29 April – 5 May  Motoring Milestones

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

170 years ago this week, Bertha Benz (wife of Karl) was born [3 May 1849]. In August 1888, without her husband’s knowledge, she drove her sons Richard and Eugen in one of Benz’s newly-constructed
‘Patent Motorwagen’ automobiles more than 60 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim, to become the first person to drive an automobile over more than a very short distance. Before this historic event automobile trips were only a few miles long, and were merely trials with mechanical assistants……….120 years ago this week, a car named La Jamais Contente driven by Camille Jenatzy became the first

vehicle to go over 100 km/h (62 mph) at Achères, Yvelines near Paris, France [29 April 1899]. The alloy torpedo–shaped electric vehicle which set a land speed record of 65.79 mph (105.88 k/h) had two direct drive Postel-Vinay 25 kW motors, running at 200 V drawing 124 amps for about 68 hp, and was equipped with Michelin tyres……. The following day [30 April 1899], the first prototype gasoline-powered Stanley Locomobile was completed at the company’s factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut, US and Ettore Bugatti driving a Prinetti & Stucchi won the 90 km Turin-Pinerolo-Avigliani-Turin road race.……….110 years ago this week, the fourth Targa Florio, held at the Grande Circuito delle Madonie over 148.8 km (92.5 mph), was won by Italian Francesco Ciuppa driving a SPA at an average speed of 54.780 km/h (34 mph) [2 May 1909].……..80 years ago this week, the compact Crosley was introduced to the press and dealers by Powel Crosley Jr at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indiana, US [29 April 1939]. Crosley was a small, independent American manufacturer of

subcompact cars, bordering on microcars. At first called the Crosley Corporation and later Crosley Motors Incorporated, the Cincinnati, Ohio firm was active from 1939 to 1952, interrupted by World War II production. Their station wagons were the most popular model, but also offered were sedans, pickups, convertibles, a sports car, and even a tiny jeep-like vehicle. For export, the cars were badged Crosmobile. Crosley introduced several “firsts” in American automotive history, including the first affordable, mass-market car with an overhead camshaft engine in 1946; the first use of the term ‘Sport(s-) Utility’ in 1947, for a 1948 model year convertible wagon; and the first American cars to be fitted with 4-wheel caliper type disc brakes, as well as America’s first post-war sports car, the Hotshot, in the 1949 model year. All of Crosley’s models were lightweight (1,100 to 1,400 pounds (500 to 640 kilograms)) body-on-frame cars with rigid axles front and rear, and engines with less than 1 litre (61 cubic inches) displacement. With exception of the late introduced Hotshot and Farm-O-Road models, the vast majority of all Crosleys were built on an 80 inches (2.03 metres) wheelbase, and with leaf-springs……….The New York World’s Fair, billed as a look at “the world of tomorrow,” officially opened. New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia mandated that the city’s nude dancers cover up during the fair [30 April 1939]. The cover-up evolved into the G-string and later the thong. The General Motors exhibit was titled Futurama. Philo T. Farnsworth premiered his television at the fair. AT&T presented its first Picture Phone at the World’s Fair. Salvador Dali created a pavilion that was called “Dream of Venus” and described as the “funny house of tomorrow.” In 2000 Miles Beller authored “Dream of Venus (Or Living Pictures): A Novel of the 1939 New York world’s Fair.” National Presto Industries introduced the home pressure cooker at the fair………The 6,000,000th Ford V-8 was produced [1 May 1939]……….70 years ago this week, Packard celebrated their 50th Anniversary with a dealer driveaway of 2,000 Gold Packards from the Utica Proving Grounds in Detroit, Michigan, US [3 May 1949]……..60 years ago this week, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company in Oakland California adopted the policy of placing the orange safety cones at left front and the left rear corners of service truck while parked on the street to increase visibility and safety for the workers [1 May 1959]. This policy was implemented as the result of a Cable Splicers suggestion. The Employee Mr. Russell Storch was awarded $45.00 for his suggestion. This policy is still in use today…… on the same day [1 May 1959], Jerry Unser suffered very serious injuries in a crash during a practice session for the Indianapolis 500 [1 May 1959]. He would die from his injuries 15 days later. Jerry was the first of the Unser family to compete at Indianapolis. His brothers Al and Bobby and his nephew Al Jr. have won the “500”. His son Johnny and nephew Robby have also competed in the race……. The following day [2 May 1959], Junior Johnson rolled his Ford in practice, but drove the hastily repaired machine to victory in the 100-mile NASCAR Grand National race at Hickory Speedway, (North Carolina, US). Johnson finished two laps ahead of runner-up Joe Weatherly……….50 years ago this week, a Porsche 917 was driven in public for the first time at the Le Mans test weekend [29 April 1969]. The 917 gave Porsche its first overall wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1970 and 1971. Powered by the Type 912 flat-12 engine of 4.5, 4.9, or 5 litres, the 917/30 Can Am variant was capable of a 0-62 mph (100 km/h) time of 2.3 seconds, 0–124 mph (200 km/h) in 5.3 seconds, and a top speed of up to 240 mph (390 km/h). This is not, however, representative of the majority of 917s. The highest official speed ever clocked for a 917 at Le Mans is 362 km/h or 224.4 mph. There are at least eleven variants of the 917. The original version had a removable long tail/medium tail with active rear wing flaps, but had considerable handling problems at high speed because of significant rear lift……….Porsches finish 1-2-3-4-6 in the Targa Florio road race in Sicily. Gerhard Mitter and Udo Schutz piloted the winning 908 Spyder [4 May 1969]…………on the same day [4 May 1969], the Spanish Grand Prix held at Montjuich Park was won by Jackie Stewart driving a Matra-Cosworth MS80S. This is one of only two Grands Prix where the winner finished two laps ahead of the runner-up, the other occasion being the 1995 Australian Grand Prix [4 May 1969]……..40 years ago this week, the Spanish Grand Prix was staged at the Circuito Permanente del Jarama near Madrid, Spain [29 April 1979]. It was race 5 of 15 in both the 1979 World Championship of F1 Drivers and the 1979 International Cup for F1 Constructors. The 75-lap race was won by Patrick Depailler, driving a Ligier-Ford, winning in a time of 1:39:11. He started 2nd on the grid. His teammate, Jacques Laffite sat on the pole but was out on lap 15 with engine problems. Second to Depailler, was Carlos Reutemann, eighth on the grid, in his Lotus 20 seconds arrears, and Mario Andretti, fourth on the grid, in the other Lotus coming in third. Third man on the grid, Gilles Villeneuve had the fastest lap of the race but could do no better than 7th at the

end…..20 years ago this week, Warren Johnson set an NHRA Pro Stock speed record of 202.24 mph at Richmond, Virginia, US [30 April 1999]………Changes to the ‘L’ test were introduced in the UK which included extending the length of the test, randomising the emergency stop manoeuvre and failing candidates for committing 16 or more driving faults [4 May 1999]………..10 years ago this week, Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection after overnight talks broke down with a small group of the company’s creditors [30 April 2009]. Canada’s government said it would take an ownership stake in Chrysler in exchange for more than $2 billion in loans, under a sweeping North American rescue plan. Ottawa and Washington demanded the Detroit company partner with Fiat as a condition for funding……….Michael Schumacher won the San Marino Grand Prix and set fastest lap [2 May 1999]. David Coulthard was second, 4.265 seconds back and Schumacher’s teammate Barrichello was third, 1 lap down. Giancarllo Fisichella had a great drive from 16th on the grid to finish 5th behind Damon Hill and ahead of Jean Alesi…….In Germany, Sergio Marchionne, the boss of Italy’s Fiat, drummed up support in Berlin for audacious plans to snap up General Motors’ European arm and merge it with the bankrupt Chrysler to create a new global auto giant [4 May 2009]. Germany’s economy minister said Fiat Group SpA wanted to take over GM’s Opel unit without running up debt and would preserve the three main German assembly plants if successful.
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