28 December 2020 – 3 January 2021: Motoring Milestones

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

220 years ago this week, Charles Goodyear, who patented a process to vulcanize rubber in 1842, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, US [29 December 1800]. Goodyear began his career as a partner in his father’s hardware business, which went bankrupt in 1830. He then became interested in discovering a method of treating india rubber so that it would lose its adhesiveness and susceptibility to extremes of heat and cold. He developed a nitric acid treatment and in 1837 contracted for the manufacture by this process of mailbags for the U.S. government, but the rubber fabric proved useless at high temperatures. For the next few years he worked with Nathaniel M. Hayward (1808–65), a former employee of a rubber factory in Roxbury, Mass., who had discovered that rubber treated with sulfur was not sticky. Goodyear bought Hayward’s process. In 1839 he accidentally dropped some India rubber mixed with sulfur on a hot stove and so discovered vulcanization. He was granted his first patent in 1844 but had to fight numerous infringements in court; the decisive victory did not come until 1852. That year he went to England, where articles made under his patents had been displayed at the International Exhibition of 1851; while there he unsuccessfully attempted to establish factories. He also lost his patent rights there and in France because of technical and legal problems. In France a company that manufactured vulcanized rubber by his process failed, and in December 1855 Goodyear was imprisoned for debt in Paris. Meanwhile, in the United States, his patents continued to be infringed upon. Although his invention made millions for others, at his death he left debts of some $200,000. He wrote an account of his discovery entitled Gum-Elastic and Its Varieties (2 vol.; 1853–55). It was only after his death that Goodyear’s wife and children began to earn enough money from royalties to live well. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, named in his honor at its founding in Akron, Ohio in 1898……..100 years ago this week, Frederick S and August S Duesenberg were issued with a US patent for an internal combustion incorporating their ‘walking beam’ principle [28 December 1920]……. Road car tax discs for obligatory display on windscreens were introduced in Britain [1 January 1921].

They cost £1-per hp. The discs had a vertical ‘expiry’ cross in the background, shadowed by either of four differing lines to note the year at a distance. Available as an annual (dual colour) or three-monthly (differing single colours) tax disc, which expired on 24th March (Spring Equinox), 30th June (Summer Solstice), 30th September (Autumn Equinox) and 31st December (Winter Solstice-or a few days later!). A flat rate road tax of £10 per car introduced in 1948…….. The Studebaker Corporation announced that it would no longer build farm wagons [3 January 1921]. Studebaker began in 1852 as a horse-drawn wagon shop. Over the following years, the company became the world’s single biggest manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages and carts. In 1897, Studebaker began experimenting with the newfangled “horseless carriage.” By 1902, the company had produced several electric automobiles; and by 1904, gasoline-powered motorcars were rolling out of Studebaker factories. Throughout the early twentieth century, Studebaker remained one of the biggest names in the automobile business. In 1954, Studebaker merged with the Packard Motor Car Company. Production of Studebaker automobiles ended in 1963 in the U.S., and in 1966 in Canada……. 90 years ago this week, the Road Traffic Act 1930 came into force in Great Britain, abolishing the 20mph speed limit and set different limits for different classes of vehicle [1 January 1931]. There was no speed limit for vehicles carrying less than seven persons. The Act also introduced traffic policemen, a form of driving test for disabled drivers, set the minimum driving age, proposed a Highway Code and made Third Party Insurance compulsory……… The Marmon Sixteen was introduced at the 31st Annual New York Show [3 January 1931]. Marmon advertised the Sixteen as “The World’s Most Advanced Car,” and not without reason. Beside overhead valves actuated by pushrods from a single camshaft, the engine employed all-aluminum construction that was a triumph of the foundry art. Both the block and crankcase were cast as a single unit, the block actually being a “Y” in section. One dual-throat downdraft carburettor fed the fuel, and a single cast manifold served both cylinder banks. Despite its size, the engine weighed a relatively light 930 pounds fully dressed, some 370 pounds less than Cadillac’s slightly smaller V-16. This contributed to a weight-to-power ratio of just 4.65 pounds per horsepower, an impressive figure for the day, ­likely rivaled only by Duesenberg. Howard’s passion for minimal weight was naturally evident elsewhere. The hood, front and rear splash aprons, running- board aprons, spare-wheel mounts, headlamp and taillamp brackets, and even the fuel-filler pipe were all made of aluminum. Because of this, few cars could approach the Marmon for sheer speed or through-the-gears acceleration. It accelerated faster than even the mighty Duesenberg Model J, though the Duesie had a higher top speed due to the superior breathing of its twin-cam engine. But while the Marmon was certainly pricey, it cost little more than half as much as a Duesenberg chassis. The body design caused as much stir as the engine. This ­wasn’t Howard’s work, but he deserves credit for hiring an industrial designer at a time when that profession was in its infancy. The designer was 47-year-old Walter Dorwin Teague, Sr., though he admitted that his son did all the original ­sketches and drawings, as well as the full-size renderings and some interior concepts, including the unusual aircraft-type instrument panel. W.D. Teague, Jr., then a student at MIT, completed these tasks on weekends and in summer school. Since the name of the youngster’s father carried considerably more prestige, Marmon publicity gave credit to Teague, Sr. Indeed, he handled the contract work with Marmon and translated the concept into production form. With no resemblance to any previous Marmon, the Sixteen looked modern but not radical. A raked Vee’d radiator devoid of ornament or badge led to a hood concealing the water filler. The doors extended down almost to the running boards. The fenders were designed to hide chassis components. Further accenting a low-slung profile were a prominent beltline that ran absolutely straight around the body, a windshield raked to match the radiator, and ultralow rooflines. The Sixteen was touted as a “new concept in fine cars,” with styling and engineering given equal emphasis. All but three of the 390 Sixteens ultimately built carried “standard” bodies built by LeBaron: five sedans, two coupes, and a victoria. The only custom bodies known are two Waterhouse tourers and a very individual victoria built by Hayes to a design by Alexis de Sakhnoffsky. These were likely artifacts of Howard’s plan to offer 32 “regular” custom styles by the likes of Murphy, Waterhouse, and Judkins: town cars, all-weather phaetons, limousines, speedsters, and “sunshine-roof” sedans. Minuscule sales precluded this grand idea ­(announced in September 1931)…….80 years ago this week, California opened its first freeway, the 8 mile Arroyo Seco Parkway (now called the Pasadena Freeway), connecting Pasadena with Los Angeles [30 December 1940]. It is notable not only for being the first, but also for representing the transitional phase between early parkways and modern freeways. It conformed to modern standards when it was built, but is now regarded as a narrow, out-dated roadway…… on the same day, [31 December 1940], Childe Harold Wills (62) an early associate of Henry Ford, one of the first employees of the Ford Motor Company, and a contributor to the design of the Model T, died. After leaving Ford, he began his own ultimately unsuccessful automobile company……… William J Lane (100), one of the three brothers that designed and built the Lane Steam car 1900-1911, died in Poughkeepsie, New York, US [3 January 1941]……70 years ago this week, the inaugural race at the Sebring Raceway in Florida, the 6

hour “Sam Collier Memorial”, was won by the team of Fritz Koster/Ralph Deshon driving a Crosley Hot Shot [31 December 1950]. The results were determined on a handicap basis. The duo completed 288.3 miles at an average speed of 48.05 mph. This race attracted thirty racecars from across North America. Sebring (pronounced “sea bring”) Raceway is one of the oldest continuously operating race tracks in the US……….60 years ago this week, fifty special 1961 Ford Thunderbird convertibles were produced for use in the upcoming inaugural parade of John F Kennedy [30 December 1960]……. The Pat Fairfield Trophy was held at the Roy Hesketh circuit at Pietermaritzburg in South Africa [2 January 2021]. Held over 45 laps of the three kilometres (1.803 miles) permanent road circuit, the Pat Fairfield Trophy was the opening round of the 1961 South African F1 Championship and was won by Bruce Johnstone driving a Cooper-Alfa Romeo T45…….40 years ago this week, the two millionth Fiesta came off Ford’s Cologne (Germany) assembly lines [1 January 1981]……on the same day [1 January 1981], Mauri Rose (74), American racecar driver, winner of the Indianapolis 500 three times during the 1940s and inventor of a device that made it possible for amputees to drive an automobile, died aged 85 years…….20 years ago this week, Alexander Dennis was formed as TransBus International ‪when Mayflower Corporation (owner of Dennis and Alexander) merged with Henlys Group (owner of Plaxton) [2 January 2001].‪ The largest bus and coach manufacturer in the United Kingdom, Alexander Dennis is one of the world’s fastest-growing bus builders, with manufacturing plants and partnerships in Canada, China, Europe, Malaysia, New Zealand and the United States…….. Renault V. I. (including Mack Trucks, but not Renault S. A.’s stake in Irisbus) was sold to Volvo, which they renamed Renault Trucks the following year [2 January 2021]. As a result, the mother company Renault S. A. became AB Volvo’s biggest shareholder, with a 20% stake, shares and voting rights.

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