15-21 June: Motoring Milestones

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

100 years ago this week, Edmund Rumpler made the first test drive of his Tropfen-Auto (cover image) to coincide with his wife’s 35 birthday [18 June 1920]. It was to be the first streamlined car (beating the American Chrysler Airflow and Czech Tatra T77). The Rumpler had a drag coefficient of only 0.28, a measurement which astonished later engineers and would be competitive even today. The Fiat Balilla of the mid-1930s, by contrast, was rated at 0.60. The car featured a Siemens and Halske-built 2,580 cc (157 cu in) overhead valve W6 engine, with three banks of paired cylinders, all working on a common crankshaft. Producing 36 hp (27 kW), it was mounted just ahead of the rear axle. The engine, transmission, and final drive were assembled together and installed as a unit. The rear swing axles were suspended by trailing leaf springs, while the front beam axle was suspended by leading leaf springs. Able to seat four or five, all the passengers were carried between the axles, for maximum comfort, while the driver was alone at the front, to maximize view. With the 1923 model, two tip-up seats were added. Weighing nearly 3,000 lb (1,361 kg), the Tropfenwagen was nevertheless capable of 70 mph (110 km/h) on its mere 36 hp (27 kW). This performance got the attention of Benz & Cie.’s chief engineer, Hans Nibel. Nibel conceived the Tropfenwagen racers using the virtually unchanged Rumpler chassis. Poor sales and increasing losses led Benz to abandon the project. Later Auto Union racing cars resembled the Benz Tropfenwagen racers and were built in part by Rumpler engineers. Rumpler made another attempt in 1924, the 4A106, which used a 50 hp (37 kW) 2,614 cc (159.5 cu in) inline 4-cylinder engine. This compelled a growth in wheelbase, with a consequent increase in seating to six or seven. Although the car was very advanced for its time, it sold poorly—about 100 cars were built. Small problems at the start (cooling, steering), the appearance of the vehicle, and the absence of a luggage compartment hindered sales. Most were sold as taxis, where easy boarding and the high ceiling were advantages. The last cars were built in 1925. The Tropfenwagen did become famous, thanks to the film “Metropolis”, in which Rumplers found a burning end. It also inspired Mercedes-Benz 130H and 150H road cars. Only two examples are known to survive, one in the Deutsches Museum’s Verkehrszentrum in Munich and one in the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin……..90 years ago this week, Elmer A Sperry (69), inventor of the Sperry Gyroscope and cofounder of the Sperry Rand Corporation, but remembered in automotive circles as the designer of the Sperry Electric of 1899-1901 and pioneering the usage of disc brakes, died in Brooklyn, New York [16 June 1930]……. Winton Engine Company became the Winton Engine Corporation, a subsidiary of

Sperry Electric – 1900

General Motors [20 June 1930]. It produced the first practical two-stroke-cycle Diesel engines in the 400 to 1,200 hp (300 to 900 kW) range, which powered early Electro-Motive Corporation (of GM) Diesel locomotives and U.S. Navy submarines. Part of Winton devoted to the manufacturing of diesel locomotives in 1935 became part of the Electro-Motive Corporation, later a division of General Motors, and is still in business today………[21-22 June 1930] British cars took the first 4 places at the Le Mans Grand Prix. First was Sir Henry Birkin and Glen Kidson in the Bentley Speed Six, followed by Frank Clement and Richard Watney in another Bentley [21 June 1930]. Third and fourth places were claimed by Brian Lewis and Hugh Eaton and Johnny Hindmarsh and Tim Rose-Richards, respectively driving Talbot AO90s. The pairing of Odette Siko and Marguerite Mareuse would go in history as the first women to compete and finish in the race.…….80 years ago this week, Alfa Romeo test driver Attilio Marinoni (47) was killed on the Milan-Varese Autostrada when his modified Tip 158 collided with a truck [18 June 1930]. After World War I, Marinoni joined the Alfa Romeo racing team as a mechanic. He became co-driver with Giuseppe Campari in the 1924 French Grand Prix. In an Alfa Romeo 6C, he won the 1927 Coppa Ciano and three Spa 24 Hours in a row: in 1928 with Boris Ivanowski, in 1929 with Robert Benoist, and in 1930 with Pietro Ghersi. He was promoted to chief mechanic and test driver of Scuderia Ferrari between 1934 and 1937…….70 years ago this week, Juan Manuel Fangio in an Alfa Romeo 158 won the Belgian Grand Prix Spa-Francorchamps [18 June 1950]. By the time of the Belgian Grand Prix, the pace of the season was beginning to tell, with only 14 cars arriving at the Spa circuit. These

included the dominant Alfa Romeos of Nino Farina, Juan Manuel Fangio and Luigi Fagioli. Ferrari was down to two 125s for Luigi Villoresi and Alberto Ascari, although Ascari had a new V12 engine to try out. The factory Talbot-Lago team had three cars for Louis Rosier, Yves Giraud-Cabantous and Philippe Étancelin (standing in for the injured Eugène Martin). The rest of the field was made up of Talbot-Lagos (notably one for Raymond Sommer), a single Alta and one Maserati for Toni Branca. This race was the final entry for Geoffrey Crossley, the sport’s high costs forcing him, like many privateers, to retire after just a handful of races. Farina and Fangio were fastest as usual in qualifying with Fagioli unable to match them. Sommer split the Ferraris in his old Talbot-Lago. The race would be a similar story. The Alfas went off on their own and Sommer battled with the two Ferraris. When the Alfa stopped for fuel, Sommer found himself in the unlikely position of being race leader. Unfortunately his engine blew up. Ascari took the lead but he had to stop for fuel and that meant that the Alfas went ahead again with Fangio leading Farina and Fagioli. Farina suffered transmission trouble in the closing laps and dropped to fourth behind the best of the surviving Talbot-Lagos being driven by Rosier. Ascari finished fifth………on the same day [18 June 1950], Santa Ana Drags dragstrip, the first drag strip in the United States, opened. Many pioneers in drag racing began at Santa Ana. Art Chrisman, Don Yates, Calvin Rice, Joaquin Arnett, George “Ollie” Morris and others participated regularly. The strip was founded by C.J. “Pappy” Hart, Creighton Hunter and Frank Stillwell at the Orange County Airport auxiliary runway in southern California. Many pioneers in drag racing began at Santa Ana. Art Chrisman, Don Yates, Calvin Rice, Joaquin Arnett, George “Ollie” Morris and others participated regularly. The strip was created with $1000 start up money, and charged both spectators and participants 50 cents, of which 10% went directly to the owner of the airport. The strip installed timing clocks, so racers could actually get accurate times for each run. There was also a pit area, restrooms, a concession stand and primitive grandstands for spectators and plenty of parking. It was closed due to pressure from C.J Hart, whose wife had hired a private investigator to determine if Frank Stillwell was stealing money from the gate receipts in 1957……60 years ago this week, racer Christopher Bristow of London, UK, was killed aged 22 while

Christopher Bristow

racing at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium [19 June 1960]. Bristow was discovered by Alfred Moss and Ken Gregory, father and manager of Stirling Moss, and owners of the then newly founded squad British Racing Partnership (BRP). Bristow showed great promise in F2 as well as non-championship F1 races and soon rated as a man with a great future. When battling in the top five at Spa-Francorchamps, his only fourth Grand Prix, Bristow’s Cooper T51 went of the track, rolled heavily decapitating the driver. Two laps later Alan Stacey, a driver who used a hand throttle due to having had the lower part of his right leg amputated, also died in a crash when he was hit in the face by a bird and lost control of his car. He was 26 years old…….[19th-20th June 1960] Rover’s turbine-powered racing car, developed in conjunction with BRM this took part in the Le Mans 24 Hours with Hill and Jackie Stewart coming in 10th having achieved an average speed of over 100mph for the entire race. Unfortunately the technology was still too advanced and expensive for use in production models, so Rover eventually abandoned further development of turbine technology………also on this day [19 June 1960], BSA sold Daimler to Jaguar Cars for £3.4 millionJames and Ernest Bryan (33) was killed while participating in a dirt track race at Langhorne, Pennsylvania, US when his car flipped on the very first lap……50 years ago this week, The Range Rover was launched to the press at the Meudon Hotel, Falmouth, Cornwall (UK) [17 June 1970]. The on-the-road launch price including taxes was £1,998. The first-generation Range Rover was produced between 1970 and 1996. It was available only in a 2-door body until 1981, though prior to this 4 door models were produced by specialist firms. Unlike other 4x4s such as the Jeep Wagoneer, the original Range Rover was not designed as a luxury-type vehicle. While certainly up-market compared to

Range Rover – 1970

preceding Land Rover models, the early Range Rovers had fairly basic, utilitarian interiors with vinyl seats and plastic dashboards that were designed to be washed down with a hose. Convenience features such as power steering, carpeted floors, air conditioning, cloth/leather seats, and wooden interior trim were fitted later. The Range Rover was a body-on-frame design with a box section ladder type chassis, like the contemporary Series Land Rovers. The Range Rover utilised coil springs as opposed to leaf springs, permanent four-wheel drive, and four-wheel disc brakes. The Range Rover was originally powered by various Rover V8 engines and diesel engines. Originally, the Range Rover was fitted with a detuned 130 hp (97 kW) version of the Buick-derived Rover V8 engine. In 1984, the engine was fitted with Lucas fuel injection, boosting power to 155 hp (116 kW). The 3.5-litre (3,528 cc) engine was bored out to a displacement of 3.9 litres (3,947 cc) for the 1990 model year, and 4.2-litre (4,215 cc) in 1992 (1993 model year) for the 108-inch Long Wheelbase Vogue LSE (County LWB [long wheelbase] in North America). One of the first significant changes came in 1981, with the introduction of a four-door body. Shortly after they introduced twin thermo fan technology to reduce significant overheating problems 1970s models experienced in Australia. In 1988, LR introduced a 2.4-litre turbodiesel (badged Vogue Turbo D) arrived with 112 bhp (84 kW), manufactured by Italian VM Motori. The same engine was also available in the Rover SD1 passenger car. The diesel project was codenamed project Beaver. During the project, 12 world records were broken, including the fastest diesel SUV to reach 100 mph (160 km/h), and the furthest a diesel SUV has travelled in 24 hours. In 1990 project Otter was unveiled. This was a mildly tuned 2.5-litre, 119 bhp (89 kW) version of the ‘Beaver’ 2.4. In 1992, Land Rover finally introduced their own diesel engines in the Range Rover, beginning with the 111 bhp (83 kW) 200TDi, first released in the Land Rover Discovery and following in 1994, the 300 TDi, again with 111 bhp. The Range Rover with chassis no. 1 was a green model with the registration “YVB 151H”, and is now on exhibition at Huddersfield Land Rover Centre, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. The first generation model was known as the Range Rover until almost the end of its run, when Land Rover introduced the name Range Rover Classic to distinguish it from its successors……..The wedge-shaped Lotus 72, with side-mounted radiators, made its debut [21 June 1970]. Jochen Rindt drove the car to its first victory at the Dutch Grand Prix. The race sadly claimed the life of driver  Piers Courage (28)……40 years ago this week, Benny Parsons drove from pole position at Michigan International Speedway to win the Gabriel 400. Parsons, who led 75 of the 200 laps, finished one car-length ahead of Cale Yarborough [15 June 1980]. Buddy Baker finished third as Neil Bonnett and Richard Petty rounded out the top five. It was the only career win at the Brooklyn, Mich., oval for Parsons, who once called nearby Detroit home…….30 years ago this week, “Handsome” Harry Gant became the oldest driver to win a Winston Cup race when he won the Miller Genuine Draft 500 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, at the age of 50 years, 158 days [17 June 1990]. Bobby Allison had previously held the record for winning at 50 years, 73 days. Gant benefited from a race plagued by the yellow caution flag, in which the winning speed was just 120mph and 23 cars finished on the lead lap. Gant team leader Leo Jackson expressed his pleasant surprise at the victory that followed his car’s damaging collision on the 10th lap of the race: “I wouldn’t have given you a plugged nickel for our chances halfway through that race”…….20 years ago this week, the 38th Canadian Grand Prix and the 22nd to be held at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, run held over 69 laps was won by eventual 2000 World Champion, German driver Michael Schumacher driving a Ferrari F1-2000 [18 June 2000]. The win was Schumacher’s fifth win of the season and his fourth Canadian Grand Prix victory, a new record……. And on the same day [18 June 2000], the grandson of Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the British land-speed record for an electrically powered car. Don Wales achieved 128 mph in his car Bluebird Electric, beating the then record, which he also held, of 116 mph. He made the run at the famous Pendine Sands in Carmarthenshire, Wales, where his grandfather had set three land-speed records in the 1920s…….Ford announced that it was to cease car production at its Dagenham plant in east London after 68 years [21 June 2000].

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