29 November – 5 December: Motoring Milestones

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

110 years ago this week, the Henry Ford Company was organised to continue the work of the defunct Detroit Automobile Company [30 November 1911]….. and on the same day [30 November 1911], more than 25,000 people lined the Ocean Parkway in New York to see Henri Fournier in a Mors win a measured-mile contest at 69.5 mph…….AB Scani-VABIS was organised in Sodertalje from a merger of Scania and Vabis in Sweden [30 November 1911]……. William C. Durant and Louis Chevrolet announced plans to build a new automobile, the Chevrolet [30 November 1911]……. the American Grand Prize, the final race of the 1911 Grand Prix season was held on the Savannah, Georgia road course three days after the Vanderbilt Cup was held on the same track [30 November 1911]. It was sanctioned by the Automobile Club of America. David Bruce-Brown in a Fiat S74 won by just over two minutes over Eddie Hearne…….Warren Johnson (63), inventor of the electric thermostat and manufacturer of Johnson tracks since 1905 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US, died [5 December 1911]…….100 years ago this week, the Trask steam car, promoted by former Stanley distributor O. C. Trask, was announced by the Detroit Steam Motors Corporation [1 December 1921]. A steam-driven automobile had reached the world-record speed of 127.66 mph in 1906, causing a steam-car craze that lasted through the 1920s. The last steam-powered cars in the U.S. were made in 1926…….70 years ago this week, the Gillingham bus disaster occurred, when a double-decker bus belonging to the Chatham & District Traction Company ploughed into a company of fifty-two young members of the Royal Marine Volunteer Cadet Corps, aged between ten and thirteen, in Gillingham, Kent, England [4 December 1951]. Twenty-four died and another eighteen were injured. At the time it was the highest loss of life in any road accident in British history……..Chester S Ricker, a pioneer employee of Henderson and Stutz who was the official scorer for the first Indianapolis 500 race in 1911 and had performed this function at this event since, died aged 63 [5 December 1951]…… and on the same day [5 December 1951] the first push button-controlled Park-O-Mat garage opened in Washington, DC by Parking Services Inc. It had no ramps, no aisles and no lanes. Instead a single attendant, without entering a car, could automatically park or return a car in less than a minute…….60 years ago this week, the 5 millionth Volkswagen was produced [4 December 1961]……40 years ago this week, the 156.53 mpg at 56.3 mph diesel record was set by inventor Doug Malewicki who drove his lightweight streamlined ‘California Commuter’ from Anaheim, California to Las Vegas, Nevada where it was featured at the SEMA Show (Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association) [30 November 1981]…….20 years ago this week, a spat inside the Williams camp became public with boss Patrick Head’s attack on Ralf Schumacher over the German’s approach to testing. “He hasn’t got much patience to check data with the engineers, to study the next day’s programme or to discuss things he doesn’t like in the car [29 November 2001]. Juan [Pablo Montoya] does all that and has a better understanding for the car.” Head’s comments came after Schumacher went on record as saying: “I don’t know exactly why but Frank Williams and Montoya are closer. Frank loves Juan.” Schumacher finished fourth in the 2001 and 2002 drivers’ championship and remained with Williams until the end of 2004……. Bruce Halford died in Devon, aged 70 [2 December 2001]. He competed in nine F1 races between 1956 and 1960 but only managed to finish one – the German Grand Prix in 1957.

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