Sheepshead Bay Speedway - 1916

1916 Adams Special
Motor Age, May 18, 1916
Motor Age, May 18, 1916
MOTOR, October, 1915
Here's a story worthy of further research that came to my attention when a friend recently acquired the 1916 Adams Special (with a number of other cars) - the Adams Special is now in the permanent collection of another MA based collector. This car had been found/purchased by Glen Gould, who I've written about in the past. I believe Gould purchased the Adams car in the 1990s, prior to his passing, but the circumstances of his acquisition are unknown to me. The history on the car is limited, only that it was built to race the 1916 Indianapolis 500 but never started the race. However, the car did race at the famous Sheepshead Bay track on Long Island, NY in 1916.

After spending some time looking in to this, it appears that the car was created by the Adams brothers, George and Richard, from Brooklyn, NY. In press reports from the day, they are simply described as "wealthy sportsmen". The brothers owned and campaigned other cars around this time - more on that later - but this Special appears to have been build to compete for the 1916 A.A.A. speedway championship. With George Adams driving, The Adams Special actually raced in 5 AAA sanctioned events in 1916, as well as at least one match race. Of course the car was entered in more races than it actually ran, but after the 1916 season it appears to have been retired as there are no records of it racing in any AAA sanctioned events in 1917. The Adams brothers remain a bit of a mystery at this point, as I've been unable to find much more about their lives, however we know a bit more about the car from period publications. The Special is said to have raced with a Duesenberg built 4 cylinder engine with a bore and stroke of 3.75 x 6.75 and displacement of 298.2 cubic inches. The car was also noted as having run a "Mnster" (?) Carb, Bosch ignition, and A.C. plugs.

For Richard and George, the 1916 race season was full of action and I've listed a summary of their racing exploits with the Adams Special below:

May 13, 1916 - Sheepshead Bay Speedway Track
The Adams Special finished in the money (5th place - winning $1000) in the Metropolitan Trophy Race (150 miles)
The Adams Special failed to finish the Coney Island Cup Race (20 miles) when on the 6th lap the car "went out with stripped driving splines on the right axle shaft".

Sheepshead Bay Speedway Track
The New York Times (July 5, 1916) reported that the Adams Special, with George Adams at the wheel, had beat George Theobald, driving a Sunbeam, in a Ten-Mile Match Automobile race. It was further explained that the Sunbeam caught fire on the second lap of the five lap event and George continued on to victory.

September 30, 1916 - Sheepshead Bay Speedway Track
The Adams Special (car No.27) starts the Astor Cup Race (250 miles) but fails to finish the 250 miles placing 12th. Motor Age, October 5, 1916, reported that many cars had trouble with fouled spark plugs do to oil. "Adams, in the car bearing his own name, was the leader of the spark plug changers, as he had three stops on this account."

October 28, 1916 - Sheepshead Bay Speedway Track
The Adams Special starts the Harkness Trophy Race (100 miles) but fails to finish
The Adams Special also starts the Fifty-Mile Consolation Race but fails to finish

The car was also entered at the Chicago (as reported by Motor Age, May 25, 1916), Cincinnati, and Uniontown, PA races (AAA sanctioned events) but did not start - it appears that the Adams Special didn't travel far from home. George Adams would end up finishing in the 23rd position (out of 42 drivers) in the 1916 AAA championship points race.

However the story doesn't end with the Adams Special, as stated earlier the brothers also campaigned other cars including, for a time, the aero-engined, twelve-cylinder Sunbeam. This car is not to be confused with other race cars built around the same time by Sunbeam - all of which were 6-cylinder cars - an example being the Sunbeam driven by Theobald in the match race with the Adams Special. The twelve-cylinder car was built by Sunbeam and probably used the newly developed Cossack 12-cylinder aero engine created on request to meet demand for a more powerful engine to power British sea planes campaigned in WWI. The Daily Almanac and Year-Book for 1916 (pg 459) reported that: "The one hour record was put at 107 miles 1,672 yards by a twelve cylinder Sunbeam on the English Brooklands track Oct, 11, 1913." The car soon found its way to America and was bought and sold by a number of individuals - and raced by some of the best known drivers of the day.  By 1916, it is reported to have been owned by Richard Adams.

The New York Times (July 3, 1916) reported that a ten-mile match race (with $5000 going to the winner) had been arranged at Sheepshead Bay (seemingly the Adams Bros. home track) -  "George Adams will drive the twelve-cylinder Sunbeam, the $30,000 world's record car, and his opponent will be George Theobald, the French racer, winner of many distance races here and abroad, who will drive his 135-horse-power Mercedes."  It was also reported in 1916 that there was expected to be a feature race between the 12-cylinder Sunbeam owned by the Adams Brothers and the Blitzen Benz owned by Harry Harkness. There is one last reference to the the 12-cylinder Sunbeam (while under the Adam's ownership) in Marci Lynn McGuinness' book, Yesteryear at the Uniontown Speedway, which states that Hughie Hughes was to drive the 12-cylinder Sunbeam for the Adams brothers. The book notes that car had recently beat Bob Burman in Corona, CA - the race in which Burman lost his life driving a Puegeot.

It's unclear how the Adams brothers fared with the Sunbeam or how long they owned it. However, the car shows up at the ill-fated Kalamazoo race in August of 1916 driven by Jack Peacock. Said to be owned at the time by Hanson-Peacock Co., Brooklyn, NY - The Horseless Age, Nov. 11, 1914 lists them as "automobiles, tires, motors, etc., 31 Liberty Street, New York". It is reported at the time that the Sunbeam may have contributed to a multi-car pile up that killed 2 drivers (including Peacock) and seriously injured 8 others. As an interesting side note, it is this same twelve-cylinder Sunbeam that is said to have inspired (or influenced) Packard's Twin Six (V12) engine offered to the public among the 1916 models. Packard is said to have held this car for a period of time, most likely prior to the Adams Brothers ownership. Packard not only introduced a road going twelve cylinder engine (100 hp), but also entered the aviation engine business with a similar twelve cylinder engine (300 cu in. with cylinders cast in blocks of three). It is my understanding that this same aero engine that found its way into Packard's twelve cylinder race car.

It's good to see that the Adams Special has survived and it's certainly a car that deserves further research.

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