Carlo Demand and the Alco “Black Beast” on Long Island

At this year’s Lime Rock Historic Festival I had the opportunity to see the Alco “Black Beast” and to meet its owner, Howard Kroplick.  This is a very impressive car and Howard Kroplick is the perfect owner for this car.  I posted a story about the Alco and my visit with Howard Kroplick on this website on September 9, 2011.

Recently I acquired a great book called “Carlo Demand in Motion and Color”.  This is a compilation of about 50 of Carlo Demand’s paintings of automobile racing from 1895 to 1956.  One of those images, which I have shown below, is a painting of Harry Grant driving an Alco racer in the 1910 Vanderbilt Race on Long Island.

Carlo Demand’s Painting of Harry Grant in an Alco Won the Vanderbilt Cup Races on Long Island in 1909 and 1910

The 1910 Vanderbilt Cup on Long Island had a field of 30 cars including cars driven by Ray Harroun and Louis Chevrolet.  It has been reported that there were about 300,000 spectators at the race.  Harry Grant and his Alco won the 278 mile race with an average speed of 65.18 mph.  During the race the spectators crowded the road like a Portugese WRC rally and at the end of the race there were 20 people in the hospital, 2 spectators were dead, and two riding mechanics died.

For more information on the Alco race car, Howard Kroplick, and the Vanderbilt Cup races, please see my post on September 9, 2011.

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5 Responses to Carlo Demand and the Alco “Black Beast” on Long Island

  1. Harald von Langsdorff says:

    If you have not seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang lately, do yourself a favor and rent it, preferably the BluRay re-release. Just the first 10 min are worth it. It tells the story why Chitty become wrecked. It was a pre WW1 race car that got in an accident. The opening scenes recreates the fictitious races Chitty did, such as GRAND PRIX DE FRANCE – GRAND PRIX DEUTSCHLAND. An enormous amount of detail is packed in this opening sequence. You can watch it over and over again and keep finding little, well researched bits. I swear there is a car just like the Alcon in there somewhere. Very entertaining.

    • Hi Harald,
      Perhaps I will rent the movie “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” as I have never seen it before. I understand that the inspiration for that story/movie was a real-life character Count Louis Zborowski. He was a wealthy sportsman who had an interest in racing from a very early age. His father died in a racing accident in 1903. When the Count was older, he built a series of four different racing cars called “Chitty Bang Bang”. The first Chitty Bang Bang cars raced in 1921. The Count was killed in a racing accident at the Italian Grand Prix in 1924. He was only 29 years old when he died.

      It is unlikely that the Alco race car actually raced against any of the Chitty Bang Bang cars due to being from a slightly different era, but the Alco has such a classic design of what an early 20th century race car should look like, I’m not surprised that you saw a car in the movie that looked like an Alco. Another thing that I recall Howard Kroplick telling me about his Alco car is that it was in the Harrah collection for a number of years. So perhaps when they made the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie, the movie makers rented the Alco car from Harrah to use in some race scenes. Using that hypothesis, maybe you did see the Alco in the movie.

      I should put together some of the information that I have about Count Zborowski and post it to my website. I think that I’ll do that after I return from going up to Canada for Canadian Thanksgiving.


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