14-20 September: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, Andrew L Riker, driving a Riker electric racer, covered one mile in 1 minute 46 seconds, at Guttenberg, New Jersey to set a United States speed record of 33.962 mph [18 September 1900]…… 100 years ago this week, the first Lincoln automobile was completed, a 7-Passenger Touring [14 September 1920]……80 years ago this week, Carl W Weiss, the German-born design engineer whose universal joint was the basis of the front-wheel-drive Ruxton, died [14 September 1940]…… The Packard Custom Super Eight 180 was introduced [17 September 1940]……. Adrian Squire, designer of the 1934-1936 Squire sports car, was killed in Bristol, England during a German air raid [20 September 1940]…….70 years ago this week, the first race staged at the Opa Locka Speedway, Florida, US was won by Bob Gegen in a supercharged MG TC [15 September 1950]……. 60 years ago this week, the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was established by five core members: Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, to organise and unify petroleum policies, securing stable prices for the petroleum producers [14 September 1960]. The first real indication of OPEC’s power came with the 1973 oil embargo, during which long lines and soaring petrol prices quickly convinced Europeans and Americans of OPEC’s power. OPEC’s member countries supply more than 40% of the world’s oil…….Malcolm Campbell destroyed ‘Bluebird’ in a crash at 350 mph while attempting a new world land speed record in Utah, but he was only slightly hurt [16 September 1960]……. Three hundred and forty-four parking tickets (each carrying a

£2 fine) were issued in London (England) on the first day of parking meters and traffic wardens [19 September 1960]. One of the first 40 tickets to be issued was to Dr Thomas Creighton, who was answering an emergency call to help a heart-attack victim at a West End hotel. The medic’s Ford Popular, left outside as he tended the victim, was ticketed. However, there was such a public outcry that he was subsequently let off……. Mickey Thompson took another shot at the world land-speed record [20 September 1960]. A few weeks earlier, Thompson had become the first American to travel faster than 400 mph on land when he’d piloted his Challenger I (a car that he designed and built himself) across Utah’s

Bonneville Salt Flats at 406.6 mph. This drive had made Thompson the fastest man on wheels, but not officially: In order to win a place in the land-speed record books, racers must make a return pass within the hour, and Thompson’s car broke down in the middle of his second run, necessitating a follow-up attempt. At the time, the world land-speed record was 394 mph, set at Bonneville in 1947 by the British driver John Cobb. On his first run across the flats (403.135 mph), Cobb had became the first man to go exceed 400 mph. (His second run only reached 388.019 mph; the record speed was an average of the two.) To set a world speed record, drivers must make two passes over the same measured mile, one out and one back (to account for wind assistance), and beat the previous average by at least 1 percent. After Thompson’s first pass across the Utah flats on September 9, he refueled the 7,000-pound, 2,000 horsepower Challenger and pushed off for the return trip. As the car gathered speed, however, something went wrong. For years, Thompson told people that something was the driveline: It had snapped, he said, forcing him to stop accelerating and coast back across the desert. In fact, one of the car’s four supercharged engines blew when Thompson shifted into high gear. (“When you’re sponsored by an engine company and you blow an engine,” one expert on the Challenger I explained, “you don’t say that you blew a Pontiac engine. You say that you broke a driveline.”) On September 20, Thompson tried again. This time, he only managed to coax the Challenger up to about 378 mph on his first run and 368 mph on his second. But it hardly mattered: The Challenger’s speedy trips across the desert won worldwide fame for the car and its driver, and by the time Thompson retired in 1962, he had set more than 100 speed records. In 1988, two hooded gunmen murdered Thompson and his wife in their driveway and fled the scene on bicycles. Almost 20 years later, one of Thompson’s business acquaintances was convicted of the killings; he is serving two life sentences without parole…….50 years ago this week, Tyrrell made its F1 debut at Mont Tremblant, Canada [20 September 1970]……40 years ago this week, Nelson Piquet won the 50th Italian Grand Prix and the first Grand Prix to be held at Imola [14 September 1980]. It was the first time since the 1948 Italian Grand Prix was held at Parco del Valentino that the Autodromo Nazionale Monzadid not host the Italian Grand Prix. Monza was under refurbishment at the time. The race was such a success that a new race, the San Marino Grand Prix was established for Imola. The race was held over 60 laps of the 5.000-kilometre circuit for a total race distance of 300 kilometres……..20 years ago this week, Jeff Burton led all 300 laps in his win at New Hampshire International Speedway (US) [17 September 2000]. Burton became the first driver to lead every lap in a superspeedway event since Fireball Roberts did it at Hanford, California in 1961.

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