27 September – 2 October: Motoring Milestones

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

 120 years ago this week, compulsory car registration for all vehicles capable of driving over 18mph (29 km/h) took effect throughout France [30 September 1901]. According to the decree, “Each motor vehicle shall bear on a metal plate and in legible writing the name and address of its owner, also the distinctive number used in the application for authorization. This plate shall be placed at the left-hand side of the vehicle – it shall never be hidden.” Early city roads were often chaotic, dirty and noisy, Nine years after France began its registration policy, dividing lines appeared, followed by traffic signs, traffic lights, and one-way streets……110 years ago this week, Ford opened its first an assembly plant outside North America, a former tram factory in Trafford Park, Manchester, England, employing 60 staff to assemble the Ford Model T [1 October 1911]. The need to import parts from the American mid-west must have complicated the assembly process, since the Trafford Park plant (cover image) quickly took to purchasing components on its own account far closer to home. For two years bodies were delivered to the Trafford Park assembly location individually on handcarts from a firm of body builders called Scott Brothers, located down the road. Ford purchased Scott Brothers in 1912. By now, however, Ford in Michigan were beginning to bring together various manufacturing techniques initially at their Piquette Avenue Plant and, after 1910, at their Highland Park factory.[1] By 1912 Ford had in effect invented assembly line auto-production and work went ahead to apply the new techniques at Trafford Park. The new techniques were introduced progressively, but between 1912 and 1913 output doubled from 3,000 to 6,000 cars. In 1912 the British built Model Ts were offered for £175 on the domestic market at a time when Austin a powerful UK based competitor, were offering their smaller slower 10 hp model for £240: finding customers for the Manchester built Fords does not seem to have been a problem. Trafford Park was on schedule to produce 10,000 Fords in 1914 when the outbreak of war intervened. Understanding of mass production techniques advanced considerably between 1914 and 1918, even if the output of the cutting edge technologies was now represented by munitions. Henry Ford took a pacifist line but it appears that the Trafford Park plant remained employed for the production of vehicles, possibly with the emphasis on agricultural tractors. When peace broke out, the Trafford Park plant was extended and output grew rapidly. However, in 1919, following several policy disputes, Perry left the company and Ford in Dearborn applied a more direct approach to UK manufacturing. By the early 1920s, the view was taken that the Trafford Park factory was reaching its limits: in 1924 Henry Ford sent over a senior representative to identify and purchase a suitable site for a larger plant, and later that year a site was acquired at Dagenham, although Ford UK production continued to be concentrated at Trafford Park until the Dagenham plant became operational in 1931. By this time Perry had been lured back, appointed chairman of the newly formed British Ford Motor Company Limited in 1928. The final car produced at Trafford Park emerged in October 1931: in the same month the first vehicle emerged from the new Dagenham facility……90 years ago this week, Oxford Street’s new traffic lights in London were reported to speed up evening rush-hour traffic by 90 per cent and on the same day [1 October 1931], production began at Ford’s Dagenham Plant in east London, then Europe’s largest factory. The first vehicle to roll off the production line was a Model AA truck……..80 years ago this week, the 25th “Salon de l’Automobile” in Paris opened to the public, with 39 French automobile makers and 37 non-French automobile makers exhibiting [30 September 1931]. Benz AG presented the 170 (W15) model, its innovations included independent suspension front and rear……..60 years ago this week, Rex White passed pole-sitter Junior Johnson just past halfway to win the Wilkes 200 at North Wilkesboro (North Carolina, US) Speedway [1 October 1961]. White, a 28-time winner and the 1960 champion in NASCAR’s premier series, led the final 81 laps on the .625-mile asphalt track, outrunning second-place Fireball Roberts by a full lap at the finish. Richard Petty finished third with Johnson fourth…..40 years ago this week, the A1 Grand Prix of Nations, Brands Hatch, Great Britain was held, the first full racing event in A1GP’s history [27 September 1981]. A1 Team Brazil’s Nelson Piquet Jr took the double, winning both the ‘Sprint’ and the ‘Feature’ races……30 years ago this week, Nigel Mansell won the Spanish Grand Prix despite twisting his ankle days before the event playing football [29 September 1991]. It was the first race to be held at the Circuit de Catalunya outside Barcelona and is still widely regarded to be the best. At the start he fell back to fourth in damp conditions but quickly moved back up the field as the circuit dried and cars pitted for slick tyres.

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