28 June – 4 July: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, the Coppa Italia run over 4 laps of the 75 km circuit at Padua was won by Guido Adami driving a Panhard 16 hp [30 June 1901]…….110 years ago this week, Ettore Bugatti was issued a German patent for the ‘pursang’ trademark. Bugatti was a horseman, so he used this term meaning pure-blooded, to represent his cars with their horseshoe shaped radiators [29 June 1911]. Many vintage Bugattis are considered to be among the most beautiful cars ever built……Charles Kettering announced his invention of the self-starter for automobiles [1 July 1911]. Early automobiles required a hand crank for starting. Occasionally, when the spark lever was not properly set, the hand crank kicked back, causing serious injury: a broken wrist, arm, or shoulder. On a winter night in 1908, the result was much worse. Byron Carter, founder of Cartercar, came across a stalled motorist on Belle Isle in the middle of the Detroit River. He gallantly offered to crank the car for the stranded driver. When she forgot to retard the spark, the crank kicked and broke Carter’s jaw. Complications developed, and Carter later died of pneumonia. When Cadillac chief, Henry M. Leland, heard the news, he was distraught. Byron Carter was a friend; the car that kicked back was a Cadillac. “The Cadillac car will kill no more men if we can help it,” he told his staff. Leland’s engineers were able to build an electric self-starter, but the device was not small enough to be practical. He called Charles Kettering. The engineers at Delco worked around the clock to get the job done by the February 1911 deadline. Kettering later described their work thus: They didn’t have a job so much as the job had them. Kettering’s key insight lay in devising an electrical system that performed the three purposes it continues to serve in modern cars: starter and, as generator, producer of spark for ignition as well as current for lighting. Leland approved their product for his 1912 model and placed an order for 12,000 self-starters. Delco, the research and development outfit, had to quickly learn the business of production. Kettering’s self-starter won a Dewar Trophy in 1913…….100 years ago this week, H. Le Vack on an Indian, won the 500-mile motorcycle race at Brooklands in England [2 July 1921]…….90 years ago this week, legendary moonshiner (bootlegger) in the rural South who became one of the early superstars of NASCAR in the 1950s and 1960s, Junior Johnson was born in Wilkes County, North Carolina [28 June 1931]. He won 50 NASCAR races in his career before retiring in 1966. In the 1970s and 1980s he became a highly successful NASCAR racing team owner…….The first Canadian-built Graham Prosperity Six was produced [1 July 1931]…….80 years ago this week, legendary German driver Walter Bäumer died in a freak accident on the road between Herford and his hometown Bünde at an age of 32 [29 June 1941]. Bäumer was being kissed by a female passenger when the car door opened in a corner and Bäumer fell out on a field, receiving fatal wounds in his neck from a sharp wooden object……Australian adventurer, Francis Edwin Birtles (61), who set many long-distance cycling and driving records, including becoming in 1927 the first man to drive a car from England to Australia, died [1 July 1941]……70 years ago this week, round 4 four of the 1951 World Drivers’ Championship, the French Grand Prix was won by Juan Manuel Fangio and Luigi Fagioli driving an Alfa Romeo 159 [1 July 1951]. It was the first of three occasions where two drivers would be credited with a Grand Prix win after sharing a car…….60 years ago this week, learner riders in Britain were restricted to machines of 250 cc capacity, to try to reduce motorcyclist fatality figures [1 July 1961]…… Giancarlo Baghetti won the French Grand Prix for Ferrari at Reims, the only driver to win their first Grand Prix [2 July 1961]. The DeTomaso made its Formula 1 debut ay the Grand Prix, but the Type F2/001 driven by Georgio Scarlatti retired with engine failure…….50 years ago this week, the Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania staged the first event on its 2.5 mile circuit, a 500 mile USAC Championship Race that was won by Mark Donohue driving the Sunoco McLaren-Offy Special [3 July 1971]……..20 years ago this week, the last Plymouth automobile, a silver Neon, rolled off the assembly line [28 June 2001]. Plymouth was introduced in 1928 as Chrysler Corporation’s entry-level car. At this time, the low-priced field was dominated by Ford and Chevrolet. While Plymouth was priced higher than Ford and Chevrolet, the Plymouth offered some standard features not available on the competition, such as external expanding hydraulic brakes. In the beginning, Plymouth was sold exclusively through Chrysler dealerships. With regard to the name Plymouth, the official story goes: “Product of Chrysler engineering and craftsmanship, Plymouth has been so named because its endurance and strength, ruggedness and freedom from limitations so accurately typify that Pilgrim band who were the first American Colonists.” The real story is somewhat different. When Walter Chrysler decided to get involved in the low-priced car field in 1926, everybody knew that Ford and Chevrolet dominated this market and thus any new car entering the market would have a struggle. While every farmer by this time had to have a car and most were buying Fords, every farmer had heard of Plymouth Binder Twine. By naming the new car Plymouth, Chrysler took advantage of a well-known and trusted name. In spite of the competition, during its first year of production (actually only six months) became fifteenth in terms of production and by 1931 it had become the third best-selling vehicle in America. In 1930, Chrysler expanded its distribution of Plymouths to all three Chrysler divisions (Chrysler, DeSoto, and Dodge). By the 1950s, Plymouth had a reputation for engineering, affordability, and durability. In 1957, Plymouth reached its production peak. By the 1960s, Plymouth rapidly lost market share and lost its third place standing to Pontiac. Between 1971 and 1974, Plymouth briefly reclaimed its third place status, but in the 1980s its popularity continued to fall. By 2001, Plymouth only had one model, the Neon, and the last Plymouth was assembled in June 2001…… Contested over 72 laps, the French Grand Prix at Magny Cours was won by Michael Schumacher driving a Ferrari car, from a second position start [1 July 2001]. Ralf Schumacher finished second for the Williams team with Rubens Barrichello third in the other Ferrari.

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