21-28 November: Motoring Milestones

Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: Elvis Presley, Cadillac Fleetwood, Alain Prost, and Inspector Morse.

190 years ago this week, the Blanchard steam carriage was successfully tested in Springfield, Massachusetts by designer Thomas Blanchard [22 November 1826]….. 180 years ago this week, John McAdam (80), Scottish engineer who introduced the ‘macadamising’ system of road making, died [26 November 1836]…… 60 years ago this week, driving tests in the UK were suspended due to the Suez crisis [24 November 1956]. Learners were allowed to drive unaccompanied and examiners help to administer petrol rations…… 50 years ago this week, ‘Spinout’, Elvis Presley’s 22nd film, premiered in Los Angeles, California [23 November 1966]. In the musical film, Elvis plays a rock-&-roll singing race-car driver, Mike McCoy who leads a carefree life on America’s highways, traveling the country with his racing crew/back-up band. Along the way, McCoy becomes romantically entangled with three young women who attempt, to no avail, to get the racer to settle down. Actress Shelley Fabares who starred as Elvis’s romantic interest in two other Presley vehicles plays one of the three women, Cynthia Foxhugh. The MGM film, directed by Norman Taurog, was advertised with the tagline: “It’s Elvis with his foot on the gas and no brakes on the fun,” and was another box-office success and critical disaster for the pop music icon….. The 1967 Plymouth Barracuda was introduced [25 November 1966]. The new 2nd generation Barracuda was styled chiefly by John E. Herlitz and John Samsen. It was less rectilinear than the Valiant, with Coke-bottle side contours and heavily revised front and rear end styling. Design cues included a concave rear deck panel, wider wheel openings, curved side glass, and S-curved roof pillars on the notchback. The rear portion of the roof on the fastback coupe was more streamlined, and the back glass, raked at a substantially horizontal angle, was much smaller compared with that of the previous model. Also, the use of chrome trim on the external sheet metal was more restrained…… Mangusta, the first De Tomaso produced in significant numbers was introduced [26 November 1966]. With the Mangusta, De Tomaso moved from European to American Ford engines. The car had a 4.7-litre iron-block V8 engine and steel and aluminium coupé bodywork from Ghia—an Italian coachbuilder also controlled by Alejandro de Tomaso. About 400 Mangustas were built before production ended in 1971…… 40 years ago this week, rock ’n’ roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis was arrested for drink-driving after putting his Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow into a ditch near Elvis Presley’s Graceland [22 November 1976]….. March held a press to launch their 6-wheeled F1 car called the 2-4-0 [24 November 1976]…… The four millionth ‘Mini’ left the production line [27 November 1976]…… 20 years ago this week, the last Cadillac Fleetwood was produced in Arlington, Texas – this car marked the discontinuation of the rear wheel drive Cadillac and the name of the once independent custom coachbuilder [27 November 1996]….. 15 years ago this week, in a ceremony in Oxford, TV Inspector Morse’s classic red Jaguar was presented to James Went after he won it in a competition organised by Carlton Television and Woolworths [22 November 2001]. He was handed the keys by Colin Dexter, the creator of Morse. The 2.4-litre, four-door-saloon model, when first introduced in October 1959, had retailed at £1,534…… The Prost Grand Prix team were placed into receivership by a French court but vowed to fight on and make it to the grid for the opening race in 2002 [22 November 2001]. Prost failed to secure funding to ease the team’s spiralling debts, which were estimated at $30 million. Founder Alain Prost said: “I’m still very motivated and excited about this project.” The team eventually folded on the eve of the 2002 season…..10 years ago this week, China’s state media reported government plans to spend about $250 billion extending the country’s expressways to deal with a predicted surge in car ownership over the next three decades [23 November 2006]…… Twenty-one year old Lewis Hamilton was confirmed as Fernando Alonso‘s team-mate at McLaren for the following season, despite still not having driven an F1 car [24 November 2006]. It was the culmination of a relationship which had started 11 years earlier with a handshake between Ron Dennis and Hamilton. “We reviewed the grid and, apart from the top three, we reckoned most of them had plateaued,” Dennis said. “I am distinctly unimpressed with the majority of drivers currently involved in F1. I feel Lewis is well equipped to deal with these drivers who fall into that category.” Hamilton himself admitted he was “overwhelmed”. He added: “It was a surreal feeling. I was sat on a couch opposite Ron at his home. He told me that McLaren had decided to take me on as their new driver. It didn’t kick in. I put on a professional face. I could see Ron was excited. He said I should be, too. Inside I was. But it had been such a long wait. It was a warm feeling knowing the seat was mine. Now I have to get on and prepare.” The decision to appoint Hamilton was made after Monza in late September but had been kept secret….. Alex Zanardi, who lost both his legs in a crash five years earlier, tested an F1 car for the first time since his

accident [25 November2006]. Driving a modified BMW Sauber, he turned in good times which underlined his determination it would not purely be a publicity stunt. “I was a bit too big for the cockpit of this car,” he joked, “so we cut something off my legs and made me a little bit shorter. I told the guys it was a much faster job than adjusting the pedals. It was just fantastic. A man loses his legs, people expect that he will just go home and change the channels on the TV with the remote control. I have shown that this guy can come back after that accident and have the same life. That is the great thing.”…. David Hermance (59), a US engineer for Toyota, was killed when his experimental plane, a Interavia E-3, crashed off San Pedro near Los Angeles, California [26 November 2006]. Hermance’s job had been to take technology developed in Japan, as in the Prius hybrid, and bring it to the US.

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