9-15 January: Motoring Milestones

Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include…. Soybean car, Ford Model T truck, Auto Workers Union, Edsel, Pontiac, and Jim Clark.

110 years ago this week, the Luverne Automobile Company was incorporated in Minnesota, US with A D LaDue as President, E A Brown as Vice President, S C Rea as Secretary, Jay A Kennicott as Treasurer, F A Al Leicher as Manager, his brother Edward L Leicher as mechanical Engineer and S B Nelson, William Jacobsen, Dr C O Wright and J W Gerber as minority shareholders [9 January 1907]…… 100 years ago this week, the Ford Model T truck was introduced [11

January 1917]…… 80 years ago this week, twelve days into a general sit-down strike at the General Motors (GM) factory in Flint, Michigan, General Motors security forces and the Flint Police Department moved in to evict the strikers [11 January 1937]. A pitched battle broke out at Fisher body plant #2, as strikers held off police and GM security with fire hoses and jury-rigged slingshots, and the police responded with bullets and tear gas. The pickets outside the plant assisted the strikers however they could, breaking windows to ventilate the factory when police filled it with tear gas, and creating barricades with their own vehicles to prevent police from driving past the plant’s open doors. Finally, Governor Frank Murphy ordered the National Guard in to stem the violence. The sit-down strike lasted 44 days, and ended in GM’s surrender to the demands of the United Auto Workers Union (UAW). GM was the first of the “Big Three” auto makers to make a deal with the UAW. The era of repressive labor practices in the auto industry was ending…… 75 years ago this week, the Ford Motor Company signed an agreement to make Jeeps (GPWs) to meet the huge wartime demand by the US military. By the end of the war Ford had produced 280,000 jeeps [10 January 1942]. A further 13,000 (roughly) amphibian jeeps were also built by Ford under the model name GPA (nicknamed ‘Seep’ for Sea Jeep)…… Henry Ford was granted the first US patent for construction of a plastic car [13 January 1942]. The Soybean (or ‘Hemp body’, as it was also known) was the first car to have a body entirely made of

plastic. It was 30 per cent lighter than a regular metal car and the panels were said to be only a quarter of an inch (6 mm) thick. Because of World War II all US automobile production was curtailed considerably, and the plastic car experiment basically came to a halt and the prototype car was destroyed…… 60 years ago this week, Ford announced that the design of the Edsel would be far more radical than any of its other products and that equally radical sales and marketing techniques would be used to promote it [11 January 1957]. The Edsel never gained popularity with contemporary American car buyers and sold poorly losing the Ford Motor Company millions of dollars…… Pontiac introduced its top of the line Series 28 Star Chief Custom Bonneville convertible coupe, and the equally exclusive Series 27 Star Chief Custom Safari 4-door station wagon, later dubbed the

‘Transcontinental’ [11 January 1957]…… British driver Ken Wharton (40), who drove 16 grands prix, was killed while testing a Ferrari Monza at the Ardmore Circuit in Auckland New Zealand [12 January 1957]. An official statement said he came too fast out of a corner, moved onto loose gravel and piled into drums, bales and the timekeeper’s tower. He had certainly had his share of luck until then. In the 1952 Monte Carlo Rally his car crashed into a gorge and finished upside down on top of two other wrecks, and in 1955 he was involved in a massive pile-up in a race in Belfast when two other drivers died…… The Argentine Grand Prix held at Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez was won by Juan Manuel Fangio in a Maserati. Fangio and Behra raced away into the distance as the rest of the field floundered [13 January 1957]. Moss’s throttle linkage broke on the startline and he lost 10 laps having it fixed. The Ferraris were all suffering terribly with clutch problems-both Collins and Musso burnt theirs out, whilst Hawthorn’s was slipping badly. Both Collins and von Trips took over Perdisa’s Ferrari in an attempt to stop the Maseratis,but were powerless to stop them taking the first four places. Moss rejoined and set fastest lap on his way to 8th place……50 years ago this week, construction of the Volga Automobile Works began in Togliatti in the Soviet Union. By April of 1970, Zhiguli automobiles (later known as “Lada“) were rolling off the assembly lines [9 January 1967]. In association with Fiat, the Volga works became (and remains) the largest producer of small European automobiles…. The Pontiac Saint Moritz convertible show was unveiled at the Toledo Auto Show, Canada [10 January 1967]…… The Levin International race in the Tasman Series was won by Jim Clark in a Lotus 33 [14 January 1967]. He also set fastest lap and was hounded for much of the race by Jackie Stewart in a BRM P261. Stewart finished a scant 2.5 seconds behind at the finish, with Richard Attwood taking the third spot…40 years ago this week, in the smouldering heat of the Argentine Grand Prix Jody Scheckter on the 1977 seasons opening in Buenos Aires with the brand new, Dr. Harvey Postlethwaite designed Wolf WR1, it was reigning world champion James Hunt who started off his title defence with pole position in his McLaren [9 January 1977]. Countryman John Watson shared the front row with him in the Brabham, and Patrick Depailler in the six-wheeled Tyrrell was third on the grid. The weather was, as was very often the case in Buenos Aires oppressively hot, which contributed to the attrition of this race. Watson took the lead at the start with Hunt second. Watson led for the first 10 laps until Hunt moved ahead and pulled away, with Mario Andretti’s Lotus third, but soon the other McLaren of Jochen Mass took the place. Mass had to retire soon after with an engine failure which caused him to spin, and a suspension failure took teammate and race leader Hunt out three laps later. Watson took the lead again, but he also had suspension failures and let teammate Carlos Pace through. Watson eventually retired, and Pace struggled towards the end due to heat in his cockpit and was passed by Jody Scheckter’s Wolf and Andretti, but the latter retired then with a wheel bearing failure. Scheckter took the first win of 1977, with Pace second, and home hero Carlos Reutemann completing the podium for Ferrari. The race is notable as the last time a Formula One constructor won the first Grand Prix the team entered…… 30 years ago this week, twenty five motorists were publicly lashed for staging a car race in Saudia Arabia [11 January 1987]…… 20 years ago this week, Detroit (North American) Auto Show opened. Production cars introduced included the Chevrolet Corvette C5,

Chrysler Concorde, Dodge Durango, Ford Escort ZX2, Mercedes-Benz CLK, Subaru Forester, Toyota Sienna, and the Volvo C70 convertible [13 January 1997]…… 15 years ago this week, Cele Goldsmith Lalli (69), an editor for Amazing Stories and Fantastic, was killed in a car accident near her home in Connecticut [15 January 2002]. As an editor, she discovered such fantasy and science fiction authors as Ursula K. LeGuin, Thomas Disch, and Roger Zelazny.

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