Jan 29 2018

Mystery Painting #4 Solved: A 1962 Peter Helck Painting of the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race

This weekend's Mystery Friday Painting featured an unusual Peter Helck painting.

Answers to Mystery Foto questions:

  • Identify the race, race cars, drivers and mechanicians in the painting

1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race

#16 Locomobile with driver George Robertson and mechanician Glenn Ethridge (finished first and later owned by Peter Helck)

#12 Thomas  with driver George Saltzman and mechanician Blancard (finished fifth)

  • What is the the driver on the left doing? Hint: It is described in one of Peter Helck's books.

According to George Robertson in Peter Helck's book The Checkered Flag,  Robertson was attempting to pass the slower #12 Thomas and threw a tire iron at Saltzman to get his attention.

  • Peter Helck painted himself into the photo. Where is he? Provide a rationale.

The current owner's father  commissioned this painting in 1962. He documented that Peter Helck had included his likeness as a child watching the Vanderbilt Cup Race in this painting. My best guess is that Peter is the child sitting on the hill wearing a Helck blue beret.

Comments (8)

Congrats to Dick Gorman, Greg O., George Lucas, Brian McCarthy, Art Kleiner and Jim Blanchard for correctly identifying the 1908 race and its participants.

Kudos to Dick Gorman, Steve Lucas, Brian McCarthy and Jim Blanchard for recognizing that Robertson was ready to throw the tool in order to pass the #12 Thomas.


Howard Kroplick


Foreword by George Robertson: The Checkered Flag- 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race

#16 Locomobile

#12 Thomas


Jan 27 2018 Dick Gorman 9:59 AM

Mystery Friday Painting #4…The race shown here in the pic is the October 24, 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race. The #16 car is the Locomobiile driven by George Robertson with Glenn Ethridge as mechanician. The #12 car is a Thomas driven by George Salzman with Blancard as mechanician. The Locomobile won the race and the Thomas came in fifth. I don’t have the Peter Helck’s book mentioned above so my guess is that driver Robertson is threatening the Thomas crew ahead of him in an effort to let Robertson pass the Thomas. As for Peter Heck painting himself into the scene, I want to believe that he is shown second from left holding a sketch pad. As an artist he would be trying to sketch the scene as best he could during the race.

Jan 28 2018 Greg O. 8:48 PM

-Identify the race, race cars, drivers and mechanicians in the painting

According to the poster on the pole in the painting, it’s the 4th VCR on October 24, 1908. The #16 Locomobile driven by George Robertson/Mechanician: Glenn Ethridge is following the #12 Thomas driven by George Salzman/Mechanician: Blancard

-What is the the driver on the left doing? Hint: It is described in one of Peter Helck’s books

I’ve been unable to locate the answer on this one without the book, but the funny answer is he’s beating the Loco like a horse and jockey to try and muster up the HP to pass the Thomas!

-Peter Helck painted himself into the photo. Where is he? Provide a rationale.

The figure in blue with his hand resting on the fence post in the center looks like it could be him wearing beret similar to the one Helck would frequently wear.

Jan 28 2018 Steve Lucas 9:46 PM

I think this might be the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup race with the #16 car being the Locomobile (driver George Robertson, mechanician Glenn Etheridge) and # 12 car being the Thomas (driver George Salzman, mechanician Blancard). Since Peter Helck would have been 15 years old in 1908, I’m guessing he is the boy waving directly above the number 6 on the Locomobile. Could the driver be signaling to the 12 car that he is going to attempt to pass?

Jan 28 2018 Brian D McCarthy 9:52 PM

*ID race, cars, drivers/mechanics:  VCR 10/24/1908. Locomobile #16- George Robertson/Glenn Ethridge ( Winners ).  Thomas #12-George Saltzman/Blancard ( 5th place. I guess Blancard is a surname ).

*What is the driver on the left doing? Described in one of Helck’s books:  This required a visit to The Half Hollow Hills Public Library ( an “all library” internet search showed they have both of Peter Helck’s books….Great Auto Races and The Checkered Flag. The following is a forward submitted by George Robertson in The Checkered Flag, pg. 75, 3rd paragraph:  In 1908, though, we had our day, I had outrun Haupt’s Chadwick but Herb Lytle, in the Isotta, was pushing me hard for the lead. We came up to one of the slower cars which was bouncing all over the road. It’s crew was unaware of us. We shouted, then I raced the motor to get attention. We were losing precious seconds. In desperation I unhooked a tire iron and let fly at the car ahead. My fine mechanic, Glenn Ethridge, grinned. We got by. So, Mr. Robertson on the left is in the process of flinging the tire iron at the Thomas #12 ( Saltzman/Blancard ). The Thomas ended up in 5th place. I guess they weren’t injured by the projectile.

*ID Peter Helck in the painting/rationale:  Peter Helck ( June 1893 - April 1988 ) is a teenager in 1908. He could have witnessed any of the VCR’s. I believe he’s the gentleman in light blue attire, wearing black boots. His right arm is resting on the end fence post. He looks “age” appropriate for 1962 ( 69 yrs old ).

I read that Mr. Helck had an superb memory. This painting displays this. He could have also utilized a photograph to create the painting. But I doubt that. I believe this painting was inspired by Mr. Robertson’s re-collection of the “tire iron” moment during the 1908 VCR.

This location may be an actual part of the course, Howard. I decided on 2 of your past blogs. 9/23/09 Film “Old 16 Locomobile”. At a 1:14 sec., there’s a “opposite view” of the #16 proceeding onward from a right curve. The surrounding area is similar to this painting. 3/20/13 LIMP First Highway in the World ( Michael Spiteri ). At :45 sec., a #7 car is proceeding onward from a right curve, then a #12 soon coming from behind ( Matheson #7 & Thomas #12 were entrants in the 1908 VCR ). The surrounding area is similar to this painting as well. Or maybe I’m stretching my imagination too far, LOL!

Many thanks to your website here Howard and The Half Hollow Hills Public Library.

Jan 29 2018 Art Kleiner 7:31 AM

Not much time or energy this weekend but here’s what I say:
1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race - George Robertson and Glenn Etheridge in the Locomobie (16) and George Salzman driving a Thomas (12)

Jan 29 2018 Art Kleiner 7:33 AM

One more answer - possibly the driving is shooing away any chickens or bird that might be getting in the way.

Jan 29 2018 Brian D McCarthy 1:50 PM

I forgot to mention that Peter Helck is seen in a few segments of the “Old 16 Locomobile” film on the 9/23/09 blog here.

Jan 29 2018 Jim Blanchard 2:26 PM

George Robertson and Glenn Ethridge getting ready to pass a Thomas driven by George Salzman - Looks like a wrench is about to be thrown to get their attention.
Peter Helck would have been 15 years old so the young man standing at the end of the fence in blue would most likely be him.

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