I held onto my gear tightly as Howard Kroplick gunned the engine of his 1909 Alco racer down Ronkonkoma Avenue on Sunday morning. The car, nicknamed Black Beast, was one of the cars to compete in the first-ever Indianapolis 500 Race in 1909, and has won various trophies, including two Vanderbuilt Cups. The engine roared as Kroplick sped onto the main road, and for a moment I thought I could hear the cheers of a crowd as the Beast relived its glory days.
Kroplick of East Hills purchased the vintage race car from a dealer in Belgium in 2009, and has had the Beast reconditioned in order to be fully drivable. Originally sold for $6,000 in 1909, this retro rocket is now valued at more than $140,000. The Beast is also the only known Alco race car still in existence.
Kroplick brought the Black Beast to Lake Ronkonkoma for the inaugural Parade and Car Show at Raynor Park where Long Islanders gathered to admire cars from the early half of the 20th century.
All of the cars were from 1948 or older (except for a vintage firetruck from the 1960s that was in attendance) and they all gleamed like they were only a few years old. Despite the gloomy looking weather, locals laughed, threw a Frisbee disk around, and barbecued in the park while attendees looked on at the half-dozen or so vintage autos.
Check out our photo gallery below, as well as footage from the passenger seat of the Black Beast as we drove through the streets of Lake Ronkonkoma.