7-13 January: Motoring Milestones

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

110 years ago this week, the Badger Four Wheel Drive Auto Company was organised in Clintonville,Wisconsin (US) by Otto Zachow and William Besserdich. Zachow and Besserdich developed and built the first successful four-wheel drive car, the “Battleship”, in 1908 [9 January 1909]. Its success led to the founding of the company. “Badger” was dropped from the name in 1910, and the name was changed to the FWD Corporation in 1958……..100 years ago this week, Hudson’s new companion

marque, the Essex, was publicly unveiled [11 January 1919]. The Essex enjoyed immediate popularity following its introduction. Essex cars were designed to be moderately priced cars which would be affordable to the average family. Proving durable, their capabilities were checked upon and confirmed by AAA and the United States Postal Service. In 1919 an Essex completed a 50-hour, 3,037.4 miles (4,888.2 km) endurance test in Cincinnati, Ohio, at an average speed of 60.75 miles per hour. The early Essex cars also captured many hill climb records. In a special Essex race car, Glen Shultz won the 1923 Pikes Peak Hill Climb. It had a 108.5-inch (2,760 mm) wheelbase.Initially Essex marketed a line of touring cars (open four-door cars with canvas tops), which was the most popular body style of cars in production at the time. While Essex added an enclosed sedan in 1920, it was the introduction of the 1922 closed coach, priced at $1,495, $300 above that of the touring car. By 1925 the coach was priced below that of the touring car. While Henry Ford is credited with inventing the affordable car, it was Essex that made the enclosed car affordable. By 1929, the Essex was third in U.S. sales, behind Ford and Chevrolet. Essex sales remained strong into 1931 before sales began to trend downward. For 1932 a redesigned Essex debuted and was named the Essex-Terraplane, a play on the word aeroplane. For 1934 the Essex name was no more and the car carried on as the Terraplane……90 years ago this week, the first Plymouth Model U was produced. The car was equipped with a motor in side valves and four-cylinder in line of 2,874 cm 3 of displacement which developed 45 CV of power [7 January 1929]. The clutch was single dry plate and the gearbox was three relationships. The tension was back and the brakes were hydraulic on all four wheels. The Model U was available in version torpedo doors , sedan two four-door, coupe and two-door roadster two doors. Of the model they were produced in total 108,345 copies…… on the same day [7 January 1929] Walter Chrysler, the founder of the Chrysler Corporation, one of America’s Big Three automakers, was featured on the cover of Time magazine as its Man of the Year. In 1928, under Walter Chrysler’s leadership, his company had acquired the Dodge Brothers Company, thereby becoming the world’s third-largest automaker. Also that year, Chrysler launched the low-priced Plymouth line and the mid-priced DeSoto brand. Additionally, Walter Chrysler had bankrolled construction of the Chrysler Building in New York City. When it was completed two years later, in 1930, the 77-story art-deco skyscraper was the world’s tallest building. Walter Percy Chrysler was born on April 2, 1875, in Wamego, Kansas. The son of a railroad engineer, Chrysler worked his way up in the railroad industry, from sweeper to machinist to plant manager of American Locomotive Company, before making his mark on the auto industry………André Citroën opened the doors of the Quai de Javel factory to the public during the Paris Motor Show [10 January 1929]. In 1915, during World War One, André Citroën built a shell manufacturing factory on Quai de Javel in Paris. After the war, he converted and expanded the factory to mass produce cars.The Citroën factory on the Quai de Javel was the most modern of its day in Europe (100 vehicles/day in 1919 and 200 vehicles/day in1924). In 1933, despite a particularly difficult financial situation, Citroën decided to completely rebuild the factory in just five months, without stopping production.The Quai de Javel, renamed Quai André Citroën in 1958, produced its last DS in April 1975. Administrative staff moved out in 1982. Today, the Parc André Citroën stands where the Javel plant used to be…….60 years ago today [10 January 1959], New Zealand Grand Prix at Ardmore was won by Stirling Moss from Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren all driving 2-litre Cooper-Climaxes……….50 years ago this week, Fiat acquired a 50% stake in Ferrari [7 January 1969]……..Production of James Garner’s movie “The Racing Scene”, about his American International Racing’s (AIR) 1969 racing season, was announced at the grand opening of AIR’s new offices in Hollywood, California, USA [13 January 1969]. Unfortunately, AIR would cease operations before the season was over………40 years ago this week, just 33 months after its launch, the millionth Ford Fiesta was built at Ford’s Cologne (Germany) facility, breaking all previous European production records [9 January 1979]. The Fiesta was originally developed under the project name “Bobcat” (not to be confused with the subsequent rebadged Mercury variant of the Ford Pinto) and approved for development by Henry Ford II in September 1972, just after the launch of two comparable cars – the Fiat 127 and Renault 5. The Fiesta was an all new car in the supermini segment, and was the smallest car made by Ford……..The last convertible Volkswagen Beetle was produced [10 January 1979]. The VW “Bug” was a popular car throughout the 1970s, leading  to innovations such as sun roofs and convertible tops, in an otherwise unchanging design……..30 years ago this week, a Dodge Viper (cover image) concept was introduced at the North American International Automobile Show [7 January 1989]. The Viper, a modernised tribute to the classic Shelby Cobra, won such rave reviews that the company delivered a production version in 1992, just three years later. The production Viper had a V-10 plant that delivered 450 horsepower at 5,200 rpms. The car was capable of a top speed of over 190 mph, and held numerous production-car performance records……..20 years ago this week, the High-Speed Circuit lap record at MIRA in Warwickshire was broken by a McLaren F1 road car, driven by Peter Taylor, averaging 168mph (270.36km/h) round the 2.82-mile (4.53km) banked circuit [7 January 1999]. With a lap time of 1 minute 00.56 seconds, the F1 comfortably exceeded the previous record
of 161.655mph (260.15 km/h) set in April 1967 by the Jaguar XJ13 sports-racing prototype……….
10 years ago this week, Donington Park, located in Leicestershire, England announced that they had secured the planning permission necessary to bring the circuit up to the specification required by the FIA [8 January 2009]. After Bernie Ecclestone’s announcement the previous year, that the race would make the move north, it was seen as the first major sign of progress. “I’m over the moon,” gushed chief executive Simon Gillet. “From tomorrow morning it’s shovels at dawn and away we go. It starts in earnest now and time to start focusing on 2010 and delivering the best grand prix in the world. We are going to do it.” The plan ultimately failed. Unable to raise the necessary funds for redevelopment Gillet’s company went into receivership and the race reverted to Silverstone.

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