23-29 December: Motoring Milestones

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

150 years ago this week, Louis-Guillaume Perreaux patented his steam velocipede [26 December 1869]…….90 years ago this week, Clessie Cummins tested the first diesel-powered automobile in the United States, a converted 1925 Packard limousine [25 December 1929]. In November, 1929, Clessie and his chief engineer purchased the “big old Packard limousine sedan” in Indianapolis and drove it back home. The work of installing the engine began. The men used the Cummins Model U. It was impossible to put the engine in place without removing the steering gear, or to install the steering gear after the engine was in place. The Cummins crew finally hoisted the car and lowered it over the engine.30 There were only three-eighths of an inch between the engine and the radiator, therefore no fan could be used. The axle gear ratio had to be changed because of the slower diesel speed. Otherwise, the Packard was not changed. Irwin was thoroughly surprised when Clessie drove the car to the Irwin home on Christmas, 1929. He was soon as excited as was Clessie.31 Within a few days, Clessie left for New York City to attend the Auto Show. This was the famous run in which the fuel cost was $1.38. From New York, Cummins drove to Detroit where the annual meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers was held. Here he was invited out to the Ford shops. This was the first of several meetings with Henry Ford and his son Edsel. They must have enjoyed one another’s company, for in 1930 Irwin was writing with great delight:”They undoubtedly got very well acquainted. Clessie, among other things, told him that ‘with my money and your brains I think we can get pretty far.’ After the first automobile run to New York and Detroit, in early 1930, Irwin was sure that Clessie “had something.” A competent engineer was brought in to survey the set-up and to make recommendations. As a result, design of a new automotive engine was begun. Meanwhile, the old engine was being put into a Packard roadster chassis. In March, 1930, Cummins and cronies set an official mark of better than 80 miles per hour at Daytona Beach. The old marine engine, built for 800 to 1000 rpm, was pushed as high as 1900 rpm, but it held together.33 Fuel for the 2120-mile round trip cost $3.50………The Cadillac V-16 (sometimes known as the Cadillac Sixteen) was Cadillac’s top-of-the-line car was introduced [27 December 1929]. All were finished to custom order, and the car was built in very small numbers; only 4076 cars were constructed in the eleven years the model was offered. The majority of these were built in the single year of 1930, before the Great Depression really took hold. This was the first V16 powered car to reach production status in the United States………..70 years ago this week, Hugh J. Ferry was elected to succeed George T. Christopher as President of the Packard Motor Car Company [29 December 1949]. The company also announced the discontinuance of its six cylinder automobile production………30 years ago this week, five-time New York Yankees manager Billy Martin (61) was killed in an alcohol-related crash when the pickup truck he was a passenger in skidded off the road during an icy storm near his farm in Binghamton, New York [25 December 1989]. As Yankees manager, he led the team to consecutive American League pennants in 1976 and 1977; the Yankees were swept in the 1976 World Series by the Cincinnati Reds but triumphed over the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games in the 1977 World Series. He also had notable managerial tenures with several other AL squads, leading four of them to division championships……..10 years ago this week, US auto giant Ford said it had agreed on the main terms for selling its Swedish brand Volvo Cars to Chinese carmaker Geely and Italian carmaker Fiat became the majority owner of Serbian car manufacturer Zastava with a 67% stake [23 December 2009].

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