26 November – 2 December: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, LaFrance Automobile sponsored the first hill climb run as a separate contest, at Chanteloup, near Paris [27 November 1898]. A little over a mile in length, the climb included several tight bends on a steep gradient. Although held in poor condition owing to heavy rain, only 3 of the 54 competitors failed to climb the hill. Fastest was Belgian Camille Jenatzy’s electric car with a time of 3 minutes 52 seconds……..110 years ago this week, Louis Wagner (cover image) drove his Fiat to victory in the first American Grand Prize race, in Savanah, Georgia (US), finishing less than a minute ahead of Victor Hémery’s Benz [26 November 1908]. Wagner’s average speed for the race was 65.111 mph (104.786 km/h). Ralph de Palma set fastest lap in his Fiat, with an average speed of 69.80 mph (112.33 km/h)…….. The Marinette Automobile Company of Marinette, Wisconsin, US, manufacturers of the Thayer as designed by Harry Thayer, was forced into bankruptcy [1 December 1908]………90 years ago today, according to figures released by the British government, deaths in street accidents in London during the three months of July, August and September came to 309, bring this years’ total to 872, two more every week than in the previous year. A White Paper issued earlier in the year showed that in Great Britain as a whole there were 133,943 road accidents in 1927 and 5,329 deaths. Both figures had increased as they had been every year since 1921. Fatalities averaged out at over 14 people killed every day and 145,575 a year injured………. For his new flagship model, the Model J Duesenberg, E.L. Cord wanted a big and powerful chassis suited for fine coachwork and able to take on the world’s greatest cars, such as Hispano-Suiza and Mercedes-Benz [1 December 1928] With the Fred Duesenberg-designed Model J, his wishes were answered. The new Model J debuted on this date at the New York Auto Show. Following its launch in 1928 – ironically

a year before the great depression – the Model J rapidly became the must have status symbol of the rich and famous. Notable owners included Al Capone, Great Garbo, Howard Hughes, Mae West, Clark Gable, as well as various European royals. It’s easy to see why they liked the car so much, as it featured the most powerful engine available from any US maker – a ‘straight eight’ work of art boasting almost 7.0-litres and making 265bhp. As such, it was both the fastest and most expensive American car of its era, made more so by the fact that it was supplied only as a rolling chassis so customers had to order a bespoke body from the coachbuilder of their choice…….. The 1929 Auburn Series 6-80 and 8-90 were introduced [2 December 1928]. The Auburn Automobile Company grew out of the Eckhart Carriage Company, founded in Auburn, Indiana, US in 1874 by Charles Eckhart. His sons, Frank and Morris, experimented making automobiles before entering the business in earnest, absorbing two other local carmakers and moving into a larger plant in 1909. The enterprise was modestly successful until materials shortages during World War I forced the plant to close. In 1919, the Eckhart brothers sold the company to a group of Chicago investors who revived the business but failed to realise their anticipated profits and in 1924, approached Errett Lobban Cord (1894–1974), a highly successful automobile salesman, with an offer to run the company. Cord countered with an offer to take over completely in what amounted to a leveraged buyout and the Chicago group accepted. Cord aggressively marketed the company’s unsold inventory and completed his buyout before the end of 1925. But styling and engineering failed to overcome the fact that Cord’s vehicles were too expensive for the Depression-era market and Cord’s stock manipulations that would force him to give up control of his car companies. Under injunction from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to refrain from further violations, Cord sold his shares in his automobile holding company. In 1937, production of Auburns, along with that of Cords and Duesenbergs, ended……..80 years ago this week, the Veteran Motor Club of America was founded [2 December 1938]……..70 years ago today, Australian prime minister

Ben Chifley and 1,200 other people attended the unveiling of the first car to be manufactured entirely in Australia – an ivory-colored car officially designated the 48-215, but fondly known as the Holden FX [29 November 1948]. In 1945, the Australian government had invited Australia’s auto-part manufacturers to create an all-Australian car. General Motors-Holden’s Automotive, a car body manufacturer, obliged, producing the 48-215, a six-cylinder, four-door sedan. The 48-215 was an instant success in Australia, and 100,000 Holden FXs were sold in the first five years of production. During the next few decades, General Motors-Holden’s Automotive went on to introduce a number of other successful marquees, including the Torana and the Commodore. Four million Holdens, with their trademark “Lion-and-Stone” emblem, were sold in Australia and exported around the world by the 1980s. In 1994, General Motors-Holden’s Automotive finally adopted Holden as its official company name, and today Holden continues its mission of meeting Australia’s motoring needs……..60 years ago today, the FIA approved flame-proof clothing, a move considered long overdue given the high number of injuries and fatalities in the sport [26 November 1958]. The Avon tire company were at the forefront of the developments, although the initial garments only worked if they were kept dry, so in rain or if washed they had to be treated again to be effective…….50 years ago this week, the Audi 100 was shown to the press

at the Ingolstadt City Theatre, Germany [26 November 1968] Its name originally denoting a power output of 100 PS (74 kW), the Audi 100 was the company’s largest car since the revival of the Audi brand by Volkswagen in 1965. The C1 platform spawned several variants: the Audi 100 two- and four-door saloons, and the Audi 100 Coupé S, a fastback coupé, which bore a resemblance to the Aston Martin DBS released a year earlier, especially at the rear end, including details such as the louvres behind the rear side windows and the shape of the rear light clusters. Audi followed up the introduction of the four-door saloon in November 1968 with a two-door saloon in October 1969 and the 100 Coupé S in autumn 1970. The cars’ 1.8 litre four-cylinder engines originally came in base 100 (80 PS or 59 kW or 79 hp), 100 S (90 PS or 66 kW or 89 hp), and 100 LS (100 PS or 74 kW or 99 hp) versions, while the Coupé was driven by a bored-out 1.9 litre developing 115 PS (85 kW; 113 hp)……….Steppenwolf’s first album, featuring the rock and roll driving hit “Born to Be Wild,” was certified gold with sales in excess of 500,000 copies [27 November 1968]. “Born to Be Wild” demonstrates the ongoing love affair of rock and roll with fast driving, affirmed earlier by such rock artists as Chuck Berry and the Beach Boys, in hits like Berry’s “Maybelline and the Beach Boys’s “Little Deuce Coupe.” In “Born to Be Wild,” which was Steppenwolf’s biggest hit, rough-voiced singer John Kay asked listeners to “get your motor running / head out on the highway / lookin’ for adventure / in whatever comes our way.”………The first official event was staged at Sears Point, in the southern Sonoma Mountains in Sonoma, California (US), an SCCA Enduro [1 December 1968]……..40 years ago today, CART team owners announced that they would run their own races, without USAC sanction [30 November 1978]……..The 14 km long Arlberg Road Tunnel between Langen and St. Anton in Austria was officially opened [1 December 1978]. It carries the S16 Arlberg Schnellstraße (German for “Arlberg Highway”) under the Arlberg massif from Tyrol to Vorarlberg. The tunnel is 1228 m (4,030 feet) above sea level with the road above the tunnel being 1640 m (5,400 feet) elevation. It was built between July 1974 and December 1978 and its costs amounted to 4 billion Austrian schillings (~300 million €). The tunnel is designed for 1800 vehicles per hour and equipped with 4 ventilation centres (one shaft with a height of 736 metres is the deepest in Europe), 12 vents, 43 cameras for traffic monitoring and 16 niches. In 1998 the tunnel was used by 2.6 million vehicles, where 18% are accounting for freight transport. The Arlberg Tunnel is a Toll Road with a one-way fee of €9.5 (as of September 2018). Tolls for both directions are collected at the eastern end of the tunnel………. 20 years ago this week, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced plans to host the United States Grand Prix Formula One race at the Speedway starting in 2000 [2 December 1998]. Work began to prepare the track for the race, including the development of a 2.605-mile road course and 36 pit-side garages for the Formula One teams……….10 years ago this week, Bernie Ecclestone unveiled proposals to revamp the Formula One points system by awarding gold, silver and bronze medals for the podium places [26 November 2008]. “It’s going to happen,” he told a press conference in London. “All the teams are happy. The whole reason for this is I am fed up with people talking about there being no overtaking. The reason there is no overtaking is nothing to do with the circuits or the cars – it’s because the drivers don’t need to overtake.” But for once he had not done his homework. Eddie Jordan said Ecclestone was “tinkering with something on which he has lost the understanding” and that was the view of the teams who kicked the idea firmly into touch. Had the scheme been in place then Lewis Hamilton and not Kimi Raikkonen would have been the 2007 champion.

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