Tetzlaff was one of the best known American racing drivers of the early 20th century. His style was one of flat out and hope it holds together. When it did, he won, but mostly it didn't!
Teddy Tetzlaff was one of the best-known American racing car drivers of the early 20th century. Nicknamed "Terrible" Teddy Tetzlaff due to the way he treated his machinery. With his wide open style and hope-it-holds-together style, if it did, he would win but most times, it didn't and he would find himself finishing behind more professional, patient drivers.
Tetzlaff was featured in a number of films including the Speed Kings in 1913 with Mabel Normand. He also appeared in a number of silent star Wallace Reid's famous racing movies like The Roaring Road (1919), Double Speed (1920), Excuse My Dust (1920), Too Much Speed (1921) and Across the Continent (1922). However his appearances went unaknowledged until recently when finally he was given credit for the roles. Period newspaper articles and Reid's own serialised autobiography described the close friendship between the two that lasted until Reid's death in 1923. Tetzlaff's son Dale H. became a well-known studio cameraman who worked on over 100 films under the name "Teddy Tetzlaff, Jr.
In 1910 he drove his Lozier to victory in the 202 mile "Free for All" race on the 8.417 mile course of city streets and roads around Santa Monica averaging 70.8 mph. Tetzlaff also won the 151 mile 'Ferris Cup' for cars with engines from 301 to 600 cubic inches, averaging 73.27 mph.
On July 5th 1912 he drove a modified Fiat S61 to victory in the 200 mile 'Heavy Car' race at the AAA sanctioned 'Montemara Fiesta Road Races', run on public roads in Washington City. He then took another win the following day driving a Fiat S74 in the 250 mile 'Free-for-All' race. race.
In 1914 Teddy Tetzlaff drove the Blitzen Benz in a touring racing show that included Hughie Hughes, Coal Oil Billy Carlson and a couple others.
Tetzlaff held a number of different speed records at one time or another. In 1914, Tetzlaff set a world speed record of over 142 mph (229.85 km/h) on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, and once in a race at Corona, California, Tetzlaff turned in what at the time was the fastest lap speed in the USA. Tetzlaff also twice briefly held the one-lap qualifying record at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but he was never able to win the Indy 500.
He drove in the Indy 500 four times, with his best finish being second place in 1912.
In 1915 he was set to headline the first race the year in Tacoma. However he was kidnapped by gamblers 3 days before the race and held for ransom. Rumor has it he was held in a brothel. When he police arrived to free him he didn’t want to leave. He figured that his captors were not so bad.
On 19 March 1916, Teddy Tetzlaff won a 10-miler for light cars on the Ascot Park Speedway driving a Milac = (M)ade (I)n (L)os (A)ngeles, (C)alifornia. He retire from racing at the end of the year.
Teddy Tetzlaff died in 1929 of natural causes.