This car, along with 70 others will be in the 12thHistoric North Turn Legends Beach-Road Course Parade in Ponce Inlet, Fla. on Saturday, February 10, 2024. All cars will be ready for viewing in the Parking lot at the Racing’s North Turn Restaurant at 8:30 a.m. and the race will follow at 12 noon. An autograph and interview session will be in the Restaurant following the parade. Former beach drivers, Brownie King, Dink Widenhouse and Johnny Allen are the Grand Marshals for the parade and veteran Cup crew chief and Fox television racing announcer Jeff Hammond will narrate the session inside the restaurant.
The Greatest Race at Daytona Beach
The Legend of Clifford-Earp (not Wyatt!)
By Graeme Cocks
For a decade at the turn of the last century, many of the fastest motor cars in the world battled for supremacy along Ormond and Daytona beaches in Florida. Numerous speed records were set and races won, but one particular race stands out above the rest for the sheer courage and spirit of the winner.
Walter Thomas Clifford-Earp came from a long and respected line of architectural sculptors and was described by the Washington Post newspaper in January 1906 as “England’s leading gentleman driver”. At 26 years of age, he was already a veteran of European racing when the marketing supremo behind Napier cars, the Australian-born Selwyn Francis (SF) Edge, asked him to race in the fourth annual speed tournament in Florida. “England has certainly sent her best, both in man and machine, to battle for the world's supremacy in automobile speed,” said the Los Angeles Times.
At his disposal, Clifford-Earp had the Napier L48 commissioned by SF Edge and Montagu Napier to break speed records and to create a new category of motor car using six cylinder engines. The world-beating 915 cubic inch (15 litres) motor was shoe-horned into a chassis with an overall weight of less than 1000kg (2,204lbs) to meet current European motor racing regulations.
It would be the second appearance of the Napier L48, later nicknamed Samson, at the Florida speed meet. In 1905, another of SF Edge’s drivers, Arthur Macdonald, set a new speed record of 91.371mph over five miles on the first day, then over the course of the week set a world’s record of 104.651 mph over the mile as well as 5, 10 and 20 mile speed records, and a new American record for a flying kilometre at 97.258 mph.
In 1906, however, the Napier with Clifford-Earp at the wheel could not match the outright speeds which the new cars sent to Florida could achieve. The Stanley Steamer of Fred Marriott set the world land speed record at 127.659 mph (205.5 km/h) and the internal combustion engine cars were about 10 mph behind. The most important race of the speed carnival, was the 100-mile event for the Minneapolis Trophy. There were six contenders: Clifford-Earp in the Napier, Emanuel Cedrino from Italy in a Fiat, William H Hilliard from Boston in an ex-Gordon Bennett race Napier, Vincenzo Lancia from Italy also in a Fiat (he had not yet begun manufacturing cars under his own name), Louis Chevrolet in a front wheel drive Christie and JR Harding from Boston in a Daimler touring car.
The race was to be run over a course from the 12 mile to the 16 mile posts on Ormond Beach, then to the one mile post. There was also to be a four mile run along Ormond Beach and a 6 mile run to the Daytona beach clubhouse at the finish. It required only seven turns, all right hand, for the 100 miles.
It was a cold and cloudy day when the cars set off in 30 second intervals headed by Lous Chevrolet with Clifford-Earp chasing. He soon caught Louis Chevrolet, then the Fiats came up from behind and four cars were stretched across the course. After 28 miles of racing, Clifford-Earp had a narrow lead over the two Fiats.
Then at the 32 mile mark, disaster struck. The Napier’s right rear tire exploded, throwing fragments of rubber all over the beach to the horror of spectators nearby. Incredibly, Clifford-Earp was hardly shocked. A similar blowout had occurred a few days before during practice and he had experimented with driving the car at top speed on the hard sand with only three tires. In the previous year, the car had wooden spoked wheels but this time it had wire wheels and he was confident that a wire wheel could stand up to the side strain on cornering.
He stopped the car and saw the Fiats roar past. After five minutes he had stripped all the remaining rubber off the rim, and set off again.
“When the crowd at the clubhouse saw Earp’s plight and daring perseverance they cheered him wildly and from that moment the plucky Britisher was the hero of the day. Each passing was eagerly looked for and each time that it was seen he was still in the running the cheers broke out afresh. Earp waved his hand in acknowledgement.” Motor Age
Louise Chevrolet was out of the race with mechanical trouble, the Daimler was far behind and the Fiats were out in front. Soon Clifford-Earp passed the other Napier. It was looking like Clifford-Earp would have to settle for third, even though still racing on the rim, he and the other leaders were ahead of world record time for 100 miles.
At 40 miles, however, Vincenzo Lancia had radiator trouble and the Italian was forced out of the race. There were now only three cars in contention - the leading Fiat and the two Napiers.
At 58 miles, Cedrino was a handy seven minutes ahead of Clifford-Earp but he also began having trouble with his tires and he began to slow down. In a moment of sheer brilliance, he stopped his car next to Vincenzo Lancia’s car and proceeded to remove two tubes from the stranded car to put on his own wheels. He would not be denied. He was four minutes ahead and it took him less than 10 minutes to change the tubes. It was now a race of two with Clifford-Earp on three wheels about three minutes ahead and Cedrino chasing with fresh tires and tubes.
At 88 miles, Clifford-Earp passed the clubhouse to raucous applause, but the Fiat was chasing him down.
“There was an anxious 10 minutes of gazing at the Seabreeze Bridge (pier). Was it Earp of was it Cedrino? A minute more and a great cry of “Earp! Earp!! Earp!!! Went up from the excited thousands. Men screamed with excitement and women danced and waved their handkerchiefs. Earp was the victor and they had seen a new world’s record made and the great race won through the bulldog pluck of a modest English gentleman. The crowd went wild with excitement. (Clifford-)Earp is now the hero of the meet. This evening standing with his wife, beneath the flag of his country after the orchestra had played “God Save the King” he listed to a little speech extolling his pluck and modesty and he was given the medal and the cup. In his brief response he modestly gave all the credit of his victory to the speed and stuff that was in his Napier car.” Motor Age
Clifford-Earp’s winning margin was only 50 seconds after 100 miles. Despite racing 63 miles on only three tires, he had set a world record time of 1:15:40-2/5sec or 79.288 mph and beating the previous time by three minutes.
The revolutionary six cylinder engine from his winning Napier was installed in a new chassis in the 1970s in Australia and the resulting car will be back on the sands of Ponce Inlet, Fla. beaches for the first time on February 10, 2024 for the 12th Historic Beach-Road Course Parade to remember one of the greatest races in the history of auto racing. It will later be offered for sale at the Bonhams Auction, Fernandina Beach on 29 February 2024.