It was like a massive escape from an antique car museum. Steamed up for action, 64 ``horseless carriages'' of yesteryear raced in Worcester, Mass., last month, reenacting the original Dead Horse Hill Climb of 1905.
One by one, racing against the clock, they throttled up the one-mile incline, climbing 843.2 feet in height. The winners, in six classes: a 1909 Lambert, a 1914 Ford, a 1912 Buick, a 1912 Overland, a 1910 Stanley, and a 1911 Simplex. The fastest time went to the Stanley -- 1 minute, 9 seconds -- the same time as the winning car, also a Stanley, in 1905. The reenactment was sponsored by the Massachusetts Brass Touring Association and the Coghlin Electric Company, whose founder, John P. Coghlin, sponsored the race eight decades ago.
In 1905, three years before the first Model T was built, such rallies were the ultimate test for the new cars. By 1911, the last Dead Horse Hill Climb was held.
Opposition against the ``speed demons'' was fierce back then. The event was considered dangerous. Still, the crowds were big. At the original Dead Horse Hill Climb, the road was lined with policemen. An article in the May 25, 1905, Worcester Telegram noted: ``There is a deep-seated antipathy in the minds of the speedophiles in the benzine chariots against policemen -- and if any of the cops offer a fair chance, some of the drivers may take a shy at them.'' The cars, driven by steam or internal combustion, were given a running start of 200 feet downhill. After the original races, participants were given a banquet, then a concert by the Ideal Mandolin Club.