21-27 March: Motoring Milestones

21 -27 March

90 years ago this week, Henry Segrave driving a 4 litre Sunbeam Ladybird established a new world land speed record of 152.33 mph (240.31 km/h) in Southport, England (21 March 1926). This record lasted for just over a month, until it was broken by J.G. Parry-Thomas

driving Babs, powered by a 27-litre Liberty aero-engine. On the same day Bennett Hill won the 250 mile AAA Championship race on the 1.25 mile high banked Culver City Speedway, California. Hill averaged 131.29 mph at the wheel of a Miller. …..80 years ago this week, Hans Stuck in a 6.0L Auto Union established B and C class records for the flying 5 km {312.446 km/h 1

94.145 mph [57.61 s] }along a closed section of the highway between Frankfurt and Heidelberg(23 March 1936). During the return the engineoverheated destroying two cylinders and Auto Union had to postpone further runs to the next day .…..60 years ago this week, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Porsche and Lotus all entered the Sebring 12 Hour World Sports Car Championship race. Also on hand was an official team of 4.4 liter Corvettes. Moss’ Aston Martin fell out early, the Mike

Hawthorn/Desmond Titterington Jaguar led 6 hours before retiring with brake failure, and Carlos Menditeguy crashed. Juan Fangio and Eugenio Castellotti won in a brakeless Ferrari. 1955 Indy 500 winner Bob Sweikert impressed by taking third in a private Jaguar he co-drove with Jack Ensley (24 March 1956). The following day, Buck Baker, in a Kiekhaefer Chrysler, won the 100 mile NASCAR Grand National race on the 1 mile dirt Lakewood Speedway. Teammate Speedy Thompson was 2nd to give the Kiekhaefer Chryslers another 1-2 finish. Pontiac factory supervisor Lou Moore, a former Indy Car driver, builder & owner (of the famous Blue Crown Specials that dominated the Indy 500 in the late 40’s), collapsed and later died from a brain haemorrhage (25 March 1956).…..50 years ago this week, the first Trans-Am series race, the longest running racing series in the US was run at the Sebring International Raceway in Florida. Future Formula One World Champion Jochen Rindt took the overall victory and Bob Tullius won the Over 2 Litre class (25 March 1966). The next day, the 12 hours of Sebring was won by Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby in a Ford GT X1 (26 March 1966). Dan Gurney’s car, leading with four minutes left, stopped on course. As he tried to push the car across the finish line, the Miles/Ruby Ford passes him in the final minute. Tragically four spectators were killed when Don Wester’s Porsche 906 hit them while attempting to avoid a spinning Ferrari.….

.40 years ago this week, Duster Bennett (29), singer, guitarist,

harmonica player who worked with Alexis Korner, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Fleetwood Mac and B.B. King, was killed in a car crash (26 March 1976).…..30 years ago this week, The Brazilian Grand Prix was held at Jacarepaguá. Nigel Mansell was out of the race on the first lap after an overtaking attempt on Senna saw him in the wall. Otherwise it was a relatively uneventful race. Both Brazilian drivers in the race finished 1-2 in this race, with Nelson Piquet winning driving a Williams-Honda FW11and Ayrton Senna finishing second (23 March 1986).…..25 years ago this week, the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos was won by Ayrton Senna driving a McLaren-Honda MP4/6 by a mere 2.9 seconds from Riccardo Patrese, who had to be lifted bodily from the car due to exhaustion and driven to the podium in the medical car (24 March 1991).…..20 years ago this week, General Motors and the United Auto Workers reached a settlement in a 17-day brake-factory strike that idled more than 177,000 employees and brought the world’s top automaker to a near standstill (21 March 1996). The Ford Motor Company renamed its massive River Rouge facility the Fordson Plant (22 March 1996), on the next day. The name River Rouge, synonymous with Ford history, would continue to be used. River Rouge was established in response to the massive demand for the Model T. In the spring of 1915, Henry Ford began

buying huge tracts of land along the Rouge River, southwest of Detroit. He later announced his plans to construct a massive industrial complex which would include its own steel mills. Ford proclaimed he would no longer be “at the mercy of his suppliers.” Ford Lieutenant William Knudsen disagreed with his boss’s notion that bigger was better. The pugnacious Ford responded to his advice with typical urbanity, saying, “No, William, no. I want the Ford business all behind one fence so I can see it.” The outbreak of war in Europe brought with it a scarcity of steel that threatened to halt production of the Model T. Ford ordered Knudsen to buy up all the steel he could. Henry Ford, a proclaimed pacifist, objected to the idea of preparing for war. He likened a war-ready nation to a man carrying a gun: bound for trouble. Nevertheless, once war was declared, Ford stood behind President Wilson and River Rouge became an “arsenal of democracy.” The largest industrial complex of its day, River Rouge looked like a small city. After the war, the factory remained a primary character in the Ford drama. By 1937, General Motors (GM) and Chrysler recognized the United Auto Workers (UAW) as a labor union. But, despite the fact that the federal government, with the New Deal, guaranteed a worker’s right to belong to a union, Ford refused to negotiate with the UAW. Instead, he ordered his strongman, Harry Bennett, to keep the workers in check. On May 26, 1937, union leader Walter Reuther led a group of men through the River Rouge Plant to distribute literature to the workers. Upon leaving the plant, Reuther and his companions were attacked by Bennett and his men. The event, named the “Battle of the Overpass,” received national attention. Ford’s reputation as a labor negotiator, already bad, grew worse. Amazingly, though, Bennett’s fear tactics postponed the inevitable triumph of labor leaders for almost four years, when a massive sit-down strike finally succeeded in shutting the River Rouge plant down. The Ford River Rouge plant is also well-known for a Ford family controversy over a series of murals by artist Diego Rivera, which were commissioned by Edsel Ford on behalf of the Detroit Art Institute. Henry Ford objected strongly to the communist aesthetic of the murals and ordered their production ceased. Edsel, in a rare moment of defiance, refused his father’s demands and the murals remained on display at the River Rouge Plant. Today, just as Henry Ford desired, the Fordson Plant at River Rouge really is “the Ford business all behind one fence,” where we can see it.…..15 years ago this week, Chung Ju-yung (85) died. Along with his brothers, he founded the Hyundai Group, at one time South Korea’s largest multinational conglomerate (21 March 2001). A few days later, stretch of road on Highway 19 in Macon, Georgia, was named Duane Allman Boulevard (24 March 2001), near where the Allman Brothers guitarist died aged 24 in a motorcycle crash on October 29, 1971.…..10 years ago this week, the highest rate of Vehicle Excise Duty (“Band G”) only applies to vehicles manufactured after this day – the maximum VED for vehicles manufactured before that date was £190 for petrol-powered vehicles, or £195 for diesel-powered vehicles (23 March 2006). Three days later in Florida Paul Dana, a 30-year-old rookie in the Indy Racing League, died at Jackson Memorial Hospital from multiple trauma suffered in the crash during the final morning practice for the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 (26 March 2006). …..1 year ago this week, the BBC announced it would not renew Jeremy Clarkson’s contract in the aftermath of an incident in which he had verbally and physically attacked a Top Gear producer over a dispute at a hotel while filming on location (25 March 2015).

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