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American Roads: Site Map > Auto Trails > Auto Trail Articles > Touring Topics article November 1912 p16

Franklin Wins Los Angeles-Phoenix Race

Results of the 5th Annual desert race to Phoenix.

― from Touring Topics, November 1912, page 16 and 20.


The air-cooled Franklin, driven by Ralph Hamlin, won the fifth annual Los Angeles to Phoenix Road race, over a distance of 511 miles, in the officially announced elapsed time of 18 hours, 10 minutes and 22 seconds. Second to the Franklin was the Cadillac driven by Charles Soules, who finished the long grind 44 minutes behind the winner. Fred Fuller's National took third place with a running time of 19 hours, 45 minutes and 6 seconds. The purse for the race aggregated $5850, of which sum the Maricopa Auto Club of Phoenix gave $3350 and Colton, Coachella, Brawley and Yuma hung up prizes to the amount of the difference.

1912 Los Angeles to Phoenix Race route

Map showing the respective routes over which the Los Angeles and San Diego racers journeyed to Phoenix.


Entries in this year's Los Angeles to Phoenix Race numbered twelve and the cars got away from Los Angeles on the night of October 26th with the first car leaving at 11:10 and the other racers starting at five minute intervals thereafter. Out through long lanes of cheering spectators flashed the contestants in Americaʼs hardest road race, the drivers holding their cars in leash until the Valley Boulevard was reached, and then the race was on in earnest. Through Ontario, Wilmington, Colton, Beaumont and Banning the roads were good, and fast time was made, then down into the desert over fair roadway the racers pushed through Indio, Coachella, Mecca and Brawley. At this point began the most difficult part of the long journey, with deep sand dunes that were made over night by a heavy wind storm that blew all day on the 27th. Here for miles at a time the cars traveled at snail pace, bucking the sand drifts and groaning protestingly against the terrific strain of covering long stretches on the low gear with the sand well up toward the hubs. This sort of going continued for a distance of almost fifty miles until Yuma, on the banks of the Colorado River, was reached, where the night control was established. From this point into Phoenix, a distance of approximately 190 miles, roads that are usually considered fair, as country roads go, were made extremely difficult by the heavy rains of the preceding day and the two small streams that intersect the course near Hassayampa had become over night raging torrents that necessitated extreme care in fording, with consequent loss of time. The time made by the winners is extremely good, and the average of twenty-six miles an hour, made by the Franklin, is the fastest time that has been made in any Los Angeles-Phoenix race.
Never in the history of this road race has the finish been so close nor has such a list of disasters marked the running of this desert marathon. Within one mile of the start the American entry driven by Marc Bunnell was so badly wrecked by its driver in attempting to escape injuring a spectator that it was not thereafter a factor in the contest. With the field narrowed to ten cars, Nikrentʼs Buick skidded and overturned near Ontario and was out of the race. Following hard upon the heels of the Buick came the Mercedes, driven by Bigelow, which ran into the wreck of the former car before it could be drawn clear of the course and the resulting damages to Bigelow's mount proved disastrous to his chance of winning. Between Colton and Mecca the American driven by Pipher and the little Hupmobile with Jones at the wheel, had their misfortunes and were delayed so long that they had no opportunity of finishing the race within the time limit of 54 hours. Between Brawley and Yuma over the dreaded Mammoth Wash section of the course, the Simplex and the Schacht came to grief and while the former continued the race, it at that point lost its advantage and was no longer the strong contender it had been.
The first part of the contest developed into a hard race, with the Simplex, the National, the Franklin and Soules' Cadillac running on almost even terms. At Colton the Simplex was in first place, with the National, Franklin and Cadillac following in the order named and with only eight minutes actual running time between the Simplex and the Cadillac. At Coachella the Simplex was still leading, with the National in second place, the Cadillac in third position and the Franklin less than two minutes behind. Between Coachella and Brawley the Franklin passed all its leaders and finished with an elapsed running time of 6:57, the National was second with a mark of 7:05:30, the Cadillac was third with 7:15 and the Simplex was in fourth position, about twenty minutes behind the Cadillac. When Yuma was reached the Franklin was ahead, the Cadillac was second, the Simplex third and the National fourth. Hamlin had covered the distance in 10 hours and 47 minutes, the Cadillac's time was 11 hours and 17 seconds, the Simplex' running time was 11 hours, 30 minutes and fifty seconds, and the National's time was 11 hours, 45 minutes and 58 seconds. Following these four cars into the night control at Yuma, the Cadillac with Bramlette driving arrived 12 minutes later than the National, McKee's Cadillac got in one hour behind Bramlette, and the Mercedes drove into the control at 3:30 in the morning, with the Schacht an hour behind.
With the field now narrowed to eight cars, the final leg of the race began the next morning at 5:05, the cars being sent away at five minute intervals in the order of their arrival.
First went the Franklin, with Soules' Cadillac next. Soules' car suffered a broken spring when it had traveled but a short distance from the Yuma control and for more than an hour it was delayed until the damage was repaired. In the meantime the Simplex, the National, McKee's Cadillac Bramlette's Cadillac, the Mercedes and the Schacht were on their way before Soules' car was again ready for the road. In one of the greatest drives that has ever marked the running of the Los Angeles-Phoenix race, Soules sent his machine after the other contestants and one by one he passed them until only the fast flying Franklin led him toward Phoenix and the goal. The Simplex was put out of the race 34 miles from Yuma when the car struck a high center and one of the driving chains flew from the sprocket. With no tools at hand to make the repair, the Simplex was out of the race and did not even finish within the allotted 54 hours, and there by lost $1150 of prize money that was due it from the purses offered by Colton, Coachella, Brawley and Yuma. The Schacht and the Mercedes also went out of the running in this last 180-mile stretch and only five cars out of the twelve finished at Phoenix within the time limit. These cars in the order of their arrival were the Franklin, Soules' Cadillac, the National, Bramletteʼs Cadillac and McKeeʼs Cadillac.
At the same time that the Los Angeles to Phoenix race was contested, a field of twenty-two cars was engaged in a similar contest between San Diego and Yuma, a distance of about 400 miles over a course that led through Spring Valley, Dulzura, Campo, El Centro, Holtville and north-east to Ogilby, from which point the course was identical with that followed by the Los Angeles racers. The San Diego cars met with the same conditions of difficult desert going as did the northern cars and a like percentage of mortality marked their course between San Diego and Phoenix. Out of the twenty-two starters, but nine cars were able to finish at Phoenix, according to reports that are available at the time this article is written. The winners of the San Diego-Phoenix race were the Stevens-Duryea driven by Dave Campbell, the National driven by S. B. Lyons, the Apperson with Ferguson at the wheel and the Mitchell driven by Bob Greer. The purse for which the San Diego drivers contested amounted to $6200, and was divided among the four leading cars. The unofficial time for the winner of the San Diego-Phoenix race was 16 hours, 46 minutes running time.
The result of this year's races and the record of the difficulties that attended the racers on the desert portion of both the Los Angeles to Phoenix and San Diego to Phoenix routes furnishes positive proof that neither of the highways is in even fair condition for automobile travel and that both of the Associations that are struggling to make their highway the course for trans-continental travel have much work to do before the ordinary motorist may safely undertake the journey between Yuma and the Pacific seaboard.



Copyright © S. Varner 2006