11-17 September: Motoring MIlestones

1968_cars_nsu_ro80_1967b

Momentous motoring events that took place during this week in history …..

120 years ago this week, the Arona-Stresa-Arona race was staged, the second ever held in Italy [12 September 1897]…….. 90 years ago this week, Isadora Duncan, the controversial American dancer, was instantly strangled to death while travelling as a passenger

 Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan

in an Amilcar in Nice, France. Her long silk scarf, draped around her neck, became entangled around the open-spoked wheels and rear axle, breaking her neck [14 September 1927]……. 80 years ago this week, Rudolf Caracciola in a Mercedes-Benz W125 took an early lead from pole at the Italian Grand Prix at the Montenero Circuit in Livorno [12 September 1937]. Hermann Lang was second but he soon took the lead from Caracciola, the two Mercedes drivers pushing each other hard. Team manager Alfred Neubauer was not impressed by the internal fighting. The partisan crowd were disappointed when the Italian Nuvolari retired and gave his car to Farina. The two leading Mercedes had a fierce fight to the flag with Caracciola blocking any attempt to pass by Lang. Rosemeyer in an Auto Union couldn’t match their pace and Caracciola held on for a win with Lang just 0.4s behind him at the flag……. 70 years ago this week, John Cobb averaged 394.19 mph (634.39 km/h) (385.6 & 403.1) over the measured mile in both directions to take the world land speed record driving the Railton Mobil Special at the Bonneville Salt Flats [16 September 1947]. The Railton was powered bonnevilleby two supercharged Napier Lion VIID (WD) W-12 aircraft engines. These engines were the gift of Betty ‘Joe’ Carstairs, who had previously used them in her powerboat Estelle V. Multiple engines was not a new technique, having already been used by the triple-engined White Triplex and the Railton Special’s contemporary rival, Captain Eyston’s twin-engined Thunderbolt. With the huge powers thus available, the limitation was in finding a transmission and tyres that could cope. Reid Railton found a simple and ingenious solution to this by simply splitting the drive from each engine to a separate axle, giving four wheel drive…….60 years ago this week, the Bianchina, with an unusual body style of a two-door landaulet, called “Trasformabile”, the first car produced by Autobianchi rolled from the production lines in Desio, Italy [11 September 1957]. It remained the only body style until 1960, when a two-door “Cabriolet” was introduced, followed by a three-door estate version, the “Panoramica” and a two-door saloon, the “Berlina”. Finally, two van versions were launched: one resembling a two-seater version of the Panoramica, and another, with a raised and expanded cargo section…… The Osceola Dragway opened in Indiana. Founded in 1957 by the late Arthur Chizum. Osceola Dragway is an IHRA sanctioned track, offering Friday night test & tune and weekly Sunday bracket races [13 September 1957]…….. 50 years ago this week, Peter Monteverdi introduced his first automobile, the Monteverdi 375 S

Monteverdi 375 S High Speed

Monteverdi 375 S High Speed

High Speed, at the Frankfurt Automobile Show [11 September 1967]. The car used a heavy and simple steel frame provided by Stahlbau Muttenz GmbH with an aluminium body designed by Pietro Frua. It looked quite similar to other Frua creations of that time, particularly the Maserati Mistral Coupé and the British AC 428. There are rumours that all the three shared some details like windows etc. The elegant looking car was powered by a 440c.i. (7.2 Litre) Chrysler V8 engine delivering up to 375 bhp (according to SAE standards) and had a luxurious interior finished to the highest standards. Eleven copies of the Frua-designed Monteverdi coupé were built from 1968 to 1969, then the alliance of Monteverdi and Frua split in anger. Not long before, Frua had built two 2+2 coupés with a stretched wheelbase. One of them was presented as Monteverdi 375/L, the other one stayed for some years at Frua before, in 1971, it was slightly modified and sold to AC where it was presented as a one-off AC 428…….. Leonard Percy Lord, 1st Baron Lambury KBE (70), a captain of the British motor industry who was the General Manager of both Morris and Austin, died [13 September 1967]……. The futuristically styled 112-mph NSU Ro 80, the most technologically advanced production car in the world at the time, was launched [14 September 1967]. Most notable was the powertrain, a 113-bhp, 995-cc, twin-rotor Wankel engine driving the front wheels through a 3-speed semi-automatic gearbox, featuring a torque converter and an automatic clutch triggered by a microswitch on the gearstick. It received much praise and was voted ‘Car of the Year 1968’. Unfortunately, its engine was also the cause of its failure, which killed not only the car but also its maker NSU. Reliability and durability problems led to huge warranty expenses, while poor reputation drove customers towards rivals Mercedes and BMW. NSU was rescued by Volkswagen in 1969, and then merged with Auto-Union to form the modern Audi. The Ro 80 somehow survived until 1977……. 40 years ago this week, during the final of the Alfasud Europe Cup, the support race to the 1977 Italian Formula One Grand Prix at Monza circuit, an advertising board where about sixty spectators had climbed up to watch the races, suddenly collapsed throwing all the people down [11 September 1977]. Part of the advertising board hit other spectators seated on the branches of the trees all around, and other people sitting under the structure was crushed. One spectator died from thoracic crushing and other 35 people sustained several injuries, 5 of them were seriously wounded…… on the same day, BMW officially presented the 2.5 litre Z1 two-seater roadster at the Frankfurt Motor Show [11 September 1977]. Initial demand was so fierce that BMW had 5,000 orders before production began. Demand dropped significantly within few years and BMW ended production in 1991…….. Oldsmobile 88 and 98 models, the first diesel cars manufactured in the US, were introduced [13 September 1977]. A major selling point of the two models was their fuel efficiency, which GM claimed to be 40% better than petrol-

Bolan's Mini following the accident.

Bolan’s Mini following the accident.

powered cars. By compressing air, rather than an air-fuel mixture, the diesel engine achieved higher compression ratios, and consequently higher theoretical cycle efficiencies……. Former T. Rex singer Marc Bolan was killed instantly, at the age of 29, when the purple Mini 1275 GT (FOX 661L) driven by his girlfriend, Gloria Jones, left the road and hit a tree in Barnes, London [16 September 1977]. Miss Jones broke her jaw in the accident……. 30 years ago this week, Mark Martin rose up from 16th starting position to win the Freedlander 200, the final race for the NASCAR Nationwide Series on the old .542-mile Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway, Virginia, US [12 September 1987]. Martin, who led just 16 of the 180 laps, scored the third of his 49 career wins in the series. L.D. Ottinger finished second with Geoffrey Bodine third. Tommy Houston, who led a race-high 106 laps, faded to a fourth-place finish……. 20 years ago this week, Citroën launched the Xsara, a vehicle created by Citroën’s Creative Styling Centre in Vélizy [11 September 1987]. Designed to meet the requirements of European customers in terms of space, modular design and on-board equipment, the Xsara aimed to be the first in a new generation of “top-market” vehicles in the mid-range segment……. At the European Finals at the Santa Pod Raceway Barry Sheavills became the quickest ever British Top Fuel driver with a 5.08/257 [13 September 1997]. Jarmo Roivas set a European Top Alcohol record at 5.77/236. In the final of Pro Stock, Tomi Laine set a new European record at 7.06/194.10 against Jari Konolas losing 7.20/192.02. Gary Page, driving Rune Fjelds Mustang Funny Car ran a best ever 5.482/245 against Alan Jackson, very close to John Spuffards record 5.46. In his next race, which was the final against John Spuffard, he blew the motor at 1000ft due to a rear axle failure and burnt the chutes off into the bargain. He got the win though with a 5.77/187. Spuffard himself came very close to the record with a 5.47/276, the terminal speed being the fastest recorded funny car speed in Europe. Andy Robinson set a new European Pro Mod record at 6.787/205 on his first qualifying run. Leif Andreasson became the first European Top Alcohol Funny Car driver to run under six seconds, he recorded a 5.964/229.45……. New regulations which came into force in the US tightening the standard on the amount of ozone permitted in the air, setting the cap at .08 parts per million . As automobiles are the primary source of emissions that help form ozone, surpassing even industrial sources, consumers were directly affected by the new standard. Cities that did not meet national standards faced strict penalties, including mandatory vehicle inspection and costly retrofitting of pumps at gas stations, all of which would translate to higher gas prices [16 September 1997]…… 10 years ago this week, at the Defence Systems & Equipment International trade show, Chrysler LLC unveiled a Wrangler Unlimited version designed for military use dubbed the J8 [13 September 2007]. The unarmored Jeep J8 was equipped with larger brakes, axles and suspension components than the civilian version and had a payload capacity of 1,339 kg (2,952 lb). The J8 also differed from the civilian model by utilizing heavy-duty rear leaf springs for carrying heavier payloads. The Jeep J8 was powered by a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that produced 158 hp. The engine was mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. The J8 also features a unique air-intake system with special filtration and a hood-mounted snorkel that enabled the J8 to wade in water up to 30 inch deep and tackle sandstorm conditions for up to five hours. Targeted for use by the militaries in overseas markets, the J8 was not available in the United States because it did not meet U.S. emissions requirements. The J8 was be produced in Egypt….. on the same day [13 September 2007] McLaren were fined $100m and docked all their points in the constructors’ championship as a result of the Formula One spy scandal. However, both team drivers kept their individual points after a hearing in Paris…. Also on this day [13 September 2007] SSC announced they had broken the speed

Ultimate Aero TT

Ultimate Aero TT

record for the world’s fastest production car with the Ultimate Aero TT at 256.15 mph (412.23 km/h) in West Richland, WA. The reported record speed came from an average of two runs in opposite directions, in accordance with Guinness Book of World Records rules. The first run clocked 257.41 mph (414.26 km/h) and the return trip 254.88 mph (410.19 km/h), with the average beating the Bugatti Veyron’s top speed of 253 mph (407.16 km/h)……. Rally driver Colin McRae (39) and three other people were killed when their helicopter crashed near Lanark in Scotland [15 September 2007]. The son of five-time British Rally Champion Jimmy McRae and brother of rally driver Alister McRae, Colin McRae was the 1991 and 1992 British Rally Champion and, in 1995 became the first British person and the youngest to win the World Rally Championship Drivers’ title, a record he still holds. McRae’s outstanding performance with the Subaru World Rally Team enabled the team to win the World Rally Championship Constructors’ title three times in succession in 1995, 1996 and 1997……. Maruti Udyog was renamed Maruti Suzuki India Limited [17 September 2007]. It was the first company in India to mass-produce and sell more than a million cars. It is largely credited for having brought in an automobile revolution to India.

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