What Really Happened in the Weymann/Moskovics Match Race at Indianapolis—that 24-hour duel in 1928 between a Type 116C and a Black Hawk for a £5,000 wager?
You probably remember it—that challenge issued to Charles T. Weymann of flexible fabric-body fame by Frederic E. Moskovics, President of the Stutz Company, that one of his sports Black Hawks could beat a Hispano-Suiza in a twice-round-the-clock race on the track ? A wager which the American lost.
The details can be filled in, as far as is possible after the passage of more than 44 years, as follows. Weymann, having introduced his lightweight form of motor-body construction, so well-suited to flexible vintage chassis, to the French industry with signal success and brought it to Britain with much the same result, was anxious to sell his patents in America. He had managed to interest the Stutz President in fabric coachwork as an alternative form of construction in the Land of Pressed Steel Saloons and so it was natural, when Moskovics travelled to Europe in the Autumn of 1927 to visit the annual Motor Shows, that he should meet Weymann to complete arrangements for the American rights to the French patents.
At the Olympia Show that year it seems that Charles F. Kettering, proud of his new V8 5.6-litre Series-341 Cadillac designed by Ernest Seaholm, remarked how, during test drives between the General Motors Research Centre in Detroit and his country house in Dayton, Ohio, a run of several hundred miles, the new Cadillac did the journey in less time than a Rolls-Royce. Kettering was backing his three-speed £895 chassis in this respect against the four-speed 7.7-litre Rolls-Royce Phantom, which cost £1,850 without coachwork. It can be imagined that he made this remark as he walked between Stand No. 18 where the Cadillac was shown with 7-seater maroon-and-black limousine coachwork (price £1,425) and Stand No. 68, where Rolls-Royce had their own six-seater Hooper limousine on display, a magnificent creation in light blue, with soft cloth upholstery to match, and black mudguards, priced at a cool £2,906. The Cadillac was not really a new model so much as the well-established V8 with an extra 420 c.c. for the 1928 season, obtained by enlarging its bore while at the same time sensibly reducing the stroke. So Kettering would have every reason to emphasise his car’s performance.
In those days the elite of the World’s motor industry was wont to ease the strain of days spent at Motor Shows by dining well in the evenings, while the luckless salesmen were passing the time in dismal pubs and dubious boarding houses in the vicinity. Thus, on the night after he had dropped his remark about comparative test-runs back in the States, Charles Kettering found himself dining with Fred Moskovics and Col. Warwick Wright, the Colonel with financial backing from the Rootes brothers, having the Stutz dealership in London. Weymann was also among this party at the Kit Kat Club, which was a favourite haunt of HRH the Prince of Wales. (Apparently the much feared gossip columnist. Lord Castleross, was also present, but whether he wrote anything about the evening’s conversation I leave to other researchers.) Anyway, the story goes that the group discussed, as was natural, motor cars and their business prospects and Charles Kettering again mentioned the superiority in pace of the latest Cadillac over the Phantom Rolls-Royce. This led Moskovics to add that a Safety Stutz would beat a Rolls-Royce any day and for all day. Weymann, perhaps realising that any slight on the British luxury car was a bit close to the Hispano-Suiza, which France still regarded as her best automobile, weighed in and from this, legend has it, stemmed the challenge issued by Moskovics, that a Black Hawk Safety Stutz could vanquish a Hispano-Suiza in a 24-hour duel. The wager is named as 25,000 dollars, or some £5,000 at the prevailing rate of exchange, but whether this sum was actually proffered or was a later publicity embellishment, we may probably never know.
The fact is that Weymann. accepted and the race duly took place. Indianapolis was agreed to by Weymann as the venue, notwithstanding the fact that Stutz cars were built there and regularly tested at the American oval. Indeed, knowing the Indianapolis course intimately, Stutz had that very year used it for a 24-hour publicity demonstration, during which the faster of two saloons averaged 68.44 m.p.h. and a sporting Black Hawk Stutz 71.3 m.p.h. Moreover, at a Dealers’ convention a Black Hawk had lapped at 87 m.p.h. At the time Stutz was Stock-Car Champion of America (in the idiom of standard-car racing, not the bumping and crunching affair we now call stock-car racing) and the Black Hawk had recently been given a more powerful engine. No wonder Moskovics felt justified in throwing down a glove to Weymann ! The Frenchman no doubt accepted for various reasons, as he waxed patriotic in the brandy fumes and cigar smoke of that fateful evening. Moskovics had apparently opened-up the American market for Weymann bodies—on the Stutz stand at the very Olympia Slow from which these tycoons of industry were resting a very handsome Weymann saloon was displayed, priced at £,1,350. So Weymann could hardly brush aside the wager. The Frenchman knew he would be in America the following Spring consolidating sales of his patents and presumably realised that it would not be much of a hardship to take a car over for the race, even if it might be supposed that he would need a saloon for demonstration purposes—but this he was perhaps able to borrow from Stutz ? And while a victory over Moskovics might be a thought tactless, Weymann was a fervent patriot to whom an “away” win for the French car would not be unpalatable. . . .
So the race was agreed to. The stipulations were that both cars should be sporting production models with open two-seater bodies. Lighting equipment was obviously called for as the contest was to occupy 24 hours and windscreens were used, maybe for driver comfort. Two drivers were to serve each car, changing over at three-hourly intervals, and the race was to commence with the cars starting normally, drivers in their seats and engines running—no Le Mans tactics. It was decreed that repairs could be undertaken but no mechanical parts could be replaced. The race date was agreed as April 18th, 1928.
It is surprising that Moskovics did not stipulate that Weymann ran a 37.2-h.p. 6.6-litre Hispano-Suiza H6B, which, with the 27-h.p. Spanish version, was the only model displayed at the 1927 Olympia Show, instead of the 45-h.p. 8-litre H6C. But presumably he was immune to the proverbial saying that there is no substitute for litres! What he was doing was to pit a 4,950 c.c. straight-eight Safety Stutz Black Hawk speedster of 83 x 114.3 mm., developing 125 b.h.p. at 3,600 r.p.m. on a c.r. of 6¼ to 1 against a 7,980 c.c. six-cylinder Hispano-Suiza H6C of 110 x 140 mm., developing 144 b.h.p. at 2,500 r.p.m. on a c.r. of 6.0 to 1. The Stutz had a wheelbase of 10 ft. 11 in. and weighed 3,600 lb.; the Hispano-Suiza wheelbase measured 11 ft. 5 in. and the French car is said to have been 800 lb. heavier than its. American challenger.
Weymann nominated himself and Robert Bloch, who won the Le Mans race in 1926, sharing a 3.4-litre Lorraine-Dietrich with Rossignol—a careful and experienced French driver—to handle the Hispano-Suiza. Moskovics put in Gil Anderson (one report says the better-known Tom Copper) and Tom Rooney, who knew Indianapolis very well indeed, as his drivers. They wore white overalls and helmets, the Frenchmen less formal racing attire, but all seemed to find goggles and helmets desirable. It seems that Weymann had intended to run his car with all its mudguards in place but afterwards had the front ones removed; he carried a spare wheel. I suggest that this may have been caution on Weymann’s part, arising from his unfamiliarity with Indianapolis; he may have wondered whether there might be stones on the track which could damage his fabric body and cause a puncture away from the depot. The Stutz also ran without front “fenders” and did not carry a spare wheel. Moskovics wanted to run on racing tyres but Weymann insisted that he should use Mason balloons, to Match his Dunlop Cords. There was a nicely depicted stork on the body side of the French car, which also carried a crudely painted No. 3, while the Stutz was numbered “7”, apparently a lucky number for the Indianapolis Company. It is likely that the time-keepers had asked that the cars carry different numbers, as they would have to identify them during the night, and to avoid confusion as to which was to be “1” and which “2” Weymann had maybe offered to use “3” before he saw the later numeral on the rival car ?
We are told that some 2,500 spectators came to see the start, and that Moskovics was there in person. At 1 p.m. the race started. What happened ?
According to Automobile Quarterly, which published a most interesting résumé on the Match Race in its 1970 Spring issue, by Marion George (a nom de plume, I believe), to which journal I am indebted for much of the substance of this article, the Hispano-Suiza immediately accelerated away from the Stutz, being “several hundred feet ahead” at the first of the four corners. After the first lap it was said to be nine seconds ahead, having averaged 84 m.p.h., whereas the Stutz had managed only 77.6 m.p.h.—those who possess slide-rules and know the Indy. lap distance as 2.5 miles will no doubt wish to check these figures. The Stutz driver Rooney now began to open up, and after ten laps the respective averages were, to quote the same source: Hispano-Suiza, 83.41 m.p.h.; Stutz. 81.3 m.p.h. This suggests careful control from the pits—one imagines someone was keeping a watch on the H-S, for the French car had already dropped to below its standing-lap speed, someone having, you may think, seen how inferior the Stutz performance was, except that the leader’s lap-speed is given as up to 89 m.p.h. only six laps later. This, however, ties in with the stated fact that the American driver had become alarmed by the pace the Hispano-Suiza was setting and had drastically speeded up, which would make it necessary for Weymann—if he it was—to open up again.
After 57 laps Rooney, his engine losing power, came into the Stutz pit. A “tappet lock-nut” (I think they mean the pad which was screwed to the valve stem or its lock-ring; because a Stutz engine has no tappet as such) had split and as the rules of the contest stipulated no replacements, attempts had to be made to jury-rig it. This, we are told, took more than an hour. and although the Stutz then set out to endeavour to make good its deficiency, it was back at its pit eleven laps later. And 7 hours 20 minutes after the start it was stationary again, this time for more than three hours. By the time it was on its way once more and midnight had struck, the Hispano-Suiza was very comfortably ahead, having had no mechanical trouble. The early hours of April 19th saw the luckless American car in and out of its pit and at 7.56 a.m. it was all over—the bodged “tappet-nut” gave way and the valve fell into the cylinder, causing a con-rod to break.. . . Twelve hours after the Stutz’s third pit-stop Fred Moskovics called it a day, if not something ruder! He had really no alternative. Running perfectly, the Hispano-Suiza was flagged in after 19 hours 20 minutes, Moskovics having conceded the race to Weymann.
The Hispano-Suiza had covered 1,357.5 miles at an average speed of 70.14 m.p.h.; the Stutz had retired after a mere 732.5 miles, which even the American journal aforequoted calls “pitiful”.
It was widely publicised at the time that Hispano-Suiza had thoroughly licked Stutz and this has passed into history. For instance, in the special articles about the Hispano-Suiza which he wrote for Motor Sport in 1950 Kent Karslake says: “. . . it was a ‘Monza’ Hispano-Suiza which showed up a Stutz Black Hawk to such disadvantage during a 24-hour run at Indianapolis. . .” Even more scathing, T. R. Nicholson in “The Vintage Car” (Batsford, 1966) refers to the result of the race as “a thorough thrashing for the much less-powerful Stutz”. Writing of the Hispano-Suiza designer Mare Birkigt in “Automobile Design” (David & Charles, 1970), Michael Sedgwick and José Manuel Rodriguez De La Vina say: “. . . perhaps the most impressive performance of all was Weymann’s victory in the celebrated match against a straight-eight Stutz at Indianapolis in 1928. The American car was appreciably smaller and less powerful, retailed for one-fifth the Hispano’s price*, and was unlucky to be dogged with valve trouble, but against this the French aviator’s 8-litre was a nine-year-old design, as well as being a well-worn example that had received no special preparation.” In “French Vintage Cars” (Batsford, 1964) it is even stated by Crombac that the Match Race was “disastrous for the Stutz, which broke several valves and finished up throwing con.-rods”. The British motor press reported on the race at the time in much the same way. This I think is perfectly fair, because there is no place in motor racing for “ifs” and “buts” and the Hispano-Suiza had very definitely out-lasted, and beaten, the Safety Stutz.
This notwithstanding, Automobile Quarterly, in its special Stutz issue, set out to throw cold water on the Hispano-Suiza achievement, although it might have been thought that it was the Stutz which had overheated! They pointed out that after the retirement of his Stutz Moskovics was astonished, saying never before had the Stutz valve gear given any trouble. He then asked Weymann if he would agree to another race, for the remainder of the elapsed time. The Frenchman agreed, as you would expect him to—he obviously did not wish to offend the “customer” and might well have hoped to add another Stutz scalp to his belt. So Moskovics had another Black Hawk brought from the factory, while the victorious Hispano-Suiza was just checked over. One hour and ten minutes after it had finished its first 1,357 miles at near-racing speed the Hispano was off again. Again it out-accelerated the Stutz—was the challenger now driven by Anderson, Rooney in disgrace ?—but the Stutz is said to have closed on, and passed, the French car after a few laps. It was a mile ahead; we are told, after 15 laps. It lapped the Hispano before 40 laps were completed and did so again between the 70th and 80th lap, when it “had a five-mile lead”. (Slide-rules again ?) The Stutz was lapping 2 m.p.h. faster and after 3½ hours was flagged-in the winner, having averaged 75.71 m.p.h. for 265 miles. The Weymann entry was “a full three laps astern”, or 7½ miles to the bad, at 73.5 m.p.h. for 257½ miles. Congratulations and handshakes all round! But it does seem odd that the Hispano-Suiza, which had shown itself capable of lapping at 89 m.p.h. and averaging nearly 83½ m.p.h. at the opening of the first race, was now 10 m.p.h. slower. Putting aside the uncharitable thought that Weymann may have felt it unwise to twice beat his business friend, one wonders if the second Stutz driver was superior to the first or whether Weymann drove this second race, not all that earnestly and was in any case not as fast as Bloch ? Or were the Hispano-Suiza driver and brakes tiring after a Jay and a night’s motoring ?
Apart front reminding us of the outcome of this second, far shorter, duel between the tired Hispano and a brand-new Stutz, Automobile Quarterly disparages the French make in a number of ways. Of the disastrous (for Stutz) Match Race they say that what went wrong was that Moskovics expected the Hispano-Suiza to have inferior cornering powers, inferior acceleration from 80 m.p.h. onwards because of greater weight, drag, and poor high-speed breathing, and for it to be more thirsty, heavier on tyres, and unlikely to last the distance, compared to his Stutz. He based his assumption of unreliability, if Marion George has it correctly, on the fact that the Hispano-Suiza still used handscraped bearings and that its aluminium block and crankcase were less rigid than the Stutz’s, which used cast-iron for these components, and because the Stutz engineers had had to improve on Birkigt’s valve gear! His mouth must have been wide open, but for different reasons, not long after the Match Race got going. He scathingly dismissed it as almost certain to develop tyre and/or tappet trouble—”A hand-made car!”
To excuse the failure of the Stutz to last for any length of time the Automobile Quarterly writer says Moskovics expected the superior low-speed torque or the Hispano (quoted as 360 at 1,600 r.p.m. against the Stutz’s 200 at 2,400 r.p.m.) to give the French car an initial advantage. What he did not allow for was his driver revving too hard in trying to catch the vanishing Hispano. According to the aforesaid commentator the “tappet-nut” failure may have stemmed from the engine being held wide open too long in the lower gears. I find it hard to believe, however, that the lower gears would be used much, on a track where, on Moskovics’ own admission. he intended to average 74 m.p.h. for the first 14 hours before applying pressure to the rival car. This, with pit-stops, “meant holding about 80 m.p.h., with bursts of approaching or exceeding 100 m.p.h. along the straights”. If the Stutz was driven even faster than this, the lower gears would surely be less in use, for I do not believe this stock Stutz would have accepted second gear at over 80 m.p.h. Although the Stutz engine is described in the American journal as having similarity with the Hispano-Suiza “only in the tappet adjustment”, this sounds like nonsense to me. The Stutz Vertical Eight engine (a puzzling name intended to imply that it had its eight cylinders in-line and therefore vertical, instead of in a vee), variously described as having been designed by Bastien, formerly of Metallurgique, and Greuter from Marmon, had o.h.c. valve gear very similar to the classic direct-wipe system pioneered by Birkigt during the war on Hispano-Suiza aero-engines, although the Stutz engine had chain drive instead of a vertical shaft drive for the camshaft. If the Hispano in the Match Race was able to go fast from the start without damaging its “tappet-nuts”, it is curious that the Stutz couldn’t, especially as the valve gear was said to be used in an improved form and the Stutz was designed to rev. to nearly 4,000 r.p.m., against the French car’s 3,130 r.p.m. The American Hispano-Suiza concessionaires are said to have been alarmed at Weymann’s impetuosity in accepting the challenge, but Weymann himself seems to have had no qualms about letting the car lap fast from the start.
Having tried to explain away the Stutz collapse as due to bad driving, Automobile Quarterly then tried to dispose of the victorious Hispano-Suiza by saying it was a non-standard car. Admittedly Crombac has hinted that it may have been assembled with racing tolerances but Marion George goes further, stating that whereas the Black Hawk was one of five picked from stock by the AAA, Weymann had his H6C, which the American writer calls a Boulogne Sport Court, prepared by the makers, and that it lapped Montlhéry at better than 85 m.p.h. before leaving for America. He suggests it had a raised c.r. (which is quoted as 6 to 1) and a special camshaft which increased valve lift by 1 mm., giving “a ten per cent increase in power”. If so, it is curious that on test the car did not lap the fast Paris track much quicker, because four years before Woolf Barnato had averaged over 90 m.p.h. for 300 miles at Brooklands in one of these cars when breaking class records.
As well as the statement that Weymann won the Match Race with a non-standard car, Marion George suggests that, in spite of his victory, the Frenchman was so sure of the superiority of the make he had vanquished that he bought a Stutz to run in the 1928 Le Mans race, instead of entering a Hispano. Automobile Quarterly has it that Weymann’s entry of a Stutz instead of a Hispano in France’s greatest sports-car race “provides a riddle for historians, but it is not an insoluble one”. They then go on to explain how Weymann “could clearly see that the Stutz deserved much more credit than it received and was undoubtedly the faster car at Indianapolis over long distances”. He realised “he had been a very lucky man” to win the wager and was “now fully aware of the merits of the Stutz”, which, they would have us believe, is why Weymann then bought one and entered it for the next Le Mans race. If you consider the timing, however, this scarcely holds water.
Weymann could not have had this revelation until April 19th at the earliest. Would he have bought a car on a sudden inspiration, ten days before the Le Mans entry list closed ? He could, I suppose, have cabled an entry from America, except that the double-fee entry date had probably closed, but it seems unlikely he would have contemplated shipping a car back to France, one which had to be carefully prepared, with only ten days at double-fees in which to do this, make all the necessary arrangements, nominate his second driver, and so on. It would be nice to think that he entered the car on impulse as some consolation to the vanquished Moskovics, to whom a Stutz victory in France would be some atonement. Tim Nicholson tells us that among all the American makes only Stutz adopted the Weymann body, so clearly Weymann owed much to his business friend. Unhappily for Marion George there is proof that the Le Mans entry had been decided upon before the Match Race came about. In a fervour of patriotism the previous October he may have suggested that the Hispano-Suiza was the better car and been only too glad to agree to the Match Race; if he lost, it would please Moskovics, who was buying Weymann bodies; if Weymann won it would help to dispose of the Hispano-Suiza in America. It seems likely that Weymann intended taking over a Hispano for the American concessionaires to sell anyway; which might explain their discomfort when told that he was going to race it. Bloch was probably going to Indy, to get the feel of a Stutz before the Le Mans race, which gave Weymann his co-driver when Moskovics threw down the gauntlet.
If this premise is acceptable to you, it disposes of Marion George’s apparently false surmise that it was Weymann who entered the American Car for Le Mans, which he contends was thought at the time “odd” or “ironic”. Certainly there is no reason to condemn the Safety (an early whiff of Nadarism!) Stutz Black Hawk because of its demise early in the Match Race. The lone example which Weymann afterwards ran at Le Mans did remarkably well, worrying the “works” Bentleys and eventually finishing second at 68.78 m.p.h., only 7.88 miles behind the winning 4½-litre Bentley driven by Barnato and Rubin, although I cannot go along with Marion George when he says it “forced two of the Bentleys out of the race”. In fact, only three Bentleys started and one retired; with a leaking radiator which is usually caused by chassis flexion, not by over-revving; the other was delayed by puncturing a tyre and having no jack aboard, but worked back up the field, to finish fifth. “America’s greatest sports car” nevertheless did remarkably well, suggesting factory preparation, but, if we are to split hairs over performance, was unable to equal the Le Mans lap-speeds of the Bentleys. It was also hampered after about 20 hours’ running by top gear of its three-speed gearbox having to be held in engagement. (It is odd that the Le Mans car did not have the four-speed box which had been an optional £25 extra at the 1927 Olympia Show but perhaps it had not been fully developed or homologated by 1928?)
Incidentally, when three supercharged 5.3-litre Stutz were run at Le Mans in 1929, the best of them came home fifth behind four Bentleys and all the others retired. Two 5.3-litre Stutz started in the 1930 Le Mans race; both retired, as did lone Stutz entries the two following years. . . .
However, even the splendid showing of a Stutz on its first appearance at Le Mans is used by Automobile Quarterly as another stick with which to beat Hispano-Suiza. They argue that had a “works” team of Stutz been entered for Le Mans in 1929 they might well have beaten the Bentleys (including the 6½-litre ?), so it was to be expected that a team of Hispanos would have been entered, to uphold French prestige against the threat from the “non-works” Stutz. But, says the American writer, although the great Charles Faroux himself entreated Hispano to enter, they never did so, a problem, says Marion George, no-one has ever attempted to answer. I will answer it for him! By 1929 not only had Hispano-Suiza given up racing but the French motor industry was in poor shape and Birkigt was busy planning his V12 luxury models, regarding the 37.2-h.p. and 45-h.p. Hispano-Suizas as out-dated. Even Stutz, which had paid far more attention to racing than the great French manufacturer, had given up by 1928 and Moskovics had left them by January 1929. Large French cars were conspicuous by their absence at Le Mans in 1929, so why should Hispano-Suiza step in where more sporting angels feared to tread ? Incidentally, I think it far more likely that Faroux tried to persuade Hispano-Suiza to enter in 1923, when with George Durand he had conceived his unique endurance race, than six years later, when he was aware of the condition of French industry.
Another angle in Marion George’s attack comes with the remark that he “can no-where find any record of any Hispano ever making a full 24-hour run—anywhere”. At the Match Race, he reminds us, the Hispano ran for a total of 22 hours 50 minutes, not 24 hours as many reports state, averaging 70.14 m.p.h. All right! But it stopped at Moskovics’ decree, not because it was burned-out, and it took two Safety Stutz to average about 57 m.p.h. on that inauspicious occasion.
What the American journal is at again is that Hispano never competed at Le Mans. This, as I have said, is easily explained. In 1923, when this race was first held, Bois Colombes was well established as a luxury-car factory and had no need to go racing. It had some great racing achievements behind it, of course, Dubonnet had won at Boulogne in 1921, Bablot won there in 1922, and Dubonnet was successful at Monza, which Karslake calls a fine performance over this difficult course. Then there was the same amateur driver’s class-win at San Sebastian, Garnier’s fine victory in the 1923 Coupe Boillot at over 70 m.p.h., and Dubonnet finishing 18 minutes behind the winner of the 1924 Targa Florio in spite of having to change many tyres on his wooden-bodied Hispano, Barnato’s records at over 90 m.p.h., etc., all before Le Mans was fully established. But Hispano-Suiza never had a racing department like that maintained by Stutz and “works” Hispanos were last entered in 1923, the year Le Mans was weaned.
Fortunately for the reputation of Hispano-Suiza, the French historic car magazine l’Anthologie Automobile had the perspicacity to show the Automobile Quarterly article to 81-year-old Charles Weymann, who, in their issue of September/October 1970, devastatingly demolished it.
Charles Weymann, born of American parents incidentally, shown the Automobile Quarterly account of the notorious Match Race, which the French journal describes as “lightly tinted with childish chauvinism”, apparently found it very amusing, “very tendentious—it wasn’t like that at all . . .” For instance, speaking of how the challenge originated, Weymann suggests that the American car involved may have been Packard and not Cadillac and anyway says that the essence of the argument was whether Rolls-Royce really was the best car in the World. Weymann, who held the view that England and America regarded French cars as second-rate, said that after owning a Rolls Royce and one or two Hispano-Suizas he preferred the latter and, indeed, used his Hispanos regularly. It was then suggested that if a Rolls and a Hispano were to leave London together to get to Nice, it was certain that the British car would arrive well before the French one. Weymann retorted that the R-R representative might be certain but he had very considerable doubts. It seems that Moskovics then butted in with the comment that a Stutz would be faster than any of the cars under discussion . . .
So, in the warm alcoholic atmosphere prevailing, Weymann suggested a contest, to prove it. A simple race, he said, the first car to arrive being the winner. Moskovics agreed, asking what should be the extent of the wager. Weymann, who was then a very wealthy man, as, son of a banker and a successful industrialist, one would expect him to be, said it didn’t much matter but, pressed by his American opponent, suggested 25,000 dollars. Moskovics probably thought Weymann had been drinking too much, that he was joking. After some hesitation, the wager was accepted, the contest to be between a Rolls-Royce, a Hispano-Suiza and a Stutz. However, when the light of day followed that argumentative evening the Rolls-Royce spokesman was told to forget the whole thing, which was in keeping with his Company’s caution in matters of this kind. So the thing became a duel between Hispano-Suiza and Stutz.
Realising that a London-to-Nice race would be unpopular, a 24-hour track contest was substituted, and thus the Indianapolis Match Race came into being.
Weymann recalls that Moskovics wanted rules drawn up. To which Weymann retorted that these would appear to be of biblical simplicity, namely that the two cars start off and they would see which was ahead after 24 hours. “No spare parts . . . we depart . . . we arrive . . . there is nothing to discuss.” Clearly, Weymann had every confidence in his Hispano-Suiza and thought that if it needed any work on it during the 24 hours the contest would be a farce. However, he agreed to Moskovies’ stipulations. The chassis were to be standard and bodies were built for them, Weymann using a light two-seater body. (What I think he means here is that mechanically the cars had to be of catalogue type but could have any sort of bodywork, perhaps because this was how Hispanos were usually delivered. Presumably the Stutz had a normal Black Hawk body. Weymann says it was too heavy which one would not have expected him to say if it were a Weymann body, so perhaps it wasn’t. But this remark about weight may just be an excusable puff on Weymann’s part 42 years later, for his own lightweight construction.)
The Hispano-Suiza Weymann chose to race was tested for him, possibly at Montlhèry. The mechanic doing the testing telephoned Weymann with bad news. After running for 300 or 400 kilometres he reported that there was plenty of oil all over the engine, but none in the crankcase. Weymann ‘phoned Birkigt for an explanation, of an oil consumption of 40 m.p.p. It stems that Birkigt had changed the type of cylinder liner. At first he refused to believe the oil consumption quoted by Weymann but further tests convinced him and the car was examined to discover the reason. Eventually the trouble was traced to the thrower ring used at the rear of the crankshaft to feed lubricant back into the crankcase having been fitted the wrong way round.
Birkigt expected Weymann to be satisfied with this explanation but Weymann made the point that unless the helix was shown correctly fitted on the drawings, Moskovics might accuse him of shipping a nonstandard engine to the States. So the drawings were dug out and the car was confirmed as entirely standard, Weymann says to the satisfaction of the Automobile Club and some lawyers.
It may seem odd that he expected anything different, but I think the point he is making is that as the car had had to be taken back to the factory and Birkigt consulted, it might have been construed that special parts were being fitted and so, to counteract this, Weymann asked for his car to be compared with the drawings and declared standard, not that Birkigt didn’t know until the drawings had been consulted which way round the helix should be fitted!
Weymann goes on to describe as “absolutely false” the Automobile Quarterly statement that he used a raised c.r. and so on; indeed, he intimates that to have done so might well have been too experimental and detrimental to his object of running for 24 hours without breakdown. Here I would remark that the horse-power which Marion George quotes for the Hispano-Suiza is, if anything, below that expected of an early model H6C engine and the c.r. normal if, as I suspect, Weymann was using one of the first of the later 56 b.i.s. engines, in which case the different cam-profile (actually, according to Crombac, a retrograde one) may well have given rise to the erroneous American suggestion that Weymann’s car had a higher-than-standard valve lift. In fact, I suspect that Marion George lifted his data front Crombac, and because that authority has quoted the 1922 Boulogne cars as having the profile-104 camshafts and a c.r. of 5.75 to 1, the American writer has assumed that Weymann had one of these engines with the c.r. again increased, ignoring the fact that Crombac reminds those who read him carefully that the c.r. of Birkigt’s engines was increased over the years. What I am saying is that if a c.r. of 5.75 to 1 was used for the 1922 competition engines, 6 to 1 is reasonable for the production engines of five years later. This, with George’s mild estimate of the output of the H-S Match Race engine and Weymann’s memory of it, dispels, I suggest, any suggestion of cheating on the part of the French challenger . . .
Of the contest itself, Weymann says Bloch wanted to run slowly at first but he would have none of this, using full-throttle from the start.+ This caused the Stutz to have to follow similar tactics instead of playing cat-and-mouse with the H-S and after 300 or 400 kilometres it gave Moskovics “a whole series of problems”—Weymann mentions things falling off, a piston breaking, “something else”. His memory may be a little rusty here, for he says the race commenced at “around 4 or 5 p.m.,” whereas the American account says it began at 1 p.m., although Wesmann’s timing would be more in keeping with spectator attendance on the second day. However, this in no way impairs the main theme of Weymann’s story:
Now we come to the important part of l’Anthologie Automobile’s investigation. Marion George (why, I wonder, did he use a nom-de-plume ?) says that in a re-run of the race a fresh Stutz soundly beat the H-S and that Weymann was so profoundly impressed by what he saw, that he decided to enter a Stutz for the next Le Mans race. Weymann has a very different explanation, which completely disposes of his implied disrespect for the Hispano-Suiza. He says that the Indianapolis Stewards and Moskovics whose factory was at Indianapolis were anxious not to disappoint the spectators who would arrive to see the closing stages of the duel, presumably paying to do so. (Automobile Quarterly says 2,500 people were present to see the start, so quite a crowd could be expected for the finish, expecting, no doubt, to see the French car trounced.) But there was the Hispano some 600 kilometres ahead and the Stutz stationary at its pit. American-born Weymann, to please his vanquished friend and the track authorities, agreed to a mock race, to please the crowd. “Cinema, for God’s sake”, he calls it! This explains the difference on speed of the H-S on its second appearance, which I commented on earlier, compared with when it was really trying . . .
Weymann also demolishes the other accusation against the H-S; namely that he preferred to enter a Stutz for the 1928 Le Mans race. He says that he never entered a Stutz for Le Mans. The entry was almost certainly made by Stutz themselves or their concessionaires and had Marion George taken the trouble to consult Motor Sport he would have known that the Stutz were entered long before the Match Run! In fact, Gil Anderson from Indianapolis was Stutz race manager.
Certainly Weymann bought a Stutz after Moskovics had made him try one. This was surely perfectly natural ? He was selling bodies to them, had just taken 25,000 dollars for the race outcome, equal to about 125,000 Poincare francs or some 7 million old francs, and he was then a very rich man. Not to buy a Stutz would have been uncharitable and anyway Weymann says he found certain undeniable qualities in this excellent American car, naming amenities and power for size rather than sheer speed and durability. Weymann says he brought the Stutz to France, not to race, but to show it to the two automobile makers he rated higher than anyone else, Paul Panhard and Louis Renault. It is easy to imagine Wevmann’s friendship with these two great French manufacturers, both of whom were extensive users of Weymann coachwork. Apparently Panhard wasn’t interested in the Stutz, saying no American firm was going to teach him what a car should be like but Renault kept it for more than a week, finding some very interesting things in it. This makes sense, for whereas Panhard was virtually a back-number by 1928, Renault was just beginning to Americanise his larger models. To suggest that he was raving about the superiority of the Stutz he had beaten fairly and squarely at Indianapolis is, says Weymann, “completely ridiculous”.
Weymann also enlarges on another interesting matter. I thought the American concessionaires might have disliked the idea of the Match Race in ease the French car broke before they could sell it. It was much more subtle than that. They accused Weymann the customs’ trouble, apparently, and more besides, simply because, says Weymann, they reasoned that, as he had sold a licence to Moskovics for his body patents, the Match Race would be bound to be faked, to ensure that the Stutz won, for publicity purposes, to the obvious detriment of the French marque. Their alarm did not stem, as Marion George suggests, front lack of faith in the Hispano to keep going for the 24 hours, fast enough to crack the Stutz.. . . Nonsense again, says Weymann. There is commerce and there is sport and he had no intention of mixing them; as he proved by continuing at speed while his rival was in the pits. Whether or not the Match Race Hispano-Suiza was sold in the States I do not know but it seems it was Weymann’s own car, not a works car, and that Hispano-Suiza were so pleased with the publicity resulting from the vanquishing of the Stutz, that on his return to France they gave him another.
Today, alas, Weymann is not rich, but has been working on a simple automatic transmission which could restore lost fortunes: however, I have already used more than my share of l’Anthologie Automobile’s interesting investigation and this story is theirs . . .
Putting two and two together, it seems that Automobile Quarterly was ill-advised to embark on their presumptuous excursion into this particular aspect of Franco-American automotive politics! — W. B.
* The respective chassis prices of a Stutz Black Hawk and a 37.2-h.p. Hispano Suiza at Olympia in 1927 were £895 and £1,650, so the Stutz was scarcely one-fifth cheaper — Ed.
+[This seems to give lie to my earlier assumption that perhaps Bloch drove faster than Weymann; was “Charley” resting, both literally and on his laurels during the fake race to please the onlookers ? Incidentally, at one time Berroist was expected to be Weymann’s co-driver. — W. B.]
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