27 April – 3 May: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, L Gastè riding a Perfecta 6 hp tricycle won the 48 km road race between Turin and Asti in a time of 52 minutes 2 seconds [28 April 1900]…….100 years ago this week, Tommy Milton, driving a 16-cylinder Duesenberg-Milton Special at Daytona Beach, Florida established an unofficial land speed record [27 April 1920]. As Milton rocketed along the sand his car caught fire. Perhaps the extreme heat generated by the twin engines (especially the exhaust of the left engine) ignited fuel and oil that had pooled on the undertray. Heat and fumes traveled through the hollow steering column situated between the two engines and blew into Milton’s face. With the burns of his Uniontown fire still healing, Milton knew his situation was not a good one. He pressed on to finish the run but thought about driving the car into the ocean to extinguish the flames. Fortunately, that was not necessary. Milton and onlookers were able to put out the fire out using sand once he came to a stop at the end of the course. Milton’s speed on that run was recorded at 156.046 mph (251.131 km/h). Milton suffered burns and impaired vision and again needed time to recover. The Duesenberg LSR car was in need of repair, and the period of good weather was over. It was time to leave the beach. Because Milton’s record run was only one way, it would not be an officially recognized international record. However, the 156.046 mph (251.131 km/h) speed would stand as a United States record, and the speed would not be surpassed internationally until 1926……..The first Studebaker Light Six was produced [30 April 1920]…….90 years ago this week, Jean de Maleplane in a Bugatti T35C won the Oran Grand Prix held at Arcole, France [27 April 1930]…….. 80 years ago this week, despite a suspension of the Mille Miglia by Mussolini due to the fatal accident in 1938 that resulted in the death of 10 spectators a smaller version of the event, officially called the Gran Premio di Brescia was held over a triangular course with Brescia, Mantua and Cremona at its apexes [28 April 1940]. The race entailed nine laps over the 104 mile circuit. Enzo Ferrari having left Alfa Romeo was preparing cars of his own based upon engines and chassis of the 1100 Fiat. The Auto Avio Costruzioni 815 was the first Ferrari car that was fully designed and built by Enzo Ferrari. Bound by contracts after leaving Alfa Romeo, however, Ferrari was not allowed to call this car a Ferrari. Instead he set up shop under the name AAC (Auto Avio Costruzioni), and strictly speaking the car was named AAC tipo 815. It was named this because it had an eight cylinder, 1.5 L engine. Using the same facilities as his earlier Scuderia, Ferrari hired well-known technicians Luigi Bazzi and Federico Giberti, and engineers Vittorio Bellentani and Gioachino Colombo. Huschke von HansteinFerrari then put in charge of the project Alberto Massimino, a talented 45-year-old engineer who had moved to Modena to work on the Alfa 158 racecar. Increasing border tensions throughout Europe were causing severe materials shortages, so Ferrari had his men use a Fiat 508 C as their starting point. Fiat had made a handful of these mainstream sedans into endurance racers, so Ferrari’s team reinforced the chassis but left untouched the brakes, transmission, steering, and front suspension. For the engine Ferrari took two 508 C 1100cc four-cylinder engines, reduced the bore and stroke, cast a new block and cylinder heads, and joined the two engines together. The result was an inline 1496cc 8-cylinder that produced 72 horsepower at 5500 rpm.The two 815s were to be driven by Lotario Rangoni and the son of Antonio Ascari, Alberto. One dominated its class and ran as high as 10th overall late in the race. Both had to retire with mechanical failures, causing Ferrari to note a bit harshly, “The experiment that started so brilliantly ended in failure, largely because the car had been built too hastily.” 1940 Mille MigliaAlfa Romeo entered a team of 4 2.5-litre roadsters and were thought to be prohibitive favorites some pre-race experts pointed to one of the five car German BMW team as potential winners. Headed by Huschke von Hanstein the cars were both light and fast. The 328 became world famous after a special low drag and light weight touring ‘Superleggera’ coupe finished fifth overall during the 1939 24 Hours of Le Mans, convincingly winning the two-litre class in the process. One of the BMW 328s entered in the Mille Miglia was a limousine-bodied car that was tailored for racing and given aerodynamic features courtesy of Professor Wunibald Kamm. Kamm is best known for his breakthroughs in reducing car turbulence at high speeds; the style of car bodywork based on his research has come to be known as the Kamm-effect, Kammback or Kamm-tail. It is a car design characterized by a long, tapering roof and an abrupt, cut-off tail. Two Delages were entered but the French government there refused to allow any of their citizens to enter as drivers and the cars were handed to Italians Piero Taruffi and Gianfranco Comotti. Mechanical troubles forced both cars to retire. The lead Alfa driven by Farina was able to work its way up to 2nd but could reach no higher. The spectators who were there that day saw the German team finish first, third, fifth and sixth with von Hanstein taking the top laurels. This would be the last major race on the continent before it became fully engulfed in the war………Ford offered two-tone paint schemes as an option for the first time [3 May 1940]……..70 years ago this week, the Paris Grand Prix, a Non-Championship Formula One motor race was held at the Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry. It was the fourth race of the 1950 Formula One season. Contested over 50 laps, the race was won by Talbot-Lago driver Georges Grignard, who finished four laps ahead of Louis Gérard, who finished second in a Delage, with Marc Versini third, also in a Delage. These were the only three finishers……..60 years ago this week, the first Nissan Cedric, the ’30’ series, was unveiled [30 April 1960]. Produced until 1962, it was available only at Japanese Nissan dealerships called Nissan Bluebird Store. It was the first product labeled as a Nissan, but shared mechanicals with Datsun products built at the time. Several models were available, including the Cedric 1500 DeLuxe and Standard (30), Cedric 1900 Deluxe (D30, powered by the 1.9 L Nissan H engine), Cedric 1900 Custom (G30, also powered by the Nissan H engine), Cedric Van (V30, six-seater) and the Cedric Wagon (WP30, eight-seater). Only the Cedric Standard used a 1.5 L (1,488 cc) G-series I4 engine which produced 70 hp (52 kW). The 1.9 L (1,883 cc) H-series with 87 hp (65 kW) was optional. A four-speed manual transmission with the top three gears synchronized was standard, with a three-speed manual fitted to 1900 versions. Diesel engines were supplied by newly acquired Minsei Diesel Industries, Ltd, which was renamed Nissan Diesel Motor Co., Ltd in 1960. The Cedric replaced the Austin A50 Nissan was building under license from Austin Motor Company of England, which was called the Nissan Austin. The six-seater Cedric introduced Nissan’s first monocoque body and a wrap-around windshield. The first Cedric featured two stacked headlights on either side of a large grille (inspired by a late 1950s commuter train from Japan, the Tobu JNR 151). The taillights were the same as the Datsun Bluebird 312. and was considered a six-seater. April 1962 saw the introduction of a station wagon–van, able to seat eight people. The twin-stacked headlight approach, which first appeared on large North American and European vehicles in the late 1950s, was a novel approach to suggest size and luxurious accommodations, and was also used on the 1961 Isuzu Bellel and the earlier Mercedes-Benz S-Class of the late 1950s……..50 years ago this week, Richard Petty prevailed as little known independents starred in the NASCAR GN ‘Columbia 200’ on the 1/2 mile dirt Columbia Speedway, South Carolina, US. Petty, driving the Don Robertson Plymouth, started 7th, behind surprisingly strong independents. Wisconsin’s Larry Baumel was on the pole followed by Johnny Halford, Frank Warren and Cecil Gordon……..The National Drag Racing Club (UK) held a one-day meeting on the old aerodrome at Martlesham Heath, Suffolk [3 May 1970]. Amongst those present were Dennis Priddle, Bill Weichelt, John Siggery, Harold Bull, Phil Elson, Brian Gleadow, Tony Dickson and Brian Chapman. Gate receipts at Martlesham were £2319.19s.6d…….40 years ago this week, Darrell Waltrip came back from a penalty to win the NASCAR GN ‘Virginia 500’ at Martinsville Speedway, Virginia, US as a new tire rule wreaked havoc [27 April 1980]. In an effort to cut costs, NASCAR imposed a 2 lap penalty for tire changes under caution. Leader Waltrip pitted before the green fell at the end of the day’s 3rd caution, incurring a 2 lap penalty. The rule stated cars must take the green before pitting. “I just messed up” said Waltrip. Buddy Baker fell from contention after his right front tire went flat during a red for rain. When the race resumed under caution, Baker pitted and received a 2 lap penalty. On lap 342, Bobby Allison’s efforts to stretch his tires ended when he blew a tire and hit the wall…….AMC marked the 25th anniversary of the Nash-Hudson merger with “Silver Anniversary” editions of the AMC Concord and Jeep CJ in two-tone silver (Jeeps then accounted for around 50% of the company’s sales and most of its profits); and introduced “LeCar”, a U.S. version of the small, fuel-efficient Renault 5, in dealer showrooms [1 May 1980]…….. While walking along a quiet California road to a church carnival, 13-year-old Cari Lightner was struck and killed when a car swerves out of control [3 May 1980]. Cari’s tragic death compelled her mother, Candy Lightner, to found the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which became one of the US’s most influential non-profit organisations. When police arrested Clarence Busch, the driver who hit Cari, they found that he had a record of arrests for intoxication, and had in fact been arrested on another hit-and-run drunk-driving charge less than a week earlier. Candy Lightner learned from a policeman that drunk driving was rarely prosecuted harshly, and that Busch was unlikely to spend significant time behind bars. Furious, Lightner decided to take action against what she later called “the only socially accepted form of homicide.” MADD was the result. (Charged with vehicular homicide, Busch eventually served 21 months in jail)……..20 years ago this week, Dave Hill, Chief Engineer of Corvette, unveiled the 2001 Z06 model Corvette, with new 385 HP LS6 engine [30 April 2000]……. The following day, the Ford Motor Company announced the development of a prototype electric Ka, powered by a new generation of lithium-ion batteries [2 May 2000]. The e-Ka had performance similar to a petrol-engine car – 62 mph in 12.7 seconds, a top speed of 80 mph and a range of 95 miles.

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