23-29 March: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, the 202 km Nice to Marseille road race was won by René de Knyff in a time of 3 hours 25 mins 30 seconds driving a Panhard 16 hp [26 March 1900]. It was originally scheduled to return to Nice from Marseille, but it started to rain. The 12 competitors refused to start the return leg because of the road conditions that were already dangerous enough when dry……..The British Royal family took delivery of its first motor vehicle, a Daimler Mail Phaeton [28 March 1900]. There is no proof that King Edward VII or King George V could drive, but later monarchs King Edward VIII

and King George VI could. The Queen’s State and private motor cars are housed in the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace. For official duties – providing transport for State and other visitors as well as The Queen herself – there are eight State limousines, consisting of two Bentleys, three Rolls-Royces and three Daimlers. Other vehicles in the Royal fleet include a number of Volkswagen ‘people carriers’. State cars are painted in Royal claret livery. The Bentleys and Rolls-Royces uniquely do not have registration number plates, since they are State vehicles.n technical terms, the special Bentley cars have a monocoque construction, enabling greater use to be made of the vehicle’s interior space. This means the transmission tunnel runs underneath the floor, without encroaching on the cabin. Technical details show how different the Bentleys are to standard cars. The Bentleys are 6.22 metres long, nearly a metre longer than a standard Bentley Arnage. At 3.84 metres, its wheelbase is 1.3 metres longer than that of an average family sized saloon. The engine drives a standard, four-speed GM 4L80-E gearbox, which directs power through up-rated driveshafts to the rear wheels. Although they have a powerful engine, the Bentleys, like any other cars, are subject to normal speed restrictions. On processional occasions, they travel at around 9 miles per hour, and sometimes down to 3 miles per hour. The rear doors are hinged at the back and are designed to allow The Queen to stand up straight before stepping down to the ground. The rear seats are upholstered in Hield Lambswool Sateen cloth whilst all remaining upholstery is in light grey Connolly hide. Carpets are pale blue in the rear and dark blue in the front……… 110 years ago this week, C N Teetor as granted a patent for his “Oil-Regulating Piston Rings”, leading to his founding of the Perfect Circle Company [29 March 1910]……..100 years ago this week, Walter P. Chrysler resigned as executive vice president in charge of automotive operations for General Motors [25 March 1920]. Born in the western Kansas railroad town of Wamego, Chrysler grew up around Union Pacific engineers. Early in life, he formed the idea of becoming a locomotive engineer himself. Working his way up from the position of janitor, he achieved his lifelong engineering dream by the time he was 20. Chrysler’s attention gradually shifted to the automotive industry. “To me it was the transportation of the future,” he explained, “and as such I wanted to be a part of it. That was where I saw opportunity.” In 1912, while employed by the American Locomotive Company, Chrysler was offered a position in Flint, Michigan by Buick President Charles Nash. The job promised only half of his current salary, but he took it anyway. As a manager at Buick, Chrysler revolutionized the company’s mass production capabilities, and distinguished himself as an irreplaceable part of the GM team. However, in 1916, William C. Durant regained control of the company he had founded and Chrysler’s mentor, Charles Nash, was forced out. Recognizing Chrysler’s value, Durant offered him the presidency of Buick, a title worth $500,000 a year. Chrysler had previously made $25,000 a year. Heeding warnings from Nash that Durant was a micro-managing tyrant, Chrysler did not immediately accept the offer. Eventually, though, the money was too good to turn down. Among his many accomplishments as head of Buick, Chrysler’s greatest achievement may have been initiating GM’s purchase of the Fisher Body Plant, on which the company relied for its products. GM purchased 60 percent of Fisher’s stock, and gained control over one of its most important components. Eventually, William Durant lived up to Nash’s warnings. He began to meddle in Buick’s affairs, infuriating Chrysler to the point of despair on numerous occasions. One day, Chrysler reached the boiling point during a board meeting and walked out. Longtime GM President Alfred Sloan later recalled, “I remember the day. He [Chrysler] banged the door on the way out, and out of that bang came eventually the Chrysler Corporation.”……..90 years ago this week, Baconin Borzacchini in a Maserati V4 won the Tripoli Grand Prix at Mellaha [23 March 1930]……. Congress appropriated $50,000 for the Inter-American Highway to link the US to Mexico City and the capitol cities of the Central-America republics and Panama by paved highway [26 March 1930]. The project was initiated in 1932 and finally accomplished in 1967, when the final construction north of Panama City was completed………80 years ago this week, John T. Rainier, manufacturer of the 1905-1911 Rainier, died in Hewlett Harbor, New York, aged 79. [29 March 1940]…… 60 years ago this week, Porsches finished 1-2 in the Sebring 12 Hour World Sports Car Championship race, with the duo of Olivier Gendebien and Hans Herrman coming home first [26 March 1960] The Casner Camoradi Maserati entry of Dan Gurney/Stirling Moss built a huge lead before breaking the rear axle with 4 hours to go. The Ferraris and Corvettes performed poorly. The winners covered 1,019 miles in the winning 1.5 liter Porsche, averaging 84.92 mph…….Lee Petty finished first in the controversial 100-mile race at North Wilkesboro (North Carolina, US) Speedway [27 March 1960]. Petty bumped his way past Junior Johnson with 14 laps remaining to claim his 49th career NASCAR Grand National win. Petty was pelted with rocks and debris in ­victory lane. The victory made Petty the top race winner in NASCAR ­history, surpassing 48-time-winner Herb Thomas………50 years ago this week, American Motors introduced the AMX/3 (cover image), an upscale sports car in Rome, Italy, but production ended after six pre-production prototypes [23 March 1970]. Built on a 105.3-inch (2,675 mm) wheelbase, the prototypes used the AMC 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8 and an Italian OTO Melara four-speed transaxle. Road testing was done by BMW, which declared the AMX/3’s chassis one of the stiffest and most neutral handling they had ever tested. Five completed cars were produced before the US$2,000,000 program was cancelled. Escalating costs and pending bumper regulations put a stop to the mid-engined AMX/3. The remaining extra parts were used by erstwhile Bizzarini collaborator Salvatore Diomante to assemble a sixth car……..the following day [24 March 1970] Buddy Baker drove a Dodge Charger Daytona to a new World Closed Course Speed Record of 200.447 mph at Talledega International Speedway, Alabama, US…….The Spring Nationals were held at the Santa Pod Raceway in Northamptonshire, UK (29-30 March 1970]. In front of a record crowd of 12,000 spectators Freddie Whittle ran “Shutdown” at 11.06 120mph. Dennis Priddle in the Woolfes Whistler recorded an 11.1 at 116.55 mph. Mike Hutcherson driving Nobby Hills blown Caddy “Houndog II” ran 11.3/135.14 mph. Bruce Browns Chevy powered “Prospector II” digger recorded a 10.58 and a 10.63 at over 128 mph and Tony Anderson’s blown V6 engined Trouble ran 10.62 and 10.69 at over 121 mph. Top Speed of the meet went to John Siggery’s fuel injected Oldsmobile “Geronimo” with 135.67 mph………30 years ago this week, the Brazilian Grand Prix was held at Interlagos [25 March 1990]. The race was won for the sixth time by the reigning world champion Alain Prost driving a Ferrari 641. The win extended Prost’s record for most wins of the Brazilian Grand Prix. Prost’s winning margin was 13 seconds over Austrian driver Gerhard Berger driving a McLaren MP4/5B. Berger’s Brazilian team mate Ayrton Senna was third……..20 years ago this week, Brazil hosted the second round of the F1 championship [26 March 2000]; five of the top six finishers were disqualified after the race because of problems with the wooden running board under their cars. After an appeal the cars were scrutineered again and everyone, except David Coulthard, was reinstated. The wing-end plates on Coulthard car were found to be 7mm lower than permitted. On the eve of the race Jean Alesi had a narrow escape when he hit an advertising hoarding that had collapsed onto the pit straight at 180mph. Sauber had to withdraw both its cars after the dreadfully uneven track had caused rear-wing failures, even though the whole circuit had been relaid. Bernie Ecclestone was slammed in the press for his failure to criticise the track – he had attacked Silverstone and Malaysia – which they claimed was simply because he owned the commercial rights to the event at Interlagos. Jensen Button became the youngest Formula 1 Championship points winner when he finished in sixth place in the Brazilian Grand Prix aged 20 years and 67 days old. Driving for the Williams team in his first season in Formula One, Button originally finished the race in seventh position, but later McLaren driver David Coulthard was disqualified from his second place finish and Button was promoted to a points scoring position………Mitsubishi sold a controlling 34 percent stake to DaimlerChrysler for €2.1 billion [27 March 2000]…….10 years ago this week, two days before the Australian Grand Prix [26 March 2010], Victoria Police witnessed Lewis Hamilton “deliberately losing traction” in his silver Mercedes-AMG C63, and impounded the car for 48 hours. Hamilton immediately released a statement of apology for “driving in an over-exuberant manner”. After being charged with intentionally losing control of a vehicle, Hamilton was eventually fined A$500 (£288), being described as a “Hoon” [boy racer] by the magistrate.

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