22-28 April: Motoring Milestones

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

 120 years ago this week, the 90 km Limone-Cuneo-Turin road race was won by De Gras driving a Peugeot 10 hp at an average speed of 50.86 mph [28 April 1899] ……..90 years ago this week, almost exactly two years since the first Volvo car was produced, the company launched its second model, the 55

hp Volvo PV651 – PV stood for Private Vehicle while the number 651 indicated 6 cylinder, 5-seater, and was the first of the series [23 April 1929]. The new car had a stronger chassis to cope with the more powerful engine. The bodywork was manufactured in the traditional way, with a wooden frame covered with steel plates. The 3010 cc DB engine was very robust and its crankshaft was supported by seven main bearings. It had a non-synchromesh 3-speed box……..70 years ago this week, Johnnie Parsons won the 100 mile AAA Championship race on the 1 & 1/16 mile dirt Arlington Downs horse track. Even though he was not of legal age, having just turned 19 in March, Troy Ruttman made his AAA Championship debut by using an altered birth certificate [24 April 1949]……. Philippe Étancelin driving a Talbot-Lago T26C won the Paris Grand Prix held at Montlhéry [24 April 1949]……….the Jersey Road Race held in St. Helier, Jersey was won by Bob Gerard in an ERA B-Type [28 April 1949]………60 years ago this week, Mario Andretti made his racing debut driving his own 1948 Hudson to victory at the Nazareth Speedway in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, US [25 April 1959]. While most people remember Mario either for his success at Indy or for his Formula One Championship, he started his career as an American stock car racer. His career as a stock car racer reached its apex in 1967 when Mario won the Daytona 500. Driving for the Ford team, Andretti was forced to overcome the influence of the team’s ownership in his bid to defeat the team’s first driver Fred Lorenzen. Mario held off Lorenzen even though Lorenzen had been able to draft him for most of the race and is one of only three drivers in history to have won races on paved ovals, road courses, and dirt tracks in a single season. Andretti and A.J. Foyt are the only men to have won both the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500, and Mario is second only to Foyt in Indy Car victories. He has career Indy Car earnings of $11,552,154. Mario’s Formula One Championship gave him the diversified credentials that led motor sports media members to vote him the driver of the century. He retired from racing in 1994………The Ford Motor Company announced that they would no longer abide by the Automobile Manufacturers Association (AMA) safety agreement and would market high-performance options. [27 April 1959]…….50 years ago this week, British Leyland unveiled its new 1500 Austin saloon, called the

Maxi in a blaze of publicity in Oporto Portugal [24 April 1969]. It was the first British five-speed five-door hatchback and was one of the first cars to appear on the BBC’s new car programme Wheelbase, a forerunner to Top Gear. Underneath the Maxi’s practical and spacious bodyshell lay an all-new front wheel drive chassis, which was interlinked with an innovative five-speed manual transmission. The latter suffered from notorious problems with its control linkage, especially in early models which had a cable-operated linkage prone to cable stretch and other problems. These were noted by autotesters such as Vicar in Today’s Driver (1969), who wrote: “This is probably a good idea that just needs a little bit of working on.” The later rod linkage was less problematic. All models were prone to problems brought on by the “cogs in the sump” layout, whereby the gearbox and engine shared a common oil supply. The clutch oil seal was also prone to leakage. Power came from a 1485 cc, E-Series petrol engine which would later find its way into other British Leyland products such as the Austin Allegro. The 1750 and twin-carburettor 1750 HL models, added to the range in 1971, offered good performance by the standards of this era, with a top speed of 97mph, while the smaller-engine version could exceed 90 mph. Despite the new platform, the Maxi’s styling suffered from the decision to save tooling costs by carrying over door panels from the Austin 1800 “Landcrab”, which effectively made the Maxi resemble a scaled down version of that car – a design which was by then five years old, at a time when curvaceous “coke bottle” styling (typified by contemporaries such as the Ford Cortina Mk III and Hillman Avenger) was very much in vogue, contrasting sharply with the Maxi’s very obvious mid-1960s looks. Another styling ambition for the car was a four-door saloon version, to compete directly with the Ford Cortina. A prototype was built, badged as a Morris, but it was not put into production, since the booted extension made the Maxi almost the same size as the 1800 model. The Maxi featured a spacious interior, comfortable passenger accommodation, competitive pricing and reasonable running costs, but it was let down by a dull interior and poor build quality, although it was not as notorious for its failings as the Austin Allegro and Morris Marina were during the 1970s. One unusual feature of this car was that the rear seat back, as well as folding forward as in a conventional hatchback, also folded back. In combination with fully reclining front seats this gave satisfactory, if spartan, sleeping accommodation. Towards the end of the Maxi’s life, in 1980, a lightly revised model was marketed as the “Maxi 2″……Jo Siffert and Brian Redman drove a Porsche 908LH to victory in the 1000 km endurance race at Monza, Italy [26 April 1969]………40 years ago this week, Richard Petty enjoyed a dominant day at Martinsville Speedway to capture the Virginia 500, notching his first victory in a Chevrolet [22 April 1979]. Petty, known for driving for several manufacturers over the course of his career, started second and led 247 of the 500 laps. Buddy Baker led 196 laps and drove home second, four seconds behind at the finish. Pole-starter Darrell Waltrip wound up third, one lap down……..30 years ago this week, at the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, Ayrton Senna in his McLaren won from his pole position in a time of 1:26:51 [23 April 1989]. His rival, teammate, Alain Prost was second after starting next to him. Alessandro Nannini in the Benetton, had a great drive from 7th on the grid to finish 3rd, though one lap down from Senna and Prost. There were 12 finishers and Jonathan Palmer had a good drive from all the way back in 25th in his Tyrrell. He came through for a point in sixth at the end…….Mandatory seatbelt law came into effect in Italy [27 April 1989]……..20 years ago this week, the drum and bass DJ and record producer known as Kemistry was killed on the M3 near Winchester, England by the steel body of a cat’s eye, which had been dislodged by a van and flew through the windscreen of the following car in which she was a passenger [25 April 1999]. The coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death. A question was asked in the House of Lords about the safety of cat’s eyes in light of the highly unusual incident, and the Highways Agency conducted an investigation into the “long-term integrity and performance” of various types of road stud……….Ford completed its first purchase of a vehicle disassembly company (Copher Brothers Auto Parts in Tampa, Florida) as part of a bigger plan to create a global network of state-of-the art vehicle recycling companies [27 April 1999]…….10 years ago this week, a car scrappage scheme was introduced in the United Kingdom Budget by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling [22 April 2009]. Any car which was over 10 years old and had been in a person’s possession for at least 12 months attracted a payment of

£1000 from the government and a discount of £1000 from a manufacturers towards the purchase of a new car…….The fastest speed by a jet powered motorcycle of 202.55 mph (325.97 km/h) was set by Kevin Martin (US) on the Ballistic Eagle Jet Powered Motorcycle at the Spring Nationals, Rockingham, North Carolina, United States [24 April 2009]. Kevin Martin covered 1/4 mile in 7.887 seconds and both the time and speed were certified by the IHRA (International Hot Rod Association)……….Chrysler and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union reached a tentative deal that met government requirements for the struggling auto manufacturer to receive more federal funding [26 April 2009]. As part of the deal, the UAW agreed to let Chrysler reduce the amount of money it would pay toward healthcare costs of its retired workers. The month before the deal was announced, President Barack Obama issued an ultimatum to Chrysler that it must undergo a fundamental restructuring and shrink its costs in order to receive future government aid. Obama also gave Chrysler a month to complete a merger with Italian car maker Fiat or another partner. Although Chrysler reached a deal with the UAW as well as its major creditors shortly before the one-month deadline, Obama announced on April 30 that Chrysler, after failing to come to an agreement with some of its smaller creditors, would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, then form a partnership with Fiat. The move made Chrysler the first big automaker to file for bankruptcy and attempt to reorganise since Studebaker did so in 1933………. A new 2-part modular motorcycle test was introduced [27 April 2009]. It enabled the UK to comply with the EU Second Directive requiring new and more demanding manoeuvres to be tested: Module 1 contained the specified manoeuvres element of the test which was conducted off-road. It included exercises designed to assess the rider’s ability to control their machine safely, including avoidance and emergency stop exercises Module 2 included an eyesight test and 30 minutes of on-road riding, assessing the rider’s ability to safely interact with other road users.

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