15-21 May: Motoring Milestones

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Momentous motoring events that took place during this week in history …..

230 years ago this week, The Maryland House of Delegates (US) issued a patent to Oliver Evans for his ‘Steam Carriage‘ [18 May 1787]……. 110 years ago this week, the Ardsley Motor Car Company was officially dissolved.The company salesrooms were located at 50th Street and Broadway in Yonkers [16 May 1907]. By 1906, the automobile was advertised in a national automobile trade magazine as “quiet and powerful.” It had 35-horsepower, could seat five and was priced at US$3,500…… The Hatfield Motor Vehicle Company of Miamisburg, Ohio, US registered the ‘Buggyabout’ name as a trademark [20 May1907]. The company, founded by Charles B Hatfield Sr and Fr, failed the following year……. 90 years ago this week, the first Austin Swallow was completed, becoming the first direct lineal

Austin Swallow - 1927

Austin Swallow – 1927

ancestor of what would become known as the Jaguar marque [20 May 1927]. Decidedly more sporting in appearance than Herbert Austin’s original, it attracted immediate attention. The seats were upholstered in leather, the instruments (such as they were) were mounted in a polished mahogany dashboard, and a choice of hard- or soft-tops was offered. A Swallow conversion virtually doubled the price of a bare Seven chassis, from £99 to £190…….Barney Oldfield, driving a Hudson Super Six 2-door coach at Culver City Track, in California, US, established a non-stop 1,000 mile record for stock cars of 13 hours, 8 minutes – at an average speed of 74.6 mph [21 May 1927]…… on the same day [21 May 1927], Motor racing started at the Crystal Palace park when a motorcycle race was held over a mile-long course there. A crowd of over 10,000 turned out in glorious weather to watch seven solo and three sidecar events over a one mile circuit. The two main races were the Crystal Palace solo Grand Prix, won by L. Bellamy (344 Coventry Eagle) in 22 min. 8.0 secs., and the Crystal Palace sidecar Grand Prix, won by G. A. Norchi (344 Coventry Eagle) in 22 min. 12.4 secs., each over 10 laps. At the end of the day it turned out that the sidecar race record was 6.6 secs. faster than the solo record. F. E. Parnacott (348 AJS) put up the fastest lap of the day in 2 min. 7.4 secs. At a blistering speed of 28.2 mph.Motor cycle sport in those days was obviously less hectic than today. The report of the meeting in ‘Motor Cycle’ relates ‘…… P. R. Bradbrook (490 Coventry Eagle sidecar) realising that there was nobody to dispute second place with him and that he had no chance of winning unless Norchi blew up, lit a cigarette and took matters easy. Norchi did not blow up. Another report notes that Gus Kuhn’s cigarette blew out and that he did not bother to relight it until the end of the race. A speedway track followed and was in use between 1928 and 1934. In 1935 plans were made for building a 2-mile Grand Prix track, but they were scuppered when the Crystal Palace itself was destroyed by fire the following year…… 75 years ago this week, gasoline (petrol) rationing began in 17 eastern states as an attempt to help the American war effort during World War II [15 May 1942]. Rationing began on the East ratfairCoast on July 22, 1942. These states were chosen due to better public transportation and shorter distances traveled, and because the U-boat menace off the East Coast made transport of oil and gasoline more hazardous. However, this also wasn’t enough, and on Dec. 1, 1942, rationing went into effect nationwide. The program would continue until August 15, 1945. The American public learned to deal with an elaborate system. Every motorist was issued a windshield sticker displaying a letter: “A” (most motorists – 3 gallons/week), “B” (for war workers to get to their jobs – 8 gal/wk), “C” (for those who used their cars on the job, such as physicians, clergy, and mail carriers), “T” (truckers – unlimited), “R” (non-highway farm vehicles – unlimited), “E” (emergency vehicles such as ambulances, police, fire – unlimited), and “X” (a controversial unlimited sticker for VIPs – unlimited). Some of these categories changed, emerged, or were eliminated during the war. At the gas station, the attendant checked the windshield sticker and took the required number of ration book coupons – also marked with the appropriate letter. Of course, payment was also required – about 19 cents/gallon. Despite rationing, a serious gas shortage developed early in 1944. The high military use and restricted shipping contributed to this problem. In January 1944 on the West Coast, very little gasoline was available – and none at all in Sacramento, California. On March 22, 1944, “A” class drivers were further restricted to 2 gallons/week. Not everyone complied. The black market became quite profitable, cases of gas siphoning made the front page of small-town newspapers, and several ration book forgery rings were broken up……. 70 years go this week, Chevrolet announced that plans to build a compact car, the Cadet, were indefinitely deferred because of material shortages and strong sales of existing models [15 May 1947] …… The first climb of the inaugural series of the British Hill Climb Championship (BHCC) was staged at Bo’ness, near Linlithgow, Scotland [17 May 1947]. It was one of five events in that year’s championship, the other climbs being held at Bouley Bay (Jersey), Craigantlet (Northern Ireland), Prescott (Gloucestershire) and Shelsley Walsh (Worcestershire). All but Bo’ness still host rounds of the BHCC. That inaugural championship, as well as the 1948 title, went to British driver Raymond Mays…60 years ago this week, the first German Motorcycle Grand Prix was held at Hockenheim [19 May 1957]…… .on the same day [19 May 1957] despite a hesitant start to the Monaco Grand Prix, Stirling Moss led away on the first lap from Peter Collins, Manuel Fangio, and Mike Hawthorn. On lap 4 coming out of the tunnel, there was mayhem. Moss went straight through the chicane, sending debris from the wrecked barrier crashing onto the circuit. Collins crashed through the quayside barriers trying to avoid it. Fangio and Brooks slowed to make their way through the carnage. Brooks’ effort was for nought, being hit by Mike Hawthorn’s Ferrari, which lost a wheel. Fangio took the lead from Brooks’ damaged car and held it to the checkered flag……. The last Volvo Sport 2-seat sports cars was produced [20 May 1957]. When Volvo

Volvo Sport - 1957

Volvo Sport – 1957

presented an open 2-seater sports car with a body made of fibreglass-reinforced polyester in 1954, it was something of a sensation. However, the car did not go into production until 1956 and, after a great many problems, production was wound up in 1957. By this time, 67 cars had been built. The original idea was that this car would only be for export. A convertible was not regarded as wholly suitable for the Swedish climate. However, in spite of this, most of the cars were sold on the domestic Swedish market. The car was based on standard components, mainly from the Volvo PV444, but it was built on a separate tubular frame. The engine was a developed version of the 4-cylinder, 1.4-litre engine from the PV444. Using twin carburettors, a different camshaft, larger intake valves and higher compression, the engine of the Sport developed 70 bhp. This 70 bhp engine was also used in the 1957 Volvo PV444 destined for the US market. It gave the PV444 good performance and the model was sold as ‘The family sports car’ but was far too expensive in relation to the competition……. 40 years ago this week, pole-sitter Tom Sneva turned the first official 200-mph laps at the Indianapolis Speedway [14 May 1977]…….30 years ago this week, after two mostly uneventful runnings, in 1987, a new format was introduced for NASCAR’s all-star event, The Winston at Charlotte Motor Speedway [19 May 1987]. Following the new numbering format used by the race in 2008, this race is retroactively now known “Sprint All-Star Race III”. Two segments – 75 and 50 laps, respectively – were concluded with a 10-lap “trophy dash” sprint to the finish. With 7 laps to go, Dale Earnhardt led Bill Elliott in turn four. Towards the quad-oval, Elliott pushed his nose underneath Earnhardt, attempting to take the lead. Earnhardt swiped the car over to block, but slid into the infield grass. He was able to maintain control, veered back onto the track, back in front of Elliott, and held onto the lead. Earnhardt muscled his way around the track over the final six laps, and won. The event has since been one of the most popular events on the calendar……. On the same day [19 May 1987], the Belgian Grand Prix was held at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Spa. It was the third race of the 1987 Formula One season. It was the 45th Belgian Grand Prix and the 33rd to be held at Spa. It was the fourth since the circuit was redeveloped in 1979. The race was won by French McLaren driver Alain Prost driving a McLaren MP4/3. It was Prost’s second win in the Belgian Grand Prix and his 27th Grand Prix victory, equalling Jackie Stewart’s all-time record. Prost won the race by 25 seconds over his Swedish team mate Stefan Johansson……Robert Dodds and Ian Pridding arrived at Land Ends, 80 hours 47 minutes after leaving John O’Groats, covering the 919 miles in a Sinclair C5 [15 May 1987]……. 25 years ago this week, lights were installed at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and it became the first non-short track to host night racing [16 May 1992]. The first race held under-the-lights was The Winston “all star” race. During the final 10-lap sprint, Dale Earnhardt led Kyle Petty and Davey Allison. On the final lap, Petty nudged Earnhardt in turn three, spinning him out. Petty took the lead into turn four, but as he entered the qual-oval, Davey Allison pulled alongside. The two cars touched as they crossed the finish line, with Allison edging out Petty by less than half a car length. The two cars clipped, and Allison crashed hard into the outside wall, showering bright sparks over the track. Allison spent the night in the hospital instead of victory lane…20 years ago this week, Troy Ruttman (67), a Southern California hot-rodder who in 1952 became the youngest driver to win the Indianapolis 500, died in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, US [17

Troy Ruttman

Troy Ruttman

May 1997]. He took the lead 20 miles from the finish when Bill Vukovich’s car had a broken steering pin. His victory came while driving one of the famous No. 98 cars entered by J. C. Agajanian, a Southern California race promoter. Ruttman first raced at the so-called Brickyard in 1949 at 19, two years younger than Indianapolis Motor Speedway rules allowed.”I had to fudge to get in,” Ruttman recalled years later. ”I had to produce a birth certificate. Ralph Wayne Ruttman was my cousin, and I used his. They asked me why I went by Troy and I told them it was a nickname. I corrected it when I turned 21.” In 1958, he became the first Indy 500 winner to drive in a Formula One race when he drove at Reims, France. Born on March 11, 1930, in Mooreland, Okla., Ruttman moved to Southern California and became one of a number of young drivers to emerge from that region after World War II and achieve racing fame. But despite his early accomplishments, Ruttman never fulfilled his early promise. Several months after winning Indy, he broke his arm in a sprint-car crash in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. During his recuperation he began drinking heavily, and he struggled with alcoholism for the rest of his career. He retired in 1964. Ruttman’s son, Troy Jr., who also became a racer, died in a crash at Pocono Raceway in 1969.His younger brother is Joe Ruttman, a driver on the Nascar Craftsman Truck Series and an occasional participant in Nascar’s Winston Cup series…… Troy Ruttman (67), the youngest winner of the Indianapolis 500, at the age of 22 years and 80 days, died [19 May 1997]. He led several of the 12 Indy 500s in which he participated, but was a frequent victim of mechanical failures. Ruttman retired from racing following the tragedy filled 1964 Indianapolis 500. His son, Troy Jr., became a race car driver as well, but was tragically killed at the Pocono Speedway in 1969 while driving the car his father drove from the 33rd starting spot to a 12th place finish in the 1963 Indianapolis 500…… Irish rock band U2 caused traffic chaos in Kansas City, Missouri after they paid for traffic control to close down five lanes so they could shoot the video for ‘Last Night on Earth’. [20 May 1997]. Apart from causing major traffic jams, a passing Cadillac crashed into a plate glass window while trying to avoid a cameraman…….10 years ago this week, European-American carmaker DaimlerChrysler, created in 1998 in a $36 billion merger, announced that it was selling 80.1 percent of the Chrysler group to the U.S. private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management [14 May 2007]. Cerberus paid $7.4 billion in the deal, mostly in the form of investments in Chrysler; Daimler AG, as it was soon renamed, retained a 19.9 percent stake in the new company, known as Chrysler LLC. The sale marked the end of a troubled nine-year transatlantic relationship between Daimler-Benz, the German maker of the world-famous luxury automobile brand Mercedes-Benz, and the Chrysler Corporation, America’s third-largest car company. Though the much-buzzed-about merger, concluded in May 1998, had been touted as a pairing of equals, it was soon clear that it in fact amounted to a takeover by the German company. The end of Chrysler’s independence was a surprising twist after its near collapse in the 1970’s and stunning comeback in the 1980’s under the leadership of the former Ford executive Lee Iacocca….. The following day [15 May 2007] the second-generation Vauxhall Agila was officially announced and presented at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show……Andy

Green Car Crash

Green Car Crash

Warhol’s 1963 painting Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I), depicting an overturned car on fire, was sold for $71.7 million (£36.3 million) in New York, US [17 May 2007]. This easily beat the previous auction record for work by the pop artist, set the previous November when a painting of Chairman Mao sold for $17.4m (£8.8m)….. Los Angeles, California, was the first stop on a cross-country road show launched by Smart USA to promote the attractions of its “ForTwo” micro-car, which was scheduled for release in the United States in 2008 [19 May 2007]. In the early 1990s, Nicholas Hayek of Swatch, the company famous for its wide range of colourful and trendy plastic watches, went to German automaker Mercedes-Benz with his idea for an “ultra-urban” car. The result of their joint venture was the diminutive Smart (an acronym for Swatch Mercedes ART) ForTwo, which debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1997 and went on sale in nine European countries over the next year. Measuring just over eight feet from bumper to bumper, the original ForTwo was marketed as a safe, fuel-efficient car that could be manoeuvred easily through narrow, crowded city streets. Despite its popularity among urban Europeans, Smart posted significant losses, and Swatch soon pulled out of the joint venture.

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