20-26 May: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, Jacob German (26), operator of a taxicab for the Electric Vehicle Company, became the first driver to be arrested for speeding in the US when he was stopped by Bicycle Roundsman Schueller for driving at the “breakneck” speed of 12mph on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan [20 May 1899]. German was booked and held in jail at the East Twenty-second Street station house. “The company was notified, and its members were astonished,” reported the Times after German’s unprecedented arrest. The Electric Vehicle Company, however, soon ran into much bigger problems, as they dreamed too big and expanded too fast. By 1907, the company had gone bust, killing the electric car………Plain Dealer reporter Charles Shanks first used the French word “automobile” in a series of articles he wrote about a road trip with car magnate Alexander Winton from Cleveland to New York. The word thereafter became accepted in the US [22 May 1899]……….The first public parking garage in the US was established in Boston, Massachusetts by W. T. McCullough of the Back Bay Cycle and Motor Company. McCullough advertised the garage as ‘a stable for renting, sale, storage and repair of motor vehicles’ [24 May 1899]……….. 110 years ago this week, In the ‘Peoples Budget’ budget, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George announced that the British roads system would be self-financing and from 1910 all proceeds from road vehicle excise duties would be dedicated to fund the building and maintenance of the road system [21 May

1909]……….90 years ago this week, the Ford Model A Fordor sedan, the so-called “Leatherback” model, with a “two-window” roofline without rear quarter windows, covered in pebble-grain artificial leather, was introduced [21 May 1929]. It was intended to be a more comfortable Model A, and emphasis was placed upon the luxuriousness and quality of its interior fittings………..Three spectators died and many more were injured at the Lückendorf hillclimb, Germany when Ernst Mahla’s Bugatti left the road [26 May 1929]………80 years ago this week, the XII Adac Eifelrennen run over 10 laps (141.7 miles) of the Nürburgring was won by Hermann Lang driving a Mercedes-Benz W154/39 [21 May 1939]……….70 years ago this week, Juan Manuel Fangio in a Simca-Gordini T15 won the Marseille GP held at Prado [21 May 1949]………..60 years ago this week, Lee Petty won the 100-mile race at Charlotte, North Carolina, US in an Oldsmobile, the last victory for the marque until 1978 [22 May 1959]……….,40 years ago this week, Hubert

van Doorne (79), founder of Van Doorne’s Aanhangwagenfabriek (Trailer factory) and of Van Doorne’s Automobielfabriek (vehicle factory) known, especially to non-Dutch speakers, as DAF, together with his brother Willem (Wim) van Doorne, died [23 May 1979]. Van Doorne’s Aanhangwagen Fabriek started producing trailers in Einhoven by 1949, DAF were also producing tractor units (trucks) for their trailers to be used with. In this field they introduced a number of revolutionary concepts including the demount container trailer and the automatic “fifth wheel” coupling. Daf cars arrived at the 1958 Amsterdam show (the AutoRIA) with the unveiling of a small four seater using a continuously variable, belt driven, transmission which Hub van Doorne had first thought of around 1952. After six years of development, it was successful enough to gain a positive reaction from show visitors and the Daf 600 Daffodil was released onto the market in 1959 complete with it’s Variomatic continuously variable transmission. The Daf 33 of 1962 was very similar, with bodywork subtly revamped by Michelotti. The engine was essentially the same 2 cylinder, air cooled, boxer unit but with an increase to 746 cc. Michelotti was also tasked with the fully redesigned bodywork of the Daf 44 in 1967. This was the first of the “B Bodied” models and still used the same basic engine, but with a longer stroke crank to give 844cc capacity – an extra 10 teaspoons per cylinder of raw power! The Daf 55 of 1968 used the new B body with a more conventional 1106cc Renault 4 cylinder, watercooled inline, engine. This was the basis of the successful 55 Marathon rally car – still with Variomatic belt driven transmission!……….. Amédée Gordini (79), Italian-born race car driver and sports car manufacturer in France, died [25 May 1979]. Gordini set up his business preparing Simca engines in Suresnes near Paris. His first successes came that year with victory in Bol díOr at Saint-Germain and this was followed by many other class victories including the Index of Performance at Le Mans in 1938 and 1939. In September 1945 Gordini became the first man to win a post-war event at the Robert Benoist Cup and began building his own racing cars . He won the 1946 Grand Prix de Marseille and the Simca-Gordini team was successful with Jean-Pierre Wimille as its driver. Then Wimille was killed at the 1949 Argentine Grand Prix and Gordini struggled to keep up with his former countrymen in the new Formula 1 scene. For 1952 he built new engines for the World Championship and Jean Behra scored Simca-Gordini’s most famous victory at Reims. After Simca withdrew its support in 1956, Renault stepped in requiring copetition version of the Dauphine, the R8 and Alpine’s Le Mans racers, buying up the Gordini company at the end of 1968. Many of Gordini’s young engineers went on to play important roles in the Renault F1 program……….30 years ago this week, during the
final ten-lap sprint of The Winston all-star event, Darrell Waltrip led with young Rusty Wallace all over his rear bumper [21 May 1989]. Waltrip had the faster car, and held off numerous pass attempts by Wallace. As the two drivers came out of turn four to see the white flag, Wallace tagged Waltrip in the left rear quarter panel, sending Waltrip spinning out and into the grass. Wallace took the lead and ultimately took the $200,000 victory. Fans booed, gestured, and pelted the track with beer cans. In the victory lane, when asked if he considered it “good, clean racing,” Wallace replied “I consider it The Winston.” As Wallace was being wheeled to victory lane, one of Wallace’s crew members bumped into and knocked over a crew member from Waltrip’s team, and a huge scuffle erupted. At least 25 people were involved in a huge fist-fight. After the race, Waltrip delivered his now-infamous line, “I just hope he chokes on that $200,000.” The incident was a turning point in both drivers’ careers: the once hated Waltrip, who had just won the Daytona 500 earlier in the season, turned face, while many fans began to jeer the presence of the previously popular Wallace……….Citroën launched a new flagship model, the XM (cover image). Designed by Bertone, the hatchback saloon was the world’s first production car to feature a suspension system that combined the intelligence of electronics with the power and flexibility of hydraulics [23 May 1989]. Hydractive suspension was born. The XM was voted 1990 European Car of the Year……….Bengt Norberg of Appelbo, Sweden drove a Mitsubishi Colt GTi-16V on two side wheels non-stop for a distance of 192.873 miles in a time of 7 hours 15 min 50 sec [24 May 1989].
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