30 December – 5 January: Motoring Milestones

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

150 years ago this week,Washington Roebling began construction on the Brooklyn Bridge; when it opened 13 years later, it was the largest suspension bridge in the world [3 January 1870]. Spanning the East River German immigrant John A. Roebling, the visionary who designed the bridge and invented the metal cables essential to ite construction, died before the first stone was laid……… 140 years ago this week, Karl Benz successfully tested his first gasoline engine [31 December 1879]…….120 years ago this week, the first electric omnibus was installed in New York City [2 January 1900]…….110 years ago this week, the 1,470-foot span Manhattan Bridge across the East River, New York opened to traffic [31 December 1909]. The Manhattan Bridge was the fourth bridge between Manhattan and the boroughs across the river. It has four vehicle lanes on the upper level (split between two roadways). The lower level has three lanes, four subway tracks, a walkway and a bikeway. The bridge is newer than the Brooklyn Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge, the other two suspension bridges that span the East River, and often acts as an alternate route due to its proximity to the Brooklyn Bridge. The Manhattan Bridge, which is 6,855 feet (2,089 metres) long, consists of a double-deck motorway with four lanes on top and three lanes on the bottom that are designed to change direction when necessary to assist traffic flow. In addition to cars, the bridge carries four subway lines, a pedestrian lane, and a separate bikeway. Nearly 80,000 vehicles and more than 320,000 people use it (via public transportation) each day. Construction began on the bridge in 1901 under the instruction of the New York City Department of Bridges commissioner Gustav Lindenthal and the chief engineer R.S. Buck. Just three years later, however, local politicking was responsible for the pair being replaced with George E. Best and Othniel Foster Nichols, respectively. The bridge design was based on deflection theory, a new concept at the time that was developed by Joseph Melan and applied to the bridge by the chief engineer Leon Moisseiff. This design saved in cost, material, and construction time. Renovations in 1940 revealed significant wear on the structure, with the subway trains partly responsible for the wear. Those trains, upon entering the bridge at the same time from opposite sides, would cause the bridge to shift up to 8 feet (approximately 2.5 metres). Additional renovations were undertaken in 1978. Since then the Manhattan Bridge has been featured in movies, has undergone regular repairs and retrofitting, and remains one of the most graceful bridges in New York City……..The Ford Motor Company occupied it’s new Highland Park, Michigan factory that was designed by architect Albert Kahn [1 January 1910]……..A motor car “Horsepower Tax” was imposed in Great Britain, based on the RAC formula, at the following rates: to 6½ HP 2 guineas 12 HP 3 guineas 16 HP 4 guineas 26 HP 6 guineas 33 HP 8 guineas 40 HP 10 guineas 60 HP 21 pounds [1 January 1910].The Royal Automobile Club formula for horsepower assumed a mean effective pressure of 90 pounds per square inch, a mechanical efficiency of 75% and a mean piston speed of 1000 feet per minute. Their calculation uses bore area times number of cylinders over a constant. The system introduced a somewhat progressive way of taxing higher-value cars more than low-cost ones but was also introduced to protect the domestic British motor industry from foreign imports, especially the Ford Model T……..100 years ago this week, the Martin Wasp was introduced at the Hotel Commodore in New York City [3 January 1920]. It was

received by the public with enthusiasm for its startling and unusual design and fine craftsmanship. Douglas Fairbanks Sr., upon seeing the car, bought it on the spot. Spectacular in appearance, the Wasp was constructed of the finest materials and components available. A Wisconsin T head engine, such as powered the Stutz with a Bosch ignition, powered the car. A chrome nickel, heat treated frame on Timkin axles combined with Rudge Whitworth wire wheels gave the car strength, stability and speed. For the 1924 season a Continental six-cylinder engine of greater power was combined with a four speed transmission with overdrive which, on the fourth Speed, gave the car quietness and smoothness at even higher speeds.. The coachwork was crafted in Bennington, Vermont under the careful, direct supervision of Karl Martin. As a result of monetary problems and slow sales due to a post war business slump, the company failed and the last Wasp was produced in 1925. Although the company lingered on, producing custom woodwork and special castings, its doors closed permanently in 1932, the total production of which was only 16 cars……..Otto Walker, riding a Harley-Davidson, won the 100-mile motorcycle race at Ascot Park in Los Angeles, California, US [4 January 1920]. Walker was a leading racer of the 1910s and early 1920s and was one of Harley-Davidson’s first factory riders……..90 years ago this week, the F. B. Stearns Company, the manufacturer of luxury cars in Cleveland, Ohio marketed under the Stearns and Stearns-Knight brand names, was dissolved [30 December 1929]…….Cadillac introduced its first V-16-powered car at the New York Auto Show, less than three months after the stock market crash [4 January 1930]. It was made from two 45-degree V-8s, totalling 452 cubic inches (4.9 litres) and conservatively rated 165-185 horsepower. With it, Cadillac instantly catapulted itself to the head of the luxury class in one brilliant stroke. Until then, only Bugatti had produced a 16-cylinder engine, and it was accomplished by bolting two 8-cylinder inline engines together, which was an innovation that was originally intended for aircraft use. Cadillac’s V-16 was the first true 16-cylinder engine to be built

from scratch. Furthermore, Cadillac’s V-16 was the first automotive engine ever to be “styled,” as all of the wiring was hidden and the engine compartment was dressed up with plenty of gleaming, polished aluminum, porcelain, and a pair of beautiful valve covers with brushed aluminum ridged surfaces that featured the Cadillac emblem……..80 years ago this week, HGV licences and tests were suspended in Britain for the duration of World War II [1 December 1940]……60 years ago this week, production at Luton’s Vauxhall car plant halted because the men were ‘too hot’! [1 January 1960]…….50 years ago this week, The Who’s drummer Keith Moon ran over and accidentally killed Neil Boland, his chauffeur and bodyguard, whilst trying to escape from a gang of skinheads after a fight broke out at a pub in Hatfield, England [4 January 1970]. Moon had never passed his driving test…….40 years ago this week, sprintcar builder and Indy 500 crew chief Wally Meskowski died at the age of 64 [43 January 1979]. A colorful and formidable competitor, Meskowski is best remembered as a constructor, mechanic and car owner with the ability to extract the highest levels of performance from car and driver alike. Despite a reputation for volatility that was not entirely deserved, Meskowski consistently attracted the most competitive drivers, and was instrumental in their development, among them A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, and Bill Vukovich, Jr. In late 1959, Meskowski was engaged to build a new dirt Champ car for the Bowes Seal Fast team of legendary chief mechanic George Bignotti and co-owner Bob Bowes II, for the 1960 USAC season. Completed in early 1960, the new car was a masterful blend of art and engineering, with a beautiful, streamlined body that was strongly reminiscent of the dual-purpose cars of the early 1950s, which competed on both dirt ovals and the venerable “Brickyard”, prior to the rise of the specialized Indy roadster. Wally died as the ultimate result of injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident while traveling with the Armstrong Moulds team. Returning home from Texas World Speedway, the motor home in which he was a passenger was struck broadside by a tractor-trailer. Wally survived for about 10 months then died in Indianapolis……..30 years ago this week, Chrysler UK Ltd became Talbot Motor Co. Ltd. The cars changed their names on 10th July 1979 [1 January 1990]…….The Lincoln Town Car was named Car of the Year by the US magazine, Motor Trend [4 January 1990]. It was the first luxury sedan to win that title in 38 years and was marketed by the Lincoln division of the American automaker Ford Motor Company from 1981 to 2011. Deriving its name from a style of limousine, “Town Car” translated in French is the term “Sedan de Ville” (the Cadillac rival to the Lincoln Continental from the 1950s to the 1990s). The Town Car nameplate first appeared as a sub-model of the Continental in 1959, later becoming a trim line during the 1970s…….. 20 years ago this week, Stirling Craufurd Moss OBE was awarded a KBE in the New Years Honors list for services to motor racing [31 December 1999]. Regarded by some commentators as “the greatest driver never to win

the World Championship”, Moss finished as Formula 1 championship runner-up on four occasions and third a further three times between 1955 and 1961. During his career he competed in over 500 motor races, rallies and sprints, winning 222 of them………The touch-screen driving theory test was introduced in Britain, replacing a written theory test [4 January 2000]……….Trevers Walkett, one of four brothers ((Bob, Ivor, and Douglas) who formed Ginetta Cars in 1958 in Woodbridge, Suffolk (England), died aged 76 [5 January 2000]. Ginetta’s first product, the Fairlight, was a glass-fibre body shell priced at £49 for fitting to a Ford 8 or 10 hp chassis. The first car, not destined for production, which subsequently became known as the Ginetta G1, was based on a pre-war Wolseley Hornet six. The four Walklett brothers each had their areas of expertise. Bob was the Managing Director, Douglas was mechanical engineer and electrics, Ivor the designer and Trevers was styler working closely with Ivor. From their original base, the company moved to Witham, Essex, in 1962, and between 1972 and 1974 operated from larger premises in Ballingdon Street adjacent to the railway bridge Sudbury, Suffolk, before returning to Witham. In 1988, the Walklett brothers needed bigger premises and so moved the company to Scunthorpe where they could expand. On 7th November 1989 the Walklett’s sold Ginetta to an international group of enthusiasts, based in Sheffield and run by managing director Martin Phaff. Ginetta were in a strong financial position and the Walklett’s went on to retire. Under the new managing director, Martin Phaff the company went on to produce the Ginetta G20 and the Ginetta G33. Unfortunately, it was during this time that the company hit troubled times.

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