25 April – 1 May: Motoring Milestones


25 April – 1 May

Cars and people in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: Higham-Thomas Special Babs, UAW, Ford GT40, Park-O-Meter, New York Auto Show and Formula 1.

190 years ago this week, Londoner, Samuel Brown was granted British Patent No. 5350 for the first practical internal combustion engine [25 April 1826]. A carriage powered his 4 hp 2 cylinder atmospheric gas 89 litre engine climbed Shooters Hill, Blackheath, Kent in May 1826….. 130 years ago this week, Mr Fossier, chief editor of Le Vélocipède, organised a 2 km race between Neuilly Bridge and the Bois de Boulogne [28 April 1886]. Unfortunately the race was not a real success as there was just one entrant…..110 years ago this week, the George N. Pierce Company purchased a 16-acre plot of land that had been the site of the 1901 Pan American Exposition with the intention of making the site their new production facility [26 April 1906]….. 90 years ago this week, a one-way traffic system began operating in Trafalgar Square, London and according to police it was an instant success [26 April 1926]….. the following day, John Godfrey Parry-Thomas established a new Land Speed Record of 169.30mph driving the 450 hp (340 kW) V12 Liberty aero engine of 27 litre capacity Higham-Thomas Special Babs at Pendine Sands,

Wales [27 April 1926]……Great Britain’s 33 and one-third levy on luxury imports to help pay for the war, the “McKenna Duties“, was extended to include commercial vehicles [1 May 1926]….. Meanwhile the Ford Motor Company became one of the first companies in America to adopt a five-day, 40-hour week for workers in its automotive factories [1 May 1926]. The policy would be extended to Ford’s office workers the following August. Henry Ford’s Detroit-based automobile company had broken ground in its labour policies before. In early 1914, against a backdrop of widespread unemployment and increasing labour unrest, Ford announced that it would pay its male factory workers a minimum wage of $5 per eight-hour day, upped from a previous rate of $2.34 for nine hours (the policy was adopted for female workers in 1916). The news shocked many in the industry–at the time, $5 per day was nearly double what the average auto worker made–but turned out to be a stroke of brilliance, immediately boosting productivity along the assembly line and building a sense of company loyalty and pride among Ford’s workers. The decision to reduce the workweek from six to five days had originally been made in 1922. According to an article published in The New York Times that March, Edsel Ford, Henry’s son and the company’s president, explained that “Every man needs more than one day a week for rest and recreation….The Ford Company always has sought to promote [an] ideal home life for its employees. We believe that in order to live properly every man should have more time to spend with his family.” Henry Ford said of the decision: “It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either ‘lost time’ or a class privilege.” At Ford’s own admission, however, the five-day workweek was also instituted in order to increase productivity: Though workers’ time on the job had decreased, they were expected to expend more effort while they were there. Manufacturers all over the country, and the world, soon followed Ford’s lead, and the Monday-to-Friday workweek became standard practice. ….. 80 years ago this week, The UAW, or United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, gained autonomy from the AFL, becoming the first democratic, independent labour union concerned with the rights of unskilled and semi-skilled labourers [27 April 1936]. The AFL was seen as America’s most powerful labour organisation, but it was essentially an institution concerned with guaranteeing the rights of skilled workers. As such, it fought for salary stratification on the basis of skill. The AFL’s skilled labourers cared little for the plight of the many thousands of unskilled workers who worked in Detroit’s automotive industry……The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Park-O-Meter had been recommended by Chief Administrative Officer Alfred Cleary [30 April 1936]. A trial plan called for 50 meters on Market St. charging 10 cents for 20 minutes….. 60 years ago this week, the Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner – the world’s first mass produced retractable hardtop debuted at the New York Auto Show [28 April 1956[.

Skyliner had a complex mechanism which folded the front of the roof and retracted it under the rear decklid. It had three roof drive motors driving four lift jacks, four door-lock motors, ten solenoids, four locking mechanisms for the roof, and a total of 610 ft (185.9 m) of wiring. The large top took up vast amounts of trunk space, limiting the car’s sales. Production totaled 20,766 units in 1957, declining to 14,713 in 1958 and to 12,915 in 1959. An electric clock was standard. Fuel consumption was around 14 mpg overall. The fuel tank was placed under the rear seat, which inadvertently added safety in rear collisions…… 50 years ago this week, Coming back from severe injuries suffered in a late 1965 Sports Car crash, John Surtees teamed with

Mike Parkes in a new Ferrari 3330P3 coupe to win the Monza 1000 Kilometer World Sports Car Championship race on the Monza circuit [25 April 1966]. Parkes turned in a great co-drive, especially when the wipers failed during the rainy event. None of the factory backed 7 liter Mk. 2 Fords were on hand and the production 4.7 liter Ford GT40s of the privateers weren’t able to keep pace with the Ferrari. Sir John Whitmore and Masten Gregory finished 2nd, 1 lap back, in their 4.7 liter Ford GT40…… 30 years ago this week, The San Marino Grand Prix was held at Imola [27 April 1986]. As with the previous year’s event, fuel consumption was a big issue, changing the points finishers in the closing laps. Alain Prost driving a McLaren-TAG Porsche MP4/2C dominated the race after Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell retired early, before almost running out of fuel, three corners from the chequered flag. Frantically weaving the car back and forth to slosh the last drops of fuel into the pickup, he managed to keep it running just long enough to creep over the line and win the race….. Four days later race car driver Bill Elliott set a stock car speed record with his Ford Thunderbird in Talladega, Alabama [1 May 1986]. Elliott zipped around the track at 212.229 mph…… 20 years ago this week, Ford Motor Company announced a recall of about eight million cars, minivans and pickups because of an ignition switch fire hazard [25 April 1996]. …..The Sixth Annual International Motorsports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was held for the first time at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame Complex in Talladega, Alabama [25 April 1996]. The Inductees were selected after the closest voting in the history of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. The 1996 Class of Inductees included: Richie Evans, Donald Healey, Bobby Isaac, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, Johnny Rutherford and John Surtees….. A couple of days later Jacques Villeneuve driving a Williams-Renault FW18 won the European Grand Prix at Nürburgring [28 April 1996]. It was his first F1 win after four starts. The Tyrrells were disqualified for separate infringements – Salo finished 10th but his car was found post-race to be underweight, while Katayama finished 12th but was disqualified for receiving an illegal push-start on the parade lap……15 years ago this week, Michele Alboreto (44) died in a testing crash [25 April 2001]…… The Saudi interior minister, Prince

Nayef, stated that his government would not allow women to drive [26 April 2001]. Speaking to the media in Riyadh, the Prince said current legislation would remain unchanged. Saudi Arabia is the only Gulf state to ban women from the road….. Finally this week, Michael Schumacher won the Spanish Grand Prix driving a Ferrari F2001 even though he was 40 seconds behind Mika Häkkinen on the penultimate lap [29 April 2001]. The Finn, who had lapped the third placed Juan-Pablo Montoya, suffered from a hydraulic failure on the final lap of the race. This handed Michael Schumacher probably one of his luckier wins as he was suffering with a bad vibration.

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