Feb 24 2014

Mystery Foto #56 Solved: Paul Sartori in Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt’s 250-HP Custom Built F.I.A.T.

This week's Mystery Foto forwarded by Daniel Fruelund featured a two-time Vanderbilt Cup Race driver.

Answers to the Mystery Foto questions:

-Identify the driver

Italian Paul Satori, who drove F.I.A.T.s in the 1904 and 1905 Vanderbilt Cup Races

-Identify the car and its racing record. Hint: The racer did not participate in the Vanderbilt Cup Race.

250-HP  Custom- Built racer powered by two F.I.A.T engines. The car was built for the 1906 Ormond-Daytona Races. However, the car broke down, shipped back to New York City and dismantled.

-Identify the owner of  the car.

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, the cousin of William K. Vanderbilt Jr. The car was built in Vanderbilt's garage at 335 West 39th Street in Manhattan.

Congrats to Ariejan Bos and Art Kleiner who totally solved this week's Mystery Foto. Kudos to Frank Femenias who identified Sartori, the car and the NYC setting.


Howard Kroplick

Photo available in the Bain Collection at the Library of Congress. It is possible the photo was taken in front of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt's garage at 335 West 39th Street.

Sartori and his F.I.A.T. on Ormond Beach.

This rare photo shows the racer being towed and pushed after failing to start on the beach.

The photo is featured on the cover of Robert Dick's 2013 book "Auto Racing Comes of Age".

Robert Dick's description of the racer.

Motor Age reported that the car "could not start unless it was towed by some other machine until it attained a speed of 25 miles an hour".

Forward by Art Kleiner

New York Times, January 14, 1906

Courtesy of June 2008 book ""The Unlikely Heir: Biography of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, Jr. by Jon Manion." 


Feb 21 2014 Howard Kroplick 10:29 AM

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Feb 21 2014 Eric 8:21 PM

I don’t know who that is, but amazing photo!

Feb 22 2014 Howard Kroplick 5:13 PM

From Ariejan Bos:

This magnificent photo shows Paul Sartori at the wheel of an 8-cylinder Fiat. The car was owned by Alfred G. Vanderbilt, a nephew of William K.. Built during the end of 1906 by Sartori and french engineer François Richard by combining two hugh 4-cylinder Fiat engines it was meant to break the 2 mile-a-minute record at Ormond-Daytona beach. The engine however suffered from severe mechanical trouble and the attempt was cancelled. Alfred Vanderbilt lost his interest and the car was scrapped. Sartori had raced previously a Fiat (also owned by Alfred Vanderbilt) in the 1904 and 1905 Vanderbilt Cup, but both times without success. Alfred Vanderbilt would die in 1915 on board of the Lusitania after it had been torpedoed by a German submarine: he had given his life vest to a woman with child and had never learned to swim ...

Ariejan Bos

Feb 22 2014 Ted 10:32 PM

As for this mystery, you’ll laugh, it’s a mystery to me, but I do say that racer is some kind of a car. To me it looks like it has a larger engine, which makes it a longer and it’s not chain driven

Feb 23 2014 Art Kleiner 12:39 PM

Driver is Paul Sartori, who participated in the 1904 (finishing 16th in #10) and 1905 (finishing 7th in #20) Vanderbilt Cup Races driving Fiats.

The following was taken from Robert Dick’s book titled “Auto Racing Comes of Age”.  The car in the photo was built by Sartori and French engineer Francious Richard in the autumn of 1905 for use in the early 1906 Ormand Beach race.  It was owned by Alfred Gwynn Vanderbilt Jr., cousin of Willie K. at a cost of $19,000 and built in Alfred’s garage in NYC.  Built with 2 Fiat engines in tandem it was said to have 250 hp and to be “the highest-powered car in the world”. 

Unfortunately after being transported to Florida for the race it practically didn’t move at all and Vanderbilt withdrew it from the race.  It was shipped back to the NYC garage “dismantled and left for the scrap”. 

Howard - see my e-mail to you with a couple of short articles about the the car from its time. 


Feb 24 2014 Greg O. 8:18 AM

Have to give up on this one.
It looks to be Alessandro Cagno, but he only paticipated in one Cup race and not two as suggested by the photo caption. That’s also certainly not the #12 Itala he drove in the V.C.R.- but the car does look like it could possibly be Italian made.
I’ve even searched through many G.G. Bain photo archival websites and can’t seem to find a match there either.

Feb 24 2014 frank femenias 11:03 AM

1906, Paul Sartori driving Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt’s (Willie K’s cousin) 250hp racer. Location could be NYC’s Hells Kitchen near 368 W 53st. based on the address on the horse drawn buggy.

Feb 27 2014 Art Kleiner 8:47 AM

Looking at the signs on the building one obviously is Sing Lee Laundry - an internet search found a1903 listing of establishments having been inspected by the NYS Dept. of Labor with two Sing Lee Laundrys in NY County - one at 318 W. 16th Street and one at 7 St. Marks Place (aka E. 8th Street).  Anyone able to decipher the sign at the left of that - best I can make out is ??gglis and possibly “bungalow”?  More work to be done.

Feb 27 2014 frank femenias 10:11 PM

Art:  Possibly W. Wiggli’s Salon or Niggli’s. My initial search of Sing Lee’s laundry had sent me to Los Angeles and quickly gave up.

Howard:  I sent a sister photograph of this one that may help determine location.

Very interesting story about this 250hp monster and amazed how quickly it was scrapped!
Thanks to all for sharing.


Mar 01 2014 Howard Kroplick 6:39 PM

From Frank Femenias:

I’m sending a sister photo of last week’s mystery in hopes of determining location. I did notice there is still a house standing today near 368 W 53 st.,  (that’s been stucco’d),  that strongly resembles the house in the backdrop. Cheers.

Mar 02 2014 S. Berliner, III 6:03 PM

Any resemblance to my FIAT 500 is purely coincidental!  I have a hunch my entire 100HP engine would fit comfortably inside any one cylinder of that monster!  Sam, III

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