The Glidden Tours, also known as the National Reliability Runs, were promotional events held during the automotive Brass Era by the American Automobile Association (AAA). The AAA, a proponent for safer roads, acceptance of the automobile and automotive-friendly legislation, started the tour to promote public acceptance and bring awareness of their goals.
The original Glidden Tours were held from 1904 until 1913. They were named after Charles J. Glidden, a financier and automobile enthusiast, who presented the AAA with a trophy first awarded to the winner of the 1905 tour.
At the turn of the century automobile travel was difficult as the road systems around the world were generally not well suited for the horseless carriage.
To bring more awareness and sponsorship to the event, the AAA announced that the tour would be a "reliability and endurance" tour, a type of road rally. This attracted automobile manufacturers who competed to test their vehicles and use the events for advertising.
The tours were gruelling events: cars broke down, were damaged by accidents, and encountered nearly impassable roads. Drivers and teams did repairs on the run and helped out other drivers having difficulties.
The tours went several hundred miles in the US and occasionally into Canada with time limits between check points and a point scoring system to determine a winner of each event. The time limits caused some problems with the inhabitants of where the tour traveled through as autos scared horses, caused personal and property damage and sometimes appeared to not care.
The Glidden Tours were revived in 1946 by the Veteran Motor Car Club of America (VMCCA) and have continued since with antique cars traveling premarked routes and stopping in local towns to show off their vehicles, many people dressed in period costume. The coveted silver Glidden trophy is still presented to the winner of the event although the treacherous travel of the early tours is rarely if ever encountered today.
(last checked July 19, 2005)
- Historical Highlights of VMCCA, from the VMCCA website
- Charles Jasper Glidden, from the VMCCA website
- Glidden Auto Tour History, from the AAA website
- Birth of the Glidden Tour Revivals, an August 2003 article from an AACA/VMCCA chapter website
- Color photo of Glidden Trophy in the Antique Automobile Club of America Photo Gallery
- 1908 Glidden Tour Legs with approximate route charted on Google Maps
- Film from a 1964 Glidden Tour Alexander Film Co. Archive has a series of videos featuring the 1964 Glidden Tour "Pikes Peak or Bust"
- New York Public Library. Item related to Glidden Tour
- Library of Congress. Items related to Glidden Tour