Among the internationally prominent Buffalo Companies, the Thomas Motor Company ranks high. Not only did they provide America with a line of reliable and popular motorized bicycles, tricycles, motorcycles, and automobiles, they also created a World Champion Automobile. Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum Co-Founder, James Sandoro, is dedicated to ensuring Queen City residents and beyond are aware of and take pride in the company and that champion car, the Thomas Flyer.
“Of all the stories that define Buffalo’s history, one of the greatest is the least well known,” Sandoro stated. “The Thomas Motor Company operated in Buffalo from 1900-1913 under the ownership of Edwin Ross Thomas. The company’s initial success came with production and sales of the first motorized bicycle made in America, the Thomas Auto-Bi, the first practical U.S. motorcycle. However, the company’s greatest renown came when they began building cars, particularly a Model 35 Thomas Flyer.
In 1908, the Thomas Flyer Car achieved an automotive feat that has never been equaled—winning a New York-to-Paris Race against five international competitors that took 169 days and 22,000 miles. I’m pleased and honored to announce that the original World Champion Model 35 Thomas Flyer Car has temporarily come home to Buffalo, and is being proudly displayed in our museum for the people of Buffalo, America, and around the world to view and enjoy.”
The Thomas Flyer World Champion Car will be on display at the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum through early August and will be celebrated through a series of events to be announced on the museum’s website and social media pages.
The display is part of an expansive exhibition on the Thomas Motor Company that includes a Thomas Auto-Bi motorcycle, memorabilia, photographs, car parts and company artifacts that Sandoro and his wife, Mary Ann, have collected over the years. He notes that the collection is a dual salute to the City of Buffalo, State of New York, our country and Southern Ontario where Thomas started in the 1890s, as well as the history of the automobile from a worldwide perspective.
“For this exhibition we have reinvented the main floor of our museum to give visitors a real feel for this era in Buffalo’s and America’s History,” Sandoro stated. “ Using creative displays, photographs, videos, and of course, the original Model 35 Thomas Flyer Car as the crown jewel, museum visitors will witness how the Thomas Motor Company revolutionized people’s lives.
Added to that, the company’s stunning upset win of the New York to Paris Race against cars from France, Germany, and Italy, elevates the experience. Also, on May 19th we will welcome George Schuster’s great-grandson, Jeff Mahl, to share the stories of the race as told to him by great-grandfather, and which he has memorialized in his book, The Man and Car that Circled the Globe. Whether people have a love of history, collectibles, cars, world championship racing, the evolution of the auto industry, or simply enjoy a fascinating “underdog” story, this exhibition has something for everyone.
263 Michigan Ave
Buffalo, NY 14203
Buffalo Transportation/Pierce-Arrow Museum Admission:
Children 12 and under $10
Buffalo Transportation/Pierce-Arrow Museum Hours:
Summer hours: Wednesday through Saturday, 11 am to 4 pm
ABOUT THE BUFFALO TRANSPORTATION PIERCE ARROW MUSEUM:
The genesis of The Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum began in the 1940s, when museum co-founder Jim Sandoro wiled away his childhood by sneaking into his neighbors’ garage where they kept their Pierce-Arrow car. Those experiences jumpstarted Jim’s lifelong quest to learn about and collect everything related to the company and its automobiles. Years later his family moved closer to the shuttered Pierce Arrow Factory and Jim roamed the grounds searching for remnants of the great company. His youthful car passion never subsided as he grew up and met and married his wife, Mary Ann.
Together they traveled the U.S., fully establishing and expanding their car collection. In 1997,with their car collection far surpassing their garage space, Jim and Mary Ann founded The Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum, along with Robert Knoer, their friend and attorney, as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. They established the museum and their collections in several downtown Buffalo buildings. Today, the museum is located in a building that was once a Mack Truck showroom and repair shop.
The Sandoro’s collection represents their shared car passion that spans more than 61 years and includes many automobiles that were once produced in Buffalo. It is considered by car enthusiasts as one of the most unique in the world. For Jim and Mary Ann, they view it as a reminder to the people of the Queen City—and the world—that Buffalo, NY was once an influential city of industry and producer of outstanding vehicles. They proudly state the museum’s mission is to preserve and showcase that legacy and invited all to come along for the ride.
ABOUT THE THOMAS FLYER CAR:
The Thomas Flyer Car was a 1907 Model 35 with 4 cylinders and 60 horsepower, built by E. R. Thomas Motor Company, a manufacturer of motorized bicycles, motorized tricycles, motorcycles, and automobiles in Buffalo, New York between 1900 and 1913.
The Thomas Flyer is renowned for winning the 1908 New York to Paris Race, the first and only around-the-world automobile race ever held. President Theodore Roosevelt called E.R. Thomas to encourage him to enter an American car in the race. Ellsworth Statler was a backer of the company. The race began in Times Square, New York, on February 12 and covered some 22,000 miles (35,000 km), finishing in Paris on July 30, 1908. Six teams started the race (one Italian, one German, three French, and the American Flyer.) Only three of the cars finished, the Thomas Flyer which won, the German car, and the Italian car.
In the initial leg of the race, the Flyer was the first car to cross the United States, taking 41 days 8 hours and 15 minutes, and the first to do so in winter with George Schuster the first automobile driver to ever make the transcontinental winter crossing of the US. Finishing the entire race in 169 days was considered a remarkable feat, considering the lack of roads and services in 1908. Schuster, one of three drivers for the car, was the only member of the Thomas crew to go the full distance. The Flyer survived and has been restored to its exact condition original condition. The E.R. Thomas Motor Company ceased operations in 1913.
ABOUT JEFF MAHL:
Jeff Mahl is the author of the book, The Man and Car that Circled the Globe. He is the great-grandson of Automotive Hall of Fame Member, George Schuster Sr, (one of three drivers for the Thomas Flyer Car that won the 1908 New York to Paris Auto Race) and the only member of the Thomas crew to go the full race distance. Mahl penned the book based on the stories his great-grandfather shared with him until his passing in 1972, at the age of 99. He notes that anyone who reads the book is hearing Schuster’s story in his own words, ,“…just as my great grandpa told them to me.”
Mahl’s never before published perspective includes not only Schuster’s personal memoir, but original photos and illustrations collected from around the world. It also includes a look at the E.R.Thomas Motor Company, builder of the World Champion 1907 Thomas Flyer, and the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum, home to a Thomas Flyer collection of exhibits.
For more information: pierce-arrow.com or thomasflyer.com