15-21 July: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, the first Tour de France Automobile, a sports car race held on roads around France regularly – mostly annually – between 1899 and 1986, began [16 July 1899]. Organized by Le Matin, under the control of the Automobile Club de France, it was held in seven stages: Paris-Nancy; Nancy-Aix-les-Bains; Aix-les-Bains-Vichy; Vichy-Périgueux; Périgueux-Nantes; Nantes-Cabourg; Cabourg-Paris. Out of 49 starters, 21 vehicles finished the 1350 mile race, with René de Knyff driving a Panhard et Levassor winning the race 8 days later in Paris, at an average speed of 30.18 mph……… 110 years ago this week, the Ford Motor Company registered its “Ford” script logo as a trademark [20 July 1909]……..80 years ago this week, Carl Fisher (65), the founder of both the Indy 500 and Miami Beach, died in Miami. Born in Greensburg, Indiana, Fisher grew up racing cars and bicycles and aspired to be a successful inventor [15 July 1939]. He turned out to be a better businessman than an inventor, and left his first imprint on the business world when he partnered with Fred Avery, who held the patent for pressing carbide gas into tanks. Together, they manufactured car headlamps as the Presto-O-Lite Corporation. By 1910, six years after starting the business, Fisher was a multimillionaire. He bought land and built a track in Indianapolis, paving the track with local brick. In 1915, Fisher led the development effort for the Lincoln Highway, the nation’s first continuous cross-continental highway from New York to California. Later, in the 1920s, Fisher developed the Dixie Highway, a road that ran from Michigan to Miami. Fisher fell in love with Miami, and in 1910 he bought a house there. It became his project to

George Eyston

develop Miami Beach into a city……..Briton George Eyston, driving an aerodynamically closed 4.25-litre Bentley, established an unofficial hour record at Brooklands, covering 114.638 miles [18 July 1939]. His fastest lap was at 115.02 mph and he did eight laps at this speed, his slowest being just a second below it!……..70 years ago this week, Louis Chiron driving a Talbot-Lago T26C won the French Grand Prix held over the Reims-Gueux circuit [7 July 1949]. The triangular layout of public roads formed three sectors between the villages of Thillois and Gueux over the La Garenne / Gueux intersection of route N-31. The circuit became known to be among the fastest of the era for its two long straights (approximately 2.2 km in length each) allowing maximum straight-line speed, resulting in many famous slipstream battles……….The first Jaguar XK120 released for public sale (serial 660002) was shipped to Sydney, Australia [21 July 1949]. The XK120 was launched in open two-seater or (US) roadster form at the 1948 London Motor Show as a testbed and show car for the new Jaguar XK engine. The display car was the first prototype, chassis number 660001. It looked almost identical to the production cars except that the straight outer pillars of its windscreen would be curved on the production version. The roadster caused a sensation, which persuaded Jaguar founder and design boss William Lyons to put it into production. Beginning in 1948, the first 242 cars wore wood-framed open 2-seater bodies with aluminium panels. switched to the 1cwt or 112 lb (51 kg) heavier all-steel in early 1950. The “120” in the name referred to the aluminium car’s 120 mph (193 km/h) top speed (faster with the windscreen removed), which made it the world’s fastest production car at the time of its launch.Chassis number 670003, was delivered to Clark Gable. The XK120 was ultimately available in two open versions, first as an open 2-seater described in the US market as the roadster (and designated OTS, for open two-seater, outside America), then also as a drophead coupé (DHC) from 1953; and also as a closed, or fixed head coupé (FHC) from 1951. A smaller-engined version with a 2-litre 4 cylinder engine, designated the XK100, intended for the UK market was cancelled prior to production. On 30 May 1949, on the empty Ostend-Jabbeke motorway in Belgium, a prototype XK120 timed by the officials of the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium achieved an average of runs in opposing directions of 132.6 mph with the windscreen replaced by just one small aero screen and a catalogued alternative top gear ratio, and 135 mph with a passenger-side tonneau cover in place. In 1950 and 1951, at a banked oval track in France, XK120 roadsters averaged over 100 mph for 24 hours and over 130 mph for an hour, and in 1952 a fixed-head coupé took numerous world records for speed and distance when it averaged 100 mph for a week. Roadsters were also successful in racing and rallying………60 years ago this week, the first Jaguar Mark 2 saloon was produced [15 July 1959]. The Mark 2 gained a

Jaguar Mark 2

reputation as a capable car among criminals and law enforcement alike; the 3.8 Litre model being particularly fast with its 220 bhp (164 kW) engine driving the car from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.5 seconds and to a top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h) with enough room for five adults. Popular as getaway cars, they were also employed by the police to patrol British motorways. The Mark 2 is also well known as the car driven by fictional TV detective Inspector Morse played by John Thaw; Morse’s car was the version with 2.4 L engine, steel wheels and Everflex vinyl roof. In November 2005, the car used in the television series sold for more than £100,000 following a total ground-up rebuild (prior to this, in its recommissioned state in 2002 after coming out of storage, it had made £53,000 at auction – £45,000 more than an equivalent without the history). In the original novels by Colin Dexter, Morse had driven a Lancia but Thaw insisted on his character driving a British car in the television series. In the late 1980s to early 1990’s the Character Joey Boswell drove a black Jaguar 240 in the British TV comedy “Bread”……..Australian Jack Brabham in a Cooper-Climax T51 won the British Grand Prix at Aintree [18 July 1959]. On the final lap Bruce McLaren became the youngest driver to set a fastest lap in Formula One, aged 21 years and 322 days. This record stood for 44 years until Fernando Alonso, just one day younger relieved him of that achievement with fastest lap in the 2003 Canadian Grand Prix……….Racer Van Johnson was killed when his rebuilt Vargo Special crashes during a race in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, US three months to the day after Dick Linder had been killed by the same car [19 July 1959]……….50 years ago this week, Shortly after leaving a party on Chappaquiddick Island,

Chappaquiddick incident

Massachusetts, Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy drove an Oldsmobile off a wooden bridge into a tide-swept pond [18 July 1969]. Kennedy escaped the submerged car, but his passenger, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, did not. According to his own testimony, Kennedy accidentally drove his car off a one-lane bridge and into a tidal channel before swimming free, leaving the scene, and not reporting the accident for nine hours. Meanwhile, Kopechne had died in the car through drowning or suffocation. The next day, Kopechne’s body and the car were both recovered by divers. Kennedy pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of a crash after causing injury and later received a two-month suspended jail sentence. The Chappaquiddick incident became a national scandal, and likely influenced Kennedy’s decision not to campaign for President in 1972 and 1976……….Jackie Stewart was victorious at the British Grand Prix in a Matra-Cosworth, as he lapped the entire field and took his fifth win in six races [19 July 1969]……..David Pearson won the Volunteer 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway (Tennessee, US). with an assist from an unexpected source — long time rival Richard Petty, who drove the final 146 laps in relief — on the same day that the Apollo 11 lunar lander touched down on the moon. Pearson, who was suffering from the flu, was credited with leading 316 of 500 laps in his ninth victory of the season [20 July 1969]. Bobby Isaac took second place, three laps down, with Donnie Allison third — 13 laps off the pace. A flurry of wrecks and engine failures left just 10 of the 32 starters running at the finish. Fans and other Bristol attendees then rushed home to see the Apollo 11 crew make history………30 years ago this week, England international footballer Laurie Cunningham (33), was killed in a car crash in Madrid, Spain [15 July 1989]. While at Real Madrid he achieved two landmarks; he was both the first English player in the club’s history, and was also the first black player………20 years ago this week, a car designed by the Microjoule Team from Toulouse, France, achieved a performance of 9,845 mpg at the Shell Eco Marathon at Silverstone in Northamptonshire. It was driven by 14-year-old Julien Lebrigand and 10-year-old Thibaud Maindru [15 July 1999]………..Ford recalled its top-selling Focus model because of an electrical problem [18 July 1999]. At least 60,000 UK customers and up to 200,000 across Europe were affected. The problem concerned a flaw in the alternator that could cause the dashboard warning lights to malfunction. Ford insisted there was no safety issue, and that the recall was purely a precautionary measure.

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