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Discover the momentous motoring events that took place this week in history …….
100 years ago this week, the first Chevrolet trucks went on sale (cover image) [7 January 1918]. Chevy introduced two four-cylinder trucks for the 1918 model year , both cowl chassis designs that were only outfitted with sheet metal on the front. The half-ton Light Delivery cowl chassis was actually a Chevy Four Ninety car without its body, but with beefed-up rear springs. The truck was priced at $595. A one ton truck, called the Model T, for ‘truck,’ was priced at $1,125, again without a body. Although it was based on the FA-series car, the pickup was built on a truck frame and was both longer and stronger than the half ton truck. A 37 hp engine boosted the truck’s power and load capacity, but a governor kept its top speed at 25 miles per hour…….90 years ago this week, the Dixi-built Austin Seven was introduced, an event often cited as the automotive beginning of BMW. Dixi was the brand name of cars made by Automobilwerk Eisenach (Eisenach car factory) starting in 1904 [1 January 1928]. In the difficult economic climate of the 1920s the company found it
hard to sell its 6/24 and 9/40 models. So the manufacturer decided to enter the small car market, and in 1927 signed a licensing agreement with the Austin Motor Company to build a variant of the Austin 7. A production level of 2000 cars a year was agreed upon, and Dixi paid Austin a royalty on each vehicle produced. The first 100 cars were supplied by Austin as kits, but by December 1927 the first of the official Dixi-manufactured vehicles, the DA-1 3/15PS were coming off the production line. The DA designation stood for Deutsche Ausführung, meaning German Version; 3/15 indicated the taxation and actual horsepower ratings. Apart from being left-hand drive and using metric fasteners, the car was nearly identical to the Austin. Body styles available were coupé, roadster, tourer, and sedan with a few chassis going to external coachbuilders. Most cars left the factory as tourers. Looking to move into automobile manufacturing, BMW bought the Automobilwerk Eisenach in 1928 and, with it, the rights to build the Dixi car. At first the cars were badged as BMW Dixi but the Dixi name was dropped in 1929 when the DA-1 was replaced by a slightly updated version, the BMW 3/15 DA-2……The Packard Custom 443 was introduced along with rumble seat coupe and a convertible coupe as an additional body style in all series [3 January 1928]…… The Graham-Paige Motors Corporation was organised in Dearborn, Michigan, US by brothers Joseph B, Robert C and Ray A Graham [5 January 1928]…… The Dodge Brothers Victory Six was introduced to the public at the New York Show [7 January 1928]. The Victory Six was offered by Dodge in honour of the 10th anniversary of World War I. It was Dodge’s first six cylinder car and offered with hydraulic brakes, unique for a low-priced car. The Victory Six featured manual hydraulic brakes, a three speed non-synchronized gearbox and Dodge’s first six-cylinder engine. The flathead straight six displaced 221 cubes and makes 52 horsepower. It idles so quietly and smoothly that you really have to listen to know if its running. It featured an all-steel body built by Budd Manufacturing. This was at a time when most auto manufacturers still used composite metal and wood bodies……. 80 years ago this week, Ford reported that a car was being completed every three minutes at its Cologne assembly plant, in Germany [1 January 1938]…… 70 years ago this week, the infamous ‘Horsepower Tax’ was done away with, replaced by the flat rate for motor cars that has survived until recent years, when the UK Government has again started to tax vehicles according to engine size but this time to encourage reduced overall emissions from car exhausts [1 January 1948]…….60 years ago this week, at an admission price of 90 cents, visitors on the opening day of the 50th Chicago Auto Show were able to view more than 470 vehicles at the International Amphitheatre [4 January 1958]. In celebration of the event’s Golden Jubilee, a “Motor Memories” display was arranged, and featured a number of legendary antique and classic cars. Quite possibly the most controversial new car introduction that year was the Ford Edsel, which appeared during the “Motorevue of 1958″ stage show. Visitors were treated to Chevrolet’s brand-new Impala, offered in both hardtop and convertible styles, Ferrari’s 250 Gran Turismo and 4.9 SuperAmerica, along with the posh Pontiac Star Chief, with choice of either a 300-horsepower, triple-carburetor V-8 or 310 horsepower, fuel-injected V-8 engine……. 50 years ago this week, the South African Grand Prix held at Kyalami Circuit, the first round of the 1968 Formula One season, contested over 73 laps, was won by two time World Drivers’ Champion and 1965 Indianapolis 500 winner Jim Clark for Lotus-Ford after starting from pole position [1 January 1968]. The race is significant as not only the last Formula One race to be won by the Jim Clark, but also the last in which he ever competed, due to his fatal crash at the Hockenheimring in Germany four months later. Jim Clark broke many records during the weekend, such as leading the most Grands Prix (43), having the most laps led (1943), having the most perfect weekends (11), achieving the most pole positions (33) and finally achieving 25 race wins……. On the same day [1 January 1968] most seat belt legislation in the United States is left to the states. However, the first seat belt law was a federal law which took effect on this day and required all vehicles (except buses) to be fitted with seatbelts in all designated seating positions. Since then this law was modified to require 3-point seatbelts in outboard seating positions, and finally 3-point seatbelts in all seating positions. Seatbelt use was not compulsory…….Chris Amon became the second New Zealander to win his country’s Grand Prix when he averaged nearly 103 mph for 58 laps of the Pukekohe short circuit and brought home his Formula 2-based V6 Ferrari well clear of Frank Gardner’s Brabham-Alfa Romeo V8 [6 January 1968]. Amon set a new lap record of 106.07 mph in his 32nd lap. He ran Lotus-Ford V8 driver Jim Clark a close second through to the 46th lap when the Flying Scot was sidelined with a dropped valve. Amon and Gardner were the only ones to go the distance…….on the same Saturday [6 January 1968] The Hixon rail crash occurred when a low-loader transporter carrying a 120-ton
electrical transformer was struck by an express train on a recently installed automatic level crossing at Hixon, Staffordshire in England. At 12:26, the leading tractor had traversed the two railway tracks and the main bulk of the transporter was astride them when the 11:30 express train from Manchester to Euston activated the crossing sequence by operating a treadle 1,000 yards (910 m) away. The warning lights began to flash and the bells began to ring, with the barrier descending onto the forward part of the transformer. At about the same time Groves, who had not heard the bells and could not see the lights, saw the train approaching from his left and, realising that it would not stop, shouted a warning to his crew. He then accelerated and so did the driver of the tractor at the rear, Mr. A. L. Illsley, although this meant that Illsley was deliberately bringing himself into the direct path of the train. As a result of these actions, the train hit only the rear seven or eight feet of the transformer at approximately 75 mph (121 km/h), sheared through the trailer and threw the transformer forward and to the left of the line. The train consisted of a type AL1 electric locomotive no. E3009 and 12 coaches. The locomotive and the first five coaches of the train were demolished, and the following three coaches were derailed. Both railway lines were destroyed for a length of 120 yards (110 m) and the overhead lines were brought down. Eleven people (eight passengers and three railwaymen) were killed, with 45 being injured; six of them seriously. This was a remarkably small number and is due entirely to the sturdy steel construction of the coaches and the first class carriages at the front being only lightly occupied. The three railwaymen were all in the cab of the engine but the second class coaches were filled to capacity with standing room only after a large number of sixth form students boarded after a conference at Keele University……. 40 years ago this week, Herbert James “Burt” Munro (68), a New Zealand
motorcycle racer, famous for setting an under-1,000cc world record, at Bonneville, 26 August 1967, died [6 January 1978]. This record still stands; Munro was 68 and was riding a 47-year-old machine when he set his last record. Working from his home in Invercargill, he worked for 20 years to highly modify the 1920 Indian motorcycle that he had bought that same year. Munro set his first New Zealand speed record in 1938 and later set seven more. He travelled to compete at the Bonneville Salt Flats, attempting to set world speed records. During his ten visits to the salt flats, he set three speed records, one of which still stands. His efforts, and success, are the basis of the motion picture ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’ (2005), starring Anthony Hopkins, and an earlier 1971 short documentary film Burt Munro: Offerings to the God of Speed, directed by Roger Donaldson……. 30 years ago this week, after almost 10 years of development, the Lexus brand made its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Lexus originated from a corporate project to develop a new premium sedan, code-named F1, which began in 1983 and culminated in the launch of the Lexus LS in 1989 [2 January 1988]. Subsequently, the division added sedan, coupé, convertible, and SUV models. Until 2005 Lexus did not exist as a brand in its home market and all vehicles marketed internationally as Lexus from 1989-2005 were released in Japan under the Toyota marque and an equivalent model name. In 2005, a hybrid version of the RX crossover debuted, and additional hybrid models later joined the division’s lineup. In 2007, Lexus launched its own F marque performance division with the debut of the IS F sport sedan, followed by the LFA supercar in 2009. From the start of production, Lexus vehicles have been produced in Japan, with manufacturing centered in the Chūbu and Kyūshū regions, and in particular at Toyota’s Tahara, Aichi, Chūbu and Miyata, Fukuoka, Kyūshū plants. Assembly of the first Lexus built outside the country, the Ontario, Canada–produced RX 330, began in 2003. Following a corporate reorganization from 2001 to 2005, Lexus operates its own design, engineering, and manufacturing centers. Since the 2000s (decade), Lexus has increased sales outside its largest market, the United States. The division inaugurated dealerships in Japan’s domestic market in 2005, becoming the first Japanese premium car marque to launch in its country of origin. The brand was introduced in Southeast Asia, Latin America, Europe, and other regions. The division’s lineup also reflects regional differences for model and powertrain configurations……. 20 years ago this week, in one of the sport’s more bizarre stories, German prosecutors announced it was possible Michael Schumacher would face charges of the attempted murder of his rival Jacques Villeneuve [6 January 1998]. Schumacher was penalised by the FIA for ramming Villeneuve in the final grand prix in Spain the previous October, and the prosecutor said the possible charges against him were “attempted murder, inflicting grievous bodily harm, coercion, and driving offences”. In the end, and hardly surprisingly, no action was taken…….10 years ago this week, Washington became the first US state to ban text messaging while driving. However, the infraction was not serious enough to compel police to pull over the driver [1 January 2008]…… Ford Motor Co. named Tata Motors Ltd. the top bidder for its Jaguar and Land Rover brands and entered into “focused negotiations at a more detailed level.” [3 January 2008]…… Former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt announced that Michael Schumacher had turned down the chance to take over as team manager [4 January 2008]. “He would have been the best candidate for this job, but he didn’t want it.” Later Schumacher commented, “When I saw how much passion and dedication that he put into his job, he was at Maranello every day, even weekends. I said to myself ‘Do I need this?’ Simply not.”…. meanwhile on the same day [4 January 2008] the Dakar Rally was cancelled due to safety concerns in Mauritania, following the killing of four French tourists there on Christmas Eve, December 2007. France-based Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), in charge of the 6,000 km (3,730 mi) rally, said in a statement they had been advised by the French government to cancel the race. They said direct threats had also been made against the event by an Al-Qaeda affiliate organization…….John Anthony Ambrose (73), British rally driver who, as co-driver, twice won the RAC Rally, in 1956 and 1965, died in Newbury, Berkshire, UK [5 January 2008]. After leaving Oxford, Ambrose joined the Royal Air Force but continued to drive in rallies. In 1956, he won the RAC Rally with Lyndon Sims in an Aston Martin DB2. He joined the BMC rally team in 1960, with further successes following. These included victory on the Tulip (Holland, Belgium and eastern France) in 1961 (class victory) and 1964 (outright victory). He also co-drove with Rauno Aaltonen in an Austin-Healey 3000 to win the Spa-Sofia-Liege event in 1964, an event lasting four days and nights with no scheduled sleep time. Aaltonen later recalled how Ambrose had driven 77 miles (124 km) at night in just 52 minutes, reaching speeds of 150 miles (241 km) per hour over cobblestone roads whilst Aaltonen slept in the car. Ambrose also co-drove with Aaltonen as Aaltonen took the 1965 European Rally Championship title, including victory at the RAC Rally. The 1965 RAC Rally victory was the first time that a Mini had won the event. Ambrose left the BMC team in 1966 to spend more time with his family and his business. His last rally was the 1966 RAC Rally, with Simo Lampinen, although an accident meant that they had to stop. After giving up racing, Ambrose helped with the organisation for the 1968 London-Sydney Marathon and the 1970 London-Mexico Rally.