17-23 April: Motoring Milestones

Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: NASCAR, Lamborghini, Targa Florio, and Volvo.

120 years ago this week, Ernest Estcourt took delivery of the first ‘production’ car from the Daimler Motor Company, Coventry and drove it home to Hampstead in London [20 April 1897]. His journey took 10.5 hours, including stops for meals, water and fuel. The 1897 Daimlers were Panhard-type with front-mounted vertical-twin engines, automatic inlet valves, a sliding gear box with four forward speeds and a reverse chain drive. Prices started from £398…….110 years ago this week, the Targa Florio held at Madonie over 3 laps of the 92.473 mile circuit, totaling 277.42 miles, was won Felice Nazzaro in a Fiat [22 April 1907]…... 90 years ago this week, the first production line

Volvo, the 20 hp OV4, costing 4,800 kroner went on view in Stockholm, Sweden [19 April 1927]. It was displayed at the premises of Ernst Graugers at Brukenbergstorg and aroused great interest…… 80 years ago this week, the unique Airmobile conceived by Paul M. Lewis and designed with the assistance of former Franklin engineers Carl Doman and Ed Marks, was given its first road test in Syracuse, New York [19 April 1937]. The vehicle was powered by a horizontally opposed, 129-cu.in overhead valve, air cooled four cylinder unit (57hp) created by the Dorman Marks Engine Company . This unit was later to find great success in light aeroplanes. The body was created from steel and was very aerodynamic with it trailing to the rear and having two large fish like fins. The Airomobile did have a very low centre of gravity and was said to take corners faster than any 4-wheeler at the time. Lewis set off on a cross-country promotional tour with the Airomobile, logging some 45,000 miles in only a few short months. Along the way, he managed to convince numerous interested parties in his vision of an affordable, safe automobile for all Americans. In the Jan./Feb. 1971 issue of Special Interest Automobiles magazine, Lewis is quoted as stating that “the Airomobile was carefully engineered to turn corners very fast. Even faster than possible with a 4-wheel car, rear-wheel driven. To accomplish this, we needed to build the Airomobile with a very low center of gravity. The engine was mounted forward of the front wheels and the passengers rode, therefore, on the long end of the teeter-totter. This made for a very easy ride”. In 1938 the Airomobile was slightly redesigned with a new front section that included the lights being moved from the top of the wings and built into them. Lewis again toured the USA but interest in the vehicle had diminished and plans to put the vehicle into full production were squashed with the onset of the second World War and so the vehicle never became anything more than a prototype……The 2.267 mile Campbell Circuit opened at Brooklands. The lap record of 77.79 moh was set by Raymond Mays driving an ERA [22 April 1937]….. 70 years ago this week, Chico Landi in a Alfa Romeo 308 won the Rio de Janeiro Grand Prix at Gávea [21 April 1947]….. The 1,000,000th Packard was produced [23 April 1947]…… 60 years ago this week, Jean Behra in a Maserati 250F won the Pau Grand Prix run over 110 laps of the Pau temporary street circuit in France [22 April 1957]…… 50 years ago this week, in news that stunned that NASCAR circuit, defending champion

David Pearson announced he was leaving the Cotton Owens Dodge team[17 April 1967]. Getting together in 1963, the combination of Owens, Pearson and Dodge were one of the most formidable in NASCAR GN history. In a little more than four seasons, they scored 27 wins, 20 poles and 32 top three finishes, including 15 wins en route to the 1966 championship……. General Motors (GM) celebrated the manufacture of its 100 millionth American-made car, a Caprice Custom Coupe Chevrolet made in the Janesville, Wiscousin plant [21 April 1967]. It took General Motors nearly 50 years to build its first 50 million vehicles, and right around 12 to build its second 50 million. Therein lies irrefutable evidence of GM’s stronghold on the average consumer in mid 20th-century America…… Mark Donohue drove Roger Penske’s Lola-Chevy to an easy victory in the 180 mile United States Road Racing Championship Sports Car race on the 3 mile Stardust International Raceway, Nevada [23 April 1967]. Mechanical trouble sidelined Frank Matich, Jerry Titus and Bob Bondurant before the start. George Follmer jumped into the lead at the start with Donohue moving from row 2 into 2nd. At the end of the long backstraight the first time around, Follmer spun in oil left from the earlier regional race. A rock went through the oil cooler of Follmer’s Lola, which limped to a smoking stop at the start/finish line. Drivers were angry because officials failed to notify them of the oil before the green fell. Sam Posey overreved at the start, which shut his engine off and then spun in his own fuel, but recovered. Peter Revson burned out his clutch on the start and retired at the end of the first lap. By lap 11, Donohue held a 15 second lead over Skip Scott with Lothar Motschenbacher passing defending USRRC champ Charlie Parsons to take 3rd. Parsons retired on lap 15 with a blown engine. On the 45th lap, Motschenbacher pitted his McLaren after losing a cylinder and Scott pitted his Ford powered McLaren with a leaking oil cooler to move Posey’s McLaren into 2nd to stay. As Scott roared into the pits, he nearly hit a crewman for another car. When Scott came even closer re-pitting 2 laps later, the crewman, William Ribbs, threw a bucket of water on the McLaren, breaking the windshield. Tempers flared and Scott wanted assault charges filed against Ribbs. The sheriff took Ribbs into custody but cooler heads prevailed and SCCA officials fined the driver of the other car and recommended disciplinary action against Ribbs. Donohue cruised home almost a full lap ahead of Posey, who came across the line 1 minute, 41 seconds later…… on the same day [23 April 1967]  Richard Petty benefitted from Cale Yarborough’s misfortune to win the NASCAR GN ‘Virginia 500’ at Martinsville Speedway, Virginia, US. Yarborough was 4.5 seconds ahead of Petty when he hit oil from “Big” John Sears blown engine and tapped the wall. Yarborough elected not to pit on the caution and Petty got by on the restart. Petty’s Plymouth finished 9 seconds ahead of Yarborough’s Wood Brothers Ford with independent J.T. Putney third in a Chevy. Ralph Moody withdrew his Ford as driver Fred Lorenzen was still recovering from an ulcer…….40 years ago this week, Cale Yarborough routed the field, winning the NASCAR GN ‘Southeastern 500’ at Bristol International Speedway, Tennessee by 7 laps [17 April 1977]. Yarborough put his Junior Johnson Chevy on the pole and led 495 of the 500 laps. Dick Brooks finished 2nd in the Donlevy Ford with Richard Petty’s Dodge 9 laps back in 3rd…… 30 years ago this week, the joint longest traffic jam in the history of British motoring occurred, 40 miles, between Charnock Richard and Carnforth, Lancashire on the M6 [17 April 1987]. The jam involved 200,000 people, with a tailback of over 50,000 cars, lorries and coaches……. Although the terms of the deal were not disclosed, the media reported that Chrysler had paid $25 million for Lamborghini, which at the time was experiencing f

inancial difficulties [23 April 1987]. Lamborghini was established in 1963 by Ferruccio Lamborghini (1916-1993), a wealthy Italian industrialist who made his fortune building tractors and air-conditioning systems, among other ventures. Lamborghini owned a variety of sports cars, including Ferraris. According to legend, after experiencing mechanical problems with his Ferraris, he tried to meet with Enzo Ferrari, the carmaker´s founder. When Enzo Ferrari turned him down, Ferruccio Lamborghini decided to build cars that would be even better than Ferrari´s. Lamborghini´s first car, the 350 GTV, a two-seat coupe with a V12 engine, launched in 1963. Chrysler eventually sold it to a Malaysian investment group Mycom Setdco and Indonesian group V’Power Corporation in 1994. In 1998, Mycom Setdco and V’Power sold Lamborghini to the Volkswagen Group where it was placed under the control of the group’s Audi division…… 20 years ago this week, Goran Eliason achieved a record speed of 112.62 mph over a 100 metre flying start on the two wheels of a Volvo 850 Turbo at Satenas, Sweden [19 April 1997]. Eliason also set a speed record of 98.90 mph for the flying kilometer…….Ford sold 18.5% of its shares of Hertz, which were offered for public sale on the New York Stock Exchange [23 April 1997]…...10 years ago this week, “Fiat Veicoli Commerciali”, a subsidiary for FCA Italy’s (formerly Fiat Group Automobiles) light commercial vehicles and their passenger variants , was rebranded as “Fiat Professional” [17 April 2007]. It is only present in the EMEA and Asia-Pacific regions; the Fiat Automobiles brand is used in the Latin America region. Since 2013, certain Fiat Professional models are reengineered and marketed by Chrysler (FCA US) for the NAFTA region under the Ram Trucks brand…… the following day [18 April 2007] US research found that ethanol-fuelled vehicles could contribute to more illnesses and deaths from respiratory disease than petrol-powered cars and trucks……The record for driving to the highest altitude by car is 6,688 metres (21,942 ft) was established by Gonzalo Bravo and Eduardo Canales (both Chile) with a 1986 modified Suzuki Samurai on the slopes of the Ojos Del Salado volcano, Atacama, Chile [21 April 2007].

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