2018 marks the 110th anniversary of the Great Race won by Buffalo’s own Thomas Flyer automobile, representing the United States. Buffalo will host the start of the 2018 version of the Great Race this Saturday, June 23. The 1908 race was the first and only around-the-world automobile race. The race began in New York on February 22, 1908 and finished in Paris on July 30, 1908. Sixteen teams started the race with only three finishing. George Schuster of Buffalo drove the winning car. He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2010 and the winning car is on display at the National Automobile Museum, in Reno, Nevada. The 1965 movie, The Great Race, starring Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis, was loosely based on this race.
The winning car’s manufacturer, the E. R. Thomas Motor Company, manufactured automobiles, motorized bikes, motorcycles and automobiles in Buffalo between 1900 and 1919. The company was located on Niagara Street where Rich Products is now found. Edwin Ross Thomas began selling gasoline engine kits for propelling bicycles in 1896 and later formed his company to begin selling motor-assisted bicycles. By 1902 the company started building automobiles. The first Thomas Flyer was built in 1904. The Thomas Flyer was known for its high performance and its high cost ($3,700). The company faltered after Henry Ford developed his low-cost Model T.