18-24 February Motoring Milestones

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

110 years ago this week, the Hudson Motor Car Company (cover image) was founded [20 February 1909]. Hudson may be most famous for its impact on NASCAR racing, which it accomplished thanks to a revolutionary design innovation. In 1948, Hudson introduced the Monobuilt design which consisted of a chassis and

frame that were combined in a unified passenger compartment, producing a strong, lightweight design. An added benefit was a lower center of gravity that did not affect road clearance. Hudson called the innovation the “step-down design” because, for the first time, drivers had to step down to enter their cars. In 1951, Hudson introduced the Hornet. Fitted with a bigger engine than previous Hudson models, the Hudson Hornet became a dominant force on the NASCAR circuit. With its lower center of gravity, the Hornet glided around corners with relative ease, leaving its less stable competitors in the dust. For the first time a car not manufactured by the Big Three was winning big. In 1952, Hudson won 29 of 34 events. Excited by their success on the track, Hudson executives began directly backing their racing teams, providing the team cars with everything they needed to increase success. The Big Three responded, and in doing so brought about the system of industry-backed racing that has become such a prominent marketing tool today. The Hudson Hornet would dominate NASCAR racing until 1955 when rule changes led to an emphasis on horsepower over handling……..100 years ago this week, Ralph DePalma, driving Packard ‘905’, powered by a 12 cylinder 905 cubic inch aero-engine, at Daytona Beach, recorded a one-way flying mile at 149.887 mph [18 February 1919]. Although a world record it was not officially recognised as a new land speed record. In all De Palma set all American speed records from one to twenty miles during February 1919……..Enrico Zeno Bernardi an Italian engineer and one of Italian automobile pioneers died aged 77 [21 February 1919]. He was Professor of Hydraulic and Agricultural Machinery at the University of Padua. In 1882 he prototyped the “Motrice Pia”, the first petrol combustion engine (one cylinder, 122,5 cc), almost at the same time as German Karl Benz…….90 years ago today, Baroness Mercedes Adrienne Manuela Ramona von Schlosser Weigl (nee Jellinek), died in Vienna, Austria, aged 39 [23 February 1929]. She is best known for her father having Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft’s line of Mercedes cars named after her, beginning with the Mercedes 35 hp model of 1901. Also, at the 1902 Paris Automobile exhibition, her father hung a large picture of her. Mercédès lived in Vienna, and was notorious for marrying twice scandalously. She had a magnificent wedding in 1909 in Nice, on the Côte d’Azur, with Baron von Schlosser. The couple lived in Vienna until World War I, which ruined them. They had two children; Elfriede (b. 1912) and Hans-Peter (b. 1916). In 1918, Mercédès was begging for food in the streets. A little later, leaving her husband and two children, she married Baron Rudolf von Weigl, a talented but poor sculptor. She played music and had a good soprano voice, but never shared her father’s passion for automobiles.In 1926, the Daimler company merged with the Benz company. Although the company traded as Daimler-Benz it gave the name Mercedes-Benz to its cars to preserve the respected Mercedes marque………60 years ago this week, the first races on the 2.5 mile Daytona International Speedway took place, twin 100 mile qualifiers for the first ‘Daytona 500’ [20

February 1959]. One for Convertibles and one for Hardtops. The Convertible race started 21 cars with Glen Wood, Richard Petty, Marvin Panch and Shorty Rollins pulling clear of the field. The foursome swapped the lead 5 times in the last 9 laps before Rollins edged Panch by a bumper for the win. In the Hardtop 100, Bob Welborn moved his Chevy from 7th starting to the lead by lap 2, but couldn’t shake Denver’s Fritz Wilson. Welborn beat Wilson’s T-Bird by a half car length to take the win. Peruvian driver Eduardo Dibos finished 5th……..Daytona International Speedway, the “World Center of Racing,” hosted the first Daytona 500 [22 February 1959]. A field of 59 cars took the green flag for the start of the 500 mile race in front of a crowd of over 41,000. There were no caution periods in the race; making it one of the few “perfect games” in NASCAR history, though it would occur in three of the first four Daytona 500s, as the Daytona 500 also went caution-free in both 1961 and 1962. This would be repeated ten years later with the 1969 running of the Motor Trend 500. Welborn led the early laps in the race but his race ended after 75 laps (of 200) with engine problems. Other leaders in the first 22 laps of the race were “Tiger” Tom Pistone and Joe Weatherly. Fireball Roberts took over the lead on lap 23, leading the next 20 laps before dropping out on lap 57 due to a broken fuel pump. When Roberts went to the pits on lap 43, Johnny Beauchamp, running in second place, became the leader. On lap 50,Piston took over first place and Jack Smith moved into second; Beauchamp was third and Lee Petty was fifth. From lap 43 to 148 the race leaders were Piston, Smith, and Beauchamp. Although Smith and Pistone led most of these laps, Beauchamp led a few times, for example records show he led on lap 110. There is print information about the details of the race, including the leaders of the race in five lap intervals. Pistone and Jack Smith both had dropped out of contention by lap 149 and Beauchamp took over first place. 100 miles (160 km). Richard Petty also had to retire from the race with an engine problem and earned $100 ($821.58 when adjusted for inflation) for his 57th-place performance. Lee Petty battled with Beauchamp during the final 30 laps of the race, and they were the only two drivers to finish on the lead lap. Petty took the lead with 3 laps left, and led at the start of the final lap. Petty and Beauchamp drove side by side across the finish line at the end final lap for a photo finish. Beauchamp was declared the unofficial winner by NASCAR officials, and he drove to victory lane. Petty protested the results, saying “I had Beauchamp by a good two feet. In my own mind, I know I won.” Beauchamp replied “I had him by two feet. I glanced over to Lee Petty’s car as I crossed the finish line and I could see his headlight slightly back of my car. It was so close I didn’t know how they would call it, but I thought I won.” Early leader Fireball Roberts, who was standing by the finish line, said “There’s no doubt about it, Petty won.” It took NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr. three days to decide the winner the following Wednesday. In the end, with the help of photographs and newsreel footage, Petty was officially declared the winner. The official margin of victory was two feet. The controversial finish helped the sport. The delayed results to determine the official winner kept NASCAR and the Daytona 500 on the front page of newspapers……..50 years ago this week, Don Yenko a 36 year old Chevrolet dealer from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, drove his Chevrolet Camaro to victory in the NASCAR Grand Touring ‘Citrus 250’ on the 3.81 mile combined oval/road course at Daytona International Speedway [21 February 1969]. Yenko, also won the pole ahead of pre-race favorites Parnelli Jones and Lloyd Ruby…….. The following day [22 February 1969], Racer Don MacTavish (36) died when his Mercury Comet crashed during a race at Daytona Beach, Florida……….. Lee Roy Yarbrough chased down Charlie Glotzbach who had an eleven second lead to win the Daytona 500. Yarbrough passing Glotzbach on the final lap. It was the first Daytona 500 that was won on a last lap pass [23 February 1969],….. On the same day [23 February 1969], the Stardust International Raceway, Las Vegas, Nevada held it last race. It featured a flat, 3-mile (4.8 km), 13-turn road course, and a quarter-mile drag strip. It was built in 1965 by the Stardust Hotel and Casino to attract high rollers to the hotel. In 1966 it began hosting the season finale of the Can-Am championship and two years later staged a race in the USAC Championship Car series. The hotel was sold in 1969, and the new owners largely abandoned the track. Real estate developers Pardee Homes bought the land and built the Spring Valley community on it………40 years ago this week, for the first

time in Daytona 500 history, CBS televised the race live flag-to-flag on US national television [18 February 1979]. A major snowstorm, known as the Presidents Day Snowstorm of 1979, bogged down most of the Northeast and parts of the Midwest, increasing the viewership of the event. Donnie Allison was leading the race on the final lap with Cale Yarborough drafting him tightly. Yarborough attempted a slingshot pass at the end of the backstretch, and Allison attempted to block. With both drivers refusing to give, the cars banged together three times until crashing into the outside wall in turn 3. Third place Richard Petty, running a half a lap behind, sailed by to take the victory. Just before CBS’ cameras picked up Petty, they prematurely followed Buddy Arrington (who was driving a borrowed year-old Petty car) across the line. The cameras then found Petty and Waltrip, who were just coming off of turn 2, and followed them to the checkered flag. Donnie Allison and Yarborough climbed out of their cars and began to argue. Bobby Allison stopped at the scene, and a fight broke out on national television. The story made the front page of The New York Times. It is largely considered the point at which NASCAR arrived as a popular national sport……..The 100,000,000th Chevrolet, a 1979 Monza coupe, was produced [21 February 1979]………Visitors to the Chicago Auto Show brought glimpsed the new AMC Spirit, the redesigned Ford Mustang, and the first viewing of the Toyota Celica Supra. A number of concept cars were on hand as well, including the Mercury XM, and Ford’s Fiesta Tuareg off-roader and Megastar II. Visitors to the Chrysler-Plymouth display at the 71st Chicago Auto Show could sign up for a chance to win “Tattoo’s Fantasy Wagon,” from the Fantasy Island TV show. [24 February 1979]…….30 years ago this week, Darrell Waltrip won his first Daytona 500 after 17 attempts. Coincidentally, the car he drove to victory wore number 17 [19 February 1989]…….20 years ago this week, Georg “Schorsch” Meier,

German motorcycle racer died aged 88. Famous for being the first foreign winner of the prestigious Senior TT the Blue Riband race of the Isle of Man TT Races in 1939 riding for the factory BMW team, he was also the first motor-cycle racer to lap a Grand Prix course at over 100 mph [19 February 1999]……..10 years ago this week, General Motors announced that by 2011 it would need to axe 47,000 jobs around the world in addition to receiving $31 billion in US government aid in order to avoid a complete collapse [18 February 2009]. The firm stated that the cutbacks would result in the shutdown of five of its US factories…… New York City announced testing camera enforcement of bus lanes on 34th Street in Midtown Manhattan where a New York City taxi illegally using the bus lanes would face a fine of $150 adjudicated by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission [23 February 2009]………..The second-generation Honda Insight, billed as “the world’s first affordable hybrid,” went on sale in the United States [24 February 2009]. The Insight, a five-door hatchback, carried a price tag of just under $20,000. In 1999, a three-door hatchback version of the Insight became the first-ever gas-electric hybrid vehicle sold in the U.S. The Toyota Prius, which debuted in Japan in 1997, arrived in America in July 2000 and went on to outsell the first-generation Insight, which was retired in 2006. By the time the second-generation Insight launched in 2009, Toyota controlled 70 percent of the hybrid market in the U.S. (the planet’s biggest market for hybrid vehicles).
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