11-17 February: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, a motorcycle accident in Exeter, Devon (England) would 12 days later claim the life of George Morgan, a 36 year old clerk. It was the world’s first motorcycle fatality [11 February 1889]………100 years ago this week, Joseph William Moon (68), founder of the Moon Motor Car Company, died [11 February 1919]. Unlike most of his industry contemporaries, Moon didn’t bother

building a horseless carriage. He instead went straight into building automobiles, coming out with the Moon Model A touring car in 1906, with most components produced in his St. Louis factory other than its purchased Rutenber engine, a practice that would gradually change in coming years. The next year, Moon produced a completely new model, the Model C, with a 286-cu.in. four-cylinder engine that boasted full-pressure lubrication and an overhead camshaft, plus a smart-looking aluminum body on a dropped frame. Priced at $3,500, it wasn’t cheap, but its innovations led quickly to solid sales. The car’s chief designer was Louis Mooers, ex of Peerless. The company’s adopted motto was “The Ideal American Car,” and while Moon may have admired more august makes such as Peerless, he was practical enough to realize that lower-priced cars would grow the company. The newer Moons cost as little as $1,500, but were regarded as finely built cars, with demountable rims on detachable wheels, Lockheed hydraulic brakes (circa 1924) and beginning in 1913, six-cylinder power. The adoption of a square-edged radiator shell that strongly resembled Rolls-Royce’s similar component likely wasn’t coincidental. For more than 10 years, from 1916 forward, Moons were uniformly six-cylinder cars. Alas, the founder didn’t live long enough to see it. Joseph Moon died in 1919 at age 69; his remains are interred at Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis. Control of the automobile company passed to Moon’s son-in-law, Stewart MacDonald. He oversaw the most prosperous era in Moon’s history, in which more than 7,500 cars were built annually during 1924 and 1925. Among them was another new car, powered by a Continental straight-eight, which was called the Diana. Despite lofty reviews, the Diana was plagued with reliability problems and was discontinued by 1928. Its replacement was the Aerotype 6-72, and sales dropped by more than half. MacDonald’s response was to jettison the Moon name entirely. Beginning in 1929, the firm introduced a new car called the Windsor White Prince, named in honor of the British royal household, which immediately drew complaints from Merrie Olde. Ironically, the Windsors exported to Britain were immediately rebadged as Moons. Bleeding cash, Moon shut its doors in 1930; Ruxtons were built in its plant for a short time……….Ralph DePalma in a Packard 905 achieved a speed of 149.875 mph (241.200 km/h) at Daytona Beach, which was recognised as a World Land Speed Record in the US, but not by the AIACR [12 February 1919]. The Packard was powered by a forerunner of the WW1 Liberty Engine………90 years ago this week, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre took place in Chicago [14 February 1929].

Al Capone’s gang had fitted a Cadillac touring saloon to the specifications of the Chicago Police Department. Under the guidance of Capone’s Lieutenant Ray Nitty, the murderers sought out the garage of “Bugs” Moran with the intention of killing him. Fearing the possibility of misidentifying Mr. Moran, the gangsters killed all seven men in the garage……..80 years ago this week, the 27,000,000th Ford automobile was produced [15 February 1939]………70 years ago this week, Nino Farina drove a Ferrari 125 to victory in the Temporada race in Rosario, Argentina [13 February 1949]……….60 years ago this week, NASCAR legend Marshall Teague (cover image) died at age 37 attempting to raise the closed-course speed record at the newly opened Daytona International Speedway [11 February 1959]. The “King of the Beach” was conducting test sessions in preparation for the April debut of the United States Auto Club championship with Indy-style roadsters. He was piloting a “Sumar Special” streamliner, a Kurtis-Kraft chassis with a Meyer-Drake Offenhauser 270 engine, streamlined fenders, and a canopy enclosing the driver, thus being classified as Formula Libre. On February 9, 1959, Teague set an unofficial closed course speed record of 171.821 mph (276.5 km/h). Teague was attempting to go even faster on this day, eleven days before the first Daytona 500. “Teague pushed the speed envelope in the high-powered Sumar Special streamliner – to an estimated 140 mph (230 km/h). His car spun and flipped through the third turn and Teague was thrown, seat and all, from his car. He died nearly instantly……….Art Chrisman broke the 180 mph barrier in a supercharged nitro dragster when his “Hustler” did 181.8 mph in the 1/4 mile [15 February 1959]………50 years ago this week, John Z. DeLorean was appointed General Manager of the Chevrolet Divisions of General Motors. [15 February 1969]…….40 years ago this week, Kyle Petty won the 17th running of the ARCA 200 at the Daytona International Speedway. It was Kyle’s first race and first win [11 February 1979]…… on the same day [11 February 1979], Buddy Baker beat Darrell Waltrip by one car length to win the inaugural NASCAR Clash at Daytona International Speedway. Baker averaged 193.384 mph for the 10 laps…….Richie Evans won the eighth night Modified feature of the World Series Of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at the New Smyrna Speedway, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, US [16 February 1979]. Charlie Jarzombek was second followed by George Kent, Dave Nichols and Satch Worley……..30 years ago this week, the final 80s edition of the Chicago Auto Show opened offering consumers a glimpse into the trend for the 90s: quality. Many of the new-for-1989 models featured improved handling and increased horsepower over 1988 cars, and quality started to become the new buzz word in the industry [11 February 1989]. Enthusiasm for performance cars was making a comeback. It was possible to purchase an emissions-legal 385 BHP Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 from your local dealer in 1989, and even with all the required safety and emissions devices, the car was the fastest and best-handling production Corvette made to that time……. 20 years ago this week, an Icelandic consortium, Vistorka hf. (EcoEnergy Ltd.) signed a Co-operation Agreement with DaimlerChrysler, Norsk Hydro and the Royal Dutch/Shell Group for a joint venture to investigate the potential for replacing fossil fuels in Iceland with hydrogen and creating the world’s first “hydrogen economy” [17 February 1998].
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