Racing in New York State

The history of automobile racing in New York State goes back to 1896 when six cars competed in the state’s first auto race. The race covered the distance from New York City to Irvington-on-Hudson and back, averaging 10 miles per hour. Around the turn of the 20th century, New York served as one of the most popular starting or finishing points for cross-country endurance runs. Several of these were won by New York State cars, like the 1908 NY to Paris race, won by the Thomas Flyer built in Buffalo. Another major racing event during the early 20th century was the Vanderbilt Cup.

In 1904, auto enthusiast and shipping mogul William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. organized an auto race on the public roads of Long Island. The prize, a massive silver cup from the Tiffany studio, attracted high-powered racers from Mercedes, Packard and Fiat. These cars tore along the country roads at speeds close to 100 miles per hour. Hundreds of spectators clamored for a glimpse of the racers, usually standing only inches away from the road. In 1906, several spectators were killed when a driver lost control of his car. Quick to respond, Vanderbilt commissioned a new 45-mile private highway for the race. While cup races resumed in 1908, another accident killed more spectators in 1910, causing the organizers to abandon the Long Island course for good. The Vanderbilt Cup returned in 1936 and 1937 at the newly constructed Roosevelt Raceway in Westbury, Long Island. The 1937 race is one of the greatest races in the state’s history, featuring the only pre-WWII appearance of the German racing team in the US. Ralph DePalma, the legendary driver, served as the honorary starter for the race. Interestingly enough, the actual starting signal came from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Hyde Park, NY home via Western Union Telegram.


Currently On Exhibt
• 1950 Allard J2
Courtesy of Erwin Goldschmidt

• #00 Big Block Modified
Courtesy Dave Cruickshank

• Hillegass midget
Courtesy of Jan Bridge

• Rand 1930's "big car"
Courtesy of Les and Randy King

• 1935 Maserati V8RI
Courtesy of Barbara Weaver & Valerie Clark

• 1956 Ferrari Bardahl-Special
Courtesy of Luigi Chinetti, Jr.

• Mark Kinser Sprint Car
Courtesy of Stu Murray

• Cragar Special
Courtesy of Wayne Freihofer

• Asphault Modified #16
Courtesy of Ray Hedger

• Don Rounds #101
Courtesy of Mel Ogden and Dick June

(Please note: Some cars in the Museum may be removed from exhibit due to availability from their owners. Please call the Museum for specific details.)