10-16 May: Motoring Milestones

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

130 years ago this week, the first Daimler engine was imported into England by Frederick R Simms [16 May 1891]…….120 years ago this week, Wily Tischbein driving a De Detrich won the Mannheim-Pforzheim-Mannheim race in Germany [12 May 1901]……100 years ago this week, Ford in Detroit, US produced a record 4,072 cars in one day [10 May 1921]…… Frank C Clement, driving the second experimental Bentley 3-litre, won the Brookland Whitsun race, the first victory for the marque [16 May 1921]…….90 years ago this week, René Dreyfus was the only foreigner in the 22nd Targo Florio where just 13 cars arrived at the start [10 May 1931]. The Alfa Romeo factory entered five drivers, the Maserati works just three and only one potent Bugatti was present, Varzi’s personal car. Four independents with Alfa Romeos, a Bugatti and a Salmson filled the remaining places. On a dry road, Varzi immediately established a strong lead, which he sustained for three laps while the five Alfa team cars relentlessly hounded him. The Maseratis of Fagioli and Biondetti ended in the ditch early on, whereas Dreyfus’ racecar was retired after ¾ race in hopeless position. Rain had started on lap two and after three laps torrential downpours turned some of the mountain roads into mud pools, resulting in the downfall of the grand prix racers like Varzi. Most cars of the Alfa Romeo team had front fenders fitted before the race to keep the splashing mud away from drivers, faces and goggles. It ended as a great success for Alfa Romeo who for the first time this year were victorious at one of the major races. Nuvolari and Borzacchini finished in the first two places, followed by the disenchanted Varzi in third place, car and driver almost unrecognizably covered in mud…….80 years ago this week, trolleybuses first ran in London [16 May 1931]. Operated by London United Tramways (LUT), from a depot at Fulwell in South-West London, they were

nicknamed “Diddlers” and were bought to replace the trams, which were old and poorly patronised. LUT was absorbed into the London Passenger Transport Board along with other tram operators. The LPTB decided to replace all trams with trolleybuses. This was started in October 1935 with two more former LUT routes, and continued in stages until June 1940, when it was suspended because of the war. By then nearly all the trams north of the Thames had been replaced, but there were still 1100 trams in use in south London. In 1946 it was decided that the remaining trams would be replaced by diesel buses. Trolleybuses were bigger than diesel buses (70 seats compared to 56), and so more diesel buses would be required. It was thought, however, that there would be fewer uncollected fares on the smaller vehicles. “Pay as you Enter” (PAYE) experiments had not been successful as the dwell times at bus stops lengthened. In 1948, a new batch of 77 trolleybuses replaced the Diddlers and trolleybuses that had been destroyed by enemy action. A further 50 new trolleybuses were delivered in 1952 to replace the oldest vehicles, the Diddlers, which, with a 10-year design life, were then 16 years old! In 1954, it was announced that all trolleybuses were to be replaced, with the exception of the post-war vehicles, which would be retained until about 1970 and run over the original LUT routes. Conversion began in 1959, using RT buses for the first three stages and new Routemasters for the remainder. In the end, a change of policy brought forward the conversion of the ex-LUT routes, especially as the post-war trolleybuses had a sale value. A consortium of Spanish operators bought the post-war vehicles. The former LUT routes were the last to be converted to diesel buses, on 8 May 1962…….70 years ago this week, Chico Landi in a Ferrari 125C F1 won the Saõ Paulo Grand Prix held at Interlagos [13 May 1951]…….60 years ago this week, the Auto stacker, an automated multi-storey car park situated above a car showroom, workshop and petrol station in Woolwich, south-east London, was officially opened by Princess Margaret [11 May 1961]. The Autostacker (cover image) was to be one of the wonders of the world. At the touch of a button a car would be magically carried away to its parking bay with no help from the driver. It was to hold 256 cars and with the introduction of parking meters in sixteen streets, would solve all parking problems for years to come in Woolwich. The ground floor comprised a Car showrooms and workshops plus a petrol station on the forecourt. Parking was remotely controlled from a kiosk on the ground floor. The Car driver would park his vehicle on a conveyor in front of one of four lifts and then leave it. On paying his parking fee the driver would be given a yale type key which would activate the return of his vehicle. It never worked properly and even the demonstration vehicle got stuck at the opening ceremony and had to be manhandled in. It was demolished in 1962 at a cost of £60,000……. Melvin Eugene ‘Tony’ Bettenhausen (44), a dedicated and fearless driver, winner of the National US-Championship in 1951 and 1958, died [12 May 1961]. He retired from racing three times but always came back as he found life away from the cockpit boring. Bettenhausen was killed in a crash at Indianapolis while testing a Stearly Motor Freight Special vehicle for Paul Russo. The car smashed into the outside wall of the track and then rolled 325 feet along the barrier. The car came to rest in a grassy plot between the wall and Grandstand A, with the tail of the car on fire. Results showed the accident was caused by an anchor bolt which fell off the front radius rod support, allowing the front axle to twist and misalign the front wheels when the brakes were applied, which drove the car into the wall……. Eddie Sachs, of Center Valley, Pennsylvania, US, became the 3rd driver in Indy 500 history to win the pole for consecutive races by qualifying at 147.481 mph, the second-fastest qualifying speed posted up until that date [13 May 1961]……. Naples Grand Prix was a motor race, run to Formula One rules, at Posillipo Circuit, Naples [14 May 1961]. The race was run over 60 laps of the circuit, and was won by Italian driver Giancarlo Baghetti in a Ferrari 156 in only his second Formula One race, having also won his first. Baghetti went on to win his next Formula One race as well, his first World Championship race, and is the only driver to have achieved this feat……50 years ago this week, Alfa Romeo T33/3s finished 1-2 in the Targa Florio road race. The winners, Nino Vaccarella and Toine Hezemans completed the 11 lap, 493 mile (792 km) race in 6:35:46. Second was Andrea de Adamich and Gjs van Lennep only 1:11 seconds behind [15 May 1971]…….40 years ago this week, the 20,000,000th Volkswagen Beetle was produced at the Volkswagen plant in Puebla, Mexico.

Volkswagen first came to Mexico in 1954 as part of a museum exhibit entitled “Germany and Its Industry” [15 May 1981]…….30 years ago this week, Ayrton Senna driving a McLaren-Honda MP4/6 won the Monaco Grand Prix at Monte Carlo [12 May 1991]. Ayrton Senna shocked no-one by taking pole position, but second place was a surprise with Stefano Modena taking full advantage of the superior Pirelli qualifying tyres to be second followed by Patrese, Piquet, a disappointed Mansell, Berger, Prost, Moreno, Alesi, and de Cesaris. Alex Caffi had a huge accident in practice and would not participate in the race. Elsewhere Martin Brundle was disqualified for missing a weight check. At the start, Senna got away well followed by Modena, Patrese, Mansell, and Prost. In the usual first corner mayhem Berger ran into the back of Piquet, dropping the Austrian to the back of the pack and breaking Piquet’s suspension, Berger would later crash out. Senna quickly built up a huge lead over Modena and Patrese, and both the chasers were eliminated on lap 42 when Modena’s engine blew in the tunnel spreading oil on the track which caused Patrese to crash. Senna now had a huge lead over Prost and Mansell, but the Englishman was in no mood to stay third and passed Prost with a daring move going into the chicane. Prost would later pit to repair a loose wheel and problems with the stop dropped him down to fifth. Senna duly won his fourth Monaco Grand Prix in five years by 18 seconds over Mansell, who drove a brilliant race, Alesi, Moreno, Prost, and Emanuelle Pirro in the Dallara. The second-place finish was Nigel Mansell’s first points of the season and the gearbox issues that had troubled the start of his season did not re-appear…… General Motors ended production of the Buick Reatta, a two-seater sports car that had been introduced in 1988 [14 May 1991]. As Buick’s first two-seater and its first convertible since the 1985 Riviera, the Reatta was manufactured in a highly specialized assembly program at the Reatta Craft Centre (later known as the Lansing Craft Centre) in Lansing, Michigan—achieving production of over 21,000 units in four years. The presence of the Chevrolet Corvette, Pontiac Fiero and Cadillac Allante at the time of the Reatta’s introduction meant that with the exception of Oldsmobile, all of GM’s passenger-car divisions offered two-seaters during the late 1980s and early 1990s …….. The main facility of H J Mulliner, Park Ward Ltd was closed due to a severe decline in custom coachbuilding activities [15 May 1991]…….20 years ago this week, Juan Pablo Montoya led the early part of the Spanish GP and was enjoying a nice little dice with Michael Schumacher [13 May 2001]. Eventually, Schumacher got a run and as Montoya tried to defend the inside, he braked slightly too late and ran off the track and onto the gravel, taking Schumacher with him. Both rejoined, albeit well down the field. That left Rubens Barrichello in the lead, but he was passed by David Coulthard during the pit stops as the McLaren driver went on to take his second win of the year. Barrichello didn’t get to finish second, though, as he was ordered to give the position up to Schumacher, which he did on the final lap. Although it was a decision that baffled many so early in the season, it was slightly more understandable than it would be the following year – at this stage of the season, Coulthard was a genuine threat for the title and moved to within four points of Schumacher, while Barrichello was already a long way behind.

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