Gus Monckmeier

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Gustav Carl Frederick Monckmeier[1] (December 13, 1888 – October 14, 1962) was a German-American racecar driver and inventor. He is today best known for his participation in the 1911 and 1912 1,000-plus-mile Around Lake Michigan reliability races, which he recreated in 1961.

Early life[edit]

Monckmeier was born in Stolzenau, Germany[2] and emigrated to the United States in 1901, where he had an uncle in Brooklyn, New York;[3] within a year at age 14, he found work at the American Mercedes factory in Queens.[4]

Racing career[edit]

Gustav Monckmeier in "Staver Chicago doing a turn like a whirlwind," at 1910 Elgin Nationals, Automotive Industries, Vol. 23.

In 1910, he appears as an entrant in the Wisconsin State Association Reliability Tour's Milwaukee Sentinel Trophy, driving a Staver entered by the Stephenson Motor Car Company.[5] He quickly became a Staver factory driver, research engineer and test driver, often called "The Little Swede".[6]

Staver was in the right place at the right time, because 1910 marked the debut of the Elgin National Road Races, which instantly became one of the premier events of the day. After Ned Crane was disqualified on the final lap of the 1910 running (for almost taking Arthur Greiner's National off the track when pitting)[7] and Chester Cheney's car broke down after 42 minutes, Monckmeier was left to carry the flag, taking third place in the Fox River Trophy in just over three hours before more than 50,000 spectators.[8] From there, he was off and running, sparkling at the Algonquin Hill Climb[9] and notching a perfect score in the roadster division at the Chicago Motor Club's 1,000-mile reliability run.[10]

Gustav Monckmeier and mechanic Ray Latham in a Staver at the Elgin National Road Races, c. August 28, 1911.

Ned Crane didn't make it back for the 1911 season, killed while testing a Buick in April, but Monckmeier continued to win efficiency contests, hillclimbs and endurance events, soon joined by driver Emery T. Knudsen. Monckmeier, Knudsen and famed driver Ralph Ireland were all on the slate for Staver at Elgin that August,[11] when on August 21 Ireland was killed in practice as a result of a burst tire. "I'll never ride in a racing automobile again," said his mechanician (riding mechanic) Joe O'Brien, who was thrown from the vehicle and spent a week in a hospital. "This once has been enough for me. Ireland was as good and as careful a driver as they make—it was simply chance that killed him. I'm not going to take any more of those kind of chances.[12]"

Monckmeier wasn't scared off—motor racing deaths weren't exactly front page news, and with Knudsen and Californian Joseph K. Nikrent (longtime holder of many Speedway Class B and C records in a Buick), did very well for the rest of the year, dominating September racing at Amarillo[13] and Peoria.[14]

Gustav Monckmeier, mechanic F. G. Salisbury and unidentified others in a Staver (middle) during the 1912 Around Lake Michigan Run

Nikrent returned to Los Angeles for the 1912 season, but 1911 came back to haunt Staver. In the middle of another successful Around Lake Michigan run on October 21, 1912,[15] the AAA suspended them from all competition through June 1, 1913, for a rule 75 violation: Their 1911 entries, run in the Stock class, had been revealed to be less than stock. Monckmeier and Knudsen, hundreds of miles away from Chicago and incommunicado, completed the race anyway, Monckmeier winning the W. E. Stahlmaker cup for touring cars.[16] It appears the victory was allowed to stand, as Monckmeier was pictured as winner of the Touring Car Class on the cover of Motor Age.[17]

When they started racing again in the summer of 1913, it was now the 70 hp Staver 65s that took the limelight. Monckmeier set a record in front of 35,000 spectators at the Illinois State Fair in October, 54 seconds on the mile track (eclipsed that same day by the Louis Disbrow's fantastic Simplex Zip), and won the ten-mile club championship race for Chicago:

  • "[Monckmeier] in his Staver-Chicago, was the surprise of the days, as he made a valiant fight against the field of special racing cars and finished in the money in all his starts. In his first appearance of the day he smashed the track record by negotiating the distance in :54 in the mile time trials, but this time was later lowered by Disbrow [:50]. Monckmeier also walloped [Benz driver] Hearne in the club championship race when he carried home the cup for the Chicago Motor Club.[18]"

He continued to race a Staver 65 through the fall of 1913 in the South, but Staver's fortunes were in decline and the company never won another race.

Monckmeier wasn't quite done winning in a Staver, however: On October 1, 1914, four months after Staver ceased making automobiles, he won a 30-mile race on a one-mile dirt track at Johnson County Fairgrounds Racetrack in Iowa City, Iowa, with a time of 36 minutes, 34 seconds, beating two Buicks and a Mercer, along with taking two other first-place trophies over two days of racing.[19] The 30-mile race is considered his sole recorded American open-wheel, track racing victory.[20]

Inventions, later life and death[edit]

Monckmeier Universal Piston Inserter
Monckmeier patent clothes drier
Monckmeier patent pawl actuated cable lift
Bearing cap finishing device.

After his career with Staver finished, Monckmeier settled in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he began marketing a "Universal Piston Inserter" of his own design. His US 1585309  "Wear-compensating bolt" was used in the development of the automotive disc brake. While most of his inventions were for automotive applications, he also registered a US 2259390  "Portable collapsible clothes drier" and US 2632629  "Pawl actuated cable lift" in common use today.

By the 1920s, Monckmeier had relocated to Tipton, Iowa, then to Davenport, Iowa, in order to market his inventions as the Ever-Tite Manufacturing Co.,[21] which also offered plating and machining services.[22][23] They may also have produced goods for the US Government during the Second World War.[24]

In 1961, he recreated the 1911 Around Lake Michigan run with reporter Hal Foust, detailed in a four-part series of articles in The Chicago Daily Tribune.[25][26][27][28]

Monckmeier died of a heart attack on October 14, 1962, aged 73.[29]

Partial list of Monckmeier patents[edit]

US 1481382  "Piston-ring extractor"

US 1627401  "Wear-compensating bolt"

US 1646416  "Automatic thrust bearing"

US 1829940  "Screw clamping device with automatic clamping means"

US 1823461  "Thrust bearing scraping tool"

US 1971078  "Bearing cap finishing device"

US 2798741  "Coupler with a pair of pivoted jaws and automatic latching means"

US 1977734  "Luggage and trunk carrier"

US 2632629  "Pawl actuated cable lift"

US 2259390  "Clothes drier"

US 2148242  "Automobile bumper post"

US 2195280  "Variable drive sprocket wheel for bicycles"

US 1825410  "Automatic take up bearing"


  1. ^ "Illinois, Northern District Naturalization Index, 1840-1950". FamilySearch. (registration required)
  2. ^ "United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942". FamilySearch. (registration required)
  3. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune Aug 6, 1961
  4. ^ Cedar County Historical Review, Cedar County (Iowa) Historical Society, July 1968. "Gus Monckmeier," by Gordon Smith
  5. ^ Motor Age, July 21, 1910
  6. ^ Automotive Industries, Volume XXVI, July 4, 1912, to January 2, 1913, page 908: "Monckmeier and his Staver are deserving of at least as much credit as the Moline drivers and their mounts, for not only did the little Swede finish his car with a perfect score..."
  7. ^ The Horseless Age, August 31, 1910
  8. ^ Automobile Topics, September 3, 1910
  9. ^ The Horseless Age. Vol. 26, No. 12
  10. ^ The Horseless Age, November 16, 1910
  11. ^ The New York Times, "Stock Chassis Races at Elgin," August 20, 1911
  12. ^ The Horseless Age, Vol. 28, No. 8
  13. ^ The Automobile, September 7, 1910
  14. ^ Motor Age, page 12, October 19, 1910
  15. ^ The Motor Age, October 31, 1912
  16. ^ Automobile Topics, p766 November 2, 1912
  17. ^ Motor Age Vol. XXII, No. 18, October 31, 1912
  18. ^ Motor Age, October 16, 1913
  19. ^ Cedar County Historical Review, Cedar County (Iowa) Historical Society, July 1968. "Gus Monckmeier," by Gordon Smith
  20. ^ Glen Milton Breed 1881 – 1960 - A True Pioneer in the Sport of Automobile Racing
  21. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune Oct 21, 1938, pg. 4 "Invents Gear to Make Uphill Bike Riding Easy"
  22. ^ Chicago Tribune Apr 22, 1956
  23. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune Aug 2, 1946
  24. ^ Third Reich Militaria Collection "WWII Original M7 .50 cal. Cleaning rod set in the original packaging. Inspector stamp (flaming bomb) still on the tag. Tag reads: "Quantity 1 Nomenclature-Rod. Cleaning, Jointed, Cal. .50, M7 Drawing No. D-35441 Rev. No. 13 Code No. M3-1-12740 Procured for All .50 Cal. B.M.G. Manufactured by Ever-Tite Manufacturing Co. Date Packed—May, 1944"" retrieved October 1, 2009
  25. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune, Aug 6, 1961 "Pioneer Auto Driver to Retrace Route of 1911 Test
  26. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune Aug 7 1961 "1911 Trip is a Breeze Today
  27. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune Aug 8, 1961 "Get To Detroit in 2 Days; It Took 6 In 1911"
  28. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune Aug 9, 1961 "1911 Auto Tour: Horses Helped"
  29. ^ "G. C. Monckmeier is dead at age 73". The Daily Times. Davenport, Iowa. October 15, 1962. Archived from the original on July 31, 2018.

External links[edit]