12-18 February: Motoring Milestones

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

120 Years ago this week, the first car crash resulting in a fatality happened when the steering gear failed on Henry Linfield’s electric car, and he crashed at the bottom of a hill at Purley Corner, Surrey, England [12 February 1898]. All the main details of the accident were reported in the ‘Evening Argus’ newspaper of Brighton, where Henry had his home. As usual for this period, the article was particularly thorough: “A sad fatal accident occurred on Saturday to Mr. Lindfield, a gentleman, of 42, Montpelier-street, Brighton. Mr. Lindfield, accompanied by his son, Mr. Bernard Lindfield, a young man of 18 or 19 years of age, was driving a motor car from London to Brighton. They had passed through Croydon, and at about two o’clock were descending a long hill, the machine running of its own impetus. About half way down the hill the car began to sway, probably owing to the action of the brake, and at that time the son happened to remark, “I believe the bag has fallen out.” Directly afterwards the vehicle became unmanageable, and swerving round on to the path ran through a light fence of barbed wire and struck against a tree with great force. Unfortunately one of Mr. Lindfield’s legs came between the motor car and the tree, the result being that it was completely smashed just below the knee. The son was thrown from the vehicle. He escaped practically unhurt, and finding his father jammed against the tree at once obtained assistance. Mr. Lindfield was removed to the Croydon Hospital, where his injuries were found to be so serious (the main artery was shattered) that the three surgeons who were in attendance came to the conclusion that the only possibility of saving his life was by amputation of the injured limb. This was done, but after the operation Mr. Lindfield remained unconscious, and yesterday morning at about nine o’clock he died. Mr. Lindfield was able, just after his admittance to the hospital, to converse with his son, and to give him some directions in case he should not survive. The deceased gentleman, who was only 42 years of age, leaves two sons and a daughter to mourn his loss, for whom the greatest sympathy is felt. Mr. Lindfield was well-known and highly esteemed in Brighton, and the news of his untimely death will be received with very great regret by his many friends.The motor car which Mr. Lindfield was driving was a two-seated one, which he had just purchased. He took considerable interest in motor cars, and had on the previous Saturday brought another one, which he had also just purchased for private use, from London to Brighton, but on that occasion, it may be remarked, he was accompanied by an engineer.” Today traffic accidents kill more than 1 million people a year worldwide! ……. 110 years ago this week, the now famous, New York-to-Paris via Seattle and Yokohama, Japan, the longest motor race in history, began [12 February 1908]. The race started at Times Square in New York City. Six vehicles entered the race. The national flags of Germany, France, Italy and the United States flew, with the Protos representing Germany, the Zust representing Italy, three cars (De Dion-Bouton, Motobloc and Sizaire-Naudin) representing France, and Thomas Flyer competing for the United States. At 11:15 AM a gunshot signaled the start of the race. Ahead of the competitors were very few paved roads, and in many parts of the world no roads at all. Often, the teams resorted to straddling locomotive rails with their cars riding tie to tie on balloon tires for hundreds of miles when no roads could be found. The American Thomas Flyer was in the lead crossing the United States arriving in San Francisco in 41 days, 8 hours, and 15 minutes. It was the first crossing of the US by an automobile in winter. The route then took them to Valdez, Alaska, by ship. The Thomas crew found impossible conditions in Alaska and the race was rerouted across the Pacific by steamer to Japan where the Americans made their way across to the Sea of Japan. Then it was on to Vladivostok, Siberia by ship to begin crossing the continents of Asia and Europe. Only three of the competitors made it past Vladivostok: the Protos, the Züst, and the Flyer. The tundra of Siberia and Manchuria was an endless quagmire with the spring thaw making progress difficult. At several points, forward movement was often measured in feet rather than miles per hour. Eventually, the roads improved as Europe approached and the Thomas arrived in Paris on July 30, 1908, to win, having covered approx 16,700 km. The Germans, driven by Hans Koeppen, arrived in Paris four days earlier, but had been penalized a total of 30 days for not going to Alaska and for shipping the Protos part of the way by railcar. That gave the win to the Americans with George Schuster (the only American to go the full distance from New York to Paris) by 26 days. He only spent 88 of the 170 days actually driving.The Italians arrived later in September 1908. The race was of international interest with daily front page coverage by the New York Times (a cosponsor of the race with the Parisian newspaper Le Matin). The significance of the event extended far beyond the race itself. Together with the Peking to Paris race which took place the year before it established the reliability of the automobile as a dependable means of transportation, eventually taking the automobile from an amusement of the rich to a reliable and viable means of long distance transportation for the masses. It also led to the call for improved roads to be constructed in many parts of the world. The winning driver George Schuster was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame on October 12, 2010. The winning Thomas Flyer is on display in Reno, Nevada, at the National Automobile Museum, alongside the trophy……100 years ago this week, the Edward G Budd Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia, US produced its 200,000th all-steel body for the Dodge Brothers touring car [18 February 1918]……. 80 years ago this week, taxicab insurance was introduced in the US requiring taxicab drivers to carry liability insurance [12 February 1938]. Furthermore, this new legislation made it easier for taxicab drivers to have their licenses revoked if they broke any city driving laws. Additionally, cab drivers were rated by a scoring system, where points were accumulated for actions such as speeding and excessive horn use……. 70 years ago this week, the Eva Duarte Perón Grand Prix held over 50 laps of the 3.032 miles Palermo Park road circuit was won by Luigi Villoresi in a Maserati 4CL [14 February 1948]…….A week before the organisation was officially incorporated, NASCAR held its first race for modified stock cars on a 3.2 mile-course at Daytona Beach [15 February 1948]. In the 150-mile race that featured almost exclusively pre-war Fords, Red Byron edged Marshall Teague to become NASCAR’s first champion. Stock car

racing would become a tradition at Daytona, but pre-war Fords would not. By 1949 the Olds 88 had become NASCAR’s dominant vehicle……..60 years ago this week, the first four-seater Ford Thunderbird was introduced [13 February 1958]. The four-passenger “square bird” converted the top-of-the-line Ford from a sports car to a luxury car. The new four-seater packed a 5.7 litre 300 hp V8. Thirty-eight thousand cars were initially sold, making the T-Bird one of only two American cars to increase sales between 1957 and 1958. The T-Bird has become a symbol of 1950s America culture, immortalised in movies like Grease and pop songs like the Beach Boys’ “I Get Around.”…… 50 years ago this week, the LIncoln Continental Mark III was introduced in Chicago, Illinois, US [13 January 1968]……..The two-seater AMX made its debut [15 FEbruary 1968]. Production totals were modest: 6,725 (1968), 8,293 (1969), and 4,116 (1970). The AMX name originated from “American Motors eXperimental”, a code used on several early prototypes developed by AMC…….40 years ago this week, the 1988 Daytona 500 was the first race requiring the use of new restrictor plates, mandated because it was felt the speeds were getting too high at the super-speedways, as demonstrated at Bobby Allison’s crash at Talladega in 1987 [14 February 1978]. Before the race, there was much uncertainty about how well these would work. In the 1988 500, Bobby Allison beat his son Davey Allison to the finish line for the win; father and son celebrated together in Victory Lane. Bobby Allison thus became the oldest driver to win the Daytona 500. The race is also remembered for Richard Petty’s wild accident on lap 106. Petty spun, got airborne and tumbled along a large section of catch fence before his car came to a stop. The car was then torn nearly in half from hits by A. J. Foyt and Brett Bodine. Petty escaped without serious injury……The closure of Triumph’s assembly plant at Speke, near Liverpool was announced [15 February 1978]. It was in 1959 under the guidance (more a case of arm twisting) of the Board of Trade that Standard Triumph purchased a small engineering works and nearby vacant site in the Speke district of Liverpool (Speke No.1). In 1960 Standard Triumph was taken over by Leyland Motors and work was started on a 23,000 square feet extension of the existing plant. This extension cost around £3.5 million and enabled the Liverpool plant to supply complete bodies for the TR sports cars and assemblies and pressings for other cars in the Triumph range…… 30 years ago this week, the 80th Chicago Auto Show opened. On display were the Ford Probe, Chevrolet Cavalier Z24, Mercedes Benz 300 SE, Jeep Cherokee sport and the tenth anniversary of the Mazda RX-7. Concept vehicles included the Dodge Intrepid, Ford DM-1, Lincoln Machete, Plymouth Slingshot and Pontiac Banshee [13 February 1988]…… on the same day [13 February 1988] license plate no. 8

was sold at a Hong Kong government auction for HK$5,000,000 to Law Ting-Pong, a textile manufacturer. The number ‘8’ is considered in the Chinese speaking world as a lucky number……The ten-millionth Mercedes-Benz car produced since the war rolled off the production line at Sindelfingen, Germany [17 February 1988]…….The Ford Motor Company announced the following day [18 February 1988] a 1987 net income of $4.6 billion, a world’s record for an automotive manufacturer……. 20 years ago this week, in Italy over 250 cars crashed on the foggy highway A-13 between Padua and Bologna. Four people were killed and dozens were injured [12 February 1998]…….As the move to make F1 safer rumbled on and against a backdrop of a trial in Italy following the death of Ayrton Senna four years earlier, the FIA announced it was to fit black boxes to all cars with effect from the start of the season three weeks later [18 February 1998]. “The implications for safety are very encouraging,” said Max Mosley, the FIA president, but not everyone was convinced. “There would certainly have been some additional data gathered,” said Harvey Postlethwaite, technical director of the Tyrrell Formula One team, “but that does not necessarily mean you would be able to tell what caused the accident. Gathering the data is one thing, but interpreting it can be something of a minefield.” …….10 years ago this week, in an attempt to cut costs, struggling auto giant General Motors (GM) offered buyouts to all 74,000 of its hourly employees in the US represented by the United Auto Workers union [12 February 2008]. The move came after GM lost $38.7 billion in 2007, which at the time was the largest loss ever experienced by any car maker. (Two weeks later, on February 26, the loss was adjusted by $4.6 billion, to $43.3 billion.)…… the following day [13 February 2008] a California judge ruled that the actor Mel Gibson, star of such movies as the Academy Award-winning “Braveheart” and the “Mad Max” and “Lethal Weapon” series, had successfully completed the terms of his no-contest plea to misdemeanour drunk driving. The 50-year-old Gibson made headlines after he was stopped for speeding and arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol in the early morning hours of July 28, 2006, on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California. The actor, who

Ford Fiesta MkVII

was driving a Lexus LS 430, reportedly had an open bottle of tequila on the seat next to him……..The production version of the Ford Fiesta MkVII was revealed [14 February 2008]. The car featured Ford’s ‘kinetic’ design direction, now seen across the Ford range. It will be both lighter and stronger than the current Ford Fiesta, with similar dimensions……. American racer Jerry Karl (66) died in a accident in Maryland, US [15 February 2008]. Jerry was a 6 time Indianapolis 500 Starter. He started racing at Freeport Stadium on Long Island in 1957. Jerry competed in ARDC, ATQMRA, URC, and USAC in the Midget, Sprint, Silver Crown, Formula 5000, and Indianapolis Cars. Jerry raced in the Indy 500 in 1973, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1980 and 1981.

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