4-10 April: Motoring Milestones

4-10 April

Cars and people in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: Jordan Motor Company, Jaguar XJS, Bob Burman, Pontiac Fiero, Renault, Ford Motor Company, and Aston Martin.

100 years ago this week, ground-breaking ceremonies were held for the new Jordan Motor Car Company factory in Cleveland, Ohio, US [5 April 1916]. Jordan was also one of the first automakers to christen its model types with unique, evocative names such as the Sport Marine (with “fashionably low” 32×4-inch wheels, it was “essentially a woman’s car”), Tomboy, and Playboy. In 1920, the company issued the Friendly Three coupe, with the slogan “Seats two, three if they’re friendly”. Jordan was known for refined marketing with one of the most famous ads ever appearing in the June, 1923 edition of the Saturday Evening Post promoting the Jordan Playboy with artwork by Fred Cole of the car driven by a cloche hat wearing flapper hunkered down behind the wheel in abstract fashion, racing a cowboy and the clouds.

The text read: “SOMEWHERE west of Laramie there’s a bronco-busting, steer roping girl who knows what I’m talking about. She can tell what a sassy pony, that’s a cross between greased lighting and the place where it hits, can do with eleven hundred pounds of steel and action when he’s going high, wide and handsome. The truth is – the Playboy was built for her. Built for the lass whose, face is brown with the sun when the day is done of revel and romp and race. She loves the cross of the wild and the tame. There’s a savour of links about that car – of laughter and lilt and light – a hint of old loves – and saddle and quirt. It’s a brawny thing – yet a graceful thing for the sweep o’ the Avenue. Step into the Playboy when the hour grows dull with things gone dead and stale. Then start for the land of real living with the spirit of the lass who rides, lean and rangy, into the red horizon of a Wyoming twilight.” …….Racer Bob Burman crashed through a barrier into the crowd at the last Boulevard Race in Corona, California [8 April 1916]. Burman, his riding mechanic Eric Scroeder, and a track policeman were killed, and 5 spectators were badly injured.The boulevard race started in 1913 as part of the AAA national championship schedule. The race was run on Grand Boulevard, a street that formed a perfect three-mile circle. Bob Burman was coming off an attempt at the world land-speed record at Brighton Beach, New York, where he had run 129 mph. Burman led most of the race at Corona before his blue Peugot broke a wheel, sending the car over the curb and into a pole. The tragedy ended racing in inland Southern California for almost 40 years. …..40 years ago this week, the new, multi-million dollar Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum was opened to the public [5 April 1976], featuring approximately 75 classic cars, motorcycles and racing cars. The museum is listed on the US National Registry of Historic Places…..30 years ago this week, Lieutenant Commander William (Bill) Boaks DSC (81), a British Royal Navy officer who became an eccentric political campaigner standing under the banner; ‘Public Safety Democratic Monarchist White Resident’, died [4 April 1986] Road safety was central to his beliefs. He kept a pram loaded down with bricks, which he would push on to pedestrian crossings in front of rapidly braking motorists. Sadly for one who dedicated his life to road safety he was injured in a road accident in Wimbledon in November 1982. It slowed him down and in 1984 he was involved in another minor road accident whilst stepping off a bus. He died as a result of complications from the head injury he received in that accident…… On the same day Sir Laurence John Hartnett CBE (87), an engineer who made several important contributions to the Australian automotive industry and is often called “The Father of the Holden”, died [4 April 1986] …….

The Pontiac Fiero GTP IMSA Camel Lights racer made its race debut, at Road Atlanta in Brazelton, Georgia, USA. Gordon Spice and Bob Earl drove the car to a seventh place finish [6 April 1986]…… On the same day the French government ruled against the privatisation of leading French carmaker Renault [9 April 1986]. The privatisation of Renault, France’s second largest carmaker to PSA Peugeot, has remained a highly debated issue since the 1986 decision. In 1994, the government sold shares of Renault to the public for the first time at 165 francs per share. The sale dramatically increased the company’s revenue, but the French government remained the majority shareholder. Between 1996 and 1997, the market for cars in Europe grew precipitously, with the most marked increases in France. Renault, often scorned for its “public sector” policies, failed to capitalise on the growing markets. Instead foreign competitors like Volkswagen and Fiat took advantage. In 1996, Renault lost over $800 million. Renault and Peugeot were the two weakest of Europe’s Big Seven carmakers. Economists blame the French carmakers lack of success on its protectionist policies, and more specifically on the unwillingness of PSA Peugeot and Renault to merge, a manoeuvre that would radically lower production costs for both auto-making giants. The question remains whether or not the government will fully privatise Renault. With economic boundaries in Europe falling rapidly, the days of France’s nationally run car company may be numbered.…..20 years ago this week, the last Jaguar XJS, a blue 6-litre V12 coupe rolled off the line at Browns Lane [4 April 1996]. The ultimate incarnation of a run that lasted an amazing 115,413. Power came from the Jaguar

V12 petrol engine with a choice of a manual or automatic transmission, but the manual was soon dropped as they were left over from V12 E Type production. V12 automobiles were unusual at the time, with notable others coming from Italian luxury sports car makers Lamborghini and Ferrari. The specifications of the XJ-S compared well with both Italian cars; it was able to accelerate to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.6 seconds (automatic) and had a top speed of 143 mph (230 km/h). Jaguar seized promotional opportunities with the television series The New Avengers and Return of the Saint. The New Avengers featured Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt) who drove an XJ-S. Return of the Saint saw Simon Templar (played by Ian Ogilvy) driving an early XJ-S with the number plate “ST 1”. Miniature versions were made by Corgi and proved popular. A decade and a half before, Jaguar had turned down the producers of the earlier Saint series when approached about the E-type; the producers had instead used a Volvo P1800…… On the same day Jaguar introduced its new SK8 convertible at the New York International Auto Show [4 April 1996]. The SK was the sports car version of the XK car released a few months before. The two models were Jaguar’s first entirely new designs since the company became a Ford subsidiary in 1989. Powered by the advanced Jaguar V8 coupled with a five-speed automatic gearbox, the SK lived up to Jaguar’s heritage of powerful sports cars…….The Argentine Grand Prix was held at the Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez, Buenos Aires. Despite suffering a bout of food poisoning, Damon Hill made it three wins out of three, with Jacques Villeneuve helping Williams complete their second one-two of the season [7 April 1986].…..15 years ago this week, Perry Wacker, a Dutch lorry driver, was jailed for 14 years for the manslaughter of 58 Chinese illegal immigrants who were found suffocated in his lorry at Dover ferry port in June 2000 [5 April 2001]…..10 years ago this week, Bill Ford stepped down as CEO of Ford Motor Co. and was replaced by Alan Mulally, a top Boeing executive (5 April). Mulally’s base salary was $2 million, with an immediate payout of $18.5 million which included a $7.5 million hiring bonus and $11 million to offset forfeited performance and stock option awards from Boeing…… The new Alfa Brera, a sports coupe in the classic Alfa Romeo tradition went on sale in the UK [8 April]…… Aston Martin and Nokia launched the limited edition Nokia 8800 Aston Martin Edition mobile phone [10 April].

Featuring a discrete laser-etched ‘Aston Martin’ logo on the stainless steel casing, it came loaded with a selection of exclusive Aston Martin content, including a short documentary film, a screensaver based on the famous crystal starter button found in all Aston Martin models, and ring tones that sampled the roar of the Vantage’s (380 hp) V8 engine.

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