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Hemmings Motor News Blog

Hemmings Motor News has been around since 1954. We're proud of our heritage, but we're also more than the Hemmings full of classifieds that your father subscribed to. Aside from new editorial content every month in Hemmings, we have three monthly magazines: Hemmings Muscle Machines, Hemmings Classic Car and Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car.

While our editors traverse the country to find the best content for those magazines, we find other oddities related to the old-car hobby that we really had no place for - until now. With this blog, we're giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what we see and what we do during the course of putting out some of the finest automotive magazines you'll ever read.

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Frank Fithen's Feats of Speed and Determination

Posted July 26, 2011 8:00 AM by dstrohl

Frank E. Fithen of Steubenville, Ohio, made a name for himself not just by driving cars at excessive rates of speed - at a time when a mile a minute was considered blazing fast. Fithen boasted of reaching 58 MPH - but also by driving cars from one end of the country. He did this without GPS, without Interstate highways, and without arms.

Fithen, born about 1882, lost both arms in a railroad accident at age 9. How he got to riding bicycles and unicycles remains unrecorded, but he soon after began to demonstrate his abilities as an armless bicyclist and unicyclist as a street performer. That must have been quite the lucrative business, because in about 1912 or 1913, he switched to automobiles - specifically, a then-new Oakland runabout, a 60hp, six-cylinder beast, massive at a 130-inch wheelbase and expensive at $2,400 (or about three times the most expensive Model T).

He then fitted it with a special steering wheel of his own design, one with a series of rings within the rim of the wheel that he could fit the stumps of his arms into. A Popular Science article from a few years afterward notes that Fithen was able to use his stumps to manipulate the hand throttle as well, while he used his feet to operate the pedals and emergency brake.

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Re: Frank Fithen's Feats of Speed and Determination

07/26/2011 12:25 PM

.........."Sitting here with my mouth wide open"

Amazing accomplishment seems to be a completely inadequate as an answer.

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Re: Frank Fithen's Feats of Speed and Determination

07/27/2011 11:39 AM

Exactly!!!!!!

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