7-13 August: Motoring Milestones

Momentous motoring events that took place during this week in history …..

120 years ago this week, the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland was founded by C Harrington Moore and Frederick Simms, and held its first meeting at Whitehall Court in London [10 August 1897]. The club evolved into the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) and is the oldest existing automobile club in the world. Automobile clubs began as social clubs for people with an interest in motoring and motor racing, born in a time when cars were mainly for the rich. They later evolved into service clubs that could provide emergency road service, travel planning, and insurance. Many auto clubs still exist today and continue to sponsor motor-sport competitions……. 110 years ago this week, the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost with a 4-speed overdrive gearbox passed its 15,000-mile RAC-observed trial with top marks [8 August 1907]. It was this trial that made the Ghost’s reputation and gave it the accolade of ‘Best Car in the World’. Four years later, on the London-Edinburgh Trial, a Ghost ran the entire distance in top gear

with a fuel consumption of 24.32 mpg, an amazing performance for the time in such a heavy car. Although the 7-litre, side-valve engine’s compression ratio was only 3.2:1, it developed 48 bhp and could cruise at 50 mph. A total of 6,173 Silver Ghosts were produced……. Prince Borghese of Italy won the 8000 mile, 62-day Peking-to-Paris motor race [10 August 1907]. Driving like a maniac across Asia and Europe, the Prince encountered brush fire, got stuck in a swamp, and was pulled over by a policeman in Belgium. The policeman refused to believe that the prince was racing, rather than merely speeding. The idea for the race came from a challenge published in an article in the Paris newspaper Le Matin on 31 January 1907, that said: “What needs to be proved today is that as long as a man has a car, he can do anything and go anywhere. Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?” There were forty entrants in the race, but only five teams ended up going ahead with shipping the cars to Peking. The race was held despite the race committee cancelling the race due to a lack of participants. The participating teams that went on with their effort anyway were: Itala, Italian, 7 litre engine, driven by Prince Scipione Borghese and Ettore Guizzardi Spyker, Dutch, driven by Charles Goddard with Jean du Taillis Contal, French, three-wheeler Cyclecar, driven by Auguste Pons DeDion 1, French, driven by Georges Cormier DeDion 2, French, driven by Victor Collignon There were no rules in the race, except that the first car to

Paris would win the prize of a magnum of Mumm champagne. The race went without any assistance through country where there were no roads or road-maps. For the race, camels carrying fuel left Peking and set up at stations along the route to give fuel to the racers. The race followed a telegraph route so that the race was well covered in newspapers at the time. Each car had one journalist as a passenger, with the journalists sending stories from the telegraph stations regularly through the race. It was held during a time when cars were fairly new, and went through remote areas of Asia where people were not familiar with motor travel. The route between Peking and Lake Baikal had only previously been attempted on horseback. The race was won by Italian Prince Scipione Borghese of the Borghese family, accompanied by the journalist Luigi Barzini, Sr. He was confident and had even taken a detour from Moscow to St Petersburg for a dinner which was held for the team, and afterwards headed back to Moscow and rejoined the race. The event was not intended to be a race or competition, but quickly became one due to its pioneering nature and the technical superiority of the Italians’ car, a 7,433 cc (453.6 cu in) 35/45 hp model Itala. Second in the race was Charles Goddard in the Spyker, who had no money and had to ask others for petrol, and borrowed his car for the race……. The first metered taxicab took to the streets of New York City [13 August 1907]. Harry N. Allen incensed after being charged five dollars ($126.98 in today’s dollars) for a journey of 0.75 miles (1.21 km), decided “to start a [taxicab] service in New York and charge so-much per mile.” Later that year he imported 65 gasoline-powered cars from France and began the New York Taxicab Company. The cabs were originally painted red and green, but Allen repainted them all yellow to be visible from a distance. By 1908 the company was running 700 taxicabs. Within a decade several more companies opened business and taxicabs began to proliferate. The fare was 50 cents a mile, a rate only affordable to the relatively wealthy. Today New York City taxis are widely recognized icons of the city, come in two varieties: yellow and green. Taxis painted canary yellow (medallion taxis) are able to pick up passengers anywhere in the five boroughs. Those painted apple green (street hail livery vehicles, or commonly known as boro taxis), which began to appear in August 2013, are allowed to pick up passengers in Upper Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens (excluding LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport), and Staten Island. Both types have the same fare structure. Taxicabs are operated by private companies and licensed by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). It also oversees over 40,000 other for-hire vehicles, including “black cars”, commuter vans and ambulettes……. 100 years ago this week, Barney Oldfield drove a streamlined Miller with fully enclosed cockpit, called the “Golden Sub”, to new one mile (80 mph), five mile (77.2 mph), 25 mile (75.4 mph), and 50 mile (73.5 mph) speed records [9 August 1917]……. 90 years ago this week, legendary mechanic Giulio Ramponi competed as a driver in his first major racing event, finishing third in the Cuneo-Colle della Maddelena Hillclimb in an Alfa Romeo [7 August 1927]….. On the same day [7 August 1917] the last Dodge Convertible Cabriolet was produced. The Cabriolet was in production for only four months after its debut……. Edsel B Ford officially announced that a “new Ford automobile is an accom;lished fact”, referring to the pending replacement of the Model T with the Model A [10 August 1927]…….. Prices in the UK were slashed to 1 shilling 1 pence a gallon by petrol companies, the cheapest since 1902 [13 August 1927]……80 years ago this week, the Auburn Automobile Company, produced its last car, a 1937 Cord [7 August 1937]….. 70 years ago this week, Ferdinand Porsche approved the final design for the Cisitalia Grand Prix race car just two days after being released from prison [7 August 1947]…… .the most famous Renault of the early post-war years, the 4-cylinder, 760cc 4 hp Renault 4CV, was launched [12 August 1947]. Designed in secret during the War, all cars produced in the first few years were painted desert sand yellow, using a bulk supply of paint from Rommel’s Afrika Korps……. 50 years ago this week, Italian industrialist and President of Fiat from 1946 to 1966, Vittorio Valletta (83) died [10 August 1967]. Valletta was a lecturer in economics before he joined Fiat in 1920. He became director in 1928 and CEO in 1939……. 40 years ago this week, Racer Bobby Isaac (45) died of a heart attack caused by heat exhaustion suffered while driving in a NASCAR Late Model Sportsman event at Hickory, North Carolina [13 August 1977]…… 30 years ago this week, Nelson Piquet, driving a Williams-Honda FW11B, won the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring [9 August 1987]……..on the same day [9 August 1987]. Canadian Larry Pollard prevailed in the Busch 200 at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia, US, becoming the first foreign-born winner in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series. Pollard took over from pole-starter Larry Pearson in the 155th lap and led the rest of the 200-lap feature. Robert Ingram finished second, 3.6 seconds back on the .395-mile track, with Elton Sawyer third. Pollard, who made 98 starts over six Nationwide seasons, remains the only foreign-born winner in the series on an oval track…….Eugene Bordinat, Jr. (67), Ford Motor Company styling executive whose career spanned several decades, died [11 August 1987]. His favorite designs during his tenure included successful cars like the Ford Mustang and Lincoln Continental Mk III, as well as the Pinto. Bordinat was an enthusiast of the wire-wheels-and-stand-up-grilles school of design, as reflected in the Mark III and a number of other cars he styled…… 20 years ago this week, Jacques Villeneuve driving for the Williams team won the Hungarian Grand Prix [10 August 1997]. Damon Hill finished second driving an Arrows car, with Johnny Herbert third driving for the Sauber team. Villeneuve’s victory was his fifth of the season and the sixth for the Williams team……. 10 years ago this week, Nissan North America produced its 3 millionth Altima – 15 years after the first Altima rolled off the line at the

Smyrna Plant [9 August 2007]…….Founder of the French automotive brand Alpine, Jean Rédélé (84), died [10 August 2007]. He created the brand Alpine in 1955. The first model was the A106; the 106 is a reference to the power pack of the Citreon 4CV of the 1060 series. In 1971 Alpine won its first European rally title. In 1973 Alpine was the first world champion of rallying with 155 points followed by Fiat (89) and Ford (76)……. A motorcycle rider was killed in a drive-by shooting whilst travelling between junctions 12 and 13 on the M40 [12 August 2007]. The victim was identified as Canadian national and Hells Angel Gerry Tobin, who was on his way home from the ‘Bulldog Bash’, an annual motorcycle rally held outside Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire. It is believed his death may have been ordered by the leaders of a rival biker group in retaliation for a murder elsewhere in the world.

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