19-25 July: Motoring Milestones

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


120 years ago this week, Ransom E. Olds was issued a design patent for his “Vehicle Body”, now commonly called the Curved-Dash Oldsmobile [23 July 1901] – cover image. The gasoline-powered Curved Dash Oldsmobile is credited as being the first mass-produced automobile, meaning that it was built on an assembly line using interchangeable parts. It was introduced by the Oldsmobile company in 1901 and produced through 1907; 425 were produced the first year, 2,500 in 1902, and over 19,000 were built in all. When General Motors assumed operations from Ransom E. Olds on November 12, 1908, GM introduced the Oldsmobile Model 20, which was the 1908 Buick Model 10 with a stretched wheelbase and minor exterior changes. It was a runabout model, could seat two passengers, and sold for US$650. While competitive, due to high volume, and priced below the US$850 two-seat Ford Model C “Doctor’s Car”,[8] it was more expensive than the Western 1905 Gale Model A roadster at US$500. The Black sold for $375, and the Success for US$250. The flat-mounted, water-cooled, single-cylinder engine, situated at the center of the car, produced 5 hp (3.7 kW), relying on a brass gravity feed carburetor. The transmission was a semiautomatic design with two forward speeds and one reverse. The low-speed forward and reverse gear system is a planetary type (epicyclic). The car weighed 850 lb (390 kg) and used Concord springs. It had a top speed of 20 mph (32 km/h). The car’s success was partially by accident; in 1901, a fire destroyed a number of other models before they could be approved for production, leaving the Curved Dash as the only one intact…….110 years ago this week, General Motors Truck Company (later known as GMC) was founded to handle sales of GM’s Rapid and Reliance products [22 July 1911]. The marque “GMC Truck” first appeared in 1912 on vehicles exhibited at the New York International Auto Show. Some 22,000 trucks were produced that year, though GMC’s contribution to that total was a mere 372 units. GMC had some currency within GM referring to the corporate parent in general. Later “GMC” would become distinct as a division brand within the corporation, branding trucks and coaches; in contrast, the abbreviation for the overall corporation eventually ended up as “GM”. GMC maintained three manufacturing locations in Pontiac, Michigan, Oakland, California, and Saint Louis, Missouri. In 1916, a GMC Truck crossed the country from Seattle to New York City in thirty days, and in 1926, a 2-ton GMC truck was driven from New York to San Francisco in five days and 30 minutes. During the Second World War, GMC Truck produced 600,000 trucks for use by the United States Armed Forces. In 1925, GM purchased a controlling interest in Yellow Coach, a bus manufacturer based in Chicago, Illinois which was founded by John D. Hertz. After purchasing the remaining portion in 1943, GM renamed it GM Truck and Coach Division. The Division manufactured interurban coaches until 1980. Transit bus production ended in May 1987. The Canadian plant (in London, Ontario) produced buses from 1962 until July 1987. GM withdrew from the bus and coach market because of increased competition in the late 1970s and 1980s. Rights to the RTS model were sold to Transportation Manufacturing Corporation, while Motor Coach Industries of Canada purchased the Classic design. In 1998, GMC’s official branding on vehicles was shortened from “GMC Truck” to simply “GMC”. GMC currently manufactures SUVs, pickup trucks, vans, light-duty trucks, and medium duty trucks. In the past, GMC also produced fire trucks, ambulances, heavy-duty trucks, military vehicles, motorhomes, and transit buses…….100 years ago this week, the Rickenbacker Motor Company was incorporated in Lansing, Michigan by Barney Everitt, William E Metzger and Walter E Flanders, with its cars named after racer and World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker, who had little actual input into the affairs of the business [25 July 1921]. Rickenbacker Motor Company made sporting coupés, touring cars, sedans, and roadsters. Four wheel inside brakes were introduced in 1923. Rickenbacker made an unsuccessful attempt to merge with Peerless around 1924.Early six-cylinder engines were joined in 1925 by an eight-cylinder engine. The model was named Vertical Eight Super Fine which referred to the advanced proprietary engine and the high quality of the cars. Although 1927 saw new models signed 6-70, 8-80 and 8-90, Rickenbacker cars were too expensive for the time and sales were poor. Before the company closed down in 1927, more than 35,000 cars had been built. The manufacturing equipment were sold to Audi and transported to Germany, somewhat ironic since Rickenbacker renounced his supposed German heritage (he was actually of Swiss ancestry) in light of World War I. This transaction was reflected in Audi Zwickau and Dresden models, using six- or eight-cylinder Rickenbacker engines…….90 years ago this week, Rudolf Caracciola, in a Mercedes-Benz SSKL won the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring [19 July 1931]…….80 years ago this week, Richie Evans, a nine-time NASCAR Modified champion, was born [23 July 1941]. The “Rapid Roman” from Rome, New York, US, is credited with 28 track championships at 11 speedways across the Northeast U.S……50 years ago this week, the 1,000,000th Vauxhall Viva rolled off the production line at Vauxhalls’ Luton plant [20 July 1971]…….. The Watkins Glen 6-Hours for the World Championship of Makes, the final race of the 5-liter sportscar era, was won by a 3-litre Alfa Romeo T33/3 driven by Ronnie Peterson and Andre de Adamich [24 July 1971]……..30 years ago this week, racer Paul Warwick is killed at age 22 when he crashed during the Gold Cup race at the Oulton Park circuit in England [21 July 1991].

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