15-21 February: motoring Milestones

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

190 years ago this week, Sir Charles Dance began a steam carriage service between Cheltenham and Gloucester, England – running four times daily, for a number of months – using vehicles designed by Sir Goldsworthy Gurney [21 February 1831]. But the aspirations of Dance and Gurney were effectively dashed, according to Francis Maceroni in his 1836 book A Few Facts Concerning Elementary Locomotion “The many wealthy horse-coach proprietors, together with the narrow minded country gentlemen and magistrates of the district, who erroneously conceived their interests threatened by the substitution of steam power for horse, formed one of the most disgraceful and mean conspiracies against a national undertaking that can be well remembered. By means of parliamentary intrigue, and false representations, these despicable persons obtained certain local turnpike bills to pass ‘the Honourable House’ establishing tolls on steam carriages, which amounted to a virtual prohibition on their use” A charge of £2 was levied on each steam carriage journey, whilst the toll for a horsedrawn carriage was 2 shillings. This may be contrasted with a contemporary exchequer loan to the railway developers of £100,000. Maceroni continues: “In addition to this flagrant outrage against justice and utility, the worthy squires and magistrates of the Cheltenham district, suddenly, without any necessity, covered a long tract of the road with a layer of loose gravel, a foot deep, which, adding to the above-mentioned difficulties and impediments, put an entire stop to the undertaking”…………120 years ago this week, the first car named Mercedes, made by Daimler, debuted at the Circuit du Sud-Ouest, France [17 February 1901]. Maurice Farman recorded his first racing victory, winning in a 24-hp Panhard – his brother, Henri Farman, finished second in a 12-hp Darracq. It was run in three classes around the streets of Pau. Many anglophone sources wrongly list a race called the Pau Grand Prix in 1901. This may stem from a mistranslation of the contemporary French sources such as the magazine La France Auto of March 1901. The Grand Prix du Palais d’Hiver was the name of the prizes awarded for the lesser classes (‘Light cars’ and ‘Voiturettes’). The Grand Prix de Pau was the name of the prize awarded for the ‘Heavy’ (fastest) class. Thus Maurice Farman was awarded the ‘Grand Prix de Pau’ for his overall victory in the Circuit du Sud-Ouest…… Roy D Chapin quit college to join the Olds Motor Works, beginning an illustrious automotive career [19 February 1901]. Chapin headed the consortium of businessmen and engineers that founded the Hudson Motor Car Company in 1908. The company was named for Detroit merchant Joseph L. Hudson, who provided the majority of capital for the operation’s start-up. Chapin was also behind the 1918 formation of the Essex Motors Company, a subsidiary of Hudson. Essex is notable for developing the first affordable mass-produced enclosed automobile in 1922. Because of the success of the inexpensive enclosed Essex Coach line, the American automobile industry shifted away from open touring cars in order to meet consumer demand for all-weather passenger vehicles. In 1927 he replaced Clifton as the head of the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce. In addition to his corporate interests, Chapin spearheaded the drive to build the Lincoln Highway, along with Henry B. Joy of Packard Motors. While Chapin viewed a system of professionally designed and built roadways as the greatest way to grow the automobile industry, he also saw the modern roadways movement as a way to secure long range strength for the United States as a nation……..110 years ago this week, the first self-starter, based on patented inventions created by General Motors (GM) engineers Clyde Coleman and Charles Kettering (cover image), was installed in a Cadillac [17 February 1911]. In the early years of fierce competition with Ford, the self-starter would play a key role in helping GM to keep pace. The Ford Model T’s crank starter caused its share of broken jaws and ribs. Charles Kettering, the founder of Delco (Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company), devised countless improvements for the automobile, including lighting and ignition systems, lacquer finishes, antilock fuels, and leaded gasoline. Prior to his work with cars, Kettering also invented the electric cash register…….100 years ago this week, Citroën created a series of enamel road signs to help drivers find their way around the French road network [20 February 1921]…….70 years ago this week, the US government banned the production of white side walled tires because of the Korean War effort [17 February 1951]. Wide whitewall tires reached their zenith in popularity by the early-1950s. The 1957 production version of the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham was

fitted with whitewalls that were reduced to a 1″ wide stripe floating on the tire sidewall with a black area between this stripe and the wheel rim……..on the same day [17 February 1951], the Chicago Auto Show opened. The U.S. automotive industry suffered production cutbacks, due to the Korean War. New introductions that year were the Chrysler “Hemi” V-8 engine, the Hudson Hornet and new hardtop body styles from Ford and Plymouth. Chicagoans were introduced to Oldsmobile’s Super 88. The Buick XP-300 was one of the first concept vehicles created by General Motors, and was on display…….60 years ago this week, Marvin Panch won the Daytona 500 driving a year-old Smokey Yunick Pontiac [16 February 1961]…….. The 1961 Chicago Auto Show opened at Chicago’s new McCormick Place [18 February 1961]. For the first time all American and imported cars and trucks were in one vast arena, as the $35 million facility provided over 300,000 square feet of exhibit space. Of more than 400 cars and trucks on view, visitors were able to examine the new compact Buick Special, the Oldsmobile F-85, the Dodge Lancer, and the Pontiac Tempest. The nine-day 53rd edition took over 850 man-hours to prepare…….. Joe Weatherly won the inaugural 10 lap ‘American Challenge Cup’ race at Daytona International Speedway [20 February 1961]. The race was open only to winners of NASCAR Grand National “superspeedway” races. Weatherly drew the pole, but had only led lap 1 until making an outside move to beat Fireball Roberts to the line by 3 feet. Junior Johnson finished 3rd and Cotton Owens 4th giving Pontiac a sweep of the top 4. Weatherly averaged 154.905 mph for the 9 minute, 41 second race. 11 of the 17 eligible drivers competed…….40 years ago this week, Richard Petty and crew gambled by not changing tires on the last pit stop and it paid off with Petty taking his 7th Daytona 500 win [15 February 1981]. Petty’s Buick was in 5th with 25 laps left when crew chief Dale Inman made the call to only take on fuel. Petty came out of the stops with a 10 second advantage and held on to take the checkered 3.5 seconds ahead of Bobby Allison’s Rainier Pontiac. Allison had dominated the race, leading 117 laps. It was the first win in GN competition for Buick since 1955. Petty’s longtime crew chief Dale Inman quis two days later to accept a job with the Rod Osterlund/Dale Earnhardt team…….. Chrysler Corp reported the largest corporate losses in US history [17 February 1981]. But the company saw light at the end of its financial tunnel — from the headlamps of its new K-cars. Developed on a limited budget, the Dodge Aries and the Plymouth Reliant, code-named the “K-cars”, enjoyed sales success which Chrysler rode to profitability in 1982…… Cars introduced on the opening day of the Chicago Auto Show included the Ford EXP, a two-passenger offshoot of the Escort, the Dodge Aries, the Plymouth Reliant, and the turbocharged Datsun 280ZX [21 February 1981]. Ford also displayed the two-seat Super Gnat, the Mustang RSK, and subcompact Montana Lobo 4×4 concept vehicles…….30 years ago this week, Ernie Irvan surged past Dale Earnhardt with six laps to go and scored an upset win in the Daytona 500 [20 February 1991]. Earnhardt spun out with two laps remaining, taking out contenders Davey Allison and Kyle Petty. Irvan cruised on the final lap as the race ends under the caution flag…….20 years ago this week, the 4000th Aston Martin DB7 was

produced – the most successful model ever to be produced by the marque [16 February 2001]. The Galloway Green Vantage Coupe moved total DB7 production ahead of the combined total achievement of the DB4, DB5 (James Bond) and DB6 models…….. Seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt (49), died in a last-lap crash at the Daytona 500 [18 February 2001]. His car, the famous black No. 3 Chevrolet, was hit from behind and spun out into the path of Ken Schrader’s car, before crashing head-on into the outside wall at 180 mph. Earnhardt was the 27th driver to die at Daytona since the track opened in 1959. Earnhardt, whose tough, aggressive driving style earned him the nickname ‘The Intimidator’, was involved in another crash at the Daytona 500 in 1997, when his car flipped upside down on the backstretch. He managed to escape serious injury. In 1998, he went on to win the Daytona 500, his first and only victory in that race after 20 years of trying. Earnhardt, a high-school dropout from humble beginnings in Kannapolis, North Carolina, said all he ever wanted to do in life was race cars. Indeed, he went on to become one of the sport’s most successful and respected drivers, with 76 career victories, including seven Winston Cup Series championships……… Max Mosley offered his opinion on one of the most controversial sporting moments ever in F1 [21 February 2001]. He said that Ayrton Senna should have been excluded for deliberately crashing into Alain Prost at the penultimate round of the 1990 championship at Suzuka, which swung the title in the Brazilian’s favour. The crash followed a long and heated personal battle between the two that came to a head at the same race the previous year, when they crashed and Senna was disqualified despite going on to win the race. “Senna should probably have been excluded from the championship for doing something that dangerous,” Mosley said. “But I think the feeling was that what happened the previous year was absolutely outrageous – that he genuinely won the race and it was taken away from him quite wrongly. So you couldn’t help but have slight sympathy.”

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