14-20 October: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, the Literary Digest declared that ‘the ordinary horseless carriage is at present a luxury for the wealthy; and although its price will probably fall in the future, it will never, of course, come into as common use as a bicycle’ [14 September 1899]………A Marsh steam car built by brothers Alonzo and William Marsh and driven by the latter, covered a flying mile in 1 minute 34.8 seconds (37.97 mph) in Whitman, Massachusetts, US to set what they believed to be a land speed record [16 October 1899]……..100 years ago this week, a10/30 Mercedes fitted with a Roots supercharger began road tests between Degerloch and Echterdingen in Germany [17 October 1919]. This was the first use of a Roots blower in an automobile………on the following day [18 October 1919], Rolls-Royce America, Inc., was established, and their luxurious motor cars would prove a favorite means of transport for America’s elite during the roaring 1920s……..80 years ago this week, appearing for sale in the classified ads in Autocar were a Jaguar 3.5-litre two-seater, £325; a 1935 Frazer-Nash-BMW Type 55/38 two-seater, £295; and a 1930 Rolls-Royce H. J. Mulliner 20/25, £2,255 [15 October 1929]………The Automotive Hall of Fame was founded in New York City by a group called the “Automobile Old Timers” [18 October 1939] Its mission was to perpetuate the memories of early automotive pioneers and to honor people from all parts of the auto industry worldwide.It went through for adverse times for its first three decades, and had four name changes. Its second iteration was “Automotive Old Timers” adopted in 1957 and intended to recognize its broader base, including automotive-related industries. In 1971 it became “The Automotive Organization Team.” Finally, it became “The Automotive Hall of Fame” which resulted in greater growth. The organization moved to Washington, D.C. in 1960, sharing space in the National Automobile Dealers Association building. In 1971, it moved to Midland, Michigan where it got its first home at Northwood University. In 1997, it moved to its present home in Dearborn, Michigan, adjacent to The Henry Ford museum. It is within the MotorCities National Heritage Area, an affiliate of the U.S. National Park Service dedicated to preserving and promoting the automotive and labor history of Michigan. The facilities with automobile history artifacts are in a 25,000-square-foot building containing a small theater and a central enclosed building area for public events, meetings and other exhibits. The Hall honors members of the automotive industry each year. There were 250 members to the Automotive Hall of Fame by 2015. These inductees include the founders of Benz, Bosch, Bugatti, Buick, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Citroen, Cord, Daimler, Dodge, Duesenberg, Durant, Duryea, Ferrari, Ford, Honda, Maybach, Olds, Peugeot, Porsche, Renault and Toyota among others. In 1946 the hall worked with the “National Golden Jubilee” (50th anniversary of the creation of the automobile). As General William S. Knudsen stated, the selection to the Hall of Fame included “Ten pioneers whose engineering and administrative genius made possible the present day.” The selection was done in cooperation with the Automobile Manufacturers Association, the “National Automotive Golden Jubilee committee of which Knudeson was president. Edgar Apperson, William Crapo Durant, J. Frank Jersey, Henry Ford, George O’Malley, Charles B. King, Charles W Nash, Barney Oldfield, Ransom E. Olds, and Alfred P Sloan Jr. were selected…….70 years ago this week, the Wilkes 200, the eighth and final race of the inaugural NASCAR Strictly Stock season, was held at North Wilkesboro Speedway, North Carolina, US [16 October 1949]. Kenneth Wagner won the pole. Bob Flock took the lead in the closing stages when mechanical problems kayoed Bill Blair and edged Lee Petty to win the season finale. It was the eighth and final point race of the year, although two additional non-point events were staged by Sam Nunis at Atlanta’s Lakewood Speedway. Red Byron, finishing 16th, was crowned Strictly Stock champion in 1949 by a margin of 117.5 points over Petty. Blair, wheeling Sam Rice’s Cadallic, started second on the grid and jumped out to lead at the drop of the green flag. The diminutive High Point, NC star led the first 180 laps, but a souring engine robbed him once again of certain victory. Flock’s Oldsmobile nipped Petty’s Plymouth by a mere 100 yards in the finish. Fonty Flock, Clyde Minter and Herb Thomas rounded out the top five……50 years ago this week, the Triumph 2000 MkII and Triumph 2.5PI (petrol injection) MkII were launched [14 September 1969]. The Mk 2, the last big Triumph car, ceased production in 1977, supplanted by British Leyland’s corporate executive car, the Rover SD1: Six-cylinder 2300 and 2600 versions of the new Rover would nonetheless be powered by engines derived from the Triumph 2000………Pole-starter Bobby Isaac led all but two laps to coast to victory in the final race for NASCAR’s premier series at Augusta (Georgia, US) Speedway’s half-mile asphalt track [19 October 1969]. Richard Petty, who led the other two laps in the 200-lap main event, drove to a second-place finish as the only other driver on the lead lap. David Pearson claimed third, one lap back…….40 years ago this week, John R. Cooper was named President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway [17 October 1979]……….30 years ago this week, a restart at the Holly Farm 400, with three laps to go saw Dale Earnhardt leading Ricky Rudd and Geoff Bodine [15 October 1979]. Going into the race, Earnhardt was trailing Rusty Wallace by only 35 points in the championship standings, with only three races left in the season. On the final lap, Rudd pulled alongside Earnhardt, and they touched as they took the white flag. Earnhardt went high in turn 1, but the cars came together, and both Rudd and Earnhardt spun out. Geoff Bodine slipped by to steal the victory, and Earnhardt lost more ground in the points standings. In the pits, the pit crews scuffled, but it was quickly broken up. After the race, an angry Earnhardt said that Rudd “knocked the shit out” of him, and that NASCAR “ought to fine that son of a bitch.” The incident proved to be the deciding margin for the season, as Earnhardt lost the championship by only 12 points. (NASCAR did not fine obscene language with monetary fines or point penalties at the time)……20 years ago this week, racer John Cannon (66) was killed in an aircraft accident when an air supply fault led to a fatal crash-landing in a cornfield in New Mexico, US [18 October 1999]. Though Cannon was born in London, England he was a Canadian who put in the drive of his career on the 13th of October at the Laguna Seca round of the 1968 CanAm series. From 15th on he not only won the rain-race and put in the fastest lap but lapped the whole field which included Denny Hulme (2nd) and Bruce McLaren (5th). After winning the 1970 SCCA Formula A title in a McLaren M10B, Cannon got a chance to drive a BRM P153 in the 1971 US Grand Prix and a March 701 in the Questor Grand Prix in Ontario, Canada. However, he continued racing in F5000 with occasional drives in USAC and Can-Am, finishing second in the 1976 Rothmans F5000 series……10 years ago this week, British driver Jenson Button and Brawn GP secured the Drivers’ Championship and Constructors’ Championship titles respectively at the Brazilian Grand Prix, the penultimate race of the season [18 October 2009]. It was both Button and Brawn’s first Championship success, Brawn becoming the first team to win the Constructors’ Championship in their debut season. Button was the tenth British driver to win the championship, and following Lewis Hamilton’s success in 2008 it was the first time the Championship had been won by English drivers in consecutive seasons, and the first time since Graham Hill (1968) and Jackie Stewart (1969) that consecutive championships have been won by British drivers.

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