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Left: The Locomobile Type 1906, "Old 16", driven by George Robertson on its way to winning the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup on Long Island.

Center: Action during the 1916 Vanderbilt Cup event at Santa Monica with William Bolden (#12) leading Omar Toft.



First—Name, "The WILLIAM K. VANDERBILT, JR., Cup."

Second—To be competed for annually, beginning with 1904, through the American Automobile Association, or its successor.

Third—Distance not less than 250 miles nor more than 300 miles. Course must be over a regularly used highway; under no circumstances is the competition to be held on a track.

Fourth—Date: 1904, October 8. Entries closing on September 8th. 1905 and thereafter, between August 15th and October 15th of each year. Challenges subsequent to 1904 must be filed before March 15th, entires closing on that date. No postponements on account of the weather when the date is once set, by mutual agreement between the holding and the challenging clubs.

Fifth—Those eligible to challenge and compete. Competition shall be allowed only to clubs that are recognized by or affiliated with the American Automobile Association, and to clubs recognized by or affiliated with the Automobile Club of France

Sixth—Number: Not more than ten cars shall represent any one country.

Seventh—During 1904 and 1905 the contest must be held in the United States. Subsequent to 1905 contest may be held within the country holding the Cup.

Eighth—Challenge Fee: Challenges must be accompanied by a fee of $300 for each car entered. Of this sum $150 shall be refunded for each car starting. In the event of non-appearance, or failure to start, the entire fee of $300 shall be forfeited to the holding club.

Ninth—Governing Rules: Contests each year are to be governed by the Road Racing Rules of the American Automobile Association (when held in the United States) and the Road Racing Rules of the Automobile Club of France (when held within a foreign country).

Tenth—Liability: When challenging, each contestant assumes (A) all expense incidental to his participation and (B) all liability for criminal or civil suits for damages caused by him.

Eleventh—When the contest is held within the United States, the American Automobile Association shall:

1st. Select and name the course to be covered.
2d. Secure necessary legislation or local government consent.
3d. Assume all expenses incidental to the above, and of all officials, control stations, marking the course, etc., and, take in return all forfeited fees, and such portion of the entrance fee, as is not already provided for.
4th. Name the first, second, third and each succeeding car in the order of finishing, together with their times.
5th. Have the course thoroughly policed, turns suitably indicated, and danger points warned.
6th. Appoint all officials, with their credentials.
7th. Control all neutral zones.

Twelfth—When the contest is held within a foreign country, the Automobile Club of France shall be charged with the foregoing duties.

Thirteenth—Turns shall be indicated as follows:

Right. Red banner, right side of road, 100 yards before turn is reached. A second red banner on near right side of corner.
Left. Same as above, except blue banners.

Fourteenth—Straight-ahead-intersection. White banners placed as above.

Straight-ahead-junction. Two white banners placed as above.
Railroad Crossing. One hundred yards before (green banner).
Sharp or Dangerous Decline. Yellow banner one hundred yards before reaching same.

Fifteenth—Neutral zones to be indicated by black streamers stretched across highways from a fixed point with the number of the zone indicated by white letters, streamers to be three feet by ten feet, letters at least eighteen inches high and not less than six inches in width, and bearing the word "Neutral."

Sixteenth—Controls shall be indicated by white streamers, similarly placed, of like dimensions, with the word "Control" and the number of the said control consecutively arranged, in black; all letters and figures to be not less than 18x6 inches.

Seventeenth—Commission: All contests shall be governed by a commission composed of the following:

1904. The Racing Board of the American Automobile Association.
1905. The Racing Board of the American Automobile Association, the donor of the Cup, Mr. William K. Vanderbilt, Jr., and one member of the Automobile Club of France, to be named by the President of the A. C. F.
    During such succeeding years that the contest may be held within the United States the commission shall be constituted as above.
    During such years that the contest may be held on foreign soil, the commission shall be composed of the following: the donor, Mr. William K. Vanderbilt, Jr., one member of the Racing Board of the American Automobile Association, and the Sports Committee (or Racing Committee) of the Automobile Club of France.

Eighteenth—Numbering Cars: Competing cars must carry a distinguishing number arranged consecutively, and drawn by lot after the date of the closing of the entries. The number so drawn shall indicate the order of starting.

Nineteenth—Weight: There shall be no restriction as to the weight of competing cars, except that they must weigh between 881 pounds and 2,204 pounds, and carry two passengers, seated side by side, whose weight must be at least 132 pounds each.

Twentieth—Cars must be weighed in by official weighers on the day preceding the race and equipment noted for checking when it appears at the starting line.

Twenty-first—Starting: Cars must start in the order of drawing. Cars will be started at 60 second intervals. Time of each car to be taken at the time fixed for its departure. Failure of the car to be present at that moment will cause it to lose as much time as elapses from the time of the given start until the moment it crosses the line.

Twenty-second—During the contests of 1904 and 1905 the first car will be started at daylight or as soon as the commission deem it safe.

Instructions to the participants for the first Vanderbilt Cup race.

Comments on the Rules

Third: They never wanted the race to be held on a track because the prevailing attitude of the founders was that the road was a true measure and test of the automobile, not a horse track. In the latter years, tracks did try to get the race, including Sheapshead Bay in 1916. Fourth: No matter how hard you try, you can't control Mother Nature. The 1914 race at Santa Monica was forced to be postponed by 5 days due to heavy rain, flooding, and poor road conditions. Then, the race start was delayed a few hours due to fog. Sixth: The Vanderbilt Cup was based heavily on the Gordon Bennett races, thus the cars, and where they were manufactured, were more important than the drivers. Therefore, the emphasis on the car and country, not driver, entries. The Gordon Bennett Cup only allowed three cars per country. Seventh: You will rarely find mention of this rule in any other source, either from that era or today. The fact that they were willing to have the race held in another country seems contrary to the goals that Vanderbilt initially set the race up for—to inspire the American automobile industry to one day compete on equal footing with the Europeans. However, Vanderbilt felt that after a couple of years, the race would be big enough to still interest the American manufacturers if it should leave the country, which would have happened since a French car won both those years. However, the Automobile Club of France was not interested in staging this event, so it stayed in America. Ninth: Note that the Automobile Club of France played a prominent role in these rules. They basically controlled worldwide racing, and were the predecessors to the FIA, so they would have to be involved to some degree. Tenth: Interesting rule. Thirteenth: The use of banners and not signs is interesting. Eighteenth: It was very common in those days to number the cars by their starting position. Early Indy 500s did this too. It was also very common not to reveal those numbers (when starting order was set by a draw) till the morning of the race in order to prevent counterfeit programs. Nineteenth: Interesting that with such a huge weight window, they found it necessary to have a minimum weight rule for the passengers. This rule is a copy of the Automobile Club of France rules set for most international events, including the Gordon Bennett Cup. Twenty-first: Why couldn't they just say, if you are not present at your subscribed starting time, the clock begins to run? They were very formal back in those days. Speaking of formality, note how every time Mr. William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. is mentioned, his name is always completely spelled out this way without ever using shorter versions.
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