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SNAPSHOT 452: 1907 Apperson Jackrabbit

On 10 July 1909, the fastest pace ever shown in a road race won by an American car up to that time was achieved by an Apperson Jackrabbit driven by Harris Hanshue. He won the Ferris Cup in the Santa Monica road race in California, run over an 8.4-mile course, at an average of 64.45mph. This beat the previous record set by a Locomobile at 64.3mph in the previous Vanderbilt Cup race. The absolute American record was not beaten: that stood at 65.11mph, set by Wagner in a Fiat at Savannah. The report, in Motor Age, indicates how closely the motoring press followed the rising speeds of racing during this exciting period of racing. The race was popular: fifty thousand people gathered around the track but, as was apparently common at the time, few were in the official grandstand. Either it was too expensive, or more excitement was to be had at the corners (or both); there were plenty of incidents (one car hit a tree), but not a single injury.

The total time for the Apperson, at 3 hours 8 minutes and 3 seconds, gives some idea of the achievement; a photo of the road elsewhere in the article proved that it was very far from being the smooth track of, say, Monaco today. The list of some other competing cars includes some interesting names: Chadwick Six (second), Stearns (third) and Locomobile (fourth). A Stoddard-Dayton also finished. In the afternoon, a small-car race was held, won by a Chalmers-Detroit.

The Apperson company was founded by the brothers Edgar and Elmer Apperson in Kokomo, Indiana shortly after they left Haynes-Apperson in 1902. Apperson production started in 1904 and it was in 1907 that the famous Apperson Jackrabbit 60 hp speedster was launched. It is almost certainly one of these that we see in this Snapshot. For a time, the entire range was known as the “Jack Rabbit”, but this was probably later, towards World War I. By 1924, Apperson and Haynes were both losing sales; a remarriage of the two companies was rumoured but came to nothing, and Apperson shut down in 1926 or 1927.

The driver of the car seen here, Harris Hanshue, has an interesting history. A native of Michigan, he competed in the American Automobile Association (AAA) Championship races on the west coast, and in one of the Vanderbilt Cup races in Long Island, from 1909 to 1913. Hanshue became the west coast sales manager in Los Angeles for the Apperson Automobile Company. He then turned his attention to the aviation business, where he was a major player in the development of airmail services, airlines, and aircraft manufacturing. He was the first president of the company that became Trans World Airlines.

Image courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive: www.richardrobertsarchive.org.uk


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