Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: the first armoured truck holdup in US history, Ford’s electric Commuta, Ferrari F40, and Britain’s worst motorway crash.
110 years ago this week, the Chadwick Engineering Works was incorporated in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, US [7 March 1907]. By 1906 Lee Chadwick had manufactured a total of 40 cars, Not a huge number when compared to mass production numbers, but Chadwick cars were hand built, had innovative mechanical design, and featured luxurious hand-stitched leather seats. Like many other early automobile pioneers, Chadwick believed the way to demonstrate the quality of his car was to race it. His challenge was how to turn his six-cylinder chain drive luxury car into a racecar. Although not the first to use supercharging in a car, Chadwick came up with an idea for an air compressor used to force more oxygen to support combustion than would be available in a regular engine. This would allow more fuel to be burned and more work to be done per cycle, increasing the power output of the engine. Lee Chadwick got out of the automobile business in 1912, but his company continued to build cars until 1916…..the following day [8 March 1907] Peugeot recorded its first official racing victory, with Giosue Guippone winning the Corsa Vetturette at Turin, Italy…….90 years ago this week, Herbert C Harrison (50), founder of the Harrison Radiator Company, which in 1918 became part of General Motor, died in London, England [6 March 1927]….. on the same day, Frank Lockhart set a one-lap record at the Culver City, California, board track of 144.2 mph driving a 1.5 litre Miller with supercharger and intercooler…… The Flatheads Gang led by Paul
Jawarski staged the first armoured truck holdup in US history on the Bethel Road, seven miles out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania [11 March 1927]. Two armored cars left an office of the Brink’s Express Company to deliver the payroll for the Pittsburgh Terminal Coal Company. After making morning deliveries to mines two and three, the Brink’s trucks traveled along the Old Bethel Road near Coverdale, about 7 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. When the vehicles turned onto a muddy thoroughfare called Liberty Road, the Flatheads Gang detonated two underground dynamite charges placed 60 feet apart. The first blast, a direct hit, ripped up the road and threw the first armored car some 75 feet. Laden with $103,834.38 in cash, the lightly-armored vehicle landed on its roof, leaving the driver unconscious. The second blast missed an armored car filled with guards, but still forced the Brink’s Express truck onto its side and into a new crater-like hole. All five guards were knocked unconscious, their weapons worthless. While Paul Jaworski and the Flatheads Gang gathered up their loot, the guards and drivers who regained consciousness were told to “roll over and keep your faces down in the mud”. The driver of the first car complied, but eventually lifted his head – just in time to watch the gangsters get away in their blue Stearns-Knight luxury automobile. William Tarr got the license plate number and gave local police their first lead. In scouring the crime scene for evidence, detectives discovered the tracks of a car running on a rim. Investigators followed the tire-less marks from nearby Ginger Hill Road through a patched wire fence to a ravine. There they found an abandoned Stearns-Knight whose license plate number matched the one reported by William Tarr. When Brink’s Express offered a $5,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of Paul Jaworski and the five other members of the Flatheads Gang, additional leads about the Liberty Road heist poured into police headquarters. Eventually, Paul Jaworski was arrested – but then he escaped from prison again. Captured in Cleveland, Ohio, the wily leader of the Flatheads Gang was extradited to Pennsylvania in a steel-plated car who guards carried rifles, machine guns, and tear gas. On January 21, 1929, Jaworski was executed in the electric chair. Later that year, Brink’s Express began using a new armored car, the 1929 International KB3. Nicknamed the “chainer”, this vehicle featured a sturdier chassis and a Thompson submachine gun mounted in the rear compartment……80 years ago this week,
the Fiat 500 Topolino was launched at the Geneva Motor Show [12 March 1937]. It was equipped with a 569 cc 4 cylinder, side-valve, water-cooled engine mounted in front of the front axle,(later an overhead valve motor) and so was a full-scale car rather than a cyclecar. The radiator was located behind the engine which made it possible to lower the aerodynamic nose profile at a time when competitors had a flat, nearly vertical grill…….70 years ago this week, Franco Cortese won the first and only ‘world tour’ all-Cisitalia race at Gezira Island in Cairo, Egypt [9 March 1947]…….60
years ago this week, the Renault Dauphine, successor to the highly successful Renault 4CV was presented to the press at the opening of the Geneva Motor Show [8 March 1957]. The Dauphine, owed its name to the fact that the 4CV was considered the ‘Queen’ and therefore, its successor was naturally a ‘Dauphine’ or prince…….50 years ago this week, Ford introduced the Comuta electric car, with a top speed of 40 mph and a range
of 40 miles, at the Geneva Auto Show [9 March 1967]. The vehicle was powered by four 12-volt 85-amp lead batteries. When it was fully charged, the car had a range of 60 kilometres (37 mi) at a speed of 40 kilometres per hour (25 mph), and was capable of a maximum speed of 60 kilometres per hour (37 mph). Only a handful Comutas were produced, as the vehicle was an experiment. The president of Ford told the New York Times that “cars like the Comuta could be available in five to 10 years.”….. Tony Vandervell (68), English industrialist, motor racing financier, and founder
of the Vanwall Formula One racing team, died [10 March 1967]. Originally entering modified Ferraris in non-championship races, Vanwall constructed their first cars to race in the 1954 Formula One season. The team achieved their first race win in the 1957 British Grand Prix, with Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks sharing a VW 5, earning the team the distinction of constructing the first British-built car to win a World Championship race. Vanwall won the inaugural Constructors Championship in 1958, in the process allowing Moss and Brooks to finish second and third in the drivers standings, winning three races each. Vandervell’s failing health meant 1958 would be the last full season; the squad ran cars in a handful of races in the following years, but finished racing in 1961……30 years ago this week, Lee Iacocca announced that the Chrysler Corporation and Renault had signed an agreement whereby Chrysler would purchase and absorb American Motors [9 March 1987]…… Unveiled personally by Enzo Ferrari himself the F40 (main image) was built to celebrate 40 years of Ferrari [12 March 1987]. With a quoted top speed of 199mph its twin turbocharged, twin intercooled, 2.8-litre V8 engine was a development of the 288 GTO’s. In the F40 it produced 478bhp, giving this road racer savage performance. 62mph was reached in just 4.6 seconds – it doubling that to 124mph in 11 seconds dead. A total of 1311 were built between 1987 and 1992, making it one of Ferrari’s most successful specials in both sales and profitability……20 years ago this week, Mercedes-Benz celebrated the world premiere of the A-class at the Geneva International Motor Show [6 March 1997]. More than 20 technical innovations are realized in the compact all-round limousine, primarily benefiting passive safety and space economy…… Possibly the biggest motorway crash in Britain occurred on the M42 motorway near Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, in central England [10 March 1997]. Three people were killed and more than 60 others were injured in the crash, in dense fog during. The crash happened around 6:20 a.m. as a lorry, driven by David Fairclough of Wednesfield, entered the M42 from a slip-road at a speed of 56 mph and, after slowing to 32 mph, rammed into the rear of a tanker, which then struck a car in front and exploded. The ensuing pile-up involved 160 vehicles on a 400-yard stretch of the motorway, including 30 on the opposite carriageway 20 minutes later…… 10 years ago this week, the Audi A5 was unveiled simultaneously at the Geneva Motor Show and the Melbourne International Motor Show [6 March 1997]…… The new MINI One and MINI Cooper D models were unveiled to the public at the International Geneva Motor Show [8 March 2007]. The entry-level One featured a perky 95hp 1.4-litre petrol engine, while the Cooper D boasts performance and fuel efficiency from an all-new 1.6-litre 110hp turbodiesel powerplant…… The Ford Motor Company sold Aston Martin to a consortium comprised of David Richards, John Sinders, Investment Dar and Adeem Investment Co. for £479 million [12 March 1997].