13-19 April Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago his week, the Long Island Road Race was won by Anthony L Riker driving his special low-sprung Riker Torpedo electric vehicle [18 April 1900]. The 50-mile race was held on Merrick Road from the Springfield Boulevard intersection in Queens to Bablyon in Suffolk County and back. It was the fourth automobile race ever held in the United States and according to The New York Times, it was “the first automobile 50-mile race ever run in America.”………110 years ago this week, four thousand people were on hand at the new Los Angeles Motordrome on a weekday during the track’s opening week to see Barney Oldfield smash the half mile racing record, driving more than 100 mph in his Blitzen-Benz on the mile round course made out of 2-by-4 planks [13 April 1910]. The Playa Del Rey track was built in 16 days and was wide enough for four cars to race abreast. Sports writers called the track the “Pie Pan” because it sloped down from the outer edge……..70 years ago this week, Doorne’s auto factory (DAF) opened in the Netherlands. Stretching along Geldropseweg in Eindhoven, the new plant enabled production to be increased to 10-12 trucks per week [14 April 1950]…….. Brands Hatch, the first purpose-built post-war racing circuit in England, staged its first car racing meeting on tarmac [16 April 1950]. The RAC had formally approved the -mile kidney-shaped circuit following a demonstration by a handful of 500s in February. Amongst those giving the demonstration was a very young Stirling Moss. The Half-Litre Car Club for 500 cc Formula III organised the first race with 7,000 spectators coming to witness these cars complete in 10 races. The first victory went to a man who was to become a legend in Formula III, Don Parker. Before the year was out, five meetings were held, with the events running to a similar programme. The June meeting was a Moss benefit for he won all five races he entered in the Works Cooper and a set a new lap record. The August Bank Holiday meeting saw for the first time, involvement of the national press with the Daily Telegraph sponsoring the main event of the day. The old cinder track had been 0.75-mile (1.21 km) in length, but the tarmac circuit was lengthened to 1-mile (1.6 km) and now ran anticlockwise. The Maidstone & Mid-Kent Motor Club invited a number of sports car drivers to test the circuit on 5 November, this being the first time that any car other than a 500cc had used it, and they ran clockwise…….60 years ago this week, Stirling Moss lost his driving licence for a year after being convicted of dangerous driving [13 April 1960]………the following day [14 April 1960], Matra announced that it had received a $1.2 million loan from French government to develop a 3-litre racing engine for use in Formula One and prototype sportscar racing…….The Ford Consul taxi driven by George Martin taking rock ‘n’ roll legends Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent to London Airport crashed, killing 21-year old Cochran and injuring

Eddie Cochran crash

Vincent. Cochran’s hit single at the time was ‘Three Steps to Heaven’ [17 April 1960]. Tour manager Patrick Thompkins and Eddie’s fiancée, songwriter Sharon Seeley (she wrote Ricky Nelson’s 1 hit “Poor Little Fool”) were also in the Ford Consul that was later estimated to have been traveling in excess of 60 mph through a dark and winding section of the two-lane A4 in the village of Chippenham. Gene Vincent would break a leg and walk with a limp for the rest of his life, but beyond that, the only serious injuries among the passengers were Eddie Cochran’s. Having been thrown from the vehicle when it smashed into a light post, Cochran sustained a serious head injury and died at hospital in Bath in the early hours of April 17, 1960. Cochran was on a triumphant concert tour of Britain in the spring of 1960—a tour that had been extended 10 weeks beyond its scheduled run due to intense demand for tickets. In America, a tamer brand of pop was in fashion, exemplified by the likes of Frankie Avalon, Paul Anka and Bobby Darin. In England, however, harder-edged rhythm-and-blues artists and rock-and-rollers like Eddie Cochran and his tour-mate Gene Vincent (of “Be Bop a Lula” fame) were far more popular. Theirs was the kind of music that the future members of the British Invasion were listening to in the late 50s and early 60s. It was “Be Bop A Lula,” in fact, that John Lennon was playing at the 1957 garden party where he first met Paul McCartney, and it was Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock” that Paul taught John to play that same afternoon, shortly after being invited to join Lennon’s Quarrymen. At least one Beatle, George Harrison, saw Eddie Cochran in Liverpool during his final tour, and both his guitar-playing and his stage persona made a strong impression. “He was standing at the microphone and as he started to talk he put his two hands through his hair, pushing it back,” Harrison later recalled. “And a girl, one lone voice, screamed out, ‘Oh, Eddie!’ and he coolly murmured into the mike, ‘Hi honey.’ I thought, ‘Yes! That’s it—rock and roll!”……… Glen Wood scored his first career NASCAR GN win, leading all 200 laps on the 1/4 mile paved Bowman-Gray Stadium oval, North Carolina in his Ford [18 April 1960]……….. on the same day [18 April 1960] the 8th Glover Trophy, run to Formula One rules held at Goodwood Circuit, England. The race was run over 42 laps of the circuit, and was won by the British driver Innes Ireland in a Lotus 18…….50 years ago this week, the four-door Saab 99 and the Sonett III were premiered [13 April 1970]……… The British-built Ford Capri (cover image) was introduced to the United States market [17 April 1970]. Although the European Capri already offered buyers a bewildering variety of power train options, the first federalized Capris rolled off Lincoln-Mercury lots with Ford’s workhorse 1600cc Kent engine and a four-speed transmission.In addition, Ford offered the car with styled steel wheels, radial tires, a deluxe trim package, bucket seats, and power front disc brakes. Buyers seeking a little more luxury could order the optional Capri Décor Group, which included a sports console with clock, reclining front seats, separate contour rear seats with a folding armrest, a faux leather-trimmed sports steering wheel and gear shift knob, and a map light, among other things. Ford priced the base-model Lincoln-Mercury Capri at a very reasonable $2295 POE, and dealer prep and destination charges typically added another $75. Popular options were an AM radio ($75), Décor Group ($75), vinyl roof ($65), sun roof ($119), and air-conditioning ($395). Ford rated the 1.6-liter engine at 75 horsepower at 5000 rpm, which meant that the little four-banger Kent had its work cut out in moving the 2135-pound Capri down the road. While performance of the 1.6-liter Capri was modest, it was still superior to the performance of European Capris equipped with the tiny 1300cc four-cylinder engine. (Ford offered the 1.3-liter option in Europe so that buyers could avoid tax penalties placed on “gas guzzler” cars.) The automotive press responded favorably to the Capri’s introduction. Road & Track (June 1970) called the Capri one of Ford’s better ideas. “It’s good looking, it’s a practical automotive package, and it’s being offered at a competitive price. It’s a Ford that makes sense,” the road-test story noted. Road & Track was also favorably impressed with the Capri’s interior. “Positively luxurious” was its evaluation of the Capri with the optional Décor Group. The magazine’s staff was impressed with the car’s handling and road manners as well: “We have a saying around the office,” the reviewer wrote, “that good cars are the easiest to drive. In a good car you feel immediately at home. The Capri meets this standard, and on very brief acquaintance you’re ready to drive it at your and its limits.” On the downside, Road & Track, like other industry publications, noted that the little Kent engine had a lot of work to do. Acceleration in the mini-Mustang wasn’t exactly neck-snapping. This could be a problem, because one could easily obtain close to 100 horsepower from Japanese cars for the same money. Car and Driver (May 1970) was less sanguine about the Capri. Despite its alluring qualities, the car lacked sufficient poke. The already federalized 1600 just would not do: “Having said that the Capri is the newest in a line of good cars,” the magazine noted, “let the bad part be recorded forthwith: The car is coming to the United States with the wrong engine… the so-called federal car is no better than the Beetle in performance, and all this from a $2295 car which looks like it would suck the doors off any of its competition.” Clearly, for some enthusiasts, the Capri needed more ponies under the hood. The suspension was willing, the four-speed gear-box was fluid and precise, but the poor engine needed more steam. You could certainly have fun with the Capri, but it took a lot of rowing through the gears, and even then the results were not necessarily entertaining. While media types wished for an engine that could make the Capri’s performance as attractive as its styling, car buyers didn’t wait. They liked the car, and they liked its price and value. Between the its April introduction and the end of the model year, Lincoln-Mercury sold more than 15,000 Capris……….British Leyland announced that production of the Morris Minor, Britain’s longest-running car would cease by

1971 [18 April 1970]. The Morris Minor debuted at the 1948 Earls Court Motor Show. Designed under the leadership of Alec Issigonis, more than 1.3 million were manufactured in three series: the MM (1948), the Series II (1952) and finally the 1000 series (1956). Initially available as a two-door saloon and tourer (convertible), the range was expanded to include a four-door saloon in 1950, a wood-framed estate (the Traveller) from Oct.1953 and panel van and pick-up truck variants from May1953. It was the first British car to sell over one million examples and is considered a classic example of automotive design, as well as typifying “Englishness”………In the Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama, Jackie Stewart took his March 701 from the third spot on the grid left the field behind [19 April 1970]. This was the first F1 win for March. At the end, he was the only one out of five finishers with 80 laps completed in a time of 2:10:58. The second place man, Bruce McLaren in his own car, finished one lap down and Mario Andretti the the other March, came in third. Jack Brabham, the pole sitter and fastest lap man, had an engine failure on lap 61 that put him out. The race was marred by a serious accident involving Jackie Oliver and Jacky Ickx. Both of their cars burst into a fireball, and Ickx was slightly burned. He would recover in time for the next race at Monaco……….England Football manager Sir Alf Ramsey started The Daily Mirror World Cup Rally at Wembley stadium [19 April 1970]. The 96 cars had a 16,000 mile journey before them. It was won by Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm, driving a Ford Escort in Mexico City in May 1970…….40 years ago this week, David Pearson, making his first start in the Hoss Ellington Chevrolet, was out front when rain ­curtails the Rebel 500 at Darlington (South Carolina, US) after 258 miles [13 April 1980]. It was Pearson’s 105th career NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National victory…….20 years ago this week, the first 450 Chrysler PT Cruisers bound for Europe were loaded on a ship at the port of Veracruz, Mexico [13 April 2000]. Built at the Toluca Assembly Plant in Mexico, the Chrysler PT Cruisers are the first DaimlerChrysler vehicles to be shipped from the port at Veracruz, a new export facility for the company which will reduce transit time to Europe from 27 to 21 days. Previously, vehicles built in Mexico bound for Europe went by train to Baltimore and were then transported via ship to markets around the world……..Jeff Gordon started 36th in the DieHard 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Alabama, US one of the worst qualifying efforts of his career [16 April 2000]. After the halfway point, Gordon flexed his muscles. Gordon drove past Mark Martin and led the final six laps to score the victory. Ten drivers exchanged the lead 27 times in the hotly contested affair.

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