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Here and There in Motoring's Past: 1902-The Indomitable Australian

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Pre-WWII Racing Topics:  Selwyn F. Edge

Here and There in Motoring's Past: 1902-The Indomitable Australian

Peter Helck
Antique Automobile
March-April 1972


Selwyn Francis Edge, an Australian built in the heroic mold, arrived in England as a young man with manifold potentials and supreme self-confidence.  He ran head-on into a country obsessed with the bicycle craze and shortly became a champion in long-distance racing.  The trend from manually-propelled two-wheelers to motorized vehicles found "S.F." ready for this transition. So much so that by 1902, in his association with pioneer car builder, Montague Napier, he won the Gordon Bennett Race, a fantastic cross-country run from Paris to Innsbruck, staged in connection and simultaneously with the slightly longer Paris-Vienna classic.

The crossing of the dreaded Arlberg Pass accounted for the elimination of many competitors in both races.  Among these were the man and car generally viewed as assuring France's hold on the Bennett Trophy, Rene De Knyff and his 70 hp Panhard.

Upon descending the east slopes of the Arlberg and having been informed that he was now the sole runner for this trophy, Edge decided that a change of tires would insure a non-stop run to Innsbruck and victory.  Alas, on pulling up to make this replacement, it was discovered that with the terrific pounding the Napier had suffered in the mountain pass, the compartment housing the complete set of tools had vanished!  "Every tool, spare part, jack and our stock of inner tubes were gone, and we did not possess so much as a bicycle spanner.  Fortunately, our spare covers were still there, for they were securely tied on the back.  But what good were they now that we had lost our tire levers and even our jack?"*

There follows what must be considered an epic episode in racing history as well as a demonstration of the determination and physical strength of "S.F." and his riding mechanic, cousin Cecil.  With bare hands the two rear covers were removed; the old tubes refitted and the spare covers adjusted.  The car, all 2000 pounds of it, had to be pushed and backed up as one section of the cover either came away or was firmly lodged on the rim.  It was with torn and bloodied hands that this incredible task was completed.  Then with a swing of the crank handle, the battered Napier came to life, resumed its course and a few hours later won the coveted trophy for England.

* From "My Motoring Reminisces" by S.F. Edge



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