Wolters On ‘18 Henderson Breaks Mt. Wilson Record

New time of 26 Min. 24 Seconds Smashes Best Auto Record-9.3 Miles of Roadway In Poor Condition-One Spill

By Unknown, Photography by Unknown

From the April 1918 issue of Motorcyclist Magazine

Los Angeles, March 26.-When August (Blick) Wolters shot his ‘18 stock Henderson up the 9.3 miles of serpentine Mt. Wilson toll road, near Los Angeles, in 26 minutes, 24 seconds, this morning, he had the immense satisfaction of knowing that he had traveled that particular mountain highway in faster time than anyone has ever before traveled it. Many automobiles have gone up against the Mt. Wilson course in record trials, but the best time that has ever been made by a four-wheeler on this famous roadway of 144 hairpin turns is 26 minutes, 56 1-5 seconds. With a margin of 32 1-5 seconds to its credit, the Henderson tonight presents a target at which future record aspirants will probably shoot in vain for some time to come.

Game Rider and Powerful Machine

The story of Wolters’ successful attack on the Mt. Wilson record is the recital of a game, heady rider’s use of all his skill and knowledge in the face of adverse conditions and the record of a machine that is a marvel of speed and power and endurance. The Mt. Wilson toll road is a good mountain highway,-under dry weather conditions it is an excellent road. It attains an elevation of 5,886 feet at the summit and the real climb starts at the lower toll house, which is at 1,250 feet elevation. The road connecting these two points is 9.3 miles in length, all up-hill, with exactly 144 abrupt, hairpin turns, average grades of 10 per cent and several pitches of 18 per cent. The winter rains have furrowed the roadway with numerous ditches. Cross-wise drains further remove the road from the boulevard class. Road crews have scratched over the surface, loosening it just enough to make traction difficult, and the recent rains and snow have made the inner side of the road an ever-present danger on the turns. Under these conditions the record attained by the Henderson four-cylinder is all the more remarkable.

But here’s the story of “Blick’s” ride, as told by C. Jaffe, Pacific Motorcyclist’s representative:

Seven-thirty in the morning at the foot of Mount Wilson toll road and cold as a first line trench in December. There were “Blick” Wolters, Tennant Lee, George Rubsch., Percy Cahoon, Lieut. James E. Helpling, Jack Fletcher, and quite a number of others known along the Row.

Why were we there? Oh, “Blick” had been sulking around for a month, ever since some four-wheeled gas wagon driver had started bragging about his 26:56 1-5 run up the trail.

“Blick” would make Doug Fairbanks look like an amateur when it comes to optimism. He had been talking about 20 flat over the course, even hinting about 19, as if it were a little before-breakfast spin for appetite purposes.

At the lower toll house the crowd separated, some of us hurrying on to the top and the others, including the challenger, remaining below to receive the word to start. We were a merry little crowd when we started for the top. 20! Why, there was nothing to it! “Blick” could stop to pick wild geraniums along the way, and make that.

We hadn’t gone over a half a mile, however, when Lee yelled back at us, “Barring accidents, the boy is going good if he makes it under 23.” We didn’t say anything-we were just contemplating that road.

By the time we reached the Half-Way House it was the concensus of opinion all around that the lad wouldn’t have much time for reading or knitting if he was to do the trip in 25.

Roadway of Ruts, Rocks and Ruin

The road is always closed at this season of the year, so the bad spots can be fixed. This was just a couple of days after the Grand Opening, and it looked like we’d slipped into a theatre at 7:30 with the curtain due to rise at 8:15.

There were rocks and ruts and ruin. A deep ditch ran the entire length right down the center of the road, used for carrying off the rain. Every few hundred yards you’d run across a man working on the road. With such careful attention there is no doubt that the road will soon be in apple-pie shape,-in about a week.

When we got to the top, there was a reception committee on hand in the person of “Dad” Corry, Exalted High Chief of the high mountain inn. “You’re welcome to the road, boys,” he says, “but for the love of me, I can’t figure out why you want to run it now.”

We hustled over to the telephone, and the Lieutenant picked up the receiver. “Hello, Fletcher,” he says. “We are ready when you are.” “All right,” came the answer.

Through the receiver there came, in a minute, a roaring sound that signified “Blick” was tuning up his Henderson. Fletcher was on the phone now and he was to give us the word when “Blick” crossed the line below.

“Get ready,” says the Lieutenant. “Go!” and Helpling and I snapped our stop watches. I looked at my “non-stop” stem-winder, and it was exactly 9:42, and 20 seconds to boot.

“Come with me, boys,” said Corry, and we all rushed to a point near the hotel, from which two miles of the road, as it winds up the mountainside, is visible.

One time around the dial-two-three-and no sign or sound of “Blick.” Eight and a half minutes, and Indian-eared Lee pricks up his listeners and says he hears the motor.

The rest of us didn’t hear anything for about two minutes more. Then we could make out a faint rat-a-tat “somewhere” down the mountainside, too far to see.

Twelve minutes-and “Dad” Corry, speaking from the wisdom of his five years’ residence on top of the mountain, says, “The lad is sure making good time if he does it in 26.”

13-14-15-16-every once in a while we would catch the roar of that motor as it thundered up the road, now on our side of the mountain, and then on the other.

17-“R-r-r-r-r,” it was beginning to sound like the practice of a machine gun company-the boy was sure rolling!

20 Minute Hope Vanishes

18-19-20-21- Lee was praying now. He had long ago discarded the “20” idea, but he was praying that in spite of the sand and rocks and treacherous turns-that somehow “Blick” would hang the crepe on that 26:56 1-5 mark, done with the road at its best.

22,-22:54-“There he is!”-Lee spotted him first, round the curve we had been watching for the past ten minutes.

There was a straight stretch for a while, and how that boy did roll! He was out of sight around another turn before you could say Jack Robinson.

23,-23:10,-23:20,-24-would he make it?

25:10,-25:20,-25:35-what was the matter- was the boy stopping to pick daisies on the way?

25:40,-25:55,-26:05-the second-hand seemed to fairly fly around! Come on, boy-come on!

26:10-Whee, here he comes, hear that roar?

26:15-closer. 26:20-come on, come on. 26:22-Lord, just listen to that roar.

26:23-coming! 26:231/2-coming!! 26:24 and “Blick” shot over the line like a Russian retreat in full blast!!!

Well, there was the usual dancing and singing and yelling and hand-shaking. It was some stunt to pace up that road in 26:24-believe me.

“How did you do it, ‘Blick’?” says Lee, George, Corry and several dozen others.

“Believe me, that was no peaceful stroll through Lover’s Lane,” answered the hero, rubbing his knee. “Look at that,” he says, pointing to that portion of his anatomy. We looked. There was a gash in the thick leather guard that went almost clean through.

“Good old leather pants-they sure saved me that time,” says “Blick.” “That’s where I tried to take one of those darned hairpin turns too fast and slid off the road, just above the Half-Way House. The road men thought I was done for and started running to pick up the remains. Was gone before they arrived, though. Lost two minutes there.”

The clutch was broken off and the spark control jammed in the fall, and “Blick” had to ride with retarded spark and worry about his gears the last half of the trip, besides watching the road.

Mt. Wilson Road Record

“Only gave her three shots of oil on the entire trip,” says “Blick.”

“Just look at those tires,” says “Blick.” “I never thought that any casing could take such punishment and live to tell the tale. You’ve got to hand it to Goodrich for that.”

“Blick’s” own story of his ride is a tribute to the lad’s modesty. He says he should have made the run in faster time, and would have done so except for the spill he took just beyond the half-way station-and this isn’t given by Wolters in the way of an alibi. Just a statement of fact. He says the Henderson can cut the time made by several minutes, given first-class road conditions and barring accidents. The numerous 6 to 8-inch drainage ditches, the soft gravel that allowed the machine to skid at all turns with consequent loss of momentum and the broken clutch and retarded spark with which he rode the last half of the journey, all helped to penalize the Henderson. A mighty corroborative piece of evidence tending to show the truth of Wolters’ statement, is the fact that he made the first half of the climb, to the point at which he skidded and fell, in just a little over 9 ½ minutes. In this part of the trip are most of the sharp turns and heavy grades, and it seems probable that “Blick” would have rambled the latter half of the distance in faster time than he negotiated the first, if the spill had not occurred.

However, it was a mighty impressive performance for both machine and rider. They’ve got the Mount Wilson record, and that is something that every motorcycle and automobile agent in these parts would dearly love to possess.

In addition to reaping great gobs of glory for the masterly way in which he handled his mount in the Mt. Wilson attack, Wolters was further rewarded with a very handsome solid gold medal in the form of a watch fob, a gift of appreciation from the Henderson Motorcycle Sales Co.

Wolters’ record trial was made under official F. A. M. sanction. The checkers were Lieut. James E. Helpling, Percy Cahoon, J.A. Fletcher, and C. Jaffe.

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