Newport, Rhode Island

Newport’s extensive automotive history dates back as early as the Gilded Age. The first American car race, the Vanderbilt Cup, took place in this historic area. On September 6, 1900, Willie K.Vanderbilt and some of his closest friends traveled to the nearby horse track to race their newly-imported automobiles. Little did they realize the impact the Vanderbilt Cup would have on American racing culture.

Given it’s rich motoring history, Newport is the premiere destination for a Concours & Motor Week. Beautiful, historic mansions and the seemingly endless Atlantic Ocean provide the most elegant of backdrops. Audrain’s Newport Concours & Motor Week will be a celebration of the automobile, uniting enthusiasts from around the world.

The Audrain Automobile Museum

The Audrain Automobile Museum was established in 2014 and has been growing exponentially since its opening. Even with years of successful events under our belts, we dreamed of grandeur. A world class Concours & Motor Week event of this caliber has never been executed in Newport, Rhode Island… until now. 

“More of an Art Museum than a Car Museum,” we celebrate the Machine Age, when art and automobiles came together. With access to more than 200 of the most remarkable and rare vehicles ever made, the Museum takes pride in its ability to display automobiles from 1899 to modern day. Vehicles are chosen specifically and showcased based on ever-changing exhibition themes. By displaying 15-20 cars at a time, the Museum gives patrons and enthusiasts of all ages a completely unique experience with each visit.

 
 

Learn more about the Audrain Automobile Museum Here

"Preserving Newport's History One Car At A Time"

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The Vanderbilt Cup

Willie K. Vanderbilt II was the great grandson of railroad tycoon, Cornelius Vanderbilt who was the proud owner of the iconic Newport mansion, The Breakers. The grand mansions of Newport were commission in the 1800’s by the wealthiest people in America to become their “summer cottages.” Each summer, society’s elite would take up residence in their cottages and spend the weeks from Memorial Day to Labor Day throwing extravagant parties and relaxing on the beautiful beaches of Newport. Today, these mansions still stand and are the backdrop of the Audrain’s Newport Concours & Motor Week.

Willie K. at the wheel of his “Red Devil” Mercedes in 1904

Photo via the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum

On September 6, 1900 Willie K. Vanderbilt’s “White Ghost”, the nickname he gave his 23-Horsepower Daimler, faced off with his fellow Newport millionaires’ motor cars at the Aquidneck Park horse racing track; the site of what is now the Newport State Airport. The races were considered a high-society event, with nearly 10,000 spectators showing up in formal dress and eagerly anticipating what the young Vanderbilt would do next. Fellow iconic Newport families took part in the races as well, with the Astor and Oelrichs families having won a few featured races. A total of thirteen races were held that day and 22-year-old Willie K. left victorious, having won three of the featured five mile races, prompting him to plan another competition for the next year. In 1901, Willie K. held the second, and subsequently last, race weekend in Newport, Rhode Island.

The Newport races came to an end after an attempt by Willie K. to turn Ocean Drive, a main road that runs along Newport’s coastline, into a race track. His actions resulted in an injunction and terrible local press. In response, he relocated his racing events to Long Island. The Cup was hosted at a handful of circuits throughout America since it’s formative years in Newport, with the final race weekend having been hosted at Long Island’s Bridgehampton Race Circuit in 1968.

“The first automobile race ever held in this section drew about 10,000 people to Aquidneck Trotting Park this afternoon. The races were made up of all kinds of motor vehicles, from the gasoline tricycle to William K. Vanderbilt, Jr.'s French gasoline machine. Some of the events were most exciting , but the majority were tame. Mr. Vanderbilt's machine, as was expected, carried off the honors, winning in the final of its class and beating all machines in the mixed event. The programme was made of heats, the machines being divided into their special classes, the winners in each meeting in the championship. “

The New York Times September 7, 1900, clipping via vanderbiltcupraces.com