Belt up and enjoy this 365-day ride as you cruise past the most momentous motoring events in history. Packed with fascinating facts about races, motorists and the history of the mighty engine, this is a must-visit web site for any car enthusiast.
Now billed as one of the oldest motorsports events in the United States, the Mount Washington - Climb to the Clouds - was first run, seven years before the first 500-mile race at the Brickyard in Indianapolis and 12 years prior to the inaugural Pikes Peak Hillclimb in Colorado. Run sporadically throughout the years, many famous racecar drivers and automobile manufacturers have competed in the event through its’ colorful history. Driver Harry Harkness won the first Mount Washington, New Hampshire, hill-climb race driving a 60hp Mercedes. The earliest ascent of Mount Washington in an automobile occurred in 1899, but the aptly named "Carriage Road" had been carrying coaches to the top of Mount Washington since 1861. Answering the public's desire for auto racing--hill-climb races in particular--local authorities arranged for the first "Climb to the Clouds." The race attracted entries from car companies who wished to show off their performance capabilities. A contemporary account describes Harkness' win: "In a chill driving mist that would compel cautious running even on a wide level road, Harry Harkness rushed Mount Washington in the Climb to the Clouds today and placed the record figures for this year at twenty-four minutes, thirty seconds. Something more than the achievements of the drivers of American stock cars was to be expected from the sixty-horsepower $18,000 Mercedes, and from this comparative view the feat was not extraordinary." In contrast to Harkness and his expensive import, F.E. Stanley, the creator of the Stanley Steamer, drove his eight-horsepower steam engine to the top in twenty-eight minutes and nineteen seconds. Steam cars had dominated hill-climb events until companies like Mercedes could engineer cars that would handle the massive internal combustion engines required to propel them up inclines at higher speeds. The accomplishment of the drivers in these events is perhaps more remarkable than the feats of the cars themselves. Consider the newspaper account of Harkness' run: "To guide 2,200 pounds of mechanism up an eight-mile narrow mountain road, and to pull up just 4,600 feet above the starting point after averaging twenty miles an hour without a stop is a sure enough test of man and machine." In order to compete with Harkness' impressive posted time, Stanley stripped his machine bare for his ascent. The Stanley's engine had only 15 moving parts, ran silently, and managed only seven horsepower, but at 20mph it would bump and knock around a mountain road even more than its heavier competitors. Stanley eliminated even his seat cushion for the climb, and when he stood at the podium to accept the trophy for the steam car class "he was rather used up with the jolting he got along the way." The Climb to the Clouds still runs today in late June.
Harry Harkness in a 60 h.p. Mercedes on Mount Washington