3-9 December: Motoring Milestones

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

130 years ago this week, John Boyd Dunlop, a Scottish inventor, was issued a patent for his pneumatic tyre [7 December 1888]. In 1887, when his 9-year-old son had complained of the rough ride he experienced on his tricycle over the cobbled streets of Belfast, Dunlop had devised and fitted rubber air tubes held on to a wooden ring by tacking a linen-covering fixed around the wheels. Due to the major improvement in riding comfort, Dunlop continued development until he patented the idea…….. 110 years ago this week, four 80-acre tracts of land were purchased for $72,000 to build the Indianapolis Motor Speedway [7 December 1908]. Indianapolis businessman Carl G. Fisher first envisioned building the speedway in 1905 after assisting friends racing in France and seeing that Europe held the upper hand in automobile design and craftsmanship………90 years ago this week, “Dapper Dan” Hogan, a St. Paul, Minnesota (US) saloonkeeper and mob boss, was killed when someone planted a car bomb under the floorboards of his new Paige coupe [4 December 1928]. Fat and bloated from a big breakfast, Dapper Dan walked towards his Paige coupe to go to work. He had the car parked in the garage in back. Hogan climbed in, turned on the ignition, and stepped on the starter pedal. Unbeknownst to him, an explosive

charge had been hidden between the engine block and the floorboard, wired to the bolt on the top of the engine block and attached by wires to the explosive. As he started the car the bomb detonated, with an explosion so great the car leapt backwards out of the garage. The hood blew off, all the coupe’s windows shattered, the gears flattened, and the steering wheel was blown from its base. Hogan’s right leg was smashed beyond recognition. He was taken to the hospital, slipped into a coma, and nine hours later died from his wounds. According to some accounts, Hogan probably would have perished instantly if he had been the size of a normal man. He was so fat, though, that he had to lean back in his car seat a ways to operate the vehicle, and his head was protected by the distance his stomach created; otherwise his head would have likely been ripped from his body during the explosion. His murder is still unsolved………80 years ago this week, the Champion Spark Plug Company was reorganised in Delaware to succeed the original company founded in 1910 [5 December 1938]. In 1989, Champion was purchased by Cooper Industries and is now a wholly owned brand of Federal-Mogul Corporation. Its main products are a line of spark plugs for a wide range of cars, trucks, SUVs, racing and marine applications. Also included in the brand are spark plug wires and other ignition system specific wiring. Champion is also a longtime sponsor of various racing events, cars, and series including two series run under sanctioning by IMSA…….70 years ago this week, the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation purchased the Willow Run factory, Michigan that it had leased since 1945, for $15.1 million [3 December 1948]……… the following day [4 December 1948], Leading British car manufacturers Austin, Morris, Ford, Rootes, Standard and Vauxhall agreed to standardise motor parts in the interests of economy and efficiency………60 years ago this week, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan opened Britain’s first stretch of motorway,

the 8-mile Preston bypass in Lancashire [5 December 1958]. The route of the bypass was designed as part of a north-south motorway, other lengths of which were under construction. The original bypass started in Walton-le-Dale at a roundabout on the Manchester-Preston Trunk Road a short distance south of the A49 junction, travelled by viaduct over the River Darwen and ended at a roundabout on the A6 a short distance south of Broughton. Planning started in 1937, despite there being no legal powers that permitted motorway construction until the introduction of the Special Roads Act 1949. Early work was hampered by heavy rainfall, resulting in postponement of various heavy engineering works such as the base foundation; the result of the weather meant the original two-year plan was delayed by a further five months. Weeks after opening, the road had to temporarily close due to water causing further problems, when the base layer was damaged as a result of a rapid freeze and thaw cycle. The by-pass has undergone two separate lane-widening schemes during its existence, firstly in 1966 when it was widened to three lanes, then in the 1990s to expand it to four lanes in each direction. The latter upgrade was significant enough to require reconstruction of the entire route including all bridges and it is now effectively a different motorway from the one that opened in 1958………30 years ago this week, the organisers of the traditional end of year Bologna Motor Show had the idea to attract the crowds to the 1988 edition with a two day Sprint event featuring real Formula 1 drivers and cars. Of course the front runners snubbed the idea to have their machinery flying over a parking lot at [7 December 1988] an average of 85 km/h, but all of the Italian teams, except Ferrari were present with the likes of Alex Caffi (BMS Dallara F1 88A), Nicola Larini (Osella FA1/L), Fabrizio Barbazza (EuroBrun ER188), Gabriele Tarquini (First 188), Luis Perez Sala and Pierluigi Martini (Minardi M188) eagerly hammering the monoposti around the parcours……….20 years ago this week, the first personal computer specifically designed for use in a car, made by Clarion, went on sale in the US for $1,299 [4 December 1998]. In addition to global positioning, AutoPC’s Microsoft operating system responded to voice commands to change radio stations and CDs, and to check e-mail……..10 years ago this week, British car parts maker Wagon PLC said it planned to file for a form of bankruptcy protection after a global slump in demand for cars crippled its business [8 December 2009].

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