14-20 December: Motoring Milestones

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

110 years ago this week, Charles Kettering, William A Chryst and William P Anderson successfully tested the first automobile self starter [17 December 1910]…….90 years ago this week, the first Ford Model A Victoria (cover image) was introduced [14 December 1930]. Of the 17 body styles offered in 1930, the Model A’s third season, five were completely new. These included a Deluxe Phaeton, a Deluxe Roadster with sporty canted windshield and lower top profile, a two-window Deluxe Forder with blind rear quarters, a Deluxe Coupe with upscale interior and a close-coupled two-door sedan called “Victoria.” Of these, the Victoria was the most noteworthy, heralding a number of styling features that would find wider use in 1931. Built with extra-wide doors for ease of entry, the Victoria had folding front seats for access to the roomy rear seat. Behind the rear seat was luggage space, provided by adding a pleasing “bustle” to the car’s rear contour. Introduced in November 1930, it had a visor-less slanted windshield and a lowered steering column, similar to that in the Deluxe Phaeton. Cars were available in two roof styles, with steel rear quarters or with a full padded fabric cover. Interior fabrics were either brown Bedford cord or striped tan broadcloth. Just 6,447 Victorias were built in the final days of 1930. In 1931, production virtually soared. By the time production wound down in August, nearly 37,000 had been delivered. The body style was sufficiently popular that it was carried into 1934, by which time completely new bodies for 1935 were available with an externally-accessible trunk compartment. The name proved even more durable, being recycled for Ford’s first “hardtop convertible” in 1951……..the following day [15 December 1930], a draft of the first Highway Code was issued. The first edition was published in April 1931, with a price of one penny, and contained only 18 pages of advice, including the arm signals to be given by drivers and police officers controlling traffic.

The second edition, considerably expanded, appeared in 1934, and illustrated road signs for the first time. During its preparation the Ministry of Transport consulted with the Pedestrians Association. Further major revisions followed after the Second World War so that, for example, references to trams were still included in the 1954 version but disappeared after that (tramway rules returned to the Code in 1994, after the first modern tram systems in Britain had opened). Motorway driving was included in the fifth edition. The sixth edition, in 1968, used photographs as well as drawings for the first time, and also updated the illustrations of road signs to take the new ‘continental’ designs into account. The 70-page 1978 edition introduced the Green Cross Code for pedestrians and orange badges for less able drivers. The format was changed to a ‘taller’ size in the 1990s, and the Code caught up with developments in social media in 2011, when it joined Twitter and Facebook. A Highway Code app followed in 2012. Over one million copies of the Code are sold annually……….80 years ago this week, the 1,000,000th Volkswagen Kubelwagen was produced [20 December 1940]. The “Tub” car, previously mostly used for rail, industrial or agricultural hopper cars) was a light military vehicle designed by Ferdinand Porsche and built by Volkswagen during World War II for use by the German military (both Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS). Based heavily on the Volkswagen Beetle, it was prototyped as the Type 62, but eventually became known internally as the Type 82. Kübelwagen is an abbreviation of Kübelsitzwagen, meaning “bucket-seat car” because all German light military vehicles that had no doors were fitted with bucket seats to prevent passengers from falling out. The first VW test vehicles had no doors and were therefore fitted with bucket seats, so acquiring the name VW Kübelsitzwagen that was later shortened to Kübelwagen. Mercedes, Opel and Tatra also built Kübel(sitz)wagens. With its rolling chassis and mechanics built at Stadt des KdF-Wagens (renamed Wolfsburg after 1945), and its body built by US-owned firm Ambi Budd Presswerke in Berlin, the Kübelwagen was for the Germans what the Jeep and GAZ-67 were for the Allies……70 years ago this week, NASCAR announced that $23,024 in points fund money would be distributed to drivers in all stock car divisions based on final points standings [18 December 1950]. NASCAR Grand National champion Bill Rexford received $1375………60 years ago this week, J W Tiscornia (75), an automobile parts manufacturer who is credited with the development of disc brakes, died in Michigan, US [16 December 1960]…….50 years ago this week, one of the most complex interchanges in Great Britain, the Worsley Interchange, opened, connecting the then M62 (now M60) and M61 with the A580 and A666 [17 December 1970]. It spans over 2.5 miles and featured the first lengths of dual four lane motorway in the UK…….. Britain’s highest motorway (1,220 ft), the M62 section around junction 22 opened. The M62 also featured the first section of heated road surface in the country and formed part of the unsigned Euro-route E20 Shanon to St Petersburg……..40 years ago this week, Peter Gregg, winner of the 1979 Daytona 24-hour race, died of a self inflicted gunshot wound [15 December 1980]. The 40-year-old was discovered at a sand dune south of Jacksonville by a hiker. An hour earlier he had written the suicide note found in his briefcase. Reports at the time suggested that Gregg was suffering from a progressive and incurable nervous system disorder which would have slowly degraded his physical capabilities and would have eventually been fatal and that this, in the context of his perfectionism for which he was known, was what motivated his suicide.At the time of his death Gregg had achieved a reputation as one of America’s greatest and most successful road racers with 152 wins out of 340 races he started. He won the IMSA GTO overall championship in 1971 and 1973, the 1973 24 Hours of Daytona in a Porsche Carrera, co-driven by Hurley Haywood, and the Trans-Am Series in 1973 and 1974 in a Brumos Porsche. Gregg won the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1973 1975, 1976, and 1978. Gregg won IMSA GTO overall championships in 1971, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1978, and 1979, giving him six career titles in the class, and the Trans-Am Series in 1973 and 1974. Gregg was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2000…….30 years ago this week, Ontario Motor Speedway (US), the first and only automobile racing facility built to accommodate major races sanctioned by all of the four dominant racing sanctioning bodies: USAC (and now IndyCar Series) for open-wheel oval car races; NASCAR for a 500-mile (800 km) oval stock car races; NHRA for drag races; and FIA for Formula One road course races, closed [17 December 1990]. Constructed in less than two years, the track opened in August 1970 and was considered state of the art at the time……..20 years ago this week, after favourable public reaction, Volkswagen officially incorporated Bugatti Automobiles SAS with former VW drivetrain chief Karl-Heinz Neumann as president [15 December 2000]. The company purchased the 1856 Château Saint Jean, formerly Ettore Bugatti’s guest house in Dorlisheim, near Molsheim, and began refurbishing it to serve as the company’s headquarters………. In China, Brilliance China Automotive Holding introduced its new Zhonghua car. It boasted an Italian design, Japanese engine, and German electronics and suspension [16 December 2000].

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