6 – 12 June
Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: Louis Chevrolet, Preston By-Pass, Speed Bumps, Tim Richmond, and the Mercedes C111-IID.
110 years ago this week, the New York Times reported [7 June 1906] on an early implementation of what might be considered speed bumps in the US town of Chatham, New Jersey, which planned to raise its crosswalks five inches above the road level: “This scheme of stopping automobile speeding has been discussed by different municipalities, but Chatham is the first place to put it in practice”. The average automobile’s top speed at the time was around 30 miles per hour (48 km/h).….. 80 years ago this week, the all-time motorcycle Test Hill Record (6.99 sec) at Brooklands was set by Francis Beart, riding a 500cc Grindlay Peerless [8 June 1936] ….75 years ago this week, Swiss-born American Louis Chevrolet, founder of the Chevrolet Motor Car Company in 1911 and later the
Frontenac Motor Corporation which made racing parts for Ford’s Model T, died at the age of 62 [6 June 1941]. In 1900, at the age of 21, Chevrolet left Switzerland moved to Canada, then New York. The things that he accomplished there started a chain of events that left a huge impression on the American automotive industry. Chevrolet established a reputation in the United States as a race car mechanic, and was soon driving them. On May 20, 1905, his passion for racing and performance led him to win his first road race on a cinder track in Morris Park, New York. With a new-found reputation in racing, Chevrolet met W.C. Durant in 1907. Durant was considered to be the “father” of General Motors and noticed Chevrolet’s genius and eye for perfection. He put him to work designing Buick concept cars that led the Buick Racing Team to many victories. In 1911, Chevrolet and Durant founded the Chevrolet Motor Company. Even with little formal education, Chevrolet designed and built the first Chevrolet automobile. Durant believed that they would need to make their cars cheaper to compete with the automotive market. Chevrolet wanted his cars to be the most impressive on the road and wanted them only to be built for the rich, which led to his resignation in October 1913. With his talent for designing automobiles Chevrolet went back to his first love, racing. By 1917, he had built a new, advanced race car. With it, he again became a leader in the automotive racing industry. He completed his first laps at the Indianapolis race track in 1926, as the official pace car driver. During his career on the famous brick track, he won 10 races and 27 major races elsewhere, making him the most successful driver in his family. He formed the Frontenac Motor Corporation to build high-performance engine heads. However, the corporation was fated to go out of business…..70 years ago this week, legendary boxer Jack Johnson (68) died in a car crash near Raleigh, North Carolina, aged 68 [10 June 1946]. He was reportedly angry, and speeding away from a diner that refused to serve him……60 years ago this week, Bulldozer driver Fred Hackett cut the first sod on
Britain’s first motorway, the M6 Preston bypass, now the area that stretches from junctions 29 to 32 [12 June 1956]…..50 years ago this week, American driver Jimmy Davies (36), who finished third at the 1955 Indianapolis 500, was killed in a midget crash at Santa Fe Speedway in Chicago [11 June 1966]. On the same day another leading American driver who drove twice in the Indy 500, Jud Larson (43), died at Reading Speedway in Pennsylvania when racing side-by-side with Red Reigel – the pair collided, both cars started somersaulting and both men were killed…..Gerhard Mitter, driving with a broken leg, won the Rossfeld Alpen-Bergpreis at the wheel of a Porsche [12 June 1966]…..The Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps was won by British driver John Surtees driving a Ferrari 312 in a race that saw the field decimated in heavy rain [12 June 1966]. Eight of the 17 cars crashed out on the first lap, including Swedish driver Jo Bonnier’s Cooper T81 making a spectacular exit through the upstairs window of a house on the edge of the track. Jackie Stewart’s BRM P261 crashed into a telephone pole and then landed in a ditch, leaving him stuck upside down inside his car in a pool of fuel for 25 minutes. This experience would lead him to commence a safety campaign that would eventually transform the sport’s attitude to all aspects of driver safety…..40 years ago this week, four drivers, who took turns at two-and-a-half hour
intervals, drove Mercedes C 111-IID from one diesel record to the next over a time-span of 60 hours at the brand-new test track in Nardo [12 June 1976]. In the end, a total of 16 new records had been established – those over 5,000 miles, 10,000 kilometers and 10,000 miles even were absolute world records, i.e. independent of the type of engine. Speed averaged around 150mph…..30 years ago this week, Tim Richmond won the first of his
seven Winston Cup Series races of the year, a total that vaulted him to third place in the Series point race and solidified his reputation as one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers [8 June 1986]. NASCAR named him and fellow racer, Dale Earnhardt, co-drivers of the year. Richmond fell sick during the winter of 1986-1987. At first diagnosed with pneumonia, Richmond struggled to get himself ready for the 1987 season. His condition continued to worsen and he was soon diagnosed with the AIDS virus. His friends and family were caught off-guard. His team leader and mentor Rick Hendrick explained, “It was like my first time… I didn’t know what it actually meant–what the prognosis was. The more you found out… it just killed you.” AIDS was still a mystery to most at that stage. Richmond missed the 1987 Daytona 500 with double pneumonia. Slowly, rumours leaked about his condition. The Miller 500 at the Pocono Speedway was Richmond’s first race back. Earnhardt approached him before the race and asked, “You ready to get it on?” Richmond won the race. Earnhardt, Kyle Petty, and Bill Elliott drove alongside him to offer congratulations, and Richmond burst into tears. He remained in tears on victory lane. It was his last victory…..SEAT officially became a brand of the Volkswagen Group [9 June 1986]……The hit John Hughes-directed teen comedy “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” was released [11 June 1986], starred a young Matthew Broderick as a popular high school student in suburban Illinois who fakes an illness in order to score a day off from school, then leads his best friend and his girlfriend on a whirlwind day through Chicago. The movie’s cast also included Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jeffrey Jones and Jennifer Grey. However, the most memorable performer may have been an automobile: the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California, a custom-built car revered by auto collectors. In the movie, the restored Ferrari—bearing the license plate NRVOUS—belongs to the strict father of Ferris’ depressive best friend, Cameron (Ruck), whom Ferris convinces to liberate the car from its museum-like home and drive it to Chicago. The three teenagers leave the car with a pair of garage attendants, who are later seen taking it for a high-speed joyride. On the drive home, Cameron goes into shock when Ferris notices that hundreds of miles have been added to the odometer. As they attempt, unsuccessfully, to remove the miles by running the Ferrari backwards, Cameron starts venting his anger at his father by kicking the front end of the coddled car. His tantrum dislodges the blocks holding it in place, sending the Ferrari through the glass wall of the garage and into the ravine behind the house…..Austin-Rover was renamed the Rover Group [12 June 1986]…..20 years ago this week, The UK car registration number plate M1 was sold at auction in Goodwood for £330,000 [7 June 2006]…..15 years ago this week, the Canadian Grand Prix (formally the XXXIX Grand Prix Air Canada) held at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal was won by Ralf Schumacher driving for the Williams team [10 June 2001]. Michael Schumacher finished second, driving a Ferrari car, with Mika Häkkinen third for the McLaren team. Ralf Schumacher’s win was his second of the season and also marked the first time that two brothers finished first and second in a race…..10 years ago this week, the animated feature film “Cars,” produced by Pixar Animation Studios, roared into theatres across the United States [9 June 2006]. For “Cars,” which won the first-ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Pixar’s animators created an alternate America inhabited by vehicles instead of humans. The film’s hero is Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson). While traveling to the Piston Cup championship race, McQueen goes off course (and off the interstate) and ends up in Radiator Springs, a forgotten town on the now-defunct Route 66. Mack, the Mack Truck (voiced by John Ratzenberger) searches to find his buddy who learns about life outside of the spotlight, and off the main road…..The British Grand Prix at Silverstone was won by Fernando Alonso in a Renault R26 [11 June 2006]. He became the first Spanish driver and the youngest driver (at 24 years 10 months 13 days) to get the ‘hat trick’ of pole position, chequered flag and fastest lap in the same Grand Prix. This race also featured the first-ever pit stop to involve a woman, as ITV’s then pit-lane reporter Louise Goodman became the left rear tyre changer during a pit stop for Portuguese driver Tiago Monteiro.