7-13 June: Motoring Milestone

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

120 years ago this week, the first Peerless automowas introduced [12 June 1901]. Established in Cleveland (US) in 1900 at 43 Lisbon Street, Peerless Motors began producing De Dion-Bouton “machines” under license from the French Company. Engineer Louis P. Mooers designed the first Peerless models, as well as several proprietary engines. The first Peerless-branded vehicles appeared in 1902, with a front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels through a shaft. This later became the standard vehicle propulsion layout for automobiles. In 1904, Mooers penned the Green Dragon racecar and enlisted Barney Oldfield to drive it. The Green Dragon brought notability and success to Peerless, as Oldfield used it to set a number of early world automobile speed records. In 1905, the 35-horsepower Green Dragon, competed in the world’s first 24-hour endurance race in Columbus, Ohio. Piloted by Earnest Bollinger, Aurther Feasel, and briefly by Barney Oldfield, the Peerless led the race for the first hour before crashing into a fence, later finishing in 3rd place. From 1905-1907, Peerless experienced a rapid expansion in size and production volume.

As the Peerless namesake grew in fame, the company began producing increasingly higher-priced models with a focus on luxury. Notable customers included Cornelius Vanderbilt and John D. Rockefeller. In 1911, Peerless was one of the first car companies to introduce electric lighting on their vehicles, with electric starters added in 1913. In 1915, the firm introduced its first V8 engine, intending to compete with the Cadillac V8 introduced a year earlier. This model became Peerless’ staple production vehicle until 1925, when engines produced by other manufacturers were first used in Peerless models. During World War I, Peerless manufactured military vehicle chassis and trucks.In 1929, the entire Peerless range was redesigned to compete with other vehicles produced by Stutz and Marmon. This move saw increased sales, and for 1930 another design refresh was undertaken. The Peerless-designed V8 was replaced by a Continental straight-8 as a cost-saving measure. However, the Great Depression that began in 1929 greatly reduced the sales of luxury automobiles. Peerless stripped down production and attempted to market one line of vehicles to wealthy Americans who were not affected by the depression. In 1930-31, Peerless commissioned Murphy Body Works to design what the company envisioned as its 1933 model. The task was assigned to a young Frank Hershey, who produced a remarkably clean, elegant vehicle. A single V16-engined 1931 Peerless was finished in June 1931, the last Peerless ever produced. Peerless remained an idle business until the end of Prohibition in 1933 allowed the manufacture of alcohol. Peerless then revamped its factory and gained a license to brew beer under the Carling Black Label and Red Cap ale brands. Hershey’s single prototype remained in Peerless factory until the end of World War II and it is now owned by the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum. The following Peerless vehicles are deemed “classic cars” by the Classic Car Club of America (CCCA): 1925 Series 67; 1926 — 1928 Series 69; 1929 Model Eight-125; 1930-1 Custom 8 and the 1932 Deluxe Custom 8. However, all Peerless vehicles are considered collectible…….110 years ago this week, the first long-distance race in England (100 laps / 277 miles) was held at Brooklands race circuit in Surrey [13 June 1911]………100 years ago this week, General Motors established a ‘pricing ladder’ for their car lines to ensure complete coverage of the market [9 June 1921]…….90 years ago this week, the VII Reale Premio di Roma was held on the new high speed Littorio circuit around the airport [7 June 1931]. The contest was divided into four 100 km Heat races for the various classes and a 240 km Final to decide the overall winner. Heat 1 for cars up to 1100 cc was won by Scaron (Amilcar), who led from start to finish ahead of Decaroli (Salmson) and Ardizzone (Delage). The race for cars up to 2000 cc had Biondetti and Savi with Maseratis in front and Castelbarco (Bugatti) in third place. Heat 3 for cars up to 3000 cc was won by Varzi (Bugatti) with Fagioli and Dreyfus in 2500 Maseratis, filling the first three places. In Heat 4 Ernesto Maserati was the easy winner in the large 16-cylinder Maserati against an old Itala. The Final developed into an entertaining battle between Varzi’s leading Bugatti fighting the various Maseratis. Varzi’s demise began after the first quarter, after which the hounding Maseratis dominated, conquering the first three places with Ernesto Maserati, Dreyfus and Biondetti. Balestrero in an old Talbot finished fourth while Fagioli was slowed down with problems. Nuvolari, Varzi and Minozzi retired their Bugattis……. On the same day [7 June 1931], for or the ninth Eifelrennen, a mix of 16 race cars started at the Nürburgring. Three large converted Mercedes-Benz sports cars, a variety of 11 Bugattis, one Amilcar and a DKW raced around 40 laps of the demanding South Loop. The German press quoted this event as the most impressive and interesting race ever held on the Nürburgring. Caracciola in the Mercedes had a fantastic battle with von Morgen in an older single cam Bugatti. Once the Bugatti pitted at mid-race for tyres and fuel, the Mercedes had gained much time and did not have to stop. Von Morgen could only recover part of Caracciola’s advantage and finished well over a minute behind the Mercedes-Benz. The young newcomer von Brauchitsch in another Mercedes-Benz ended up third, followed by Seibel’s small Bugatti, Winter’s Mercedes-Benz, Zigrand, Risse, Kortylewski and Städtgen all in Bugattis with Theisen’s small DKW last in tenth place. Six drivers retired, amongst them Burggaller and Leiningen who in the early part of the race were near the front……. The last 75,510 Plymouth Model 30-U’s was produced [8 June 1931]…….50 years ago this week, the last Lincoln Continental Mark III was produced [12 June 1971]. The 1969 Mark III was created when Lee Iacocca, president of Ford Motor Company at the time, directed Design Vice President, Gene Bordinat, to “put a Rolls Royce grille on a Thunderbird” in September 1965.

The Mark III was based on the fourth generation Lincoln Continental (1961-1969) and the four-door fifth generation Thunderbird introduced for 1967……. Dr Helmut Marko and Gijs van Lennep, driving a Porsche 917K, set a new record for the 24-hour Grand Prix d’Endurance at Le Mans, France, covering 3,315,203 miles [13 June 1971]…….40 years ago this week, the last ‘der Grosser’ Mercedes-Benz 600 was produced, ending a production run of 2,677 units over 18 years [10 June 1981]……. Racer Jean-Louis Lafosse was killed when his Rondeau crashed during the 24 Hours of Le Mans – also killed in the incident was race marshall Jean Pierre Mobila [13 June 1981]…….30 years ago this week, construction of the road Dartford – Thurrock River Crossing over the Thames was completed [7 June 1991]. It consists of two bored tunnels and the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, a cable stayed bridge. The only fixed road crossing of the Thames east of Greater London, it is the busiest estuarial crossing in the United Kingdom, with an average daily use of over 130,000 vehicles. The crossing’s development started in the late 1930s, but was interrupted due to the Second World War and resumed in the 1950s. The original tunnel catered for a single lane of traffic in each direction, but rising traffic levels required the second tunnel to be built. It opened in stages: the west tunnel in 1963, the east tunnel in 1980 and the bridge in 1991. The M25 connected to the tunnels at both ends when completed in 1986, and this increased traffic put pressure on the tunnels’ capacity. A Private Finance Initiative scheme was started in 1988 to build the bridge. The combined crossing now handles four lanes of traffic in each direction. The crossing forms part of the M25 motorway’s route, though it is not under motorway restrictions itself. It has been described as one of the most important road crossings in Britain, and suffers from heavy traffic and congestion. When it was opened, the bridge was Europe’s largest cable-supported bridge. The central span is 450 m (1,476 ft) long and is suspended 65 m (213 ft) above the Thames (to accommodate ocean-going cruise liners). The approach viaducts on the Essex side measure 1,052 m (3,451 ft) and 1,008 m (3,307 ft) on the Kent side, giving a total length of 2,872 m (9,423 ft). It has an expected life span of 120 years. The toll bridge accommodates four lanes of southbound traffic from the M25. When closed, due to high winds for example, one of the two adjacent tunnels are used instead……20 years ago this week, it was a Schumacher 1-2 in Montreal at the Canadian Grand Prix, the first time brothers had finished winner and runner-up in an F1 race [10 June 2001]. But for once it was younger brother Ralf who took the chequered flag, his Williams 20.2 seconds in front of Michael’s Ferrari to take his second win of the season. Michael led until a fuel stop on lap 46 and Ralf took the chance to reel off a succession of fastest laps to open up a decisive gap. Championship aspirant David Coulthard had a wretched day in his McLaren, retiring 16 laps from the end and suffering a badly-blistered behind. “I knew I had a problem from the start when I reached down in the car and found a large nut during the parade lap,” he said. “The car was pulling to the left and the suspension dropped. As a result I ended the race with a huge blister on my backside. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to change the car at the start so I had to carry on.”

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