25 May-31 May: Motoring Milestones

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

150 years ao this week, Professor Edward Joseph De Smedt of the American Asphalt Pavement Company, New York City, received two patents for his invention known as “French asphalt pavement.” De Smedt had invented the first practical version of sheet asphalt [31 May 1870]. On July 29 of the same year, the first road pavement of sheet asphalt was laid on William Street in Newark, New Jersey……..120 years ago this week, Frederick A. LaRoche registered ‘Multimobil’ as a trademark. He was the head of the American Darracq Automobile Company of New York City, importers of this French marque [28 May 1900]…….90 years ago this week, at the sixth Rome Grand Prix there were five Alfa Romeos, four Maseratis, four Bugattis, one Talbot and one Mercedes-Benz [25 May 1930]. From the 15 cars at the start, 10 were still racing at the end. It began with a battle between Arcangeli in the new 2500 Maserati and Chiron’s Bugatti. After the Frenchman retired on lap three, Varzi with the Alfa Romeo took over the chase, only to retire after a few laps. That left Nuvolari with the second works Alfa Romeo to go after Arcangeli, taking the lead from him on lap seven. The battle between Nuvolari and Arcangeli kept the crowd on their toes, and lasted until lap 16, when the Alfa’s engine lost power. Chiron, who had taken over Bouriat’s Bugatti on lap five, had to overcome a 55 seconds deficit to the leader, which Chiron reduced consistently and eventually caught up with the leading Arcangeli. During the last two laps, the battle between the two kept the large crowd in great suspense. Chiron briefly took the lead on the last lap but Arcangeli fought back and won by 1.8 seconds in front of the cheering crowd. The German von Morgen (Bugatti) finished third, ahead of Biondetti (Talbot), Campari (Alfa Romeo), Caflisch (Mercedes-Benz), Tadini (Alfa Romeo) and Renzi (Bugatti) in eighth place. Nuvolari retired, as did Fagioli who held third place for many laps…..The 77-story art deco Chrysler Building in New York City opened as the world’s tallest building (1,048 ft, 319 m) [27 May 1930]. It was the headquarters of the Chrysler Corporation from 1930 until the mid-1950s. Although the building was built and designed specifically for the car manufacturer, the corporation did not pay for the construction of it and never owned it, as Walter P. Chrysler decided to pay for it himself, so that his children could inherit it…….The 7,000,000th Chevrolet was produced, a 1930 2-door Coach [28 May 1930]…….. Billy Arnold took the lead on lap three at the Indianapolis 500 and was never headed again. Arnold’s 198 laps in the lead has never been bettered [30 May 1930]…… Ralph DePalma led the Indianapolis 500 by 2 laps with 13 to go when his engine caught fire [31 May 1920]. Gaston Chevrolet, brother to Chevrolet company founder Louis, took the lead and won. DePalma finished 5th. Seven months later, Chevrolet was killed during a race at Beverly Hills, becoming the first winner of the ‘500’ to die……..80 years ago this week, Wilbur Shaw (cover image) sets up a commanding lead at Indianapolis 500 until rain bought out the caution for the last 50 laps and guided Shaw to his third victory, and the first by a driver in consecutive years [30 May 1940]…… 70 years ago this week, the Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel, known as the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, a toll road in New York City which crosses under the East River at its mouth, connecting the Borough of Brooklyn on Long Island

with the Borough of Manhattan, officially opened [25 May 1950]. The tunnel nearly passes underneath Governors Island, but does not provide vehicular access to the island. It consists of twin tubes, carrying four traffic lanes, and at 9,117 feet (2,779 m) is the longest continuous underwater vehicular tunnel in North America. The Battery in the tunnel’s name refers to the southernmost tip of Manhattan, site of an artillery battery during the earliest days of New York City. The tunnel is owned by the City of New York and operated by the MTA Bridges and Tunnels, an affiliate agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It has a total of four ventilation buildings: two in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn, and one on Governors Island that can completely change the air inside the tunnel every 90 seconds. The tunnel was officially named after former New York Governor Hugh Carey in December 2010. In preparation for Hurricane Sandy the tunnel was closed and completely flooded on October 29, 2012, after a severe storm surge. It reopened on November 13 following a cleanup process that included the removal of an estimated 86 million gallons of water. The tunnel was the last New York City river crossing to reopen………on the same day [25 May 1950], tragedy struck the streets of Chicago when 33 people died in what was the greatest public transportation disaster in US history to date. The Chicago Transportation Authority’s fleet of electric streetcars were known as Green Hornets. It was aboard one of these trolleys in which the fates of those who passed away, along with 30 who were gravely injured, were riding when driver Paul Manning ignored or did not see a flagman who was diverting trolleys away from a flooded underpass which made the tracks impassable due to heavy rains the night before. Trolleys moving southbound along 63rd street were being detoured to a turnaround track, meaning there was a switch in the tracks that would send them around a corner. Manning was controlling his Green Hornet, one of the newest in the fleet, at a dangerously high 35 mph when he blew by the flagman. Seconds later the trolley was thrown from its straight course to the diversion track, which also happened to put the train into oncoming traffic. As the trolley went around the bend passengers were thrown from their seats and a moment later it was on course to run head on into a tanker truck with 8,000 gallons of fuel aboard. The imminent collision sent fireballs as high as three stories into the sky and enveloped the neighborhood, causing damage to nearby buildings and cars, luckily nobody in the street was seriously injured. The emergency exits on the trolleys proved insufficient, as there was only one door that could be opened from the inside, which was in the middle of the train car. A 14 year old girl was able to open it before it fused closed, allowing for 30 people to crawl from the wreckage, all with severe burns. The windows all had metal bars across them, making them impossible to exit out of and the other doors were designed to open from the outside only or by a switch at the driver’s control. Both the driver of the trolley and the fuel truck, Mel Wilson, died in the collision, making the investigation difficult to conclude as to why Manning missed the flagman’s signal. Soon after the accident streetcars began to be replaced with buses of which drivers had much more control. The last Green Hornet made its run on June 21…..the UK government announced an end to petrol rationing [26 May 1950]…….. Preston Tucker’s US lawsuit against his former prosecutors was thrown out of court [29 May 1950]. Tucker had been indicted for stock fraud after managing to produce only 53 of his long-awaited Tucker cars. The court case ruined Tucker’s chances of ever releasing the car on a grand scale. Tucker charged the Big Three with trumping up a conspiracy to ground his competitive operation. Eventually all the charges against Tucker were dropped. Hungry to clear his name, Preston Tucker sued his former prosecutors on various grounds related to the destruction of his reputation. It was generally believed that Tucker’s initial acquittal was an act of charity granted to an overly-ambitious, failed entrepreneur. Tucker’s case was dismissed after little consideration. It was Preston Tucker’s last-gasp effort to save his name, and it failed. His reputation has fared far better in recent years with the help of the Hollywood movie Tucker: The Man and His Dream, starring Jeff Bridges, that portrays Tucker as a visionary in a practical age……The fifth race of the 1950 NASCAR season was run at Canfield Speedway in Canfield, Ohio, US [30 May 1950]. The event was staged on the same day as the Indianapolis 500 — hence the title of the “Poor Man’s 500”. Jimmy Florian won the pole. Bill Rexford of Conewango Valley, New York, stalked Curtis Turner for over half the race, then took command to win the 100-mile race. Rexford took the lead in the 121st lap and went on to beat runner-up Glenn Dunnaway by two laps. Lloyd Moore finished third and took the lead in the Grand National point standings by 36.5 points over Tim Flock, who finished ninth. Lee Petty crossed the finish line in fourth place and Bill Blair took fifth. The promoters did pay some lap money, with $5 going to the leader of each lap from the 101st through the 200th. Rexford’s earnings came to $1,400 with the lap money. Turner led the first 120 laps before his engine went sour. He departed after 133 laps and wound up 19th. A crowd of 11,000 showed up on Memorial Day and watched Al Gross, former stunt car driver for the Jimmy Lynch Thrill Show, flip his Oldsmobile in the ninth lap. Gross suffered a broken back and was taken to the hospital for an extended stay. Frank Canale posted the second-fastest qualifying time but overheating problems forced him out after 74 laps. Joe Merola was on hand with a new radically designed 1948 Tucker Torpedo, one of the most controversial and advanced automobiles. The car went out before Merola was able to complete a lap…….60 years ago this week, Jaguar Cars Ltd acquired the Daimler Motor Company Ltd of Coventry, England [26 May 1960]…….. Stirling Moss scored his first ever win for Lotus when he won the Monaco Grand Prix driving Rob Walker’s Lotus 18. This was the first Formula One race for Ginther and the first for a mid-engined, Ferrari Grand Prix car, the 246P. Jack Brabham was disqualified on lap 41 after officials ruled he was pushed started [29 May 1960]……..50 yeas ago this week, the 1970 London-Mexico World Cup Rally, the first of two World Cup Rallies to be held and the second of four marathon rallies to be held in a nine-year period

beginning with the 1968 London-Sydney Marathon, ended [27 May 1970]. The motor rally started at Wembley Stadium in London on 19 April 1970 and finished in Mexico City, covering approximately 16,000 miles (25,750 km) through Europe and South America. It was won by Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm, driving a Ford Escort……..Al Unser won his first Indianapolis 500 driving the Johnny Lightning Special [30 May 1970]. It was the first Indy 500 with a million dollar purse. Stock car racer Donnie Allison was named Indy Rookie of the Year after finishing fourth…….Bobby Isaac rolled to victory in the rain-shortened Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway (US), leading 223 of the 377 laps [31 May 1970]. Bobby Allison finished second under caution in a 1-2 sweep by Dodges. Cale Yarborough finished third, one lap down in the Wood Brothers Mercury……..30 years ago this week, the 48th Monaco Grand Prix held over 78 laps of the three kilometre circuit for a race distance of 259 kilometres was won by defending race champion Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna, who led every lap of the race driving a McLaren MP4/5B [27 May 1990]. Like his previous win in the US, Senna’s rival for the race was the unexpected form of young French driver Jean Alesi driving a Tyrrell 019. Senna held a one second gap over Alesi at the finish. It was Senna’s third win at the Monaco Grand Prix. The only other driver to complete full race distance was Senna’s Austrian team mate Gerhard Berger………The longest recorded wheelie (5 hours 12 minutes 33 seconds was made by David Robilliard in the Channel Islands [28 May 1990], the longest recorded wheelie (5 hours 12 minutes 33 seconds was made by David Robilliard in the Channel Islands and on the same day [28 May 1990],  the ‘Father of Lean Manufacturing’, Taiichi Ohno (78), died. He devised the seven wastes (or muda in Japanese) as part of this system and wrote several books about the system, including Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production……..20 years ago this week, the US government proposed a rating system telling consumers how prone vehicles are to rolling over [25 May 2000]……. Juan Pablo Montoya dominated the Indianapolis 500 by leading 167 of the 200 laps and winning for Chip Ganassi Racing [28 May 2000]. He was the first rookie to win the coveted event since Graham Hill did it in 1966……The longest parade of Rolls-Royce cars on a public highway took place, when 420 took part in a 2-mile procession on the A55 outside Chester in Cheshire [28 May 2000]…… The first six second Pro Stock run took place at the Santa Pod Raceway in Northamptonshire, England [29 May 2000].


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