16-22 July: Motoring Milestones

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

140 years ago this week, the Green Bay – Madison race in Wisconsin, US began with two competitors, the Oshkosh steamer (cover image) built by Frank A Shomer, A M Farrand, A Gallinger and O F Morse in that city and the Green Bay steamer built by Edward P Cowls of Wequiock, Wisconsin [16 July 1878]……… 120 years ago this week, the 119 mile Turin – Asti – Alessandria – Turin cross country event was staged [17 July 1898]……… 110 years ago this week, Albert Fisher and his nephews, Frederic and Charles Fisher, established the Fisher Body Company to manufacture carriage and automobile bodies [22 July 1908]. Albert Fisher personally supplied $30,000 of the company’s total of $50,000 in initial capital.

Charles and Frederic had been trained in their father’s carriage building shop and supplied the technical know-how required at the company’s inception. Fisher Body quickly abandoned carriage building to concentrate on car frames. By 1910, Fisher supplied some car bodies for General Motors (GM), and in 1919 GM purchased controlling interest in the company to shore up a supplier for its car bodies. At that time, Fisher was the largest supplier of car bodies in the world. The Fisher brothers were early advocates of closed-body, steel and wood frames, and they pre-empted their competition by creating more closed-bodied cars than open-bodied. They were also early in their adoption of aluminum and steel frames. Fisher Body completed a total merger in 1924 after their initial contracted agreement to supply bodies to GM had expired. On June 30, 1926 GM traded 667,720 shares of its own stock, at a market value of $136 million, for the remaining 40 percent of Fisher Body. The firm became the Fisher Body Division of GM, and was still headed by the Fisher family. The Fisher family remained in control of the Fisher Body Division until 1944, though brothers Lawrence and Edward were on the Board of Directors until 1969. The Fisher family’s impact on the automotive industry is second only to that of the Ford family. Every GM body between 1919 and 1944 passed the approval of a Fisher man……..90 years ago this week, the Plymouth Division of the Chrysler Corporation was created.to compete in what was then described as the “low-priced” market segment dominated by Chevrolet and Ford [17 July 1928]. The Plymouth was the high-volume seller for the automaker until the late 1990s. The brand was withdrawn from the marketplace in 2001. The Plymouth models that were produced up to then were either discontinued or rebranded as Chrysler……70 years ago this week, Juan Manuel

Fangio, made his Formula One debut finishing 12th at the Grand Prix de l’ACF in France [18 July 1948]. Fangio was 37 years old at the start of his first Formula One race, but his late appearance onto the racing scene did not diminish his impact. Born to an Italian immigrant family outside of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Fangio learned to race on the death-trap tracks of Argentina for little reward. But, when his talent was recognised by Argentine dictator Juan Peron, Fangio’s racing career received the boost that was needed. Formula One Grand Prix racing began in 1950, and Fangio took second place in the World Driver’s Championship driving for Alfa Romeo. The next year he won the championship. A crash kept him out of the circuit for the next two years, but in 1954, he switched to the Mercedes team and won his first of four consecutive World Driver’s Championships……..60 years ago this weekend, Robert Breeze, designer of the Breeze-Paris race car while on military duty in France and of the 1919 Breeze Midget upon his return to the United States, a developer of power braking systems, and an official of the Sebring (FL) International Raceway, died aged 72, while swimming off the coast of Lio Beach, New York [16 July 1958]………Lee Petty welcomed his son to the big leagues,

Richard Petty

knocking Richard Petty out of the way in his Cup debut to win at Canadian National Exposition Speedway in Toronto [18 July 1958]. Lee Petty took the lead from pole-starter Rex White in the 72nd lap and led the rest of the 100-lap main event at the .333-mile track. Along the way, he bumped the slower car of his son into the wall, leaving him to finish 17th in the 19-car field. Despite the inauspicious start, Richard Petty competed in 1,183 more races and scored 200 wins in his NASCAR Hall of Fame career. Cotton Owens finished second in Toronto with Jim Reed third…….Peter Collins thrilled a massive crowd at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone by becoming the fourth English driver that season to win a grand prix, leading home team-mate Mike Hawthorn by 24 seconds [19 July 1958]. Within a fortnight Collins would become the latest in a depressingly long line of Ferrari drivers to lose his life. With British manufacturers and drivers dominating, and with Hawthorn and Stirling Moss joint leaders in the drivers’ championship, a record attendance was guaranteed, and when Moss put his Vanwall on pole he was odds-on to take the race. But Collins took the early lead while Hawthorn settled in behind Moss, Ferrari’s tactics being to hope the Vanwall would fail trying to match Collins’ pace. On the 25th lap the plan worked as Moss’ car spluttered into the pits and was immediately retired.But Hawthorn was unable to get close to Collins, and his own chances ended when he had to pit with oil problems. He resumed more than a minute adrift, and while he clawed back half that time and in so doing set the fastest lap, he was still 24 seconds adrift at the finish. Bernie Ecclestone was again on the entry list with his Connaught but decided to let Jack Fairman drive it. It proved a wise decision because the car retired early with ignition problems……..50 years ago this week, contested over 80 laps, the

British Grand Prix was won by Jo Siffert, his first Formula One victory, and the first victory by a Swiss driver [20 July 1968]. The dreadful 1968 season had seen four Formula 1 drivers killed between April and July in a variety of racing machinery. British fans has lost both Jim Clark and Mike Spence but Graham Hill arrived at Brands Hatch with a big lead in the World Championship and with seven other British drivers in the 20-car field there was plenty for the fans to cheer. The only major change from the miserable French GP (where Honda driver Jo Schlesser had been killed) was the arrival in the Cooper-BRM team of Robin Widdows. The cars had sprouted increasingly dramatic rear wings in an effort to get as much downforce as possible. Qualifying showed that Team Lotus was dominant with Hill fastest by half a second and Jack Oliver alongside him. Chris Amon completed the front row in his Ferrari. On the second row Jo Siffert (Rob Walker Lotus) lined up alongside Jochen Rindt’s Brabham while the third row featured Dan Gurney (back in action after missing several races in his Eagle-Weslake because of engine problems), Jack Stewart in Ken Tyrrell’s Matra-Ford and Jack Brabham’s Brabham. There was light rain at the start (for the third consecutive race) and Oliver took the lead from Hill and Siffert. The leading Lotus was trailing smoke and on the fourth lap Oliver was overtaken by Hill. Despite the smoke trail Oliver remained second. On the 27th lap. however, Hill went out with a rear suspension failure and so Oliver went back into the lead. behind him Siffert fought for second place with Amon but gradually the Lotus driver moved away. On lap 44 Oliver came to a halt with a transmission failure and so Siffert inherited the lead and went on to win Rob Walker’s first victory in seven years. The Ferraris of Amon and Ickx came home second and third………The first ever side by side run by two British built top fuel dragsters, took place at the Santa Pod Raceway, Northamptonshire (England) [21 July 1968].Tony Densham in Commuter Vs Rex Sluggett’s Tudor Rose.Sluggett red lit, smoked the full quarter and ran 9.312/176.78. Densham ran a 9.036/163.93. (Jon Spoard) This was also the first ever side by side nine second match race in the UK……..40 years ago this week, Carlos Reutemann in a Ferrari 312T3 won the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. At the start of the race, Mario Andretti (Lotus) took the lead from Ronnie Peterson (Lotus), with Jody Scheckter (Wolf) holding third and Alan Jones (Williams) moving up to fourth [16 July 1978]. The Lotuses quickly pulled out a large gap, and looked set to dominate, until Peterson retired on lap 7 with a fuel leak. Andretti continued to lead until a puncture forced him to pit on lap 24, before his engine failed five laps later. Scheckter inherited the lead, closely followed by Jones, Niki Lauda and Riccardo Patrese. On lap 27, Jones’s driveshaft failed, before Scheckter began to suffer gearbox problems. On lap 34, Lauda overtook the South African, who retired three laps later. This left Patrese in second, with Reutemann up to third, Watson fourth, Didier Pironi fifth in the second Tyrrell and Keke Rosberg sixth in the ATS.On lap 41, Patrese suffered a rear puncture which led to a suspension failure. Pironi also retired on this lap with gearbox trouble, promoting Rosberg to fourth. The Finn soon came under pressure from Depailler, who got by on lap 49. Reutemann closed up to Lauda and passed him for the lead on lap 60, as the two were lapping the McLaren of Bruno Giacomelli. The Argentine held off the Austrian for the remaining laps, eventually taking his third win of the season by 1.2 seconds. Watson finished 36 seconds behind Lauda and 36 ahead of Depailler, while a suspension failure for Rosberg on lap 60 meant that the final points went to Hans-Joachim Stuck in the Shadow and Patrick Tambay in the McLaren……..10 years ago this week, Beijing in China implemented a temporary road space rationing based on plate numbers in order to significantly improve air quality in the city during the 2008 Summer Olympics [20 July 2008]. Enforcement was carried out through an automated traffic surveillance network

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