11-17 November: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, the Horch company was established by August Horch, a former production manager for Karl Benz, and a partner, with a capital of 30,000 Goldmark at Ehrenfeld, near Cologne, Germany [14 November 1899]. Horch later founded Audi, which is named after the Latin translation of his surname (Latin word for the regional Saxon expression, horch, which is the imperative form of “hark” – “listen” in German)……..110 years ago this week,the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft registered the ‘Mercedes’ name as a trademark [12 November 1909]………..R.A.C. Smith became the first person to drive a car through Central Park, New York City [13 November 1909]……….The final prototype Detroit-Dearborn designed by Paul Arthur was test driven – the Detroit-Dearborn Motor Company of Dearborn, Michigan was organised by Edward Bland, Arthur L Kiefer, Elmer W Foster and Samuel D Lapham, but would be bankrupt by the end of 1910 after producing just 110 cars [14 November 1909]………..90 years ago this week, Scuderia Ferrari was founded by Enzo Ferrari to enter amateur drivers in various races [16 November 1929]. The idea came about at a dinner in Bologna,

Enzo Ferrari

where Ferrari solicited financial help from textile heirs Augusto and Alfredo Caniato and wealthy amateur racer Mario Tadini. He then gathered a team which at its peak included over forty drivers, most of whom raced in various Alfa Romeo 8C cars; Ferrari himself continued racing, with moderate success, until the birth of his first son Dino in 1932. The well-known prancing horse blazon first appeared at the 1932 Spa 24 Hours in Belgium on a two-car team of Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Spiders, which finished first and second. In 1933 Alfa Romeo experienced economic difficulties, and withdrew its in-house team from racing. From then, the Scuderia Ferrari became the acting racing team of Alfa Romeo, when the factory released to the Scuderia the up-to-date Monoposto Tipo B racers. In 1935 Enzo Ferrari and Luigi Bazzi built the Alfa Romeo Bimotore, the first car to wear a Ferrari badge on the radiator cowl. Ferrari managed numerous established drivers (notably Tazio Nuvolari, Giuseppe Campari, Achille Varzi and Louis Chiron) and several talented rookies (such as Tadini, Guy Moll, Carlo Maria Pintacuda, and Antonio Brivio) from his headquarters in Viale Trento e Trieste, Modena, Italy, until 1938, at which point Alfa Romeo made him the manager of the factory racing division, Alfa Corse. Alfa Romeo had bought the shares of the Scuderia Ferrari in 1937 and transferred, from January 1, 1938, the official racing activity to Alfa Corse whose new buildings were being erected next to the Alfa factory at Portello (Milan). The Viale Trento e Trieste facilities then remained active for assistance to the racing customers. In October 1939 Enzo Ferrari left Alfa when the racing activity stopped; his company became Auto Avio Costruzioni Ferrari, which manufactured machine tools. The deal with Alfa included the condition that he not use the Ferrari name on cars for four years. In future years, SEFAC was used, for Scuderia Enzo Ferrari Automobili Corsa. Ferrari began working on a racecar of his own, the Tipo 815 (eight cylinders, 1.5 L displacement), in the early 1940s. The 815s, designed by Alberto Massimino, were thus the first true Ferrari cars, but after Alberto Ascari and the Marchese Lotario Rangoni Machiavelli di Modena drove them in the 1940 Mille Miglia, World War II put a temporary end to racing and the 815s saw no more competition. Ferrari continued to manufacture machine tools (specifically oleodynamic grinding machines); in 1943 he moved his headquarters to Maranello, where in 1944 it was bombed. Rules for a Grand Prix World Championship had been laid out before the war but it took several years afterward for the series to get going; meanwhile Ferrari rebuilt his works in Maranello and constructed the 12-cylinder, 1.5 L Tipo 125, which competed at several non-championship Grands Prix. The car made its debut in the 1948 Italian Grand Prix with Raymond Sommer, and achieved its first win at the minor Circuito di Garda with Giuseppe Farina……..70 years ago this week, Rex Mays (36) was killed during a race held at Del Mar, California, when he was run over by another car after being thrown from his vehicle in a mishap [11 November 1949]. A 1993 inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, Mays earned his place among the all-time greats of motor racing as much for his willingness to put the welfare of others before his own as for

Rex Mays’ grim death

his actual racing ability. Mays got his start on the West Coast midget racing circuit in the 1930s, winning numerous races before entering national competition where he added sprint and champ-car racing to his repertoire. In 1934, he entered the racing big leagues when he placed ninth in his first Indianapolis 500. Mays never managed to win the esteemed event, but he placed second in 1940 and 1941, the same two years that he won the national titles for champ-car racing. In 1941, Mays gave up the fame and fortune of motor racing to serve his country as an Air Force pilot during World War II. After the war, Mays returned to racing. Although he was not as winning a racer as before the war, two separate incidents demonstrated the distinction of his character, and guaranteed his venerable place in the racing history books. In June of 1948, while competing in a champ-car race at the Milwaukee Mile in Wisconsin, Mays deliberately crashed into a wall, nearly ending his life, in order to avoid hitting racer Duke Dinsmore, who was thrown from his car a moment before. And in the fall of 1949, at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, New York, May prevented a possible fan riot when he silently took to the racetrack alone after other racers refused to compete because of a dispute over prize money. One by one the other racers joined him and violence was prevented. In addition to his place in the Motorsports Hall of Fame, Rex is honored with a special plaque at the Milwaukee Mile, at the exact spot on the Turn One wall where he nearly gave up his life to save another………The first Volkswagen Type 2, later named the Transporter, rolled off the assembly line [12 November 1949]. Only two models were offered: the Kombi (with two side windows and middle and rear seats that were easily removable by one person), and the Commercial. The Microbus was added in May 1950, joined by the Deluxe Microbus in June 1951. In all 9,541 Type 2s were produced in their first year of production………60 years ago this week, five British police chiefs said that the design and operation of the newly opened M1 was unsatisfactory [17 November 1959]……….40 years ago this week, Vauxhall launched its first-ever front-wheel drive car – the Astra range of hatchbacks and estates – to compete in the growing family hatchback sector [14 November 1979]. It replaced the traditional rear-wheel drive Viva saloon, which had been produced in three incarnations since 1963. Initial production of the Astra took place at the Opel factory in West Germany, with production transferred to Britain in 1981. In 1983 they vamped it up to a GTE model which had a 1.8 litre fuel injection engine. The option to have a convertible was also introduced. The following year it won European car of the year with a more aerodynamic body shape.The third generation from 1991 focused heavily on safety features and introduced side bars and air bags. An all-new Astra came out in 1998, and to up the style stakes, Vauxhall commissioned the Italian designers Bertone to draw up a coupé version, which also resulted in a new convertible. By the era of the fifth generation in 2004, a lot more attention was paid to the interiors and they became much classier inside. This version also featured a folding metal roof for the first time. Just before the Mark 5 was launched, they put out a three-door GTC, sold as the SportHatch. 2009 saw the sixth generation which has been a huge success, perhaps due in some part to the recommendation from hit show “Top Gear” which awarded it the “most reasonably priced” car distinction. By June 2010 it was the best-selling car in the UK. The design for the Mark 6 is heavily based upon the Vauxhall insignia and one of the defining features is the clever use of storage areas for the top twenty most used car items…….30 years ago this week, Jaguar entered a new era when the company became a subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company [11 November 1989]. In 1935, British car designer William Lyons introduced the SS Jaguar 100 as a new marque for his Swallow Sidecar Company. Swallow Sidecar had been manufacturing complete luxury cars for four years, but the SS Jaguar 100 was Lyons’ first true sports car. During World War II, Lyons dropped the Swallow Sidecar name, and the politically incorrect SS initials, and Jaguar Cars Ltd. was formally established. The first significant postwar Jaguar, the XK 120, was introduced in 1948 at the London Motor Show to great acclaim. Capable of speeds in excess of 120 mph, the XK 120 was the fastest production car in the world, and is considered by many to be one of the finest sports cars ever made. Over the next three decades, Jaguar became the epitome of speed coupled with elegance, and the company flourished as its racing division racked up countless trophies. The integrity of the Jaguar marque was recognised and maintained, and throughout the 1990s the company continued to produce distinguished automobiles such as the Jaguar XK8 and the luxurious Vanden Plas……..20 years ago this week, the world’s first volume production line for aluminium cars opened in Neckarsulm, Germany [15 November 1999]. The facility costing over DM 300 million could produce 60,000 Audi A2 cars annually………… H. Clay Earles (86), founder and chairman of the board of Martinsville Speedway, died [16 November 1999]. The NASCAR stock car racing track that Earles built in 1947 in Ridgeway, Virginia, US was one of the circuit’s first paved oval tracks and stands as one of its shortest. His first business venture was a failed pool hall, but a gas station was successful and its profits helped pay for a drive-in restaurant in Martinsville, Virginia. The restaurant was sold to buy another gas station. Having seen the crowds attracted by car racing at temporary tracks at fairgrounds, he built a track on 30 acres (120,000 m2) of land he had purchased in 1946. The first scheduled race, predating the establishment of NASCAR, took place on September 7, 1947, drawing more than 6,000 spectators at a facility that only had 750 seats; Seating capacity had grown to 86,000 by the time of Earles’ death. In its inaugural year, Bill France, Sr. provided the track with advertising and drivers in exchange for one-fourth of profits, and became the founding president of NASCAR when it was incorporated the next year. Martinsville Speedway is the only one of NASCAR’s original tracks still in use. Red Byron was awarded a $500 prize for winning the inaugural race at the track, which had grown to $170,000 by 1999. Earles began a tradition in 1964 of distributing grandfather clocks to race winners, with Richard Petty receiving a track-record of 12, and would have received three more for wins that predated the inception of the practice. The track measures 0.526 miles (0.847 km) around, with a pair of 800-foot (240 m) straightaways and tight turns banked at 12 degrees, described as two dragstrips with tight turns. The track was first paved in 1955. Unlike the superspeedways, Martinsville became a track where the skill and strategy of each individual driver could overcome the big money and horsepower of the larger teams…….10 years ago this week, the Dutch government announced it would bring the polluter-pays principle into the home garage [13 November 2009]. As of 2012 rather than an annual road tax, drivers would pay a few cents for every kilometer on the road, in a plan aimed at breaking chronic traffic jams and cutting carbon emissions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *