29 August – 4 September: Motoring Milestones

Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: Ford Model T, James Hunt, Formula 1, Koenigsegg and Michael Schumacher.

100 years ago this week, Studebaker announced the release of the Heaslet Special, a semi-custom touring car. The car was named in honour of Studebaker’s vice president of engineering, James G. Heaslet [30 August 1916]….. The following day [31 August 1916], in a major marketing initiative, Ford Motor Co. of Detroit announced a cut-price $345 Model T Tourer, compared with $850, when the Model T was first

launched in 1908. Ford planned to do away with normal retail outlets by appointing garage owners as its selling agents…… John Aitken’s Peugeot won the inaugural 300-mile Race at 97.06 mph at the Cincinnati 2-mile board track  [4 September 1916] …… 90 years ago this week, General Motors New Zealand Ltd. began assembly operations at Petone [30 August 1926]. In 1987 the Labour government slashed tariffs on completely built up cars, effectively putting an end to car manufacturing in New Zealand. By the early 1990s GM New Zealand was no longer a manufacturer and instead focused on importing vehicles to sell to its dealer network. In 1994 GM New Zealand became Holden New Zealand. Holden New Zealand currently comprises approximately 40 staff members who are actively involved in sales and marketing, aftersales, parts sales as well as finance and accounting activities….. 70 years ago this week, Colin Strang’s ‘Pioneer Special‘ with a Vincent HRD engine became the first 500 cc car to win a hillclimb event, held at Prescott, near Cheltenham. Strang climbed in 54.88 seconds [31 August 1946]…… The first race under the new Formula One regulations, the

Turin Grand Prix was won by Achille Varzi in an Alfa Romeo 158 Alfetta, although in reality the cars were no different to those that had raced earlier in the season [1 September 1946]. Formula One was first defined early in 1946 by the Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI) of the FIA, forerunner of FISA, as the premier single seater racing category in worldwide motorsport. It was initially known as Formula A, but the name Formula One was widely used early on and became official in 1950. In the beginning, the formula was largely based on pre-war regulations defined by engine capacity. The regulation was expected to bring a new balance between supercharged and normally aspirated cars. Non supercharged 4.5 litres pre-war Grand Prix cars were allowed to race against the pre-war 1.5 litres supercharged ‘voiturettes’ while pre-war supercharged Grand Prix cars were banned….. 60 years ago this week, Lake Pontchartrain Causeway opened [30 August 1956] connecting New Orleans with its north shore suburbs. At 24 miles it was the world’s longest over-water highway bridge.

Made up of two parallel bridges, the causeway is supported by 95,000 hollow concrete pilings sunk into the lakebed. It was originally designed to handle 3,000 vehicles per day but now carries that many cars and trucks in an hour…… Argentinian Juan Manuel Fangio seemed to have lost his 1956 championship chances in the final round at Monza when his Ferrari suffered terminal engine and suspension damage in the Italian Grand Prix [2 September 1956]. However, British driver Peter Collins, in a remarkably selfless gesture, gave his car to his teammate, allowing Fangio to finish second and clinch his fourth world title just three points ahead of Briton Stirling Moss, who was destined never to win the World Drivers Championship – he finished runner-up four times in a row from 1955 to 1958……50 years ago this week, Jack Brabham became the first man to win the World Drivers Championship in a car he had built himself [4 September 1966]. At the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Brabham watched from the pits as John Surtees who needed victory to win the title, retired after 32 laps with engine trouble…… 40 years ago this week, British driver James Hunt driving a McLaren M23 won the Dutch Grand Prix on his 29th birthday [29 August 1976]. The weekend was marred by the death of track marshal Ron Lenderink (29) during a touring car support race. ….Percy Shaw (86), inventor of Cats Eyes, died [1 September 1976]…….The Ford Fiesta, the first complete vehicle ever to receive an award from the British Design Council, was launched [3 September 1976]. It was initially available in Europe with the Valencia 957 cc (58.4 cu in) I4 (high compression and low compression options), and 1,117 cc (68.2 cu in) engines and in Base, Popular, L, GL (1978 onward), Ghia and S trim, as well as a van. Now in its seventh generation, the Fiesta has sold over 16 million units, making it one of the best selling Ford marques behind the Escort and the F-Series…..15 years ago this week, the car number plate system in the UK was completely revised [1 September 2001]. Each registration index consisted of seven characters with a defined format (eg FL51 XSD). From left to right, the characters consist of a two-letter area code and a two-digit age identifier, which changes twice a year. In the first half of the year the last two digits of the year are used and in the second half of the year a ‘5’ takes the place of the first of the two digits. The remaining characters comprise three random letters…… Michael Schumacher won the Belgium Grand Prix, and became the most successful Formula 1 driver, overtaking Alain Prosts 51 wins [2 September 2001]…..Ford’s first production-prototype fuel-cell vehicle, the Focus FCV, debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show [2 September 2001]……10 years ago this week, the California State Senate passed Assembly Bill (AB) 32, otherwise known as the Global Warming Solutions Act. The law made California the first state in America to place caps on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, including those found in automobile emissions……5 years ago this week, in India, car production was halted at the factory in Manesar after the Japanese-controlled firm Maruti Suzuki accused some workers of sabotaging production and ‘deliberately causing quality problems’ [29 August 2011]…… During test sessions in Ängelholm, Sweden, the 5-litre V8 twin-turbocharged 940 PS mid-engined Koenigsegg Agera R broke six world land speed records for a production car, including 0–300 km/h in 14.53 seconds, and 0-300-0 km/h in only 21.19 seconds [2 September 2011]. The braking performance required to maintain this record was enabled in part by the Agera’s stability, demonstrated by Koenigsegg’s test driver and drivetrain technician Robert Serwanski, who was recorded by passenger Rob Ferretti (founder of the group “Super Speeders”) braking from 186 mph to 0 without holding the steering wheel…..UK racing and stunt driver Jamie Morrow performed 280 donuts non-stop at the Silverstone race circuit in Northamptonshire, behind the wheel of a Westfield Sport 1600 [4 September 2011]. Morrow burned rubber and spun circles for more than 17 minutes in front of a 5,000-strong crowd at the Trax Ultimate Performance Car Event, eclipsing the previous record of 161 donuts set by fellow British stunt driver Terry Grant just months earlier in February 2011.

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