Birthplace of Speed

The History of Speed in Ormond Beach

In 1903, the smooth, hard-packed sands of Ormond Beach became a proving ground for automobile inventors and drivers. These first speed tournaments in the US earned Ormond the title "Birthplace of Speed".

Records set here during speed trial tournaments for much of the next eight years would be the first significant marks recorded outside of Europe. Motorcycle and automobile racers brought vehicles that used gasoline, steam and electric engines. They came from France, Germany and England as well as from across the U.S.

Pictured: The Ormond Garage in 1905, with Louis Ross in his steam powered "Wooglebug" No. 4, and other racers.
The Ormond Garage, the first gasoline alley before Indianapolis Speedway, was built in 1904 by Henry Flagler, owner of the Ormond Hotel, to accommodate participating race cars during the beach races. The Ormond Garage would house the drivers and mechanics during the speed time trials. Owners and manufacturers stayed, of course, at Flagler's Ormond Hotel.

Tragically, the Ormond Garage caught fire and burned to the ground in 1976, destroying one of auto history's most important landmarks as well as antique cars owned by local residents who used the Garage as a museum. Sadly, all that remains of the original garage is a historic marker, in front of SunTrust Bank, built on its ashes on East Granada Boulevard.

Racing on Ormond Beach started in 1902. But the city's famous connection with racing began in 1903 when the Winston Bullet won a Challenge Cup against the Olds Pirate by two-tenths of a second. American records were set that year, and the world took notice. The very next year, world record were set during the 1904 speed tournaments, including one for motorcycles that lasted for seven years.

The Stanley legacy that led to Ormond Beach's longest-lasting automobile land speed record began in 1897. That year, twin brothers F.E. and F.O. Stanley from Massachusetts built their first steam car. By the turn of the century, their Stanley-Locomobile car was selling better than gas powered cars. With impressive wins and near-wins behind them by late 1905, F.E. Stanley designed, built and tested the Stanley Rocket, the most aerodynamic racer of the day. In January of 1906, the Rocket was brought to Ormond Beach to participate in the annual speed tournament.

January 26, 1906, F.E. Stanley’s Rocket Racer, driven by dare-devil Fred Marriott, set the mark that became Ormond Beach’s most famous land speed record. The incredible speed of 127.659 mph held for four years, a remarkable achievement in a speed age where records sometimes fell within the hour. This record confirmed the reputation of Ormond-Daytona as the first proving ground for both auto racers and manufacturers.

Racing moved to Indianapolis in 1911, but it was not long before Bill France and friends started racing on the beach, beginning what later became NASCAR. Daytona Beach soon took over the game started by its neighbor to the north, becoming a racing juggernaut of its own, today overshadowing even Indianapolis.

Speed Heritage Today

Ormond Beach's Birthplace of Speed Park, located at 21 Ocean Shore Boulevard, at the beach where Granada Boulevard meets A1A, is home to a small replica of the Ormond Garage. The Motor Racing Heritage Association raised funds to the replica. The park was dedicated March 28, 2013, exactly 110 years after the first race. The garage houses replicas of Bullet #1 and the Pirate automobiles.

Ormond Beach is proud of its heritage as the “Birthplace of Speed.” In addition to the winter event that started with the 2003 Centennial, Ormond Beach has long celebrated this heritage with an annual Antique Car Show and nighttime Gaslight Parade on Thanksgiving Day weekend.

Additional Resources

Media Contacts:
City of Ormond Beach,
Public Information Officer,