Not many race cars survive 110 years, let alone ones that were as busy as the ex-Harry Grant ALCO. Between 1909 and 1911, the machine seen here in the hands of its current owner, Howard Kroplick, twice won the Vanderbilt Cup, America’s premier road race; twice won its class in the Dead Horse Hill climb; won several track races, and raced in the very first Indianapolis 500.
No wonder that in 1910, Grant decided to change its color from light gray to black and name it “la Bete Noire,” French for “the Black Beast.” It truly was an anathema to his rivals. He and riding mechanic Frank Lee also began wearing black sweaters when racing it.
This ALCO is big. The wheelbase is longer than a 1970s Cadillac and even with practically no body it weighs 3,300 pounds. It cost about $6,000 new, or $160,000 in today’s dollars. And it is fast even by current measure, capable of 121 mph. The 680-cubic-inch, 6-cylinder engine makes 100hp, delivered to the wheels by a dual chain drive. Only four were built, and the rest are lost.
Read all about this car and much more in Charles B. Camp’s informative and entertaining feature story “Up, Up And Away—U.S. Hillclimbing’s Heyday” in Vintage Motorsport’s 19.6 Nov/Dec issue. Purchase the issue or subscribe at vintagemotorsport.com.