28 September – 4 October: Motoring Milestones

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

110 years ago this week, the Vanderbilt Cup was won by Harry Grant in an ALCO-6 [1 October 1910]. The race was held at the Long Island Motor Parkway, the first US roadway designed for motor vehicle use. Privately built by William Kissam Vanderbilt with overpasses and bridges to remove intersections, it opened in 1908 as a toll road and closed in 1938 when it was taken over by the state of New York in lieu of back taxes. Parts of the parkway survive today in sections of other roadways and as a bicycle trail in Queens, New York……. 90 years ago this week, the first Czechoslovakian Grand Prix run over the 18 mile Masaryk Circuit at Brno [28 September 1930]. The winning Bugatti T35B was shared by Hermann zu Leiningen and Heinrich-Joachim von Morgen (62.78 mph)…….80 years ago this week, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, America’s first example of a toll superhighway, officially opened for service [1 October 1930]……70 years ago this week, the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation officially introduced the Henry J as a new marque [28 September 1950]. Named after its chairman, Henry J. Kaiser, production of six-cylinder models began in July 1950, and four-cylinder production started shortly after Labor Day, 1950. The car was marketed through 1954. The Henry J was the idea of Henry J. Kaiser, who sought to increase sales of his Kaiser automotive line by adding a car that could be built inexpensively and thus affordable for the average American in the same vein that Henry Ford produced the Model T. The goal was to attract “less affluent buyers who could only afford a used car” and the attempt became a pioneering American compact car. To finance the project, the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation received a federal government loan in 1949. This financing specified various particulars of the vehicle. Kaiser-Frazer would commit to design a vehicle that in its base form retailed (including federal tax and retail delivery preparation charge) for no more than $1,300.00 (US$12,786 in 2016 dollars). It was to seat at least five adults, be capable of going at least 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) for sustained periods of time, and available for retail sale no later than September 30, 1950. To accomplish this, the Henry J was designed to carry the fewest possible components, and built from the fewest number of parts. To save body stamping costs, early Henry Js did not have rear trunk lids; owners had to access the trunk by folding down the rear seat. Another cost-saving measure was to offer the car only as a two-door sedan with fixed rear windows. Also lacking in the basic version were glove compartment, armrests, passenger-side inside sun visor and flow-through ventilation. Power for the Henry J was delivered by a 134.2 cu in (2.2 L) four-cylinder 68 hp (51 kW; 69 PS) engine. Later models were available with a 161 cu in (2.6 L) L-head six-cylinder engine producing 80 hp (60 kW; 81 PS) .[6] The engines were supplied by Willys-Overland; the four-cylinder engine was the same engine used in the CJ-3A series Jeeps, with only slight modifications to component parts; the block and internal components were interchangeable with the CJ-3A engine. The Henry J production provided a substantial revenue source for Willys-Overland. This standard engine could achieve up to 35 mpg-US (6.7 L/100 km; 42 mpg-imp) when driven conservatively. Before the Henry J was released to the market, the first production models were taken to Arkansas and driven over roads that experts computed that each 100 miles (161 km) of the roughest roads would equal 5,000 miles (8,047 km) of normal driving.Kaiser’s effort to boost sales in the low-priced market segment by adding a small car to its product offer came at a time when consumers were demanding big cars. With the acquisition of Willys-Overland’s vehicle operations in early 1953 by the Kaiser Manufacturing Company division of Kaiser-Frazer (the division changed its name at that time to Willys Motors, Incorporated), management decided to discontinue the car at the end of the 1953 model year. Kaiser also leased the Willow Run factory to General Motors (a fire had destroyed its automatic transmission plant in Livonia) and Kaiser’s vehicle assembly was consolidated at Jeep’s Toledo Complex. However, production of the Henry J was not moved from Michigan to the Ohio factory. Instead, the Willys Aero was a similar vehicle that continued to be made in Toledo. Efforts to sell off remaining vehicles resulted in an abbreviated run of Henry J automobiles as 1954 models that used up leftover or incomplete 1953 cars. They can be distinguished from the 1953 version only by their “54” prefix in the serial number……NASCAR promoted a 25-mile, nonpoints race for NASCAR Grand National cars at the 1/4-mile Civic Stadium in Buffalo, New York, US. Won by Bobby Courtwright, the race was the “pilot” event for the upcoming NASCAR Short Track Grand National Circuit [30 September 1950]…… 60 years ago this week, the Ford Econoline series, including van, pickup and station wagon bus, was introduced [29 September 1960]. Though the E-Series has been its own unique platform since 1968, it uses many components from the F-Series line of pickup trucks. The Econoline is manufactured solely at Ford’s Ohio Assembly plant in Avon Lake, Ohio—after the closure of the Lorain, Ohio plant in December 2005 and the consolidation of all production at Avon Lake. As of 2012, the E-Series and the Transit Connect compact MPV (which debuted for the 2010 model year) are the only vans in the Ford lineup in North America. Since 1980, E-Series has been the best selling American full-sized van, and held 79.6% of the full-size van market in the United States in 2007, with 168,722 vehicles sold. Ninety-five percent of van sales are to commercial or fleet-end users; about half are cargo vans. The E-Series cargo area features a double-wall design which leaves the exterior sheet metal less vulnerable to damage from shifting cargo…….. It was announced that the new Rootes car would be called Hillman ‘Imp’ [30 September 1960]. Being a direct competitor to the BMC’s Mini, it used a space-saving rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout to allow as much luggage and passenger capacity as possible in both the rear and the front of the car. It used a unique opening rear hatch to allow luggage to be put into the back seat rest.In addition to its 875 cc aluminium engine, it was the first mass-produced British car to have an engine in the back and the first car to use a diaphragm spring clutch. The baulk-ring synchromesh unit for the transaxle compensated for the speeds of gear and shaft before engagement, which the Mini had suffered from during its early production years.It incorporated many design features which were uncommon in cars until the late 1970s such as a folding rear bench seat, automatic choke and gauges for temperature, voltage and oil pressure.This unorthodox small/light car was designed for the Rootes Group by Formula One driver Michael Parkes and Tim Fry. It was manufactured at the purpose-built Linwood plant in Scotland. Along with the Hillman marque was a series of variations including an estate car (Husky), a van and a coupé. The Imp gained a reputation as a successful rally car when Rosemary Smith won the Tulip Rally in 1965. This led the Rootes Group to produce a special rally conversion of the Imp under both the Hillman and Singer marques known as the Imp Rallye. In 1966, Rosemary Smith after winning the Coupe des Dames, was disqualified under a controversial ruling regarding the headlamps of her Imp. The Imp was also successful in touring car racing when Bill McGovern won the British Saloon Car Championship in 1970, 1971 and 1972. Arguably, it was considered advanced for the time with its various innovative features and technical advantages over other cars. But reliability problems harmed its reputation, which led to the Rootes Group being taken over by Chrysler Europe in 1967. The Imp continued production until 1976, selling just under half a million units in 13 years…… 50 years ago this week, Richard Petty took the lead from Benny Parsons in the 89th lap at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh and led the rest of the Home State 200, the final race for NASCAR’s premier series on a dirt track [30 September 1970]. Neil “Soapy” Castles finished second, two laps down, with Bobby Isaac five laps back in third. Parsons, who led 78 of 200 laps, finished 14th in the 23-car field after retiring with engine failure at the half-mile track……The Citroën GS, part of a new wave of forward thinking European saloons that rode on a crest of a wave with cars such as the Alfasud and Fiat 128, was introduced in Paris [1 October 1970]. However, as appealing as the GS was to drive, thanks to its supple suspension and willing air cooled flat-fours that could be thrashed all day long, it was a flawed gem, and failed to sell significantly outside of France………Tony Densham, driving the Ford-powered “Commuter” dragster set a British land speed record at Elvington, Yorkshire, averaging 207.6 mph over the Flying Kilometre course. This broke Campbell’s record set 43 years previously [3 October 1970]…….. Jochem Rindt (28), who tragically died the previous month during practice for the Italian Grand Prix when his Lotus 72 went out of control and hit the Armco barrier head on, was posthumously awarded the World Drivers Championship crown [4 October 1970]…….40 years ago this week, Michael Thackwell became the then youngest Grand Prix driver when he took part in the Canadian Grand Prix, aged 19 years 182 days [28 September 1980]… and on the same day…..Dale Earnhardt led the final 13 laps to Martinsville’s Old Dominion 500, (Virginia, US).an event marred by 17 cautions. Earnhardt averaged less than 70 mph in his fifth career NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National win…….The Rolls Royce Silver Sprite was introduced to replace the Silver Shadow [1 October 1980]. It was the first of a new generation of models for the company and formed the basis for the Flying Spur, Silver Dawn, Touring Limousine, Park Ward and apart from branding differences and a different radiator housing also Bentley for the Mulsanne/Eight series. The Spirit was not entirely new – it continued to use the basic design of the Silver Shadow as well as that motor car’s 6.75 L (6750 cc/411 in³) V8 engine and GM sourced THM 400 3-speed automatic transmission. The Spur / Spirit continued the emphasis toward a high degree of ride quality by utilising the self-leveling suspension from the previous model Silver Shadow, though in this application using a Girling automatic hydraulic ride height control system and gas-charged shock absorbers…..30 years ago this week, Martin Donnelly’s short and promising career was ended when he crashed his Lotus in practice for the Spanish Grand Prix, hitting a guard rail at 140 mph with such force that his car disintegrated and he was hurled onto the track still strapped into his seat [28 September 1990]. One witness said everyone assumed he had been killed. It took three minutes for medical aid to reach him and an hour before he was stable enough to be helicoptered to hospital with serious head injuries and broken legs. During a long recovery he suffered kidney failure and was on dialysis for weeks and for a while it looked as though his right leg might have to be amputated. But he recovered, although he never raced seriously again………Mark Martin won the Tyson Holly Farms 400 at North Wilkesboro Speedway, North Carolina (US) and rookie driver Rob Moroso finishes 21st [30 September 1990]. A few hours after the race, Moroso and another motorist were killed in a ­highway accident…… on the same day [30 September 1990] the first of three retirements in the last three races of the season by Ayrton Senna allowed rival Alain Prost to win the Spanish Grand Prix, team-mate Nigel Mansell making it a one-two weekend for Ferrari. Senna’s day ended when the radiator on his McLaren was

punctured by debris from backmarker Yannick Dalmas, allowing Prost to coast home and cut his lead to nine points. The weekend was overshadowed by a serious crash involving Martin Donnolly on the Friday which ended his career……..20 years ago this week, Ferrari introduced a convertible version of the 550 at the Paris Motor Show in 2000 [30 September 2000]. This Barchetta was a true roadster with no real convertible top provided. The factory did provide a soft top, but it was intended only for temporary use as it was cautioned against using the top above 70 mph. A total of 448 Barchettas were produced, four more than initially planned due to concerns of superstition in the Japanese market. The 448 cars were preceded by 10 prototypes numbered P01-P10 on their interior plaques. To an observer the prototypes and production cars are indistinguishable.

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