1-7 July: Motoring Milestones

Discover the momentous motoring events that took place this week in history ……..

George Shillibeer’s first London omnibus, 1829

190 years ago this week, The first London “Omnibus” commenced on the route between Paddington (The Yorkshire Stingo) and “Bank” (Bank of England) via the “New Road” (now Marylebone Rd), Somers Town and City Road [4 July 1829]. Four services were provided in each direction daily. This service was described in the first advertisements as being “upon the Parisian mode” and that “a person of great respectability attended his vehicle as Conductor”. An account of the new service was given in the Morning Post: “Saturday the new vehicle, called the Omnibus, commenced running from Paddington to the City, and excited considerable notice, both from the novel form of the carriage, and the elegance with which it is fitted out. It is capable of accommodating 16 or 18 persons, all inside, and we apprehend it would be almost impossible to make it overturn, owing to the great width of the carriage. It was drawn by three beautiful bays abreast, after the French fashion. The Omnibus is a handsome machine, in the shape of a van. The width the horses occupy will render the vehicle rather inconvenient to be turned or driven through some of the streets of London.” A less successful innovation was his “Funeral Omnibus”, which combined a passenger vehicle with a hearse. George Shillibeer died at Brighton, East Sussex on 21 August 1866 (some sources say 22 August), and is buried in the church graveyard at Chigwell in Essex. In 1979, the 150th anniversary of the commencement of the first omnibus service in London, several London buses (twelve AEC Routemasters and one Leyland Fleetline) were operated in a green and yellow livery similar to Shilibeer’s Omnibus. These specially painted vehicles were displayed for their launch into service at the Guildhall in central London on Friday 2 March 1979. Poet laureate Sir John Betjeman was one of the guests at the ceremony. Also, a memorial service was held at the Chigwell Church attended by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Shillibeer Walk in Chigwell was named after him, and Shillibeer Place in Marylebone, as is a pub/restaurant named The George Shillibeer next to a converted omnibus factory in north London……. 120 years ago this week, Mme Labrousse, believed to be the first woman to compete in an automotive speed event, finished fifth in the Paris-Spa race [1 July 1899]……..the following day [2 July 1899] Fritz Held won the Great Gold Medal in the 120 mile (193.2 km) Frankfurt-Cologne endurance race at an average speed of 14 mph (22.5 km/h); another 8 hp Benz, driven by Emil Graf, came 2nd……….Hon. John Scott-Montagu in his Coventry Daimler became the first to enter the grounds of the Houses of Parliament in London in an automobile [3 July 1899]………110 years ago this week, a contract was signed by William C Durant and Henry M Leland leading to the acquisition of the Cadillac Motor Car Company by General Motors [1 July 1909]……..The Hudson Motor Car Company produced its first car [2 July 1909]. The new Hudson “Twenty” was one of the first low-priced cars on the American market and

Hudson Model 20

very successful with more than 4,000 sold the first year. The 4,508 units made in 1910 was the best first year’s production in the history of the automobile industry and put the newly formed company in 17th place industry-wide, “a remarkable achievement at a time” because there were hundreds of makes being marketed. Hudson had several ‘firsts’ for the car industry: a self-starter, dual brakes and the first balanced crankshaft which allowed the Hudson straight-6 engine to work at a higher rotational speed while remaining smooth and developing more power than lower-revving engines. The Hudson Motor Car Company made Hudson and other brand automobiles in Detroit, Michigan, from 1909 to 1954. In 1954, Hudson merged with Nash-Kelvinator Corporation to form American Motors (AMC). The Hudson name was continued through the 1957 model year, after which it was discontinued………The first rural section of concrete pavement in the United States, a one-mile stretch, opens on Woodward Ave near Detroit at a cost of $13,534 [4 July 1909]……. 100 years ago this week, the Ford Motor Company was reorganised as a Delaware corporation with Edsel Ford as company president [7 July 1919]. The reorganization was the last step in Henry Ford’s drive to gain 100% of the company’s stock for his family. He borrowed heavily in order to buy out the minority shareholders. The extent to which the Ford family has maintained control over the company makes Ford unique in the annals of business history. Edsel Ford held the title of president until his death in 1943, but Henry effectively ran the company until 1945, when Henry Ford II took control of the company. The year following the Ford stock buyout saw a postwar recession that rattled the automotive industry, forcing Henry Ford to the brink of defaulting due to his heavy borrowing to manage the buyout. Ford implemented a ruthless cost-cutting policy, pinching pennies in production and administration while laying off half of his office staff and three-quarters of his foremen. Still short of money, he used all of his remaining stock parts in the winter of 1920-21 to build tens of thousands of Model Ts, shipping them to Ford dealers who were still struggling to sell existing Model Ts. Faced with the prospect of losing money on sales or losing their dealerships, the dealers were forced to push the extra cars hard. They never forgave Henry Ford for his extortionist policy, but it worked, and Ford turned the company around. By 1923, Ford held 60% of the domestic car market. Henry Ford earned respect in Wall Street for his initiative, probably because he saved so many of their dollars. A Dow Jones release described Ford as having “displayed a degree of financial astuteness totally unexpected.” Similar authoritarian tactics would lead Ford and his company into trouble in the years after the Great Depression……….80 years ago this week, Raymond Sommer(cover image) in an Alfa Romeo 308 won the Grand Prix des Remparts, contested over 80 laps (1.287 km) of the Circuit des Remparts in Angoulême, France [2 July 1939]. This urban race track returned after World War II as part of the Grand Prix season from 1947 to 1951, hosting events where famous drivers could be seen, such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Maurice Trintignant, Raymond Sommer, Robert Manzon, André Simon and the like. Today it is still a successful event, usually in September, that gathers historic car enthusiast around a Grand Prix raced on the very original race track. It also features a “Concours d’Élégance” and a concours of car restoration……..Noel Pope riding a Brough Superior recorded the fastest ever lap by a motorcycle at Brooklands (124.51mph) [4 July 1939]……..70 years ago this week, Alberto Ascari driving a Ferrari 125 G won the Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten[3 July 1949]……..60 years ago this week, Fireball

Fireball Roberts

Roberts scored his first win in his hometown by driving a Pontiac to victory in the inaugural Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway [4 July 1959]. Roberts outran Joe Weatherly’s Convertible Thunderbird in the caution-free event…….The sun was so hot at the French Grand Prix, that the track surface began to melt. Tony Brooks mastered the conditions to give Ferrari their first Championship victory in 12 months [5 July 1959]. His French team-mate, Jean Behra, was fired for punching the team manager!……..50 years ago this week, Dover International Speedway (formerly Dover Downs International Speedway) staged its first race, the Mason-Dixon 300, which was won by Richard Petty [6 July 1969]. Since opening it has held at least two NASCAR races annually. In addition to NASCAR, the track has also hosted USAC and the Verizon IndyCar Series. The track features one layout, a 1 mile (1.6 km) concrete oval, with 24° banking in the turns and 9° banking on the straights……. on the same day [6 July 1959], Richard Petty scorched the field to win the Mason-Dixon 300, the first race held at Dover International Speedway, Delaware, US. Petty led 150 of 300 laps at the Monster Mile to post win No. 96 of his all-time series best 200………. 40 years ago this week, the French Grand Prix was held at Dijon [1 July 1979]. It marked the first victory

of a turbocharged car in Formula One, with Renault overcoming the reliability problems that had initially plagued their car. For Jean-Pierre Jabouille it was a victory on home soil, driving a French car (Renault), on French tyres (Michelin), powered by a French engine (Renault), burning French fuel (Elf). Jabouille was the first Frenchman to win the French Grand Prix since Jean-Pierre Wimille in 1948…….Sammy Miller won the £5000 prize for Europe’s first 300 mph terminal speed at the Summer International Meeting at the Santa Pod Raceway, Northamptonshire, England [7 July 1979]. After a 4.68/245 shakedown run and a 4.43/265 when he inadvertently hit the chutes after a bumpy top end ride, he ran 4.20seconds with a terminal speed of 307.6mph……….30 years ago this week, Davey Allison took control when pole-starter Mark Martin runs out of fuel while leading with five laps left to win the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, Florida, US [1 July 1989]. For Allison, it was the sixth of his 19 wins in NASCAR’s top series. Morgan Shepherd held on for second, 0.18 seconds behind at the checkered flag, with Phil Parsons third. Martin limped to a 16th-place finish, one lap down.

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