19 – 25 February: Motoring Milestones

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

90 years ago this week, driving the British built and designed 12 cylinder, 22.3 litre, 450 hp Bluebird at Daytona Beach, USA, Malcolm Campbell established a new World Land Speed Record of 206.96 mph [19 February 1928] ……. On the same day [19 February 1928] the first speedway meeting in Britain took place on a disused running cinder track at the rear of the King’s Oak pub in High Beech, Essex. The High Beech meeting made a sensational impact, attracting an extraordinary crowd of 30,000 into the depths of Epping Forest and making front page news in the ‘Daily Mirror’ the following morning!. Within ten months, the new sport (first dubbed Dracing and then settling on its famous title of Speedway) was being played out in over fifty venues in towns and cities all over the UK – including famous London arenas like Stamford Bridge, the White City and Wembley…….. 80 years ago this week, Miami’s first drive-in movie theatre opened. Invented in 1933 by Richard Hollingshead, the first drive-in debuted on Crescent Boulevard in Camden New, Jersey [25 February 1938]. Admission was 25¢ per car and 25¢ per individual, with no car paying more than $1.00. Hollingshead received a patent for his idea in 1933, but it was later repealed in 1939. The drive-in craze would reach its peak in 1963 when 3,502 theatres were in operation the US……. 70 years ago this week, the National Association for

Stock Car Racing – NASCAR – was officially incorporated. NASCAR racing would become one of America’s most popular spectator sports, as well as a multi-billion-dollar industry [21 February 1948]. The driving force behind the establishment of NASCAR was William “Bill” France Sr. (1909-1992), a mechanic and auto-repair shop owner from Washington, D.C., who in the mid-1930s moved to Daytona Beach, Florida. The Daytona area was a gathering spot for racing enthusiasts, and France became involved in racing cars and promoting races. After witnessing how racing rules could vary from event to event and how dishonest promoters could abscond with prize money, France felt there was a need for a governing body to sanction and promote racing. He gathered members of the racing community to discuss the idea, and NASCAR was born, with its official incorporation in February 1921. France served as NASCAR’s first president and played a key role in shaping its development in the sport’s early decades. NASCAR held its first Strictly Stock race on June 19, 1949, at the Charlotte Speedway in North Carolina. Some 13,000 fans were on hand to watch Glenn Dunnaway finish the 200-lap race first in his Ford; however, Jim Roper (who drove a Lincoln) collected the $2,000 prize after Dunnaway was disqualified for illegal rear springs on his vehicle. In the early years of NASCAR, competitors drove the same types of cars that people drove on the street–Buicks, Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles, among others–with minimal modifications. (Today, the cars are highly customized.) From the beginning, stock car racing had a widespread appeal with its fan base. As the legend goes, the sport evolved from Southern liquor smugglers who souped up their pre-war Fords to outrun the police. NASCAR brought the sport organization and legitimacy. It was Bill France who realized that product identification would increase enthusiasm for the sport. He wanted the fans to see the cars they drove to the track win the races on the track. By 1949, all the post-war car models had been released, so NASCAR held a 150-mile race at the Charlotte Speedway to introduce its Grand National Division. The race was restricted to late-model strictly stock automobiles. NASCAR held nine Grand National events that year. By the end of the year, it was apparent that the strictly stock cars could not withstand the pounding of the Grand Nationals, so NASCAR drafted rules to govern the changes drivers could make to their cars. Modified stock car racing was born. Starting in 1953, the major auto makers invested heavily in stock car racing teams, believing that good results on the track would translate into better sales in the showroom. In 1957, rising production costs and tightened NASCAR rules forced the factories out of the sport. NASCAR is the largest sanctioning body of stock car racing in the United States. The three largest racing series sanctioned by this company are the Sprint Cup Series, the Xfinity Series, and the Camping World Truck Series. The company also oversees NASCAR Local Racing, the Whelen Modified Tour, the Whelen All-American Series, and the NASCAR iRacing.com Series. NASCAR sanctions over 1,500 races at over 100 tracks in 39 of the 50 US states as well as Canada. NASCAR has presented exhibition races at the Suzuka and Motegi circuits in Japan, the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico, and the Calder Park Thunderdome in Australia…….Fabbrica Automobili Isotta-Fraschini was placed into receivership [25 February 1948]…… 60 years ago this week, Communist guerrillas in Havana, Cuba, one day before the second Havana Grand Prix, kidnapped Argentine racing champion Juan Manuel Fangio [23 February 1958]. Revolutionary Manuel Uziel, holding a revolver, approached

Fangio in the lobby of his hotel and ordered the race-car driver to identify himself. Fangio reportedly thought it was a joke until Uziel was joined by a group of men carrying submachine guns. Fangio reacted calmly as the kidnappers explained to him their intention to keep him only until the race was over. After his release to the Argentine Embassy, Fangio revealed a fondness for his kidnappers, refusing to help identify them and relaying their explanation that the kidnapping was a political statement…….The second Cuban Grand Prix (which was run under sportscar regulations) was held on the famous Malecon Avenue, which runs along the waterfront in Havana [24 February 1958]. Juan Manuel Fangio had been kidnapped by Fidel Castro’s guerrillas and missed the race. The event attracted a crowd estimated at 200,000 people. After only five laps around the Havana street course, local driver Armando Garcia Cifuentes lost control of his Ferrari on oil that had been leaking from Mieres’ Porsche. Cifuentes hit a curb and was launched into the spectator zone along side the Malecon boulevard. He literally ploughed through several rows of people before his Testa Rossa was stopped by a construction vehicle that was left there by some builders. The crash took the lives of six spectators and left thirty injured. Cifuentes himself miraculously survived but was one of the severely injured. In the chaos just after the disaster, he was taken care of by his teammate Abelardo Carreras, who put him on the bonnet of his Testa Rossa and drove him to the hospital. Stirling Moss was declared the winner……. 50 years ago this week, Iso was granted an international copyright for the Grifo name [21 February 1968]………American Motors introduced the AMX as a mid-year model [24 February 1968]. The AMX name originates from the “American Motors eXperimental” code used on a concept vehicle and then on

AMX – 1968

two prototypes shown on the company’s “Project IV” automobile show tour in 1966.The AMX was also classified as a muscle car, but “unique among other American cars at the time due its short wheelbase”. The AMX was also the only American-built steel-bodied two-seater of its time, the first since the 1955-1957 Ford Thunderbird. Fitted with the optional high-compression medium block 390 cu in (6.4 L) AMC V8 engine, the AMX offered top-notch performance at an affordable price. In spite of this value and enthusiastic initial reception by automotive media and enthusiasts, sales never thrived. However, the automaker’s larger objectives to refocus AMC’s image on performance and to bring younger customers into its dealer showrooms was achieved. After three model years, the two-seat version was discontinued, and the AMX’s now signature badging was transferred to a high-performance version of its four-seat sibling, the Javelin, from 1971-1974. American Motors capitalized the respected reputation of the original AMXs by reviving the model designation for performance-equipped coupe versions of the compact Hornet in 1977, Concord in 1978, and the subcompact Spirit in 1979 and 1980…….Racer Jim Clark won his final motor race, the seventh leg of the Tasman Series at Melbourne Australia’s Sandown Park [25 February 1968]. The heat on race day was intense with the temperature over the 100 degree mark by 10am. The drivers begged off the parade in sports cars and also the presentation of drivers to the stands. These were cancelled, along with the traditional warm-up lap. Jim Clark was first away followed by Amon, and Brabham made a complete botch of the start, getting away in fifth place as the field set itself up for Shell corner. Clark won the race after 55 laps of intense battle with Amon, whom he praised for his tough and challenging drive. Graham Hill finished third, taking the checkered flag almost a minute after the two leaders, emphasizing the frantic speed the two were going. And with a 42 points in the series versus Amon’s score of 36 with just the final round the championship remaining, the Scotsman now had a sizable advantage over his rival in this two-way battle. Clark won the championship by finishing fifth in the final race of the series…….40 years ago this week, visitors to the Chicago Auto Show flocked to see the Mercedes-Benz C-111 sport coupe equipped with a turbocharged 5 cylinder diesel engine, that set three world records, averaging 156.5 mph for 10,000 miles [25 February 1978]. Additionally that year, Oldsmobile offered its Starfire Firenza, Holiday 88 coupe and sport-painted Cutlass Supreme. Buick showed a 75th anniversary Riviera, and Chrysler introduced its subcompact front-drive Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon. Dodge used a pair of space-suited presenters from the imaginary planet “Omni” to promote the car. Concept cars on show included the American Motors Crown Pacer, American Motors Gremlin GT, Chevrolet Black Sterling. Dodge Big Red and Ford Corrida by Ghia….. 20 years ago this week, Chuck Etchells defeated Ron Capps in the Funnycar finals at the Atsco Nationals at Firebird Raceway in Chandler, Arizona, USA; the first all-Camaro Funnycar finals in NHRA history [22 February 2008] ……. 10 years ago this week, Ralf Schumacher admitted that he lied to reporters when he told them he would be staying in F1 in 2008, in order to have a quiet end to his career [21 February 2008]. Sick of being pestered by journalists about his plans for the following year, Schumacher told the press that he would be staying in F1 just to get them off his back. Schumacher said: “I did make those comments, but the situation never changed for me. I just said that [I would remain in F1] because there were a lot of people talking, and the situation was difficult at Toyota, so I just wanted to finish the season in peace.” Despite testing for Force India he wasn’t offered a drive and in the end settled for a race seat in DTM…… on the same day [21 February 2008], the Automobile Club of Southern California (ACSC) became the title sponsor of the raceway, making Auto Club Speedway the track’s official name [21 February 2008]. The naming rights deal will last for ten years and is worth an estimated $50 to $75 million. In addition to naming rights, the ACSC had use of the facility for road tests for Westways Magazine and other consumer tests…… Mr Saeed Abdul Ghaffar Khouri, paid over £7 million at an Abu Dhabi auction for the number plate “1”, doubling the previous world record price [22 February 2008]……. Paul Frere died at the age of 91 in Brussels [23 February

Paul Frere

2008]. He competed in 11 grand prix under the Belgian flag, despite being born in France. He never completed a full season, instead taking part in the odd race between 1952 and 1956, but did drive for the works teams of Ferrari and Gordini. At his final F1 race he finished second at Spa Francorchamps behind his Ferrari team-mate Peter Collins. He also had a successful sports car career, winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in a Ferrari 250 Testarossa. In later life he became an established motor racing journalist and distinguished himself as one of the first writers to treat the sport as a skill that could be analysed and taught. A corner at Spa Francorchamps named after him in his honour……. Ferrari offered its support to the Italian Olympic team in its push for medals [25 February 2008]. The support was predominately given to the Winter Olympic athletes in pursuits such as bobsleigh and luge. The team also gave some advice on the construction of canoes and boats for the summer team.

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