Oct 09 2010

Film Part I- VMCCA 1942 Antique Auto Derby “50 of America’s First Cars”


Bob Sposato and Robert Richer have provided this amazing film of the Antique Auto Derby held at the Fairfield County Hunt Club in Westport, Connecticut on July 25, 1942. The event was organized by the Veteran Motor Car Club of America (VMCCA) for the benefit of United China Relief. The Derby brought together "50 of America's First Cars".


This is a key to the "antique autos" seen in this segment sorted by their assigned car #.

#1 1910 Simplex owned and driven by Herber G. Fales

#2 1909 Mercedes owned and driven by Charles Stitch

#3 1905 Mercedes Roadster owned by Charles Stitch

#4 1911 Mercedes Speedster owned by A.E. Ulmann and driven by S.H. Oliver

#5 1912 Mercedes Towncar owned by A.E. Ulmann

#6 1912 Peugeout Runabout owned by A.E. Ulmann

#7 1915 Mercer owned and driven by John Kengla

#8 1909 Maxwell owned and driven by Ralph Weeks

#9 1903 Ford owned and driven by J.B. Van Sciver, Jr.

#11 1909 White Steamer owned and driven by James Melton

#12 1910 Stanley Steamer owned by James Melton

#13 1898 Locomobile Steamer owned by James Melton. At the 6:15 mark of the film, this car catches fire.

#14 1910 White owned by James Melton

#15 1907 Fuller owned by James Melton

#16 1905 Buick owned by James Melton

#18 1913 Mercedes owned by James Melton and driven by Ralph DePalma. I believe this car was misidentifed as a 1908 Mercedes.

#20 1900 Rockwell Hansom Cab owned by James Melton and driven by Guy Melton. The first cab driven in New York City streets.

#22 1898 DeDion Bouton owned by James Melton and driven by Lawrence Cornwall

#24 1904 Columbus Electric owned by James Melton

#26 1904 Waverly Electric owned and driven by Ira Warner

#29 1914 Cadillac Limousine owned and driven by Leslie Gillette

#33 1905 Orient Buckboard owned by the Museum of Antique Automobiles, Princeton, Massachusetts and driven by Sully Garganigo

Thanks Bob and Robert for this marvelous contribution to VanderbiltCupRaces.com. Part II of the film will be posted next week.


Oct 10 2010 Walter McCarthy 8:28 PM

Hi Howard,  There were many years of meets at the Fairfield County Hunt Club.  I think the last one I took a car to was in 1965. I am quite sure that the (1908) 90HP Mercedes belonging to James Melton was c. 1913. The car is now in the collection of Dick King in CT. It was very comon to predate cars in the early days of the hobby. Great piece of film! Regards,  Walter

Oct 10 2010 Howard Kroplick 11:28 PM

From Meredith M:

WOW!!! That 10-minute film is EXTRAORDINARY!! How I wish my grandfather [1888-1990] were alive to see it, or even my father [1915-2001]. The quality of the film is really amazing—I love the part where the 1898 car catches fire and the photographers rush in, almost pushing out the guy with the quasi-fire extinguisher.

This is a treat. Thanks, Howard

Oct 12 2010 Howard Kroplick 10:17 PM

From Penny H:

Dear Howard: Well now you have really outdone yourself. Lordy what an incredible group of cars and all those costumes too. I wonder if anyone knows where most of these cars are today….....

Ah wouldn’t it be fun to step back in time if only for that afternoon.


Oct 13 2010 Margo Melton Nutt 9:08 AM

I’m James Melton’s daughter.
This video is WONDERFUL.  I can’t wait to see Part II.

Here’s a bit of what I wrote about that event in my (as yet unpublished) book about my father.

An antique auto derby was to be held for the benefit of United China Relief, sponsored by the Veteran Motor Car Club, and chaired by my mother.  Attendees included local residents Henry and Clare Boothe Luce, Lily Pons and her husband Andre Kostelanetz, Time publisher Roy Larsen,  the Lawrence Tibbetts,  and veteran auto racer Ralph DePalma.  Gasoline needed for some of the cars was sanctioned by the government in view of the benefit nature of the rally.  Two thousand people attended the event and $3,000 was raised at the derby for China Relief.  Clare Booth Luce cautioned spectators not to laugh at the ancient buggies, “because if we don’t win this war, we’ll be lucky to have them.  We’ll probably be riding in rickshaws if we don’t lick Japan, or worse than that, we’ll be pulling them!”  Political aspirant Mrs. Luce was hoping to get a nod from the Republicans to run for Congress. 

As “Cholly Knickerbocker” wrote in his August 2, 1943, column in the Journal American, “Time has ‘reversed its field’ up in Connecticut, and junior doesn’t have to turn the pages of the old family album to see the gentry riding high and handsome in vintage electric broughams.  It was tough on the dogs and horses at first, but now that the James Meltons have thoroughly ‘electrified’ the countryside around Ridgefield, Fairfield, Westport, etc., the dogs have become less distrait and the horses more nonchalant when they see one of Melton’s mechanical marvels swishing along minus the racket we all have become accustomed to since the advent of the motorcar.  When gasoline shortages threatened to isolate the good people of these communities, civic-minded James Melton, noted radio artist, whose antique auto collection is famous throughout the country, sold most of his priceless cars to his neighbors to tide them over ‘for the duration’—with the understanding, however, that after the war the purchasers must sell them back to him so that he can again cherish his precious ‘collection.’”

Oct 13 2010 Howard Kroplick 8:33 PM

Hi Margo:

Thanks so much for the information on the Deby.

Here is a link to Part II of the film:




Oct 17 2010 Howard Kroplick 8:06 PM

From Karen T:


First, thank you for the weekly emails from your website, we enjoy them. My daughter Elizabeth enjoyed the book she has that you wrote about the Vanderbilt Cup, you were kind enough to autograph it for her, thank you! Her love of old cars keeps growing. Now it includes old bicycles, she has two she’s currently restoring…

I’d like to make a special request regarding the Hunt Club videos you have. There are several generous people whom I know who were instrumental in its production. The video wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for their efforts, and I’d like to publicly thank them.

Originally, Bill Pate acquired a VHS tape of raw footage of the Hunt Club event from J B Van Sciver. After Bill’s passing, his brother, Carlton O. Pate, loaned the VHS tape to David Reed, who offered to have the contents of the tape professionally digitally edited and put on DVD’s, at his own expense. Carlton agreed. This was no easy task, and not inexpensive! It included the addition of music and the incorporation of the original program from the show. George Dragone generously loaned an original program for the production, which was fantastic. It really helped to make the video what is today. David Reed then loaned a copy of the DVD to Bob Sposato and said he could make some copies for himself and some friends. Without their efforts, we wouldn’t have it!

Thank you Howard for your consideration. Have a great day, and thanks again for your website…

Karen T

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