24-30 December: Motoring Milestones

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

140 years ago this week, Louis Chevrolet, who, along with William C. Durant started the Chevrolet Motor Car Company in Detroit, Michigan, was born in Switzerland [25 December 1878]…… 120 years

ago this week, Louis Renault at the age of 20, made a brilliant entrance into the emerging world of the motor car [24 December 1898]. He converted his De Dion-Bouton tricycle into a small, four-wheeled vehicle and added another of his inventions that would soon propel the motor car into a new era: the “direct drive”, the first gearbox. It instantly dethroned the transmission chains and cogs that had been used until then. Confident about his invention, Renault bet them on this day that his vehicle could climb the 13% slope of the Rue Lepic in Montmartre. Although they were incredulous at first, his friends were soon forced to believe their eyes. Not only did Louis win his bet – he also pocketed his first 12 firm orders, along with cash deposits. His career was under way. A few months later he filed the patent for the direct drive system that would make his fortune. It was soon adopted by all the manufacturers of the time. His company continued to grow as Renault began winning road races, including the Paris-Berlin, and the Paris-Vienna…….110 years ago this week, the Four Wheel Drive Auto Company, later the FWD Corporation was founded in Clintoville, Wisconsin, US [26 December 1908]…….The Buick Motor Company and the Olds Motor works merged under the General Motors corporate heading [28 December 1908]………the following day [29 December 1908], Otto Zachow and William Besserdich of Clintonville, Wisconsin, received a patent for their four-wheel braking system, the prototype of all modern braking systems……… 100 years ago this week, the Camden Motors Corporation of Camden, New Jersey, `US registered its ‘Frontmobile’ trademark [30 December 1908]. The original producer of the Frontmobile, the Safety Motor Company of Grenloch, New Jersey, US, had just abandoned production after two years. The Camden venture was an attempt at continuation by the car’s designer, C. H. Blomstrom, which ended in 1922 without a single car being produced…… on the same day [30 December 1908], Henry Ford resigned as President of the Ford Motor Company…….80 years ago this week, the silent-film star Florence Lawrence committed suicide in Beverly Hills at the age of 52 [28 December 1938]. She is often referred to as “The First Movie Star”, and was the first film actor to be named publicly. At the height of her fame in the 1910s, she was known as “The Biograph Girl”, “The Imp Girl”, and “The Girl of a Thousand Faces”. She appeared in almost 300 films for various motion picture companies. Florence Lawrence was the first film player whose name was used to promote her films and the studio (Independent Moving Pictures Company [IMP]) for which she worked. Before her, actors and actresses worked anonymously, partly out of fear that stage managers would refuse to hire them if they were found to be working in films and partly because movie executives didn’t want to put much money into the production of these short, practically disposable films, and didn’t want their players to become well known and start demanding higher salaries. Lawrence was also an inventor: she designed the first ‘auto signalling arm’, a mechanical turn signal, along with the first mechanical brake signal. Unfortunately she did not patent these inventions and as a result received no credit for or profit from either one…….60 years ago this week, Colin Chapman met Jim Clark for the first time during a race meeting at Brands Hatch, England. Chapman won with Clark second, both driving Lotus Elises [26 December 1958]……Edward S. (Ned) Jordan (77), American entrepreneur, automotive industrialist and pioneer in evocative advertising copy, died [29 December 1958]. He is most remembered as a pioneer in evocative advertising copy, which he wrote and used to advertise the automobiles produced by the Jordan Motor Car Company of Cleveland. Jordan’s June 1923 advertisement for the company’s Somewhere West of Laramie for the Jordan Playboy, is considered a breakthrough in the art of writing advertising copy: “SOMEWHERE west of Laramie there’s a bronco-busting girl who knows what I’m talking about. “She can tell what a sassy pony, that’s a cross between greased lighting and the place where it hits, can do with eleven hundred pounds of steel and action when he’s going high, wide and handsome. “The truth is – the Playboy was built for her. “Built for the lass whose face is brown with the sun when the day is done of revel and romp and race. “She loves the cross of the wild and the tame. “There’s a savor of links about that car – of laughter and lilt and light – a hint of old loves – and saddle and quirt. It’s a brawny thing – yet a graceful thing for the sweep o’ the Avenue. “Step into the Playboy when the hour grows dull with things gone dead and stale. “Then start for the land of real living with the spirit of the lass who rides, lean and rangy, into the red horizon of a Wyoming twilight”……..40 years ago this week, the first Paris-Dakar Rally began [26 December 1978]. 182 vehicles (80 cars, 90 motorcycles and 12 trucks) turned up in the Place du Trocadéro in Paris for a 10,000-kilometre (6,214-mile) journey into the unknown, destination Dakar. The encounter between two worlds sought by the event’s founder, French motorcyclist Thierry Sabine, unfolded on the African continent. Among the 74 trail-blazers who made it to the Senegalese capital, Cyril Neveu, at the helm of a Yamaha 500XT, would be the first winner of what would go on to be called ‘the greatest rally in the world’. Did you know that in 1979 all the vehicles that took part were classified together, although they would compete separately in subsequent editions of the race and that Cyril Neveu won the rally despite not winning any individual stages, taking the lead on the sixth stage after Patrick Schaal (Yamaha) fell and fractured his little finger…….30 years ago this week, Mike Beuttler (48), British Formula One

driver who raced privately entered March cars, died of complications resulting from AIDS [29 December 1988]. He was a talented Formula Three graduate from the late 1960s, who then graduated to Formula Two and then to Formula One in 1971. The finance for the team came from a group of stockbroker friends from whom the team took its name – at first Clarke-Mordaunt-Guthrie Racing, and in 1973 it became Clarke-Mordaunt-Guthrie-Durlacher Racing. He raced on one occasion, at the 1971 Canadian Grand Prix, for the works March team. Beuttler’s best result was a seventh place in the 1973 Spanish Grand Prix……… Takeo Fujisawa (78), Japanese businessman who co-founded Honda Motor Co., Ltd. alongside Soichiro Honda, died of a heart attack [30 December 1988]. Fujisawa oversaw the financial side of the company while Honda handled the engineering and product development. Together, they took the company from a small manufacturer of bicycle engines to a worldwide car manufacturer.

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