Wednesday, January 11, 2017

way back in 1902-03, racing was pretty dangerous and wacky... they didn't have a lot of power, or advancements, but they could drive through walls unscathed

Back in 1902-03, Walter C. Baker built three streamlined electric racing cars. Called “Torpedoes,” these all-but-forgotten electrics should be remembered for four good reasons: 
  1) They allowed Walter Baker to become the first man in history to break the 100-mph barrier in a motorcar; 
  2) the Torpedoes’ bodies were remarkably streamlined, decades ahead of anything similar;
  3) because Walter Baker regularly crashed his cars, none of his speed marks went into the record books. Even in his own day, he became known as “Bad Luck Baker;” and
  4) what probably saved his life in all those crashes were plain, simple shoulder harnesses, an idea again much too modern for the times.


Baker mounted 11 batteries plus a 14-horsepower electric motor behind the seats and ran double chains to the rear axle.

 On Memorial Day 1902, May 31, the Automobile Club of America held speed trials on the streets of Staten Island, N.Y. Baker intended the Torpedo to set records that would overwhelm the makers of steam- and piston-powered machines. Rumor had it that the Torpedo was good for 120 mph, which at that time was roughly double the World Land Speed Record.

Baker chose to drive the Torpedo himself. His passenger and brakeman was the company’s chief mechanic and electrician, E.E. Denzer. Baker and Denzer covered the flying kilometer in 16 seconds, running exactly 100 mph, and they were still accelerating when Baker lost control crossing a set of trolley tracks.

 His steering went limp and, as Denzer yanked the brake lever, the car left the road and smashed sideways into the crowd. Two spectators were knocked flat but not injured. A third died instantly. The Torpedo spun 180 degrees, then stopped.

Baker and Denzer stepped out unscathed and were immediately arrested for manslaughter. But the police released them just as quickly, because the crowd had crossed protective barricades. Despite the accident, Baker had set a new record for the flying kilometer, albeit unofficially.

Then, in Aug. 1903, Baker entered both Torpedo in a special event for electric cars near Cleveland. A man named Chisholm drove one, started on the pole and was doing fine, until he got sideswiped by a Waverly Electric. Chisholm crashed and knocked down four spectators. No one was badly hurt, but Walter Baker, who’d been driving the second Kid, decided to hang up his goggles and stop running into people.

Looks like Tim has the makings of a book, as he's spent 7 years researching to compile 75 pages of information on the topic of the Baker Electric Torpedo.

He hasn't printed it yet, but you can read it on a Kindle. Yes, I've pointed out to him that people who like old cars like other old fashioned things like hardcopy books. I don't think he's going to actually have any of thousands of book makers actually print some copies of his material into a book though.

I would. Once you've done that, you've created a lasting monument to your efforts of research and will forever after be known as an author. 


  1. I wrote the only book on the subject.

    1. and as soon as it goes to print you actually will have written a book. Until then, you have only completed a file on a computer. Just as a car means something with wheels that can be driven, the word book has a meaning too, and that is a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers.
      I compliment you immensely on having researched and gathered the information to get a book printed! Now, get to printing. A kindle isn't anything more than a useless computer tablet I'm not going to waste money on as I already have a smart phone, a tablet, and a laptop. I'd buy a book if you'd made some.

    2. Paper and ink does not make the difference between writing a book. It's the difference between having a physical book produced. It would be illogical for me to produce a paper book to satisfy people like you at this point because I accumulate images at such a rate as to be a waste to reprint and bind them now. For instance, I have purchased 2 original photos since your comment on the site. These photos are nowhere to be seen anywhere else. The fact remains that no comprehensive book could be produced without my research and images. Impossible in fact. So someone could easily produce a book to satisfy your standards and not be nearly as informative as my digital version. So, you can decide how you consume your information and the rest of the people interested in the torpedoes can learn from screens like most people in 2018.

    3. Well, the many authors of the world that win awards for making books would disagree. I may be wrong, but, I don't recall anyone winning a Hugo, a Caldecott, the John Newbery Medal, or the Nobel for Literature for a digital manuscript, file, or article.
      Therefore, you are wrong. Paper and ink are required for writing a book.
      As for satisfying people, don't bother. As long as you are happy, that's really all that counts. I'd already forgotten all about you and these Baker torpedos. It's been about 6 thousand articles and a hundreds of thousands of photos since I've given these any thought.

      You're also wrong about your estimate of how many people read from screens. As they say in theater, will it play in Des Moines? Figure there are still billions of people living in poverty around the world, without computers, internet, etc. Plus the number of people who simply feel irritated at needing to get books or news from a screen is likely far greater than you will imagine. Kids don't read Harry Potters books online. Old people prefer books. If you consider that many books sold on Amazon, and from Barnes and Noble, you may see where I'm coming from. Used book stores still exist for a reason.

      Whether or not you're the only one with the extensive info on a topic is only important when there is someone who needs it.
      Knowing how to use a slide rule, make a stump puller, or use the Nuclides chart are all topics with no audience.
      Ergo, if only there are "rest of the people interested" then you're onto something.
      If not, you've made a passion project eminently thorough but a footnote in someone else's book on a topic with wider scope.

      How odd to get a note from you after a year has gone by.
      And if the photos you recently purchased are to be found no where else, then, where do you suppose you got them, and of course, what ever ones you get in the future?
      I've learned from the past decade of being a car enthusiast that no matter how rare anyone considers a car, once you're among cars to a greater extent, there really don't seem to be many rare cars, as you're surrounded by them all the time. To someone in Alaska I suppose seeing a Ferrari is astonishingly rare. To anyone in Beverly Hills it's a daily occurance