14-20 May Motoring Milestones

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

110 years ago this week, the Fryckman automobile was unveiled in Souris, North Dakota, US [15 May 1908]…….. Middlesex County Automobile Club became the first organisation in Britain to receive written permission, from the Commissioner of Police, to hold a motoring competition on a public road. The President’s Cup event held on the A110 at Cat Hill, Cockfosters in north London was won by Mr Alfred Alexander in his 8-bhp de Dion [16 May 1908]…….The first automobile race in Russia, a 438 mile run from St Petersburg o Moscow, was won by Victor Emery driving a Benz [19 May 1908]…….. 100 years ago this week, James Gordon Bennett Jr (77), publisher of the New York Herald and patron of pioneer automobile racing, died [14 May 1918]. He was generally known as Gordon Bennett to distinguish him from his father. Among his many sports-related accomplishments he organized both the first polo match and the first tennis match in the United States, and he personally won the first trans-oceanic yacht race. He established the Gordon Bennett Cup for international yachting and the Gordon Bennett Cup for automobile races. In 1906, he funded the Gordon Bennett Cup in ballooning (Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett), which continues to this day. In 1909, Bennett offered a trophy for the fastest speed on a closed c

ircuit for airplanes. The 1909 race in Rheims, France was won by Glenn Curtiss for two circuits of a 10 km rectangular course at an average speed of 46.5 miles per hour (74.8 km/h). From 1896 to 1914, the champion of Paris, USFSA football (soccer), received a trophy offered by Gordon Bennett. He did not marry until he was 73. His wife was Maud Potter, widow of George de Reuter, son of Julius Paul Reuter, founder of Reuters news agency…….Nantucket Island voted to lift its controversial 12-year ban on motor cars [15 May 1918]. First famous as an insular whaling community off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Nantucket Island had become one of the US’s most exclusive tourist attractions. The original inhabitants of Nantucket were predictably resistant to the idea of automobiles overrunning their island. While the advent of the motor car didn’t spell disaster for the island then, the fears of early residents may yet become a reality. As Nantucket’s popularity rose, even the year-long waiting list for the car ferry can’t seem to stem the tide of vehicles. The island’s tourist board has attempted to institute an affordable and reliable island shuttle, but holidaymakers in this country want to go wherever their cars will take them…….. 80 years ago this week, the Mercedes-Benz W154 race car recorded its first victory as Hermann Lang, Manfred von Brauchitsch, and Rudolf Caracciola take the first three places in the Tripoli (Libya) Grand Prix. Eugenio Siena, winner of the 1932 Spa (Belgium) 24-hour race, was killed during the race [15 May 1938]…. On the same day [15 May 1938], the fastest time of the day at the inaugural Prescott Hill Climb, Gloucestershire, run over what is now the Short Course (880 yards) was set by Arthur Baron in a 2,270 c.c. supercharged Bugatti in a new record time of 50.70 seconds. Sydney Allard set the sports car record driving Hutchison’s V12 Lincoln-engined Allard Special in a time of 54.35 seconds……..Sir Charles Bressey and Sir Edwin Lutyens published a Ministry of Transport report, The Highway

Development Survey, 1937, which reviewed London’s road needs and recommended the construction of many miles of new roads [16 May 1938]. Amongst their proposals was the provision of a series of orbital roads around the city with the outer ones built as American-style Parkways – wide, landscaped roads with limited access and grade separated junctions. Several key “centres of congestion” were identified in the central area. These included Oxford Circus, Holborn, Hammersmith Broadway, Angel, Archway, Cambridge Circus (which was then a roundabout, albeit a very cramped one), the Britannia junction in Camden Town, and Elephant and Castle. Roundabouts were suggested for all these troublespots, but in fact the report included drawings of what appear to be urban cloverleaf junctions and elevated roads, so bigger things may have been on their minds.Key relief roads were also outlined in the plan. These included an extension of the Embankment so that it linked Putney and the Tower, and a corresponding route on the south side. A “City Loop-Way” was proposed, a circular route skirting the very centre, and an Outer Circle. Drawing on the Royal Commission’s work, they also proposed an “East-West Connection”, linking the Western Avenue at Wood Lane with Leytonstone, via Marylebone Road and Hackney Wick. Outer London got a very thorough examination too. The corresponding “centres of congestion” were identified as the Hanger Lane junction (some things never change), Brent Cross, Staples Corner and Henly’s Corner – all on the North Circular. Many of these junctions were not designed to cope with the level of traffic, and the presence of trams and trolleybuses (which were now on the way out) had posed an obstacle to many types of junction. The whole of the eastern section of the North Circular was also considered to be in need of relief……. From 1938 to 1947, the Monaco Grand Prix could not be held due to both financial difficulties and a shortage of competitors as well as a deteriorating international climate. Finally 70 years ago this week [16 May 1948], the almost forgotten roar of the engines was once more heard on the streets of the Principality. The race was won by Giuseppe Farina in a Maserati 4CLT…….The Playboy Motor Car Corporation went public, offering twenty million shares of common stock at $1 per share [20 May 1938]. The Playboy had a 40 hp Continental four-cylinder engine and a three-speed manual transmission. It would get 35 miles per gallon and accelerate from 0-30 miles per hour in six seconds, and 0-50 mph in 17 seconds. The advertised top speed was 75 mph. With a 90-inch wheelbase (shorter than the Rambler American), the Playboy measured 156 inches and sold for $985. Under capitalised, Playboy could not compete with better-financed companies offering more conventional cars. The company only produced 97 cars before going bankrupt in 1951…….60 years ago this week, Hall of Famer Lee Petty scored his first victory in NASCAR’s Convertible Division, winning in a runaway by seven laps at

Charlotte Fairgrounds’ half-mile dirt track (North Carolina, US) [15 May 1958]. Petty, who started second, led 107 of 200 laps in ’57 Oldsmobile and collected $800. Ken Rush finished a distant second with Billy Rafter third…….The Lotus made its Formula One debut at the Monaco Grand Prix with Cliff Allison finishing in fifth place. [18 May 1958] The Lotus Engineering Company was founded by Colin Chapman in 1952 as a result of Chapman’s great success in building and racing trial cars. Located in Norfolk, England, Lotus has become over the last few decades one of racing’s most dominant teams. Currently limited to Formula One competition, Lotus was initially a diverse racing team. Lotus dominated Le Mans in the ’50s. The mid-1960s saw the Golden Age of Lotus racing as its British drivers Jim Clark and Graham Hill enjoyed great success. Jim Clark won the first World Driver’s Championship for Lotus in 1963. Lotus has in recent years been represented by such virtuoso drivers as Emmerson Fittipaldi and Alessandro Zanardi……Junior Johnson posted a popular hometown victory at North Wilkesboro Speedway, North Carolina, US holding off pole-winner Jack Smith by six seconds in the Wilkes County 160 [18 May 1958]. Johnson, who started third, led the final 82 laps of his sixth triumph in NASCAR’s top series. Rex White took third as the last car on the lead lap. Johnson’s victory was just the second for a car numbered 11, and the first of many that Johnson would be associated with; Denny Hamlin helped the number become the winningest in NASCAR’s premier series earlier this season……..The Austin-Healey ‘Frogeye’ Sprite was announced to the press by BMC in Monte Carlo, just before the start of that year’s Monaco Grand Prix. Designed by the Donald Healey Motor Company, which received a royalty payment from manufacturers BMC, it was intended to be a low-cost model (£669) that ‘a chap could keep in his bike shed’ [20 May 1958]. The Sprite quickly became affectionately known as the “frogeye” in the UK and the “bugeye” in the US, because its headlights were prominently mounted on top of the bonnet, inboard of the front wings. The car’s designers had intended that the headlights could be retracted, with the lenses facing skyward when not in use; a similar arrangement was used many years later on the Porsche 928. But cost cutting by BMC led to the flip-up mechanism being deleted, therefore the headlights were simply fixed in a permanently upright position, giving the car its most distinctive feature…….. 50 years ago this week, British Leyland Motor Corporation was formed through the merger of British Motor Holdings Ltd. and Leyland Motor Corp. Ltd [14 May 1968]. It was partly nationalised in 1975, when the UK government created a holding company called British Leyland, later BL, in 1978. With headquarters in London, the company had interests in about 95 percent of the British automotive industry, and it manufactured vehicles ranging from commercial trucks and buses to private automobiles, construction equipment, and engines.Leyland, initially the dominant partner in the merger, was the first British manufacturer to concentrate on commercial vehicles. James Sumner of Leyland, Lancashire, built his first steam-driven wagon in 1884; and in 1896 he allied with the wealthy Spurrier family to set up the Lancashire Steam Motor Company, renamed Leyland Motors Ltd. in 1907, after its first experiments with gasoline engines. Except briefly in 1920–23, the company did not produce automobiles until 1961, when it acquired Triumph Motor Co. Ltd. (Triumph had begun in 1903 as a motorcycle manufacturer and began making cars in 1923.) In 1966 Leyland merged with another car manufacturer, The Rover Co. Ltd. (founded 1904), and the combined companies became Leyland Motor Corp. Ltd. The first chairman of the new British Leyland in 1968, Donald Gresham Stokes, Baron Stokes, had also been the old Leyland’s last chairman. British Motor Holdings Ltd. had a much more complex history, but basically it grew out of three auto manufacturers: Morris, Austin, and Jaguar. Early in the 20th century William Richard Morris (later 1st Viscount Nuffield) founded a garage in Oxford, which after 1910 became known as Morris Garages Limited. In the 1920s, with Cecil Kimber as general manager, it began producing the popular M.G. cars, which were manufactured until 1980, when they were discontinued because of rising production costs. The M.G. Car Company was created in 1927 and was absorbed by another Morris car company, Morris Motors Ltd., in 1935. In that same year, another organization, Wolseley Motors Ltd. (founded in 1901 and taken over by Morris in 1927), was similarly absorbed. In 1952 another venerable car manufacturer, Austin Motor Co. Ltd. (founded in 1905 by Herbert Austin), merged with Morris Motors to form British Motor Corporation Ltd. It continued to turn out Austin, Morris, M.G., and Wolseley cars and the highly successful “Mini” series. Although production of the Mini Cooper ended in 1971, the model was relaunched in 1990 and by 2001 was selling internationally through parent company Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW). The first Jaguar car was produced in 1936 by S.S. Cars Ltd. (founded 1932 in Coventry), which was renamed Jaguar Cars Ltd. in 1945 both to avoid the accidental reminder of the German SS and to highlight the name of the make that had proved to be most successful. Jaguar in 1960 bought Daimler Co. Ltd. (founded 1893), makers of limousines and other prestige cars; and in 1961 it bought Guy Motors Ltd. (founded 1919), a commercial-vehicle manufacturer. In 1966 Jaguar amalgamated with the Austin-Morris interests (i.e., the British Motor Corporation) to form British Motor Holdings Ltd., which two years later merged with Leyland to become British Leyland; in 1984 Jaguar was sold. With two successive name changes, British Leyland became BL Limited in 1979. The company assumed its current name in 1982. In 1981 BL entered into a joint venture with Honda Motor Company, Ltd., of Japan to produce Japanese-designed Triumph Acclaims in the United Kingdom. BL began selling its interests in the 1980s, and by 1990 the Ford Motor Company had acquired full ownership of Jaguar. BMW purchased Rover in 1994 but later sold the sport utility vehicle (SUV) brand to Ford, which continued to develop the Land Rover line of SUVs as part of its Premier Automotive Group. That group also comprised Aston Martin, Jaguar, and Volvo……..Graham Hill was the first to break the 170 mph barrier in qualifying at Indianapolis 500, and recorded a four-lap average of 171.208 mph in his STP-Lotus 56 turbine car, his fastest lap being 171.887 mph [18 May 1968]…….30 years ago this week, the collision and subsequent fire involving a church bus at Carrollton, Kentucky was one of the most disastrous bus accidents in United States history [14 May 1988]. At about 11:00 pm on a Saturday night, a drunk driver travelling the wrong way on an interstate highway collided head-on with a school bus which was in use as a church bus. The initial crash was exacerbated by the bus catching fire and difficulties encountered b
y the occupants attempting to evacuate the crowded bus quickly in the smoke and darkness. The fire killed 27 people and injured 34 of 67 persons on the bus. Only six bus passengers escaped significant injury or death [
15 May 1988]. The drunk driver of the pickup truck sustained only minor injuries…….Monaco Grand Prix at Monte Carlo was won by Alain Prost driving a McLaren-Honda MP4/4. With Senna on pole, Prost made a bad start and found himself blocked by Gerhard Berger, allowing Senna to pull out a full 54s lead. When the Frenchman moved into second, Senna at first allowed him to close up, but on lap 66 suddenly panicked, forced the pace and made an elementary mistake, losing control of his McLaren and crashing into the barrier at Portier, when he had the race won. Senna was so ashamed he went straight to his Monte Carlo apartment and would not speak to the press. Senna said, “I changed a lot my strategy as far as driving was concerned from that day on, and it was all a consequence of the mistake at Monaco. It was a difficult day, not such a good result, but a necessary result, perhaps, that gave me so much success after it.” A highly religious man, Senna later commented that “I think I was going through a period of adjustment, of discovery, of some important aspect of life, which is God”…….20 years ago this week, John Force became the first National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Funny Car driver to exceed 320 mph when his Castrol Ford Mustang reached 323.35 mph at the end of the quarter-mile in Englishtown, New Jersey, US [15 May 1998]……..10 years ago this week, Nissan Motor Co. and NEC corp. announced plans to begin mass-producing lithium-ion batteries for electric cars. Nissan and Renault planned to have an all-electric car in the US and Japan by 2010 [19 May 2008].

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