12-18 October: Motoring Milestones

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

100 years ago this week, construction of the Holland Tunnel began [12 October 1920]. The tunnel provided a direct link between Twelfth Street in Jersey City, New Jersey and Canal Street in New York City. The tunnel has two tubes more than 2,400 metres long and is one of the earliest examples of a mechanically ventilated design. The 84 fans, in four ventilation buildings completely change the air inside the tunnel every 90 seconds. It opened to traffic on November 13, 1927. The Holland Tunnel was named after Clifford Milburn Holland (1883-1924), the civil engineer who died while directing the tunnel’s construction…….90 years ago this week, the Bentley 8 Litre was announced at the Olympia Motor Show in London [15 October 1930]. The 8 Litre was W.O. Bentley’s finest grand tourer and was also the last car he designed for Bentley Motors. Launched in 1930, it was the largest and most luxurious Bentley of its time. Its launch coincided with the worldwide depression caused by the Wall Street Crash. Demand for the car slowed and the company encountered financial difficulties, leading to a change in ownership. As a result, only 100 examples of the 8 Litre were built between 1930 and 1932. At the time of the 8 Litre’s launch, W.O. declared: “I have always wanted to produce a dead silent 100mph car, and now I think we have done it.”Such was the power of the car’s 7,983 cc, straight-6 engine, that the company guaranteed it would be capable of at least 100mph, regardless of the chosen coachwork……80 years ago this week, Tom Mix, the highest-paid actor in silent films of the 1920s, and unquestionably the best-known cowboy star of the era, perished in a car accident in Arizona (US) at the age of 60 [12 October 1940]. Driving his beloved bright-yellow Cord Phaeton convertible at about 80mph, Mix lost control of his car after hitting a dry wash, and was instantly killed. Many took solace in the fact that Mix died in the Old West that he had depicted in film so many times, still wearing his cowboy costume from a performance the previous day…….70 years ago this week, the Society of Motion Picture Art Directors named the 24th Series Packard (1951 model year) as ‘the most beautiful car of the year’ [12 October 1950] an on the same day, the 500,000th car was produced by the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation, a 1951 Kaiser-Frazer Deluxe saloon……. The seventeenth race of the 1950 NASCAR season was run at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia, a race now regarded as the second edition of the Old Dominion 500 (the distance changed after the track was paved in 1955 from 200 to 400, and then 500 laps) [15 October 1950]. Fonty Flock won the pole. This race was team owner Junie Donlavey’s first career start, fielding an Oldsmobile driven by Runt Harris……..The new Consul and Zephyr launched at the Olympia Motor Show were the first Fords with monocoque body/chassis construction and the first cars in the world with MacPherson Strut front suspension, now an industry standard [18 October 1950]. They were also the first Fords with overhead valve engines. Production began with the Consul on 1 January 1951. The Mark I model ran until 1956. From April 1956 the Mark II Consul, Zephyr and Zodiac went on sale and were known as the Three Graces. The Mark II range was popular and finished its run in 1962, when from April that year the Mark III Zephyr 4, Zephyr 6 and Zodiac went on sale. The Consul name was dropped, the car’s place in the Ford UK line-up being filled by the first four-cylinder Ford Zephyr. While the Mark II Zephyr and Zodiacs had shared the same body (the Consul had shorter front guards and bulkhead), the new Zodiac and Zephyrs launched in 1962 shared few body panels. With the Mark III, Ford finally sorted out problems that had beset previous models (Mark I axles and Mark II gearboxes were particular weaknesses) and the Mark III proved to be popular and the most durable of the range. The model sold at a rate equal to or better than the Mark II both in the UK and overseas, but was in production for a shorter time. During the last months of production, an up-market Executive version was added to the Mark III range. The Mk III range was discontinued in January 1966 and the completely new Zephyr / Zodiac Mark IV range was released in April 1966. This car’s design anticipated the later Consul/Granada range with V-engines and independent rear suspension, but the development of the model was rushed and this was reflected in its durability. Although the Ford Zephyr never saw American production, a very limited amount were imported into the U.S. and the name itself has appeared on other American Ford-related cars. The first use of the Zephyr name was in 1936 with the Lincoln-Zephyr a smaller companion to the full sized Lincoln sedan sold at the time, followed in the early 1980s with the Mercury Zephyr, an upscale version of the Ford Fairmont. The Lincoln Zephyr name was resurrected for a new model in 2006 but was changed to Lincoln MKZ the following year…….60 years ago this week, Bill Krauss drove a Maserati Tip 61 to victory in the Los Angeles Times Grand Prix sports car race at Riverside, California, US [16 October 1960]……50 years ago this week, the Ford Cortina Mk lll was launched at the 1970 Earl’s Court Motor Show [14 October1970]. The Mk III Cortina was inspired by the contemporary “coke bottle” design language which had emanated from Detroit – the car sported similar fluted bonnet and beltline design elements to the North American Mercury Montego and Ford LTD of the same era. It replaced both the Mk iI Cortina and the larger, more expensive Ford Corsair, offering more trim levels and the option of larger engines than the Mk II Cortina…..40 years ago this week, Helmut Henzler and Keke Rosberg in a prototype VW diesel-powered car at the Nardo Circuit, Italy, recorded the greatest distance covered in 1 hour by a car powered with an internal combustion engine, 219.598 miles [18 October 1980]…….20 years ago this week, NASCAR Craftsman Truck series driver Tony Roper (35) died in a crash during the O’Reilly 400 at Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth, Texas [14 October 2000]. Roper’s car brushed another during the 32nd lap and slammed head-on to the wall, bursting into flames and spinning out of control……… Alice Huyler Ramsey, the first woman to drive across the United States from coast to coast, became the first woman inducted into the US Automotive Hall of Fame [17 October 2000].

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