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SNAPSHOT 423: 1904 Bellamy Racer

The Automotor Journal for 26 March 1904 contained this photograph of the Bellamy racing car, with a caption, full of optimism and certainty, that we reproduce here:

“THE 200-H.P. BELLAMY RACER. – Probably the most powerful car which has yet been built is the 200-h.p. Bellamy Racer, shown in the above illustration. It has been built for an American lady – Miss Hockenzuhl – and has recently undergone its first trials in France, prior to making the attempt to lower the kilometre record – with which object it was primarily designed. The engine has eight cylinders, the bore and stroke of which is 183 mm. A separate throttle-valve is provided in each of the induction-pipes close up to the inlet-valves, and these can either be operated simultaneously or individually. Both a low-tension magneto system and a high-tension system, with coils and batteries, are provided, and the carburettor is “automatic.” An interesting feature of the car is that no change-speed-gear is fitted, but that the speed of the vehicle is regulated by controlling that of the engine. The wheel base is 2.8 metres, and the car is expected to attain a speed of 185 kiloms. per hour (115 m.p.h.).”

A look at the world land speed record at that date is instructive. It had been held since 12 January of that year by Henry Ford on his 999 Racer at 91.37 m.p.h. over one mile in one direction only (the two-way rule did not come into force until 1914). If the Bellamy could have achieved 115 m.p.h. over one kilometre (the official record at the time could be over a kilometre or a mile), it might not have been beaten until 26 January 1906 when Fred Marriott attained 127.66 m.p.h. over the kilometre in his steam-powered Stanley Rocket.

Alas this was not to be. There is no record of any record-breaking activity by the car, and it disappeared from the world stage. Miss Hockenzuhl (sometimes spelled Hockenhull) was said to be a wealthy American woman. No definite trace can be found of her, but a Mrs and Miss Hockenhull do appear together in the list of foreign visitors to the health resort in Bad Homburg vor der Höhe just north of Frankfurt, arriving between 16 and 18 June 1904 with Mr Robert Hockenhull ‘and servants’. Their ‘home’ address was given as Hotel Metropole, Paris. This clearly looks like a grand tour by a wealthy American family.

The dates match Mr Robert McMackin Hockenhull, wealthy American banker, his wife Mrs Ida May Hockenhull whom he married in 1879 and his daughter Virginia May Hockenhull, who married in 1909 and who is therefore the only known Miss Hockenhull from 1904 that we can find. She would have been at most 24 years old at the time. Our Snapshot shows a lady who could indeed be Miss Virginia May Hockenhull.

The only other mention we can find of the Bellamy is in a letter in the December 1971 issue of Motor Sport from the esteemed Nick Georgano. The relevant extract is:

“…I wonder if the “250-h.p. eight-cylinder car” which François Richard was said to have designed was the 1904 Bellamy? This was a real monster with a straight-8 engine of 183 x 183 mm. giving a capacity of 38 litres, and only one forward speed. It was built for a wealthy American woman, Miss Hockenhull, with the sole intention of capturing the Land Speed Record, but I have never heard that it even made an attempt on the record.

The French-born François Richard built the Richard car in Clevelend, Ohio between 1914 and 1919. Those cars had an engine capacity of nearly 6 litres, so Richard certainly liked large engines. If anybody knows more, please let us know.

Image courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive:

One response to “SNAPSHOT 423: 1904 Bellamy Racer”

  1. David Grimstead says:

    Several contemporary reports appeared about the Bellamy racer: one in the American Motor Age Magazine of April 7th 1904 included a different photograph of Miss Hockenzuhl/Hockenhull at the wheel of the car wearing a different outfit and hat but with the same passenger, the heavily-bearded and cap-wearing Monsieur Bellamy. It showed the car’s left side with its eight vertical exhaust pipes from separate cylinders disappearing into the side rail of the chassis. It was captioned:

    “TO MAKE 115 MILES AN HOUR. Some time ago one M. Bellamy, a French motor bicycle builder, announced that he was building a 165-horsepower car that would be a record breaker in speed as well as in size and power. The car is now finished and is on the road, although it has never been given a “let-out” speed trial. The frame is of pressed steel, the sides drilled to reduce weight. The wheel base of this car is 8 feet 3 inches and the motor is an eight-cylinder vertical engine placed in the usual fashion. It is of 182 millimetres bore by the same stroke, which is equivalent to 7¼ inches. There is an individual throttle in each inlet pipe close to the valve chamber, so that the cylinders may be cut out individually at will. Both high- and low-tension ignition systems are fitted. The radiator is of the ordinary cellular pattern and with the circulation maintained by a gear-driven pump. There is no speed change gear, the transmission being direct to the rear wheels by double side chains from a countershaft driven from the clutch. The driver’s seat is almost back to the rear axle and the steering column is set at an angle of about 30 degrees above horizontal. The car is geared to travel at the rate of 115 miles an hour, which would be a mile every 314 seconds. It is further estimated that the rate of fuel consumption would be 1242 gallons per hour. It is said the machine has been sold to a Miss Hockenhull, an American woman. It ought to make a nice quiet park runabout for her.”

    The Bystander/Tatler magazines had published a picture of “Miss Hockenzuhl” in the car on her own and one ditto of Bellamy in the same place, in March 1904 and the April 1st 1904 London Morning Post had run substantially the same report with a misguided but optimistic question: “Perhaps the most interesting feature of the chain-driven car, however, is that everything in the nature of change-speed gear has been dispensed with, the rate at which the car is made to travel being regulated solely by the flexibility of the engine. In this connection it would be very interesting to know what is the slowest speed at which the car can be driven. If this racing machine proves that a car can be constructed that is capable of speed beyond a hundred miles an hour, and yet can be so finely controlled that it can made to start off or follow slow traffic at four miles or less per hour, one of the most difficult, heavy, friable, and expensive items in motor-car construction may be dispensed with.”

    According to the American Register of September 1904, this expert lady motorist may well have driven the car on public roads: “A FAIR CHAUFFEUSE. Miss Hockenhull has returned to Paris, where she is to be seen frequently driving her high-power automobile. Miss Hockenhull can give beans to many men in the adroit manner she manages the snorting monster in congested portions of the city. It is seldom one sees a more elegant driver and a more competent connoisseur of an automobile than Miss Hockenhull, who has studied their every part, and mastered the delicate meanings of cylinders, carburettors, tremblers, and the multitudinous etceteras which go to make a motor-car one of the most ticklish things (after a woman) in the world.”

    However, it was not her only powerful car. In New York in June 1904, she bought and drove the highest-powered Mercedes available and when next in France she was observed by the Paris gossip columnist of the July 1904 American Motor magazine: “Speaking of big machines, I will mention that Miss Hockenhull, of Boston, who has been driving a 200-horsepower machine about France, has ‘come down’ to a 60-horsepower Mercedes, which she says is fast enough for ordinary purposes.”

    Her car’s builder, the forename-less Bellamy, had been developing the racer for some time as it was earlier reported in the Automobile Topics Illustrated January 9th 1904. This report may explain why the car had no gearbox in April: “A NEW car of 165 horse power has just been completed by M. Bellamy, of Paris. It is fitted with an eight-cylinder motor, and has three forward speeds. M. Bellamy says that the car is geared on the second speed to 130 kilometres (80 miles an hour), and that he has not as yet been able to get on his top speed at all. As a matter of fact, he has only had one trial on the road, during which the clutch was damaged, and he is waiting for another to be made before he can make further tests.”

    M. Bellamy’s history is cloudy but as well as motorcycle and car designer and builder, he was perhaps the Mercedes driver who took part in and crashed out of the 1902 Paris-Vienna race. There is indirect evidence that he was the same M. Bellamy who came to Weybridge in 1906 to challenge for the Daily Mail flight prize. He was photographed there, heavily-bearded and wearing that same style cap and bears a striking resemblance to the man sitting next to Miss Hockenhull in 1904. After his aircraft failed, aeronaut Bellamy took to ballooning and sadly he went up alone on 12th April 1909 in the Daily Chronicle balloon, which came down in the mouth of the Thames and the press reported “no news has been heard of him since.”

    With respect to Nick Georgano’s 1971 query about a 250 h.p. car designed by François Richard, a report in the Automotive Industries magazine of February 13, 1908 may help to answer that: “HISTORY OF A RACER WHICH NEVER RACED. A racing automobile which never raced has brought Alfred G. Vanderbilt, its owner, and François Richard, its builder, into a legal squabble over the payment of $5,000 demanded by the latter. In October, 1905, when preparations were active for the Florida tournament of the following January, Mr. Vanderbilt was introduced, through his chauffeur, Paul Sartori, to François Richard, said to be skilled in building racing cars. Order was given to go ahead on the construction of a 250-horsepower eight-cylinder racer to be the fastest car the world had ever seen. Three months was a short time in which to produce such a machine, but by working day and night, and engaging a special train at the last moment, the monster was on the Ormond-Daytona beach in time. Unfortunately for the plans of the speed annihilators, the eight huge cylinders failed to give forth more than spasmodic explosions. A small army of mechanics wrestled with it in the Hotel Ormond garage, while Alfred G. Vanderbilt looked on with ebbing enthusiasm. Finally, the 250-horsepower 100-mile-an-hour flyer was shipped back to New York, carried to the garage, and left there. Mr. Vanderbilt was reported to have expended $20,000 in his vain attempt to create a speed record. Later a bill for $5,000 was received from M. Richard for three months’ work on the car. Mr. Vanderbilt refused to pay on the ground that the car was a failure. The designer urged that the work was all that could have been expected, and that the car would have run had there been time to put it into condition. In the Supreme Court, before Judge Girard, Thomas J. Fay, automobile expert for Mr. Vanderbilt, testified that if the car ran at all it would go twice as fast as the designer intended it to do, and instead of 250 horsepower, it would require 1,000 horsepower. No decision had been reached by the jury on going to press.” Ultimately it reached one and awarded Richard only $1250; by then he was manufacturing carburettors of the type he had fitted to his racer engine.

    The Bellamy racer was completed in Paris, France by January 1904; the François Richard built between October 1905 and January 1906 evidently in New York, USA, although Richard had only emigrated there during 1905. The two cars appear equally large but significantly different, with the latter having four sets of double cylinders (some suggest they were ex-FIAT), apparently no radiator, undrilled chassis rails and no side-chains – and of course, a year after the engine of the Bellamy had destroyed its clutch but not stopped it, the François Richard’s, on which incidentally the clutch-spring was described as not strong enough, didn’t go at all…

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