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1907 Was a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

In “The Race to the Future,” Kassia St. Clair chronicles the 8,000-mile caper that helped change the landscape forever.

1907 Was a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Berkeley Heights, N.J., was once a verdant expanse of farmland and forests, but by the time I grew up there, all that had long been paved over to build suburban homes. So I spent most of my time inside, watching movies on TV.

One of my favorites was 1965’s “The Great Race,” in which Tony Curtis’s handsome hero vies with Jack Lemmon’s sneering villain in a round-the-world, old-timey car race. Although I didn’t know it at the time, that movie was based on real events, including the 1907 Peking-Paris rally, in which five drivers attempted to cover a vast distance in machines so new their very name — automobile? motor car? — hadn’t yet been decided.

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