20-26 December: Motoring Milestones

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

220 years ago this week, British inventor Richard Trevithick took seven of his friends for a test ride on his “Puffing Devil,” or “Puffer,” the first steam-powered passenger vehicle [24 December 1801]. Unlike the steam engine pioneered by the Scotsman James Watt, Trevithick’s used “strong steam”–that is, steam at a very high pressure (145 pounds per square inch, or psi, compared to the Watt engine’s 5 psi, which enabled him to build an engine small enough to fit in his “Puffer” car. Trevithick’s engines were undoubtedly more dangerous than Watt’s, but they were also extremely versatile: They could be put to work in mines, on farms, in factories, on ships and in locomotives of all kinds……..90 years ago this week, the Kissel Motor Car Company of Hartford, Wisconsin, US was liquidated at auction [21 December 1931]. Probably the most famous cars built by Kissel were the Gold Bug Speedsters which were popular with some celebrities, including Amelia Earhart. Louis Kissel and his sons, George and William, started the Kissel Motor Car Company in in June of 1906…… The first Pontiac inline V-8 engine was produced [22 December 1931]…… Timekeeper Ernst Christ had his plans to build a racetrack in his home town of Hockenheim, Germany unanimously approved by the municipal council [25 December 1931]. Building work began in March 1932, and only two months later, on May 25 1932, the first motorcycle race in Hockenheim got under way. The essentially triangular course began on the edge of the town and headed out into the forest roads, before looping back on itself…….60 years ago this week, General Motors styling chief William L Mitchell has his self-proclaimed “greatest moment” as Buick accepts his design for the 1963 Riviera and Chevrolet accepts his design for the 1963 split-window Corvette [24 December 1961]……50 years ago this week, Carl Breer (87), one of the core engineering people along with Fred M. Zeder and Owen Skelton that formed the present day Chrysler Corporation, died [21 December 1971]…….. The English section of the M4 was completed when the 50-mile (80 km) stretch between Junctions 9 and 15 (Maidenhead and Swindon) was officially opened by Conservative Junior Minister Michael Heseltine [22 December 1971]…… Alessandro Cagno (88), winner of the first Targa Florio, died [23 December 1971]. One of the toughest competitions in Europe, the first Targa Florio covered 3 laps equalling 277 miles through multiple hairpin curves on treacherous mountain roads in Sicily, at heights where severe changes in climate frequently occurred. Alessandro Cagno won the inaugural 1906 race in nine hours, averaging 30 mph……20 years ago this week, the Ford F-Series celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary as America’s best-selling truck [26  December 2001]………10 years ago this week, the Hammersmith Flyover, London was closed because of corrosion in the post-tensions steel cables resulting from salt used to prevent icing [23 December 2001]. It was reopened on 12 January 2012 for a single lane in each direction.

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