25-31 December: Motoring MIlestones

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

110 years ago this week, the 10,000th Ford automobile was produced [29 December 1907]……. 90 years ago this week, the Paige-Detroit Motor Car Company was reorganised as the Graham-Paige Motors Corporation [27 December 1929]. The company’s initial offering included a line of Graham-Paige cars with six- and eight-cylinder engines. For a while a line of light trucks was offered under the Paige name, soon discontinued when Dodge reminded the Grahams about the non-competition agreement they had signed as part of the sale of the Graham Brothers Company. Grahams earned a reputation for quality and sales quickly rose. Graham also had some success in racing, which helped boost sales. The Graham company logo included profiles of the three brothers and was used in insignia on the cars including badges and taillight lens. Graham-Paige made most of their own bodies and engines. The Graham brothers had solved a long-standing Paige body supply dilemma by purchasing the Wayne Body Company in Wayne, Michigan and expanding the factory along with other body plants. They did not have a foundry and contracted with Continental for these services relative to their engines. Some models did use Continental stock engines. Graham-Paige’s own engineering department designed most of

the engines used in Graham-Paige cars. The 1938–1940 “Spirit of Motion” cars and Hollywood models are frequently incorrectly stated to use Continental engines. After World War II Continental produced a lesser version of Graham-Paige’s 217-cubic-inch-displacement engine used in the previously mentioned models. These engines were used in the post-war Kaiser and Frazer automobiles. Initially, Graham-Paige withstood the onset of the depression well, but sales fell as the decade wore on. The 1932 models were designed by Amos Northup. This particular design has been noted as the “single most influential design in automotive history.” The new 8-cylinder engine was called the “Blue Streak.” However, the press and public quickly adopted the name “Blue Streak” for the cars themselves. The design introduced a number of innovative ideas. The most copied was the enclosed fenders, thus covering the mud and grime built up on the underside. The radiator cap was moved under the hood, which itself was later modified to cover the cowl, and end at the base of the windshield. For engineering, the rear kickup on the chassis frame was eliminated by the adoption of a ‘banjo’ frame. Unlike contemporary practice, the rear axle was placed through large openings on both sides of the frame, with rubber snubbers to absorb any shock if the car axle should make contact. This in turn permitted a wider body. To help lower the car, the rear springs were mounted on the outer sides of the chassis frame and not under the frame. This idea was eventually copied by other manufacturers – Chrysler, for example, in 1957. For 1934, Graham introduced a crankshaft-driven supercharger. At first offered only in the top eight-cylinder models, when the eights were dropped for 1936, the supercharger was adapted to the six. The unit was designed in-house by Graham Assistant Chief Engineer Floyd F. Kishline. It was an original design, not a Switzer-Cummins or Duesenberg design. Through the years, Graham would produce more supercharged cars than any other automobile manufacturer until Buick surpassed them in the 1990s. By 1935, the “Blue Streak” styling was getting rather dated. A restyling of the front and rear ends for 1935 proved to be a disaster, making the cars appear higher and narrower. Having no money for a new body, Graham signed an agreement with Reo Motor Car Company to purchase car bodies, paying Reo $7.50 in royalties for each Hayes-built body. The engines did have new full water jackets. Graham added new front end styling and revised detailing to these bodies to create the 1936 and 1937 Grahams. Amos Northup of Murray Body was hired to design a new model for 1938, but he died before the design was complete. It is believed the final design was completed by Graham engineers. The new 1938 Graham was introduced with the slogan “Spirit of Motion”. The fenders, wheel openings and grille all appeared to be moving forward. The design was widely praised in the American press and by American designers. It also won the prestigious Concours D’Elegance in Paris, France. Wins were also recorded in the Prix d’Avant-Garde at Lyon, the Prix d’Elegance at Bordeaux, and the Grand Prix d’Honneur at Deauville, France. Its cut-back grille later gained the car the name “sharknose“, which appears to have origins in the 1950s. The styling was a complete flop in sales. The most reliable estimates, from period publications, suggest the total production of all 3 years of these cars is between 6000 and 13,000 units. With this low production Graham limped through 1939 and 1940……. The Dearborn Independent, a newspaper published by Henry Ford, printed its last issue [31 December 1927]. At the peak of its popularity in the mid-1920’s, the paper had about 700,000 readers. Since 1920, Ford had used the paper as a platform for his anti-Semitic ideas, and many of its articles and essays were collected and published in a book called “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem.” It was a bestseller in Germany during the Nazi regime, and remains in print today. Henry Ford was an innovative entrepreneur, but he was also a flagrant and unapologetic bigot: He hated immigrants, thought labor unionists were “the worst thing that ever struck the earth” and made no secret of his belief in “the Jewish plan to control the world, not by territorial acquisition, not by military aggression, not by governmental subjugation, but by control of the machinery of commerce and exchange.” In 1927, a Jewish lawyer and farm cooperative organizer named Aaron Sapiro sued Ford for defamation. In court, Ford refused to take responsibility for the articles that appeared in his newspaper. Instead of testifying, he faked a car accident and hid in a hospital. When the suit ended in a mistrial, all the bad publicity the trial and the newspaper forced Ford to agree to a private settlement with Sapiro. He issued a public ‘apology’ for his newspaper’s years of defamatory

content: “to my great regret,” he wrote, “I have learned that Jews…resent this publication as promoting anti-Semitism”–and at the end of the year he closed down the Independent for good…….. 60 years ago this week, the 2 millionth Volkswagen left the production line in Wolfsburg, Germany. Begun 30 years earlier by the Nazi regime, the German car maker and its economical Beetle overcame their unpleasant pasts and began selling in the United Kingdom and the United States [28 December 1957]……. Hyundai Motor Company was founded in South Korea [29 December 1957]. The company’s first model, the Cortina, was released in cooperation with Ford Motor Company in 1968. Hyundai is currently the fourth largest vehicle manufacturer in the world. Hyundai operates the world’s largest integrated automobile manufacturing facility….. The four-passenger Ford ‘Square Bird’ was first unveiled at a New Year’s Eve party at the exclusive Thunderbird Golf Club in Palm Springs, California, US [31 December 1957]. Although the 1955-57 Thunderbird was a success, Ford executives—particularly Robert McNamara – felt that the car’s position as a two-seater restricted its sales potential. As a

result, the car was redesigned as a four-seater for 1958. The new Thunderbird began a sales momentum previously unseen with the car, selling 200,000 units in three years, four times the result of the two seat model. This success spawned a new market segment, the personal luxury car. It was the first individual model line (as opposed to an entire company) to earn Motor Trend “Car of the Year” honors. It was offered in both hardtop and convertible body styles, although the latter was not introduced until June 1958, five months after the release of the hardtop. The new Thunderbird was considerably larger than the previous generation, with a longer 113.0 inches (2,870 mm) wheelbase to accommodate the new back seat. The increased size also increased the car’s weight significantly by close to 1,000 pounds (454 kg). Along with a new, more rigid unibody construction was new styling, including dual headlights (for a total of four), more prominent tailfins, a bolder chrome grille, and a larger, though non-functional, hood scoop. Powering the Thunderbird was a new, 300 horsepower (220 kW) 352 cu in (5.8 L) FE V8, available with a 3-speed manual or automatic transmissions. In the part of model year 1958 that the car was available, sales were 37,892 units, outselling the previous model year 16,000 units. For 1959, the car received a new grille and a newly optional, 350 horsepower (260 kW) 430 cu in (7.0 L) MEL V8 for 1959, sales climbed even higher to 67,456. For 1960, the Thunderbird was given another new grille and other minor stylistic changes along with a newly optional manually operated sunroof for hardtop models. Dual-unit round taillights from 1958 to 1959 were changed to triple-units after the fashion of the Chevrolet Impala. Customers continued to approve of the car as it broke sales records yet again with 92,843 sold for 1960. Ford went ahead with a redesign for the Thunderbird to debut in 1961……. 40 years ago this week, future World Superbike champion Colin Edwards received his first motorcycle, a Suzuki JR50, as a Christmas present at the age of 3 [25 December 1977]……. 30 years ago this

week, the front-wheel-drive Ford Lincoln Continental was introduced [26 December 1987]…….Manufacturers of all-terrain vehicles agreed to withdraw the three-wheel model from dealers’ inventories, but stopped short of a recall, as demanded by groups who felt the ATV’s were dangerous [30 December 1987]……. 10 years ago this week, on the 40th anniversary of Evel Knievel’s historic crash at the fountains at Caesars Palace in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada, Australian stunt rider Robbie “Maddo” Maddison, jumped more than the distance of an NFL football field [31 December 2007]. At the Rio Hotel and Casino (Las Vegas) Robbie Maddison leapt a world-record 322 feet, seven inches obliterating the previous Guinness World Record of 277 feet by Trigger Gumm. And to make things a little bit more interesting for the elated onlookers, Robbie went back around and hit it again, just because he felt like it.

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