16-22 December: Motoring Milestone

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

110 years ago this week. the first races were held on the newly repaved (with 3,200,000 bricks replacing crushed stone and tar) Indianapolis Motor Speedway [18 December 1909]……. 90 years ago this week, the K-D Motor Company, manufacturers of the with the little known K-D engine, founded in 1912 by Miss Margaret E Knight and Mrs Beatrice Davidson, was legally “dissolved by Proclamation” [16 December 1929]. The K-D automobile was a large 137 inch wheelbase five passenger Touring car with wire wheels. Very few K-D automobiles were made and their cost – $6,000.00. The K-D engine invented by Knight and Davidson was a four cylinder with a four inch bore and a six inch stroke. It was a non-poppet type with a reciprocating sleeve at one side to admit the mixture and a similar sleeve on the opposite side for the exhaust. These sleeves are reciprocated 2 inches at half crankshaft speed, and were located between two stationary cylinder walls. The piston reciprocates within the inner cylinder wall. The outer cylinder is water jacketed and is cast integrally with the cylinder head and is removable.The K-D engine had one more peculiarity. The bottom of the main or inner cylinder is enclosed beneath the piston and is also water jacketed. The exhaust gases instead of being direct from the combustion chamber above the piston are connected to the space beneath the piston and used to force the piston up, thereby acting as a double acting motor……..Hellé Nice, driving a Bugatti T35C, set a Montlhery track record by averaging 123.057 mph over 10 kilometres [18 December 1929]……..The last Stearns-Knight automobile was produced [20 December 1929]. Stearns-Knight (cover image) was an American luxury automobile produced in Cleveland, Ohio first by the F.B. Stearns Company from 1900 to 1925, and then under ownership by WillysOverland Company of Toledo, Ohio until 1929. Frank Ballou Stearns left school at age 14 in 1893 in his freshman year at the Case School of Applied Science. Sterns became the first American automobile to use the sleeve valve Knight Engine in its vehicles in 1911. The company was sold in 1925 to John North Willys who maintained it as a non-integrated affiliate of WillysOverland……..80 years ago this week, Victor W Kliesrath (58), inventor of transmission improvements and the vacuum booster brake, died in New York [21 December 1939]…….70 years ago this week, the first Saab automobile, the ’92’ was produced [16 December 1949]. The design was very aerodynamic for its time, with a drag coefficient (cx or cw)) of 0.30. The entire body was stamped out of one piece of sheet metal and then cut to accommodate doors and windows. Full-scale production started  [20 December 12, 1949, based on the prototype Ursaab. All of them were of the Deluxe version. A standard version was advertised, but nobody was interested in buying it so no standard versions were produced. The engine was a transversely mounted, water-cooled two-cylinder, two-stroke 764 cc, 25 hp (19 kW) thermosiphon engine based on a DKW design, giving a top speed of 105 kilometres per hour (65 mph). The transmission had three gears, the first unsynchronised. In order to overcome the problems of oil starvation during overrun (engine braking) for the two-stroke engine, a freewheel device was fitted. The suspension was by torsion bars. All early Saab 92s were painted in a dark green colour similar to British racing green. According to some sources Saab had a surplus of green paint from wartime production of airplanes. Saab’s rally history already started two weeks after the 92 was released, when Saab’s head engineer Rolf Mellde entered the Swedish Rally and came second in his class. Only 700 1950 models were made. In 1951, the German VDO instruments were replaced by American Stewart-Warner components. In 1952 Greta Molander won the ‘Coupe des Dames’ of the Monte Carlo Rally in a 92, tuned to 35 hp (26 kW). In 1953, the 92B arrived with a much larger rear window and larger luggage space (with an opening lid). It was now available in grey, blue-grey, black and green. In 1954 the Saab 92 got the new Solex 32BI carburetor and a new ignition coil giving 28 hp (21 kW). The US headlights were replaced with Hella units. Another novelty was that a textile roof (semi-cab or cabrio coach) was offered as an option. The colour maroon was also introduced this year. In 1955, it acquired an electric fuel pump and square tail lights installed in the rear fenders. The colours were grey, maroon and a new color, moss green. The English aviation test pilot ‘Bob’ Moore, who had helped to develop the Saab Tunnan (J29) jet aircraft, brought a 1955 Saab 92B back to England, when he returned, later to become the first managing director of Saab GB Ltd. This was reputedly the first-ever Saab car imported to the UK. The Saab 93 was introduced in December 1955, but both the 92B and 93 were produced at the same time, for a while. The last 92 was assembled in late 1956–early 1957. Two new colours, grey-green and beige, were available. A total of 20,128 Saab 92s were made. The Saab 92 appears on a Swedish postage stamp. When General Motors in 2008 made a list of their top ten cars, the Saab 92 came in first followed by the Pontiac GTO (1964), the Chevrolet Corvette (1953), the EV1 (1996), the Opel Olympia (1936), the LaSalle (1927), the Chevrolet Bel Air (1955), the Cadillac V16 (1930), the Cadillac Model 30 (1910) and the Cadillac (1912) Spyker Cars, the Dutch maker of supercars, bought Saab in February 2010 from General Motors Co. In May 2010, Spyker’s CEO Victor Muller stated the firm was planning a new small car, tear-drop shaped and inspired by the Saab 92 model……..Hellé Nice, driving a Bugatti T35C, set a Montlhery track record by averaging 123.057 mph over 10 kilometres [18 December 1949]…….40 years ago this week, Hollywood stuntman Stan Barrett became the first person in the world to travel faster than sound on land, after driving the three-wheeled Budweiser Rocket at a top speed of 739.666 mph (Mach 1.01) on a one-way run at Rogers Dry Lake, California [17 December 1979]. The ultrasonic speed set an unofficial record,
but an official record requires trips in both directions, whose speeds are averaged……. 30 years ago this week,the 40.0 mile (64.4 km) M42 was completed with the opening of the link to the M5. The English motorway runs north east from Bromsgrove in Worcestershire to just south west of Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire, passing Redditch, Solihull, the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) and Tamworth on the way [19 December 1989]. The section between the M40 and junction 4 of the M6 forms – though unsigned as such – a part of Euroroute E05. Beyond junction 11 the route is continued as the A42, the junctions on this section, 12–14, are numbered like a continuation of the motorway, but the road has non-motorway status from here……..Filmmaker Michael Moore’s satirical documentary “Roger & Me” opened in theatres across the US [20 December 1989]. The film chronicled Moore’s unsuccessful attempts to meet Roger B. Smith, the chairman and chief executive of General Motors, who had presided over the closing of 11 factories in Moore’s birthplace, Flint, Michigan, during two decades. As a result, nearly 40,000 people lost their jobs, and Moore wanted to interview Smith about the city’s subsequent decline. Smith, perhaps understandably, chose to avoid that conversation, and his dodges and evasions provided lots of footage for the film……..20 years ago this week, NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt underwent back surgery to remove a ruptured disk at University Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, US [17 December 1999]……The Ford Motor Company was awarded Car of the Century (COTC) for its Ford Motor Company and creator of the Model T, was named Automotive Entrepreneur of the Century [18 December 1999]. The Car Designer of the Century award was given to Italian Giorgetto Giugiaro (Maserati Bora, BMW Z1, Ferrari GG50), whilst Austrian Ferdinand Piëch (Chairman of VW who influenced the development of numerous significant cars including the Audi Quattro, Volkswagen New Beetle, Audi R8, Lamborghini Gallardo, Volkswagen Phaeton, and notably, the Bugatti Veyron) won the Car Executive of the Century award. The election process was overseen by the Global Automotive Elections Foundation………A study into fatigue-related accidents, undertaken by researchers at the University of North Carolina in the US, reported that night-shift workers were four or five times more likely to crash their cars than people who work during the day [21 December 1999]…….the following day [22 December 1999], in partnership with Baker Electromotive of Rome, New York, the Ford Motor Company received the single largest electric-vehicle order in US history. The United States Postal Service (USPS) purchased 500 electric mail-delivery vehicles based on the Ford Ranger EV, with the option of ordering a total of 6,000 units………10 years ago this week, Dutch sports carmaker Spyker said it had made a new bid for Sweden’s Saab Automobile, two days after General Motors said it would close the loss-making unit [20 December 2009].

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