17-23 February: Motoring Milestones

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

130 years ago this week, the first Panhard et Levassor was test driven in Paris, France [17 February 1890]……120 years ago this week, the first circuit race, the Course du Catalogue, run over two laps of a 45 mile triangular course at Melun in France, was won by Léonce Girardot in a Panhard [18 February 1900]……… 100 years ago this week, it was announced that London’s Metropolitan Police would become the first police force in the Britain to replace horses with motor cars [17 February 1920]……. The Jones Motor Car Company of Wichita, Kansas, US was destroyed by fire [20 February 1920]…….90 years ago this week, Edsel B Ford purchased a MG M-type, possibly the first US sale for this marque, which he used frequently for three years before adding it to the Henry Ford museum collection [18 February 1930]……..80 years ago this week, the Buick Town Master, a custom-bodied Brunn town car, was introduced [18 February 1940]……..60 years ago this week, the 841 cc, 38 hp Saab 96, with a 3 cylinder two-stroke engine was premiered at a Stockholm press conference [17 February 1959]. Produced until January 1980, it was the car for which the marque Saab became internationally known, not

least because of its safety innovations and its motor sport successes. The ‘93’ was also the first Saab model officially imported to the UK……. Georg W Borg (71), inventor of automobile clutch improvements and Chairman of the Borg-Warner Corporation, died in Janesville, Wisconsin, US [21 February 1960]……..50 years ago this week, small cars were the predominant trend at the Chicago Auto Show [20 February 1970]. Ford introduced visitors to two new models: the Mustang Grabber and Maverick Grabber. Chevrolet, Pontiac and Oldsmobile presented new models, including Chevy’s offerings of the second-generation Camaro and latest Corvette, the redesigned Pontiac Firebird, and the Oldsmobile Rallye 350. After releasing a series of practical Kadetts in the Sixties, Opel turned out a stylish little sport coupe, dubbed the Opel GT, for 1970. With styling similar to the Chevrolet Corvette, it was the star of the show……. Pete Hamilton driving a Plymouth Superbird won the 1970 NASCAR Grand National Series Daytona 500 in front of 103,800 spectators at the Daytona International Speedway. Hamilton passed David Pearson with nine laps to go and won by three car lengths [22 February 1970]. A grand total of 24 lead changes were made with an average green flag run of 22 laps. Exactly 23% of the race was held under a caution flag; blown engines were the primary culprit behind the yellow flags. The race car drivers had to commute to the races using the same stock cars that competed in a typical weekend’s race through a policy of homologation (and under their own power). This policy was in effect until 1975…….40 years ago this week, Buddy Baker won the fastest Daytona 500 in history, at 177.602 mph (285.809 km/h) [17 February 1980]……. Bon Scott, vocalist of the rock band AC/DC was found dead in the backseat of a friend’s car [20 February 1980]. The coroner’s report stated he had ‘drunk himself to death’……. Over 700 vehicles went on display at the 1980 Chicago Auto Show. GM promoted its compact X-cars, led by the Chevrolet Citation, while Datsun showed its 10th anniversary 280ZX, and Ford offered its Fiesta GTK, billed as the “station wagon of the future.” [23 February 1980]. Specialty cars shown were the Berlina coupe, the Guanci SJS-1, the Arntz Cobra, the Clenet, a 1920’s-style Creighton, the Commuter Electric, the Lectric Leopard, the Cabriolet Cadillac and the Excalibur Series V Phaeton……30 years ago this week, after years of trying to win it, Dale Earnhardt appeared to be heading for certain victory in the 1990 Daytona 500 until a series of events in the closing laps [18 February 1990]. On lap 193 Geoff Bodine spun in the first turn, causing the third and final caution of the race. Everyone pitted except Derrike Cope, who stayed out. On the lap 195 restart, Earnhardt retook and held the lead, only to puncture a tire when he drove over a piece of metal bell housing from the failed engine of Rick Wilson’s car on Lap 199. As Earnhardt’s damaged car slowed, Cope drove past and earned his first Winston Cup (now NEXTEL Cup) victory. It was the first of two victories for the relatively unknown Cope in the 1990 season. In an ironic twist, the local CBS affiliate of Cope, who at the time was a resident of the Seattle suburb of Spanaway, opted to pre-empt the race to telecast a Seattle Supersonics basketball game, and the race was delayed until 3 PM US PST because of the pre-emption, following a CBS NBA telecast……..20 years ago this week, Ford Motor Co. agreed to pay $3.8 million in a settlement with the Labor Dept. over charges of discrimination in hiring against women and minorities at 7 of its manufacturing plants [18 February 2000]……. Dale Jarrett exercised patience to grab his third victory in the Daytona 500. After following Johnny Benson, Jr., for 50 miles, Jarrett made the decisive pass with four laps to go to beat Jeff Burton [20 February 2000]……… A pioneer of bodysurfing and bodyboarding, Joe Wolfson (50), aka Dr. 360, was killed when his car veered off the Marina Freeway, California went down an embankment, and hit a tree [21 February 2000]. Facing terminal cancer, he had previously left a note and paddled out to sea to die, but was rescued when he went comatose………10 years ago this week, in San Mateo, California, Mahran Baranriz (47) and his wife Bita Imani (35) pleaded no contest to 10 counts of insurance fraud [19 February 2010]. They ran the Group Specialists car repair shop in Redwood City and had billed customers by putting rats in their cars and claiming the vehicles needed costly work to fix rodent damage. Baranriz was sentenced to 4 years in prison, and his wife to 6 months in jail. A day earlier they ware ordered to pay $875,000 in restitution to 25 insurance companies……. India’s biggest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India announced it has recalled 100,000 of its best-selling A-Star hatchback cars due to a fuel leakage problem [23 February 2010].

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