

copying Oldfield's swagger and round goggles. "We

love his grimy, goggled face I His matchless daring in a race," a bit of popular doggerel declared. He used to come to towns for races in his private

Family driving in a Ford Model Tor a rural road, 1910s.

railroad car. Hts agent would announce that he would take on all comers at the local horse track,

a dirt oval found in almost every village. Suspense built, and finally the great man emerged, cigar clamped in his mouth to cushion the place where he'd broken some molars m a crash. He usually grinned at the crowd, shouted, "You know me, Barney Oldfield'" and took off around the track, steering with a tiller, fighting the bumps. Oil

from the open crankshaft jetting up in hts face, a hurricane of dirt thrown up on his skidding turns. He always won-he had the fastest car, after all, and each time his promoters would claim he'd set

a new speed record. The crowd, feeling a part of history, went wild.

This was a time before garages: cars were still kept in carnage houses and stables. Only a fraction of the nation's roads were paved. By 1902, only

909 cars had been registered in all of New York.

The first official gasoline-powered auto race in the country had been held in Chicago in 1895, when Frank Duryea's one-cylinder car beat all contenders after a grueling ten-hour, 52 mile trek-average speed 5.1 mph. The first offtcial auto show was held in 1900 at Madison Square Garden, with 31 cars displayed, many of them still steam-powered.

The first Winton Bullet, built in 1902, had four cylinders and a leather clutch facing that wore out quickly. Pistons were cast irons. Ii res blew out

with frightening frequency. The second Bullet had eight cylinders: two in-line four­ cylinder engines that were bolted together. In 1904

Oldfield drove it 84 mph

at Ormond Beach, Florida. These machines were monsters. Bullet No. 1 had cylinders as large in diameter as a coffee can. The 999

had a wooden clutch and a

230-pound flywheel that was two feet across and six inches thick.

August 1903 headline: "A

Carnival of Speed at Yonkers' Track." Oldfield drove 64.52 mph. By the end of 1904,

Practice Test 2 35

Barney Oldfield held most of the dirt track records from one to 50 miles. In a ume when a skilled worker made $2 a day, Oldfield once won $650 in a single race; he eventually commanded thousands of dollars just to show up. He set records in a Peerless Green Dragon, a Stutz, a Blitzen Benz, and the Miller Golden Sub-the first enclosed racing

car, gilded and shaped like an egg. In 1910 he nudged the Blitzen Benz to 131.25 mph, "fastest

ever traveled by a human being," to become "Speed

King of the World."

He raced against airplanes. He raced against trains, including once in a Mack SenneLL movie where he arrived just in lime to save Mabel Normand.

With his agent, the ingenious Will Pickens,

Oldfield soon was making money hand over fist. He often sported thousands of dollars' worth of jewelry, including a four-carat diamond pinky ring, and he handed out $5 tips when a dime would do. Once in San Francisco, greeted at the station by a brass band, he invited all 65 musicians to dinner at the Palace Hotel and paid a tab of $845, two years' income for many Americans at the time. He spent thousands in bars, where he gained a scandalous reputation as a brawler. What money he didn't

drink up or bet on horses seemed to go for fines

posed by the American Automobile Association, which, from 1902, was the self-proclaimed arbiter

of all speed records and which insisted on a certain

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