Apr 23 2011

VanderbiltCupRaces.com Exclusive: The Rare 1910 Vanderbilt Cup Race Radiator Plate

One of the most elusive pieces of Vanderbilia are the special radiator plates to signify entrants practicing for the 1910 Vanderbilt Cup Race and the associated Sweepstakes races. Although these plates were documented to exist, I believe no one had actually ever seen them...until my favorite co-author Al Velocci examined this photo of three 1910 Abbott-Detroits posted on April 12, 2011.


For ten days prior to the 1910 Vanderbilt Cup Race, the Long Island Motor Parkway was closed to regular traffic before 8:00 am to enable race entrants to practice on the course. To identify the race cars, each entrant received a yellow radiator plate with black lettering with the copy "6th Vanderbilt Cup Race" and the entrant's number. This September 19, 1910 letter from the archives of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum documented instructions to lodge keepers concerning these radiator plates and restricted access to the Motor Parkway.


Al Velocci noticed the two license plates on the two Vanderbilt Cup racers (middle and right) in the above photo. He requested a close-up to see if the top plate was the special Vanderbilt Cup Race plate.


Eureka! The plate was the special 1910 radiator plate issued for entrant No. 42. This Mercer driven by E.H. Sherwood finished 4th in the Wheatley Hills Sweepstakes. Does anyone know if any of these 1910 plates still exist? And, can anyone further identify the manufacturer's plate?

This racer was owned by Washington Roebling II, a manager for the Mercer company and the only son of Charles Roebling and nephew of Washington Roebling, builders of the Brooklyn Bridge. In 1912, at only the age of 30, Washington Roebling II lost his life while returning home on the R.M.S. Titanic. Confusingly, this car was one of the three Abbott Detroits entered in the 1910 Massapequa Sweepstakes, not the #42 Mercer.

Great job Al!

Links to related posts on VanderbiltCupRaces.com and the Internet:

Archives: Long Island Motor Parkway-License Plates

Archives: Vanderbilia

Profile of Washington Roebling II

Encyclopedia-Titanica- Washington Roebling II


Apr 25 2011 Noel Gish-Trustee Vanderbilt Museum 10:43 AM

  Great addition to the history of the Vanderbilt races. The more you dig into the past the more you find. Now we can begin the search to fine one still strapped to the front of Mercedes somewhere in the world car community.
    Good work
          Noel Gish

Apr 26 2011 Hugh Nutting 8:12 PM

The license plate is very interesting. It is a Michigan manufacturer’s plate. I have some photos of an Abbott-Detroit from 1912 with the same style lettering. 5056M was one of their plate numbers. I wonder if some Detroit car maker actually imported this 1910 Mercedes or helped with the paper work to enter it in the race.

Apr 26 2011 Hugh Nutting 8:25 PM

I just blew up the first photo to 150%. The two other cars are Abbott-Detroits like the cars that won at Elgin against Frank Kulick’s Ford.

Apr 28 2011 Howard Kroplick 9:48 PM


Great job! The two cars on the left and right are definitely Abbott-Detroits. The big question is the car in the middle identifed as “Entrant No.42” which ran as a Mercer.

The radiator logo and Michigan license plate indicate that it also was an Abbott-Detroit.  Moreover, three Abbott-Detroits competed in the 1910 Massapequa Sweepstakes (#‘s 53,55 and 56)..


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