13-19 January: Motoring Milestones

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

100 years ago this week, Charles F Kettering was named Vice President of General Motors [13 January 1920]…….. John Dodge, American automobile manufacturing pioneer and co-founder of Dodge Brothers Company in 1900, died in New York at the age of 55 [14 January 1920]. For ten years, the Dodge brothers’ company was supplier to Ford, and John

Dodge worked as vice president of the Ford company. In 1913 the Dodge brothers terminated their Ford contract and devoted their energies toward producing a Dodge automobile. They began building motor trucks, ambulances and other vehicles for the United States military during the arms buildup for World War I and in October 1917 they produced their first commercial car. At war’s end, their company manufactured and marketed both cars and trucks.. Because of his temper and often crude behaviour, John Dodge was seen as socially unacceptable to most of the well-heeled elite of Detroit. Nevertheless, his wealth made him an influential member of the community and he became active in Republican Party politics in Michigan. Following the death of John and his brother Horace 11 months later the company was sold to Dillon, Read & Co. in 1925 before being sold to Chrysler in 1928. Dodge vehicles mainly consisted of trucks and full-sized passenger cars through the 1970s, though it did make some inroads into the compact car market during this time………The Motor Wheel Corporation was incorporated in Michigan, US [17 January 1920]…….90 years ago this week, Australian Norman ‘Wizard’ Smith in his 20-litre Anzac averaged 148.637mph over ten miles, a new world record for the distance, at Ninety Mile Beach in New Zealand [17 January 1930]……..80 years ago this week, the Packard Eighteenth Series 120 was introduced. It was offered in a full range of body styles from coupe to Touring Limousine, with prices for the model range between $1,099 and $1,856 [18 January 1940]. The One-Twenty is an important car in Packard’s history because it signified the first time that Packard entered into the highly competitive mid-priced eight-cylinder car market……..70 years ago this week, the General San Martín Grand Prix at Mar del Plata, Argentina was won by Alberto Ascari, in a Ferrari 166 and General Motors opened its “Mid-Century Motorama” at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, featuring the Cadillac Debutante convertible with leopard skin upholstery and gold plated interior hardware [15 January 1950]…….. Saab delivered its first cars, the Saab 92, to waiting customers [16 January 1950]. The engine was a transversly-mounted, water-cooled two-cylinder, two-stroke 764 cc, 25 hp (19 kW) thermosiphon engine based on a DKW design, giving a top speed of 105 km/h (65 mph). The transmission had three gears, the first unsynchronised. In order to overcome the problems of oil starvation during overrun (engine braking) for the two-stroke engine, a freewheel device was fitted. The suspension was by torsion bars. All early Saab 92s were painted in a dark green color similar to British racing green. According to some sources, Saab had a surplus of green paint from wartime production of airplanes……..60 years ago this week, the Chicago Auto Show opened to the public [16 January 1960]. Harsh winter weather did not keep Chicagoans away who had a batch of new imports and compact cars to gaze at in 1960, along with chrome-laden full-size models. As automakers aimed at economy, Chevrolet introduced its rear-engine Corvair, Ford offered the new compact Falcon and Chrysler developed the Valiant. The show also offered the public a glimpse of nearly three- dozen imported makes, including Deutsch-Bonnet, Toyota and Fiat. This was the final viewing of the waning DeSoto line. A few 1961 DeSotos were built, but production halted prior to the 1961 show…… on the same day [16 January 1960] Bobby Allison won the 30 lap Modified Stock Car race at the Hollywood Speedway, Hollywood, Florida, US…….50 years ago this week, production commenced at Ford’s plant in Saarlouis, Germany and was formally opened in the presence of Henry Ford II six months later in June 1970 [16 January 1970]. It was designed to co-produce with Ford’s Halewood plant the company’s recently introduced Escort model, itself intended to compete head-on with Opel’s successful Kadett in the various markets of continental Europe. In addition to the Ford Escort the Ford Capri, Ford Fiesta and Ford Orion have all been built there, along with the Ford Focus since 1998……..A.J. Foyt won the Motor Trend 500 NASCAR Grand National race at Riverside International Raceway in a Ford [18 January 1970] . Foyt took the lead from Parnelli Jones with 25 laps to go and took the checkered 3.5 seconds ahead of a rapidly closing Roger McCluskey in a Plymouth Super Bird. Two drivers were badly injured in seperate crashes. Runner-up for 1969 Rookie of the Year, Buddy Young lost control on oil from a blown engine and flipped wildly end over end going into turn 1. The 27 year old driver, making his first start for the L.G. DeWitt team, suffered a concussion and internal injuries. 48 year old West Coast veteran Jim Cook was critically injured when his Ford went head-on into the end of the concrete wall in turn 9, the impact so great that the car was nearly bent double. Jones qualified at a record 113.310 mph, but was forced to start at the rear following a ruling that his tires were illegal. Jones, a Firestone dealer, had qualified on tires which NASCAR officials ruled were not available in sufficient quantity to make them eligible for competition. A crowd of 43,200 was on hand……..40 years ago this week, the Winston-Western 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race began. It ended six days later after being delayed by rain on lap 26 [13 January 1980]……..on the same day [13 January 1980]Williams Ford set him on his way to that year’s drivers’ championship. Conditions were harsh, and sections of the track had to be relaid overnight after drivers complained it was falling apart during qualifying; unsurprisingly, the repairs disintegrated from the tenth lap onwards making the surface slippery and 15 cars retired. Nelson Piquet and Keke Rosberg were second and third respectively, both standing on the podium for the first time, while Derek Daley took a career-best fourth……..Darrell Waltrip, driving the DiGard Gatorade Chevrolet, won the Winston Western 500 NASCAR stock car race, six days after it began. It had been rain delayed on lap 26 [19 January 1980]………20 years ago this week, comedy veteran Sir Norman Wisdom was reunited with a precious Bentley after 19 years, thanks to a television programme [18 January 2000]. The 1956 R Type Continental was tracked down by researchers of Carlton Television’s Pulling Power programme as a surprise for the recently-knighted funnyman. Sir Norman, 84, who parted with the car after 21 years said: “It’s a lovely car and I’ve always regretted selling it.” He is thought to have paid £40,000 to buy back the vehicle……….Tourism chiefs in Liverpool, Merseyside were banned from putting up motorway signs saying ‘Liverpool, the Birthplace of the Beatles’, because the UK Highways Agency thought the signs would distract motorists [19 January 2000].

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