Indianapolis Automobile Trade Association

Founded in March 1908 by the group planning for the Indianapolis Auto Show week, the Indianapolis Automobile Trade Association (IATA) wasted no time after the show in getting to work planning events to stimulate primary demand for the automobile market. After the success of the competition events of the Indianapolis Auto Show week, especially the Michigan Hill climb event, leaders of the organization focused on auto competition as a way to build excitement for their products. The following articles appeared in the Indianapolis Star during April and May 1908.
Quickly stating their case, the IATA announced intentions to stage a "sealed bonnet" contest just three days after the close of the auto show (see attachment IATARacingPlans040508). Attachment IATARacingPlans041108 contains an article published on April 11, 1908 announcing the intention of the IATA to conduct a reliability run over a triangular course of 140 to 160 miles. The Premier Motor Company's A. W. Whitely chaired the planning committee for the event and had five Premier machines collecting data in the region where the group expected to stage the event. The original plans called for a "Decoration Day" date (Memorial Day) but the group reconsidered over concerns that the holiday may see too many people traveling on roads for a competitive event to be safely staged.
By April 14 when a follow-up article was published in the Indianapolis Star (attachment IATAPlans041408) the IATA had set the event date for May 20. In a meeting at the Denison Hotel key members of the event's leadership team were announced. They included George Weidley, one of the founders of Premier Motor Manufacturing Company, Howard Marmon of Nordyke & Marmon and National Motor Vehicle Company's H.O. Wall (I believe this name is a misprint and it was actually W. Guy Wall who later designed the 1912 Indianapolis 500 winning National) - all the top engineers at their companies. The judges for the event were announced as: Herbert Howard Rice of Pope-Toledo Company, Louie Wainwright of Diamond Chain Company and a private owner, E.H. Hibberd. It is noteworthy that one of the fonnders of Diamond Chain Company was Arthur C. Newby who later helped found the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The group confirmed that the course would be 140 to 160 miles of public roads with Indianapolis as a control point. The American Automobile Association (AAA) was identified as the sanctioning body and would place obsevers in each car to record the car's progress and performance. The close of the article reports that the event would be "long to be remembered." Well, we are doing our best at First Super Speedway.
Attachment IATAPlans042608 offers a curious article published on April 26, 1908 because it offers no news. The interesting aspect of the article is that it comes across as a plea for support of the IATA, stating its raison d'État as an organization to advance the industry's shared interests. Based on its message apparently other similar organizations had been attempted before but failed. Three days prior to the announced date another article was published (attachment IATAroute051708) that provides good detail updating the event and how it was to be conducted.
From the article it is easy to understand what is meant by the "sealed bonnet" which was a common phrase with reference to automobile endurance tests during this time period. Essentially every system on the car - such as engine, transmission, etc. was sealed in a manner that the seal would have to be broken if someone wanted to access that portion of the car and work on it. With a technically qualified observer selected by one of your competitors riding with you any break of a seal and subsequent work would be recorded and reported. Penalties for that action would be assessed affecting a point score system designed to grade the competitors. In addition to the names mentioned above Frank Moore of the Fisher Automobile Company and P.D. Stubbs of American Motor Car Company were also listed as officials. Note that in this article the Mr. Wall of National is referred to as "W.H. Wall," which is what leads me to believe he is the same Mr. Wall that designed the 1912 Indianapolis 500 winner.
Three classes of cars were announced: A, B & C all designated by list price. Speed averages for the announced 150-mile course were required for each class based on local speed laws along the course. Classes A, B & C were to maintain 18, 16 and 14 MPH respectively. The three control points were in Anderson, Muncie and Indianapolis and drivers were instructed to arrive within 10 minutes of a projected time or receive a points penalty. Most of the course was reportedly flat but some hills were included to keep things interesting between Muncie and Newcastle. Most of the roads, too, were deemed good but some poor quality surfaces were mixed in for challenge and to introduce the realities of the day. A 12 Rapid Motor Vehicle Company passenger bus from the Philadelphia Motor Car Company was provided to carry members of the press as well as a "pacer" car and other official vehicles to trail the group. The competitors were all instructed to carry pennants with their car names to compliment the large numbers they were assigned.
The article provides a complete list of the entries including the make of car, the driver and the entrant as well as the names of observers. Glancing at the list I noted that among the drivers were some top professionals that would later compete in the Indianapolis 500 including Johnny Aitken and Don Herr. Also noteworthy are Thomas Kincaid as well as Nordyke & Marmon executive Walter Marmon. The field consisted of 37 cars.
The above number was contradicted in an article published the next day (attachment IATArace052108) when it was reported that 39 cars competed in the contest, spanning three classes. Many cars finished with perfect scores as observers recorded few infractions. Despite the speed regulations, however, enthusiasm got the better of a couple of drivers and in one instance one car passed another only to end up crashing through a wood fence but with no injury to the passengers or driver. For the most part the competitors were greeted by enthusiastic spectators lining the roads, the exception being a couple of farmers with horses who obstructed their progress and resisted granting right-of-way. At the first control point in Anderson the Lambert Automobile Company, a manufacturer headquartered there, provided a fried chicken lunch to contestants. In Muncie, the Maxwell Company pinned roses on the competitors. Curiously, the article does not report the winners or finishing order of the contest. Attachment IATAracePhotos052108 contains images of the finish in Indianapolis. One other point of interest in the article is that it indicates that rural citizens - essentially the farmers - were growing accustomed to the use of automobiles and the antagonism that had existed previously was largely a thing of the past.
Attachment IATAreview052408 contains another wrap-up article that again extolls the virtues of the "sealed bonnet" endurance test and the automobile industry in general. Some mention is made of cars experiencing bent axles and loose bolts which is symptomatic of the rough, unpaved roads of the day. Also, mention is made of the thawing of animosity between those with cars and those without - the latter typically employing a horse-drawn vehicle to get around. The overall success of the sealed bonnet event and the value of the IATA are underscored.
According to the article in attachment IATAplans061408 the IATA continued their active ways in the Indianapolis community by staging an event for "orphans." This article again asserts the determination of the group to remain initiate programs and collaborate across the various companies within the local automotive industry. The article reports that the IATA believed that endurance tests, gymkhanas and hill climbs were preferable to "speed races" in illustrating the performance automobile.

IATARacingPlans040508.pdf333.87 KB
IATARacingPlans041108.pdf185.16 KB
IATAPlans041408.pdf216.04 KB
IATAPlans042608.pdf554.95 KB
IATAroute051708.pdf902.66 KB
IATArace052008.pdf745.04 KB
IATAracePhotos052108.pdf404.23 KB
IATAraces052208.pdf998.15 KB
IATAreview052408.pdf522.28 KB
IATAplans061408.pdf529.44 KB
ReliabilityRun081308.pdf484.81 KB
Enduro082308.pdf984.7 KB
Enduro083008.pdf672.53 KB