26 December – 1 January: Motoring Milestones

Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include…safety glass, Naseem Hamed, South African Grand Prix, UAW and Preston Tucker

80 years ago this week, strikes closed seven General Motors (GM) factories in Flint, Michigan, US [30 December 1936]. The giant car maker employed upwards of 200,000 men, and more than one in six of them stopped working during the strike. The United Automobile Workers of America, a labor union, was quarrelling with GM over the right to bargain collectively with manufacturers. The work stoppage was so large that it threatened to force layoffs in the steel, glass, and battery-manufacturing industries, due to reduced demand…… Pat Fairfield won the South African Grand Prix in East London driving an ERA R4A, the first victory for the marque in the hands of a private owner [1 January 1937] ….on the same day [1 January 1937] safety glass in windshields became mandatory in Great Britain. Unlike ordinary glass, safety glass shatters into thousands of tiny pieces when it breaks, instead of large jagged sheets. In early automobile accidents, ordinary glass windows often turned into large, deadly blades. Broken safety glass is relatively harmless. The most common type of safety glass is a sandwich in which a layer of clear, flexible plastic is bonded between two layers of glass. It was first produced in 1909 by French chemist Edouard Benedictus, who used a sheet of clear celluloid between glass layers. Various plastics were tried over the years. In 1936, a plastic called polyvinyl butyral (PVB) was introduced. It was so safe and effective that it soon became the only plastic used in safety windows. The British government was so impressed by the safety record of PVB windows that it required their use by law…… 75 years ago this week, America’s last cars with chrome-plated trim were manufactured [31 December 1941]. Starting in 1942, chrome plating became illegal. It was part of an effort to conserve resources for the American war effort. The chrome wasn’t missed too much. Virtually no cars were produced in the US from 1942 through the end of World War II…… 60 years ago this week, Preston Thomas Tucker, the American car designer and entrepreneur, died at the age of 53 [26

December 1956]. He is best remembered for his Tucker ’48, a vehicle that introduced many features that have since become widely used in modern cars, such as the roll bar, the shatterproof windscreen and fuel injection. Production of the Tucker ’48 was shut down amidst scandal and controversial accusations of stock fraud in March 1949. The 1988 movie Tucker: The Man and His Dream is based on Tucker’s spirit and the saga surrounding the car’s production…… 50 years ago this week, the ‘blanket’ speed limit of 70 mph in Britain came into force, the first time that such legislation had been applied since the 1930s, apart from the 20mph speed limit imposed in blackout hours during World War II [1 January 1967]…… 25 years ago this week, Alexander Sarantos Tremulis (76), auto designer for Cord Automobile, Duesenberg, General Motors, and Ford Motor Company before establishing a consulting firm, died [29 December 1991]….. …… 20 years ago this week, a new driving test category was created for a car with a large trailer (B+E). Licence categories and tests were introduced for Direct Access and small motorcycles [1 January 1997]. A written theory test was introduced for LGV and PCV drivers…… 10 years ago this week, the San Francisco Department of Parking and Traffic in California began a 90-day test run using cameras to scan licence plates in search of cars with unpaid tickets [27 December 2006]. Wheel clamps were immediately attached to all vehicles with five or more outstanding

tickets…..  R&B singer Brandy was involved in a four-car crash that left one woman dead, after the singer failed to slow down and hit the back of another car. Brandy was alone in her car and no alcohol or drugs were involved [30 December 2006] ……The last appearance of the name Rootes was at a garage, still extant in Maidstone, which bore the name. On 1 January 2007, in line with the other 40 dealerships within its business group, the name was changed from Rootes Maidstone, to Robins & Day Maidstone. Robins & Day is wholly owned and operated by Peugeot UK, as opposed to other Peugeot dealers that are operated like many car dealerships, on a franchise basis….. Former world boxing champion Naseem Hamed was stripped of his MBE after served 16 weeks of a 15-month term in 2006 year for seriously injuring Anthony Burgin in the high speed car crash in Sheffield in May 2005 [1 January 2007].

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