10-16 December: Motoring Milestones

Discover the most momentous motoring events that took place this week in history….

90 years ago this week, the House of Lords approved a Bill making driving tests compulsory in Britain [12 December 1928]……..50 years ago this week, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the British musical film loosely based on Ian Fleming’s novel The Magical Car was released [16 December 1968]. Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay with Ken Hughes. In England, circa 1910, eccentric Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke) works as an inventor, a job which barely supports himself, his even more eccentric father, and his two children, Jeremy and Jemima; but, they’re all happy. When the children beg their father to buy for them their favourite plaything – a broken down jalopy of a car sitting at a local junkyard – Caractacus does whatever he can to make some money to buy it. One scheme to raise money involves the unexpected assistance of a pretty and wealthy young woman they have just met named Truly Scrumptious, (Sally Anne Howe) the daughter of a candy factory owner, but Caractacus eventually comes into another one-time-only windfall of money, enough to buy the car. Applying his inventing skills, Caractacus transforms the piece of junk into a beautiful working machine, which they name Chitty Chitty Bang Bang from the noise its engine makes. At a seaside picnic with his children and Truly, Caractacus spins a fanciful tale of an eccentric inventor, his pretty girlfriend, his two children, and a magical car named Chitty, all involved in the faraway land of Vulgaria. The child-like ruler Baron Bomburst, ruler of Vulgaria, will do whatever he can to get his hands on their magical car; but, because of Baroness Bomburst’s dislike of children, youngsters are outlawed, even the unsuspecting offspring of foreign inventors of magical cars. The film was directed by Ken Hughes and produced by Albert R. Broccoli (co-producer of the James Bond series of films, also based on Fleming’s novels). Fleming took his inspiration for the subject from a series of aero-engined racing cars called “Chitty Bang Bang”, built by Count Louis Zborowski in the early 1920s at Higham Park. Fleming had known Higham Park as a guest of its later owner, Walter Wigham, chairman of Robert Fleming & Co……..40 years ago this week, Ford Motor Company celebrated the 150 millionth car, truck or tractor to be built worldwide since its founding 75 years earlier [14 December 1978]. The milestone vehicle, a 1979 Mustang, was built at Ford’s Dearborn Assembly Plant. Ford by then had built 4 million tractors, 30 million trucks and 116 million cars since the first production vehicle—a two-cylinder Model A—was assembled at the original Mack Avenue Plant in Detroit and sold on July 23, 1903, five weeks after the company’s incorporation………30 years ago this week, Howard Less of Autocar and Motor magazine in a Ferrari Testarossa broke the record for the fastest lap on a UK circuit by a production car, 171 mph, with a peak speed of 174 mph at Millbrook Proving Ground, Bedfordshire [12 December 1988]………20 years ago this week, China’s first F1 grand prix, provisionally scheduled for March 28 1999, was dropped after the FIA decided that the Zuhai circuit organisers needed another year to finalise arrangements. In fact, it was not until 2004 that the race took place [11 December 1998]…….10 years ago this week, the $14 billion package to aid General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC collapsed amid disputes over union wage cuts [11 December 2008]. A group of mostly US Republican Southern senators, including states that subsidised foreign car manufacturers, formed the heart of the opposition…….. The following day [12 December 2008], the White House and the Treasury said they were considering

diverting money from the Wall Street rescue fund to stave off bankruptcy filings among US carmakers. General Motors Corp. said it would temporarily close 20 factories across North America and make sweeping cuts to its vehicle production as it tried to adjust to dramatically weaker automobile demand……..In China, the BYD Company introduced the F3DM, the country’s first home-grown electric vehicle for the mass market [15 December 2008]……… In Italy Fiat Group SpA for the first time shut down most of its Italian plants for a month, laying off nearly 50,000 workers for an extended holiday in reaction to the precipitous drop in demand for new cars [16 December 2008].

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