What happened: The first leg of the Tribune Reliability Tour concluded in Morris, Minn.
When: Oct. 1, 1910.
The back story: To capitalize on the growing public enthusiasm for the automobile, more than 100 cars set out from Minneapolis to attempt the treacherous drive — to Aberdeen, S.D. It wasn’t a race. The winners would be the cars that still ran well after the arduous, five-day, 650-mile round trip.
A hard road: The easy-driving world of smooth concrete ribbons was years away. At the time, drivers faced potholes, mud, meandering paths and horses headed in the opposite direction.
The Tribune, which sponsored the event, described a 20-mile stretch considered “the hardest roads to be encountered on the entire tour. The hills are filled with rocks. The route takes the motorists over cowpaths and trails, up hills, down gullies and through ravines which are dreaded and feared. It is expected that many penalties will be inflicted on this day’s run, but the drivers are ready for the ordeal.”
Adding insult to injury, another stretch of the tour was marred by enemies of the internal combustion engine:
“At a point several miles before Litchfield, boards with nails had been laid across the path, and as a result several punctures were suffered,” read one account.
On the upside, at the end of the day’s drive, participants were treated to a dinner of duck.
Crossing the finish line: Autos made by Franklin, Chalmers and Corbin manufacturers scored the highest. But Corbin quit making automobiles in 1912. Chalmers ceased production in 1923. And Franklin went out of business in 1934.
Apparently, just being reliable wasn’t enough.