During the Geneva Concours d’Elegance car show this past weekend in Illinois, Jeff Mahr recalled the incredible story of his great-grandfather, George Schuster, winning driver of the 1908 New York to Paris Great Race. His presentation, “Bandits, Guns and Automobiles” recalls the saga as he heard it as a child combined with ongoing research. The race followed much of what became the Lincoln Highway in 1913 from northern Indiana to the Great Salt Lake. Jeff has a web site devoted to the race and his own work, with images such as the one below showing Jeff with the winning Thomas Flyer:
LHA director Kay Shelton attended the talk and sent back a glowing review:
Jeff Mahl got a standing ovation at the Geneva History Center on August 23. He described how he listened to his great-grandpa’s stories. When he was 14 and had to write a history assignment in school, that is when he realized how famous and important his great-grandpa was. Then he really paid attention to all of the stories, and thought they were better than anything on TV at the time. George Schuster lived until he was 99, he still shoveled snow at age 98, and still had a drivers’ license when he was 95.
Then, Mr. Mahl began his talk by putting on a driving jacket and sitting in a chair, and told the story in first person, like he was Schuster himself, with a PowerPoint. Schuster found out the day before the race that his boss wanted him to be in it and had very little preparation. E.R. Thomas chose him because he was a mechanic.
There will be a documentary out sometime in 2009 on the “Greatest Auto Race on Earth.” It will be released in Canada, Germany, France, and the U.S. He is a very nice man and if anyone gets a chance to have him as a speaker I highly recommend him. There was a $25 charge for the ticket — they brought him in conjunction with the very fancy annual auto show Geneva holds (Bentleys, Lamborghinis, Bugattis, Astin Martins, etc.). He signed the 1966 book I found [see below] and told me that it was very rare. His picture is in it as a little boy. He also re-published The Great Automobile Race: New York to Paris (originally published by the Thomas Motor Company) in 1992 with his own introduction. There is no date on the original book but it has to be 1912 or earlier as that is when the Thomas Motor Co. went defunct
I also have the book – an incredible, enjoyable journey: