9-15 July: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, Thomas Cook & Son and the Compagnie d’Automobiles began the first six-day bus excursion, leaving Paris in a DeDion et Bouton steam-powered omnibus and reaching Aix-le-Bains on schedule – although successful, the firms decided against additional trips [11 July 1898]…….The Paris–Amsterdam–Paris Race which began on the 7th July 1898 and run over 889 miles of unsurfaced roads was won 6 days later by Fernand Charron, driving a Panhard et Levassor, in a time of 33 hours at an average speed of 27 mph……..110 years ago this week, the fifth Glidden Tour began in Buffalo, New York with a planned route into Pennsylvania, the New England states, and finished in Saratoga Springs, New York [9 July 1908]. The Glidden Tours, also known as the National Reliability Runs, were promotional events held during the automotive Brass Era by the American Automobile Association (AAA). The AAA, a proponent for safer roads, acceptance of the automobile and automotive-friendly legislation, started the tour to promote public acceptance and bring awareness of their goals. The original Glidden Tours were held from 1904 until 1913. They were named after Charles J. Glidden, a financier and automobile enthusiast, who presented the AAA with a trophy first awarded to the winner of the 1905 tour…….on the same day [9 July 1908], Lord Montagu of Beaulieu officially opened the new Rolls Royce Ltd. factory in Derby, England, ending the company’s stay in Manchester……..the first Ford Model T was sold [15 July 1908]……. 90 years ago this week, the Mercedes-Benz SS (cover image) made its racing debut at the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring and occupied the top three places – Halle in an Amilcar and Vinzenz Junek in a Bugatti were killed in accidents during the race [15 July 1928]…….on the same day [15 July 1928], Francis Birtles driving a

14 hp Bean, arrived in Sydney to complete the first overland trip from England to Australia by car. He departed from Australia House in London on 19 October 1927, farewelled by a crowd of wellwishers including the 1927 Miss Australia. In an era when there were few roads and gasoline supplies sparse, the epic eight-month journey carried him across mountains, deserts and through tropical jungles and included a number of sea voyages – the last being from Singapore to Darwin. He travelled via Europe, Egypt, Persia (now Iran), India, Burma and Malaya. On arrival in Darwin, his car was seized by customs officials demanding import duty, until direct intervention by the Prime Minister Stanley Bruce averted the situation. He continued south via Brisbane and Sydney to the official finishing point of the journey at the General Post Office on Elizabeth Street, Melbourne on 25 July 1928. He was promptly asked to move on by a policeman for obstructing traffic. The journey was not repeated until 1955……..60 years ago today, Britain’s first parking meters started operating in Mayfair.

Approximately 625 meters of them were put in place by Westminster City Council, with an hour of parking costing 6 old pence, with a fixed penalty fine of £2 for those unwilling to pay [10 July 1958]. Customers were wary and many spaces remained vacant all day. Commercial travellers said they had to pay over the odds because they could not be sure how long their visits would last……. The Trabant, that started out as East Germany’s answer to the Volkswagen Beetle as the people’s affordable car, went into regular production [10 July 1958]. It was simple design that could easily be maintained and repaired by its owner using a few basic tools. Most owners carried a replacement belt and sparks plugs at all times. The first Trabant, a P 50, was powered by a smoky two-stroke generator that maxed out at 18 hp; the P was stood for plastic and the 50 signified it’s 500cc engine that used only 5 moving parts. To conserve expensive metal, the Trabant body was manufactured using Duroplast, a form of plastic containing resin strengthened by recycled wool or cotton. Surprisingly, in crash tests the Trabant actually proved to be superior to some modern small hatchbacks. Refueling the Trabant required lifting the hood to fill the six gallon gas tank and then adding two-stroke oil and shaking it back and forth to mix it. But that didn’t deter folks from enjoying the main selling points of the car in it had room for four adults and luggage, it was compact, fast, light and durable. The lifespan of an average Trabant was 28 years, probably due to the fact that it could take over ten years for a one to be delivered from the time it was ordered and people who finally received theirs were very careful with it. Subsequently, used Trabants often fetched a higher price than new ones, as they were available immediately. East German designers and engineers created a series of more sophisticated prototypes through the years that were intended to replace the original Trabant, however each proposal for a new model was rejected by the GDR leadership for reasons of cost. Instead subtle changes came in 1963 with the P 60 series including improved brakes and electrical systems.The Trabant P 60 (600cc) still took 21 seconds to get from 0 to 60 with a top speed of 70mph while producing nine times the amount of hydrocarbons and five times the carbon monoxides of the average European car. It was in a Trabant that thousands of East Germans drove over the border when the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989. This made the Trabant a kind of automotive liberator and one of the most recognizable symbols of the failed former East Germany and the fall of communism. As German reunification began, demand for the Trabant plummeted. Residents of the east preferred second-hand western cars and the production line closed in 1991. Out of the 3,096,099 Trabants produced, there are over 100K reported to be still on the road. Today these little cars have a huge following of young drivers because they are so easy to repair and customize. There are several Trabant enthusiast clubs all over the world which is amazing for car that rarely left the communists states…….. The Studebaker-Packard Corporation announced that 1959 production would consist only of Studebakers [12 July 1958]…….50 years ago this week, the

Mazda R100 was introduced, the world’s first volume-production car powered by a Wankel rotary engine [13 July 1968]. Felix Wankel patented his rotary device in 1933 but it was more than 30 years later that a rotary-engined production car hit the market. More than 2000 rotary engine designs have been patented but the Wankel has so far been the only one to be successfully mass-produced. The two-rotor rotary engine had its low speed performance improved over that of the experimental models without any sacrifice to its high-speed performance and the engine could be driven continuously at 180 km/h and could cover the standing quarter mile in 17.8 seconds. Apart from its quick performance provided by the rotary engine, the R100 had other virtues. It was superbly built and finished, in a style that Australian buyers had come to expect from Japanese cars. The interior had a very upmarket feel. Black was the fashion colour of the late 1960s, when it came to interiors and the Mazda designers had conformed happily to that trend. By any standards, the dashboard was impressive and even heading into the 1990s, the style and arrangement of the gauges was difficult to fault.

The matching speedo and tacho were suitably dominant in the manner of a traditional English sports car. The three-spoked woodrim wheel was another nice touch and a standard radio with an electric aerial wasn’t to be taken for granted in 1969. There was a very effective heater/demister with a three-speed fan, headrests on the front seats and a plush carpet of top quality. Th ride in this small car – it was only 3830 mm long and a very narrow 1480 mm width – was quite reasonable although there was a tendency to bounciness over choppy surfaces and the body developed quite a roll. The stumpy body was susceptible to buffeting in a crosswind and the slack at the straight-ahead position made the car unpleasant to drive fast under such conditions. Braking was better with discs up front and drums on the rear. The lack of a servo unit meant that pedal pressures were high and the brakes had a tendency to lock. Fuel consumption had been claimed by some to be a strong point of the Wankel engine. In fact the reverse was true. Road testers summed the car up at the time as ‘excellent performance, superb engine with heavy fuel consumption; handling and roadholding fair; finish and trim good’…….on the same day [13 July 1968], Al Unser Sr. won his first USAC National Championship race, a 100 mile night race on the dirt in Nazareth, Pennsylvania……..40 years ago this week, ‘The Driver’, a crime thriller film written and directed by Walter Hill, starring Ryan O’Neal, Bruce Dern, and Isabelle Adjani, was released [10 July 1978]. The Driver (Ryan O’Neal) – real name unknown – had made a career out of stealing cars to use as getaway vehicles in big-time robberies all over Los Angeles. Hot on the Driver’s trail was the Detective (Bruce Dern), a conceited and otherwise-nameless cop who has his own name for the Driver: “Cowboy.” Since the Driver had never been caught, the Detective went to ever-increasing lengths to bring him down. Ultimately, the Detective set up a bank job in order to bait and trap the Driver. Even when said plan threatened to wreck the Detective’s own career, he remained steadfast in his obsession to bust the Driver…….Ford Motor Company chairman Henry Ford II fired Lee Iacocca as Ford’s president, ending years of tension between the two men [13 July 1978]. Born to an immigrant family in Allentown in 1924, Iacocca was hired by Ford as an engineer in 1946 but soon switched to sales, at which he clearly excelled. By 1960, Iaccoca had become a vice president and general manager of the Ford division, the company’s largest marketing arm. He successfully championed the design and development of the sporty, affordable Ford Mustang, an achievement that landed him on the covers of Time and Newsweek magazines in the same week in 1964. In December 1970, Henry Ford II named Iacocca president of Ford, but his brash, unorthodox style soon brought him into conflict with his boss……..30 years ago today, Ayrton Senna won a wet British Grand Prix at Silverstone, but the loudest cheers of the day were reserved for Nigel Mansell who chipped his way through the field to take second [10 July 1988]. It was less memorable for Alain Prost who retired on the 24th lap moaning his car was handling too badly for him to continue…….20 years ago this week, the world’s fastest fire truck is the jet-powered Hawaiian Eagle, owned by Shannen Seydel, of Navarre, Florida, USA, which attained the speed of 655 km/h (407 mph) in Ontario, Canada, on 11 July 1998. The truck is a red 1940 Ford, powered by two Rolls Royce Bristol Viper engines boasting 4,470 kW (6,000 hp) per engine generating 5,443 kg (12,000 lb) of thrust. The Hawaiian Eagle is used to raise money for children and fire departments across the USA and Canada……… A soggy British Grand Prix was marred by dismal stewarding which enabled Michael Schumacher to take the win after a penalty was issued by them so late on that Ferrari were able to bring him into the pits on the final lap, meaning he won the race in the pit lane and before he technically served the stop-start punishment [12 July 1998]. His offence came when he overtook race leader Mike Hakkinen as the safety car left the track, but a slow response from the stewards allowed Ferrari’s morally dubious exploitation of the rules……..Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer narrowly escaped serious injury as his Ferrari convertible was destroyed when a leak in the gas tank hose caused the fuel to ignite at a gas station near his Scituate, Massachusetts home. Kramer suffered minor burns on his hands, arms, and one leg [15 July 1998]…….10 years ago today, Dick Dean (73), American automobile designer and builder of custom cars, died [10 July 2008]. In 1964 George Barris asked Dean to run the famous Barris Kustom City. His work with Barris included many notable cars, including the Surf Woody (designed by Tom Daniel), the X-PAK 400 floating air fan car, and cars for television shows such as the Munster Koach and Dragula for The Munsters, and cars for Beverly Hillbillies and Mannix. He collaborated with Dean Jeffries in 1966 on several TV cars, including Black Beauty for The Green Hornet and the Monkeemobile for The Monkees. In the later 1960s, Dean built many dune buggies on shortened Volkswagen Beetle chassis with fiberglass Meyers Manx bodies. Capitalizing on this premise, in 1968-69 Dean created his own body for a shortened Volkswagen chassis, the Shalako.

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