Auto Racing History

Posted on February 13, 2009 @ 2:14 am
by LJ James

I recently took a trip back in time to Long Island NY’s past! No I was not in a Delorean. I was actually in a 1929 Model A Ford,It was one of many in a pack of Model A Fords.My trip back in time was hosted by members of the Model A Ford Club of Long Island. The Club Established in 1959 is one of the oldest and largest Model A Clubs in the U.S. The Trip took me back in time to Long Islands distant past,Way Back before the LIE back before even the Northern and Southern State Parkways.All the way back to the glory days of William K. Vanderbilt Jr’s Long Island Motor Parkway. The Motor Parkway or the LIMP has been forgotten by many.Portions of it can still be found across the Island some parts are even still in use now going under other names. I must admit I knew almost nothing of the Long Island Motor Parkway before this trip back but as I learned about its history and how it was a major part of shaping the Island we all know and love today, I became very interested in learning more and I would like to share with you a little of what I have learned.

The history of William K. Vanderbilt Jr’s Motor Parkway began on June 6th 1908 when its construction started. It was one of the first concrete roads in the Nation and it was the first to use Bridges and over passes so as to not have any intersections. The Motor parkway reached its almost full length of 45 miles from Queens to Lake Ronkonkoma in 1911 with 65 Bridges and many twists and turns.(There was a 2 and a Half mile western extension built in 1928)

The Motor Parkways History of racing is that of legend and still remembered by many Long Island race fans, William K.Vanderbilt Jr was an avid race fan and racer. He often raced in America and France. Disappointed by the lack of Americans winning any of the races he started the Vanderbilt Cup races in 1904 here on Long Island. The race was an international event and would pit 16 Drivers against each other for the prize of the $2000 Silver Cup which was designed by Tiffany & Co.The Cup was the first major trophy in American auto racing. The Races where first held on 30 miles of local roads in Nassau County.These Races where the Beginning of America’s love affair with auto racing.In 1906 when two spectators where killed and many others injured by a racing car on Jericho turnpike near the intersection of what is known today as NY Routes 106 and 107, Vanderbilt and friends soon came up with the idea for the Long Island Motor Parkway. The Cup Races where Successfully held on Long Island in conjunction with the Motor Parkway Until 1910 when four spectators where killed and twenty injured.

With the Cup races gone the Motor parkway became purely an access route with a toll of $2.00 and was used mostly by New York’s rich looking to hit the party circuit or to go for Sunday Drives and of course by those just looking to drive really fast.The Motor parkway was a privately owned toll road with no speed limit, No Commercial Traffic and because it was privately owned it was off limits to law enforcement. During Prohibition the Parkway gained a reputation as a rum runners road as bootleggers started using the road to transport alcohol.In 1917 the toll was lowered to $1.00 and when more Drivers started using the Motor Parkway to travel across Long Island the speed limit was reduced to 40 mph and local Police where aloud to begin patrolling the parkway to improve traffic safety. An estimated 150,000 cars per year used the Motor parkway at its prime. There where 12 toll lodges along the parkway and the toll lodges have a great story all their own. The Long Island Motor Parkway Continued on until Easter Sunday,April 16th 1938 when it was forced to close. The Motor Parkway even after reducing its toll again to only 40 cents was No longer able to Compete with Robert Moses State of the art Toll free Northern State Parkway. After its Closer the Motor Parkway was split up and sold off, Many of its Bridges destroyed and roads forgotten.Although some Remaining Sections of this Historic Parkway like the 13 Mile eastern most Section in Suffolk still remain in use Most of the Parkway and its History has gone forgotten until recent years.

Members of the Model A Ford Club of Long Island had known about a section of the Long Island Motor Parkway with one of its Bridges still standing hidden away behind Old Bethpage Village and Restoration on Round Swamp Road in Old Bethpage Where the Club holds its Monthly meetings. For those of you who don’t know Old Bethpage Village and Restoration is a pre-Civil War Long Island Village with more than 55 historic buildings and a place where anyone of us can travel back in time for the day.I’m sure most of you out there from Long Island will remember it from field trips back in your School days.Well It is all still there with its same historic Magic and those old fashion Sodas and Candies you remember. I have found Old Bethpage to be the perfect place for a first Date! It will not only take you back threw time but it will make you feel like a Kid all over again. In the early Months of 2007 the members of the Model A Ford Club of Long Island started Clearing away what time and neglect had covered up. Then in May 2007 after much hard work the Members of the Model A Ford Club of Long Island got together at Old Bethpage Village and Restoration and took the first Cruise since its closing on their own private piece of the Motor Parkway and Long Islands History. Mark Adler and his 1931 Model A Coop had the Honor of leading the Group and being the first the travel on it! Long Island has some great History and We must always remember We need to save our Historic Buildings and Land marks!!!

For more info about this article go to the Model A Ford Club of Long Island’s webpage at www.freewebs.com/modela

While researching this story one thing that kept coming to my mind was that if Long Island is one of the first place’s where Auto Racing in the US began then doesn’t that mean that Auto Racing really needs to stay here? Lets reclaim the Glory!!!

Till next time this is your Bro L.J. James AmericanBikerX.com

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