Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: world land speed record, Volvo, Trans-Am and Formula One.
210 years ago this week, Isaac de Rivaz of Switzerland test drove his road carriage powered by an internal combustion engine [10 April 1807]. The engine has a claim to be the world’s first internal combustion engine and contained some features of modern engines including spark ignition and the use of hydrogen as the fuel. Starting with a stationary engine suitable to work a pump in 1804, de Rivaz progressed to a small experimental vehicle built in 1807, which was the first wheeled vehicle to be powered by an internal combustion engine…… 115 years ago this week, King Edward VII became the first reigning British monarch to travel by car, when John Scott-Montague drove him through the New Forest in a 24 hp Daimler [12 April 1902]. Montagu later said of the trip: ‘I distinctly remember that His Majesty displayed immense interest in the details of the car … and with his wonderful alertness of mind he had evidently grasped what a remarkable effect upon the locomotion of the world the coming of the motor car would have.’…… Leon
Serpollet established a new world land speed record of 76.06 mph, the first time that the 75 mph had been exceeded, in his steam powered Gardner-Serpollet Oeuf de Pacques (‘Easter Egg’) at Nice [13 April 1902]. Along with his brother Henri, early French steam car pioneers, he had perfected the flash tube boiler that introduced an efficient and new way produce steam. The exact date that their innovative system was first built appears to be unknown, but after further development it went on to make steam power in an automobile more practical because of its advanced design and quick steam output. A steam tricycle was built in the late eighteen-eighties to test the system and it soon convinced others of the merit of the design. In 1898 the brothers met Frank Gardner, a wealthy American and the Gardener-Serpollet Company was soon formed. Shortly afterwards, one of the best-engineered early steam cars to be found entered the automotive marketplace.The flash-tube or mono tube boiler as it is also known, turns a small quantity of water into steam quickly and it also has the ability to provide a continual supply to the engine when correctly designed. The new boiler also reduced the long period of time it took to get a conventional unit up to a useable pressure. Linking it to the advanced four cylinder engine Serpollet designed, resulted in a fast and powerful performer…… 110 years ago this week, the Rolls Royce Silver Ghost
was introduced to the press [13 April 1907]…… 90 years ago this week, the first regular production Volvo, the “Öppen Vagn 4 cylindrar” (OV4), nicknamed “Jakob,” left the assembly line in Goteborg, Sweden [14 April 1927]. Volvo (“I roll” in Latin) was the result of collaboration between Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson. When the first series produced ÖV4 was about to drive out of the factory and engineer Eric Carlberg put it into first gear, the car went backwards, where the car was actually in reverse gear. The explanation was that the differential gear in the rear axle had been fitted incorrectly. This mistake delayed the introduction by one day and the official introduction day for the ÖV4 was then adjusted to 14 April 1927, the day AB Volvo officially says the automobile company Volvo was “born”. The OV4’s 1,944cc side-valve engine made 28hp, while the transmission was a three-speed and the brakes were mechanical and acted on the rear wheels. Of the ten prototype cars Volvo built, nine were open touring cars, and one was a closed sedan, the PV4 (Person Vagn, or passenger car, 4-cylinders). All used the “iron” or “Mars” symbol on their radiator shell to signify the famous Swedish iron and steel that this Swedish car was made from; the diagonal slash that bisected the radiator to fix the symbol in place was simply the easiest way to hold it there, but it became the automaker’s signature marking……. 80 years ago this week, S C H Davis driving a BMW 328 established an unofficial record of 102.22 miles in one hour at the Brooklands race circuit [15 April 1937]……. 70 years ago this week, Ford Motor Company‘s factories and offes were closed for the day and all ther automobile plants shut down their assembly lines for one minute as a tribute to Henry Ford during his funeral in Detroit, Michigan, US [10 April 1947]. Mr Ford’s last automobile ride, ironically, was in a 1942 Packard hearse……. 60 years ago this week, Volvo launched its ‘50th anniversary car’, a special version of the Volvo 244DL in a metallic silver finish with black and gold decorative trim [14 April 1957]. The interior was finished in plush blue upholstery and the glove compartment bore a silver plaque engraved with the text “Volvo 1927-77, Anniversary Car”, and the President of Volvo Pehr G Gyllenhammar’s signature. Unfortunately however, the enamel was of poor quality and the badges deteriorated……. The Studebaker-Packard Corporation announced a sales agreement with Daimler-Benz AG to market Mercedes-Benz automobiles in the United States [16 April 1957]……. 50 years ago this week, Dan Gurney drove a Mercury Cougar to victory in the ‘Green Valley 300’ SCCA Trans-Am race on the 1.6 mile Green Valley Raceway, Texas, US [16 April 1967]. The Texas state flag dropped to signal the LeMans style start with drivers running to their cars. Ron Dykes jumped into the lead in a Mustang and at the end of lap 1 it was Dykes, Freddie Van Beuren and Gurney with Jerry Titus up to 4th after starting 28th on the grid. Titus had rolled his Mustang in final practice the day before and had to run his patched up car in an early morning consolation race to even make the field. On lap 2, Titus passed Gurney and Van Beuren in one fell swoop to move into 2nd and took the lead one lap later with an inside dive around Dykes. Once in front, Titus pulled away. On lap 40, Titus pulled into the pits and stepped out of the car to have ice water poured on him. Titus returned over 2 minutes later, but continued to have problems with the heat, forcing him to make more stops before being relieved by Dykes, who had retired. The practice roll had closed off the left side air ducts, adding to Titus’ heat problems on a day with both temperature and humidity in the 90’s. With Titus’ stop, Parnelli Jones took the lead in his Cougar. Jones led until stalling following his pit stop. The stall cost Jones a lap and gave teammate Gurney the lead. Gurney went on to win by that margin, giving the Lincoln-Mercury Cougar team it’s first win in Trans-Am competition…….40 years ago this week, General Motors (GM) announced it had dropped plans to produce a Wankel rotary engine [12 April 1977]. The rotary engine is an old engineering principle originally pioneered by Elwood Haynes in 1893. Felix Wankel is credited with inventing the modern design in
1955. The Wankel rotary engine dispenses with separate pistons, cylinders, valves, and crankshafts, and its construction allows it to apply power directly to the transmission. The miracle of the rotary design is that a rotary engine can produce the same power as a conventional engine of twice its size composed of four times as many parts. There is a tradeoff, however. The Wankel rotary engine burns up to twice as much gasoline as a conventional engine, making it, among other things, a heavy polluter. Proponents of the engine argue that its smaller size would allow carmakers to install anti-pollution devices where they wouldn’t fit in a car carrying an ordinary engine. The basic unit of the rotary engine is a large combustion chamber in the form of a “pinched oval” or epitrochoid. Within the chamber all four engine functions take place in the three pockets formed by the rotor and the walls of the combustion chamber. In the same way that the addition of cylinders increases power in a conventional engine, the addition of pockets increases power in a rotary engine. GM, after having considered the production of a rotary engine for a decade, finally decided against the innovation on the grounds that its poor fuel economy would be prohibitive to sales……. The Lincoln Versailles, a luxury-compact based on the Ford Granada chassis was introduced as a competitor of the Cadillac Seville during the grand opening ceremonies for the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan, US [15 April 1977]……. 30 years ago this week, reigning world champion, Frenchman Alain Prost driving a McLaren MP4/3 won the Brazilian Grand Prix at Jacarepagua [12 April 1987]. It was Prost’s fourth victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix, expanding his own record. Prost won the race by 40 seconds over local hero Nelson Piquet driving a Williams FW11B…….20 years ago this week, Daimler-Benz presented the high performance sports car 6-litre V12 CLK-GTR [11 April 1997]. The Guinness Book of World Records recorded the CLK GTR as the most expensive production car ever built at the time, with a price of $1,547,620 (USD)……. The Argentine Grand Prix held at Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez in Buenos Aires, Argentina was won by Jacques Villeneuve in a Williams-Renault FW19 [13 April 1997].……10 years ago this week, in San Francisco Mayor Newsom brokered an agreement to ban cars from Golden Gate Park’s main road for 6 months of the year and to make permanent a Sunday ban for a smaller area [13 April 2007]. The deal still required approval from the board of Supervisors……. The MINI Cooper D went on sale in the UK [14 April 2007]……. Felipe Massa driving a Ferraru F2007 won the Bahrain Grand Prix held at the Baharain International Circuit from Lewis Hamilton, who made history to become the first driver ever to finish on the podium in all his first three races [15 April 2007]……. A 2.0-litre petrol engine ordered by a customer for a new three-door version of the BMW 1 Series became the one millionth engine to be produced at the Hams Hall plant since production started at the state-of-the-art West Midlands factory in January 2001 [16 April 2007].