15-21 April: Motoring Milestones

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

250 years ago this week, Chief Pontiac (48 – 49), legendary Indian leader and namesake of the General Motors marque, was murdered at Cahokia, Illinois, US [20 April 1869]. The Odawa war chief

who became noted for his role in Pontiac’s War (1763–1766), an American Indian struggle against British military occupation of the Great Lakes region and named for him. It followed the British victory in the French and Indian War, the North American front of the Seven Years’ War……..100 years ago this week, the first 4.8 litre Ballot race car was built to compete in the forthcoming Indianapolis 500 race, scheduled for 30 May 1919 [17 April 1919]. Time seemed very short, but Ballot lost no time, notably recruiting the Swiss born engineer Ernest Henry who had already worked on preparing Peugeot cars for their successful participation in the 1914 Indianapolis 500 race. Ballot’s cars competed in the 1919 race, two of them finishing in 4th and 11th places. Ballot was sufficiently encouraged to return the next year, and in the 1920 Indianapolis 500 race a Ballot driven by René Thomas finished in 2nd place: Ballots also took the 5th and 7th places. A Ballot vehicle driven by René Thomas also finished second in the 1919 Targa Florio. More successes followed, on both sides of the Atlantic. Ralph DePalma, an American national champion and winner of the 1915 Indianapolis 500, finished second in the 1921 French Grand Prix and French driver Jules Goux finished third. Goux went on to win the inaugural Italian Grand Prix at Brescia, Italy in 1921, driving a Ballot. Second place was taken by the team leader Jean Chassagne on a sister car; a year before, in 1920 Chassagne made fastest BARC lap of the year at Brooklands on a 4.9lt Ballot, coming again second. A Ballot with a straight-eight-cylinder 4.9-litre engine competed in the 1921 French Grand Prix………90 years ago today, the 500,000th Pontiac was produced [18 April 1929]……….. 80 years ago this week, the 2,000,000th Studebaker was produced [21 April 1939]……….70 years ago this week, the Italian racing car and

road car maker, Abarth, was founded by Carlo Abarth of Turin [15 April 1949]. Its logo is a shield with a stylized scorpion on a red and yellow background. The company built and raced sports cars and in 1952 began an association with Fiat, utilising their mechanicals on some vehicles. By the 1960s the company was competing regularly in hill climbing and sports car racing events, with Johann Abt one of their most successful drivers. During the late 1960s, of the 30 races he entered in an Abarth car he won 29, finishing second on the other. Carlo sold Abarth to Fiat in 1971 and they ended the racing operations. However, Abarth effectively became Fiat’s racing department, preparing their rally cars. By 1981 Albarth& C had ceased to exist, although Fiat continued to use the Albarth name for some of its performance cars. On 1st February 2007, Albarth remerged as Albarth & C. S.p.a., a 100% owned subsidiary of Fiat, specialising in the production and sale of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles. Earlier this year the company was renamed FCA Italy S.p.a……..The Hudson Motor Car Company launched its 40th anniversary celebration with a nationwide radio broadcast opened by Michigan (US) Governor G Mennen Williams [18 April 1949]……….50 years ago today, the BMC Moke (YDO8) was launched in Australia [18 April 1969]………40 years ago this week, the Race of Champions, a Formula One non-championship motor race held at Brands Hatch, England [15 April 1979]. The field was made up of seven Formula One cars that competed in the World championship while the rest of the field usually competed in the Aurora series. Gilles Villeneuve won driving a Ferrari 312T3………..Production of the Chevrolet Citation, the marque’s first front-wheel-drive car, began [19 April 1979]. The Citation was significantly downsized compared to the Nova it was replacing. As a variant of the GM X platform, the Citation was adapted for front-wheel drive and was manufactured with badge engineered variants including the Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile Omega, and Pontiac Phoenix. After its discontinuation in 1985, the Citation was replaced by the Chevrolet Beretta coupe and Chevrolet Corsica sedan/hatchback, introduced in 1987. 1,642,587 Citations were manufactured during its production run………20 years ago this week, Dr. Harvey Postlethwaite (55), a prolific and successful designer of Formula 1 cars for teams such as Hesketh, Wolf, and Ferrari in the 1970’s, 80’s, and into the 90’s, died [15 April 1999]………Robert Drake (70), a Los Angeles based automobile restorer who then went on to build a reputation as a stunt driver and performing car preparation work for the movie industry, died [18

April 1999]. He also used to race Aston Martin, Cooper sports car and, more famously, a Type 61 Birdcage Maserati as a privateer. He gained some prestige by finishing 2nd in the 1960 Riverside Grand Prix driving an Olí Yaller Mk.II. Bob Drake died in 1990 at 70 years of age in California…….10 years ago this week, the British government promised a multimillion pound investment to try to jumpstart the market for environmentally friendly electric cars [16 April 2009]……..Mark Martin won the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at the Phoenix International Speedway in Avondale, Arizona, and became the first 50-year-old to claim victory at a National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing Sprint Cup race since Morgan Shepherd did so at a race in Atlanta in 1993, renewing hope for senior citizens everywhere [18 April 1999] Besides Martin and Shepherd, only two other drivers age 50 or older have won NASCAR championship events………the following day [19 April 1999], General Motors and Toyota announced an unprecedented five-year agreement to work together in exploring and developing alternative vehicle propulsion technologies……..and the Shanghai Motor Show opened. Porsche kicked off the show by unveiling the Panamera, the German luxury carmaker’s first foray into the sedan segment. The Panamera’s name is derived, like the Porsche Carrera line, from the Carrera Panamericana race. The Panamera is generally considered to be the long-awaited fruit of Porsche’s 989 concept vehicle from the late 1980s. Like the Porsche Cayenne SUV (which has become the marque’s best-selling vehicle), the

Panamera upset many Porsche purists, since it was seen as an attempt to broaden Porsche’s appeal beyond that of hardcore fans. The Panamera ran contrary to the company’s signature offerings, particularly its light two-door rear-engine sports cars like the 911. The Panamera on the other hand is considered a full-size luxury car, weighing nearly 4,000 pounds (1,800 kg), with four doors, and its engine mounted in the front. The Panamera’s appearance with its long hood and rear hatch bears resemblance to a stretched 911. The iconic 911 has a sparse interior, as it was focused on raw performance, while the Panamera has a sumptuous interior loaded with modern technological amenities and expensive leather upholstery. In 2011, hybrid and diesel versions were launched. In April 2013, a facelift to the Panamera was announced, launching again at the Auto Shanghai show. A plug-in hybrid version, the Panamera S E-Hybrid, was released in the U.S. market in November 2013.
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