Discover the momentous motoring events that have taken place this week in history …….
120 years ago this week, Robert Allison of Port Carbon, Pennsylvania became the first person to buy an American-built motor car when he bought a Winton after seeing an advertisement in Scientific America [24 March 1898]. Later that year the Winton Motor Carriage Company sold 21 more vehicles, including one to James Ward Packard, who later founded the Packard automobile company…….90 years ago this week, the first set of permanently installed traffic signals in Scotland commenced operation in Edinburgh, at the York Place – Broughton Street junction [19 March 1928]…... James Ward Packard founder of the Ohio Automobile
Company and the Packard Motor Car Company, died in Cleveland, Ohio, at the age of 64 [20 March 1928]. A native of Warren, Ohio, James Packard and his brother, William, started their industrial careers manufacturing electric lamps. They entered the automobile business after James Packard purchased a Winton Motor Carriage. He was so dissatisfied with Winton’s machine that he decided to build his own. Using the shops of a Packard Electric Company subsidiary, J.W. Packard completed his first automobile in 1899, driving through the streets of his hometown of Warren. Wishing to keep their automotive and electrical interests separate, the Packard brothers, along with fellow engineer George Weiss, started the Ohio Automobile Company in September 1900. That year the Packards boosted their company’s profile by selling two cars to William D. Rockefeller. In 1901, an Ohio Automobile Company employee was arrested for speeding through the streets of Warren at 40 mph. The nationally publicised speeding arrest also raised the company’s profile. A shrewd promoter, Packard developed one of the car industry’s first widely recognised slogans. Responding to a customer’s inquiry about the performance of his car, Packard said, “Ask the man who owns one.” Packard’s deft promotion left the company with more customers than cars. A Detroit financier named Henry Joy volunteered his services to raise capital in order to raise the company’s production capabilities. In 1902, the reorganised Ohio Automobile Company was incorporated as the Packard Motor Car Company. Packard cars would be the first to carry a steering wheel in the place of a tiller and the first to utilise the H-gear-shift configuration……. 70 years ago this week, the Gordini 8 GC race car was completed and road tested by designer Amedee Gordini [21 March 1948]…. On the same day [21 March 1948] Chico Landi won the Interlagos Grand Prix in Brazil driving an Alfa Romeo 308…….The last Lincoln Continental Mark I was produced [24 March 1948]. Before there were series of “Continental Mark”, “Lincoln Continental Mark”, “Lincoln Mark”, or “Lincoln MK” models, there were various models built by the Ford organization employing the name “Continental”. These began in the 1930s with a one-off car, a custom personal car that ended up
serving the function of a concept car, which Edsel Ford directed his designers to create. It began with the existing design of the Lincoln-Zephyr and was modified extensively. It was called the “Continental” because it was meant to capture an essence of Continental European luxury. This first car led to a production model, the first of the “Lincoln Continental” series, which was built from 1939 to 1948. In 1955, Ford Motor Company chose to introduce a new personal luxury car as a successor to the pre-war Lincoln Continental. As it was to be one of the most exclusive and expensive automobiles in the world, Ford chose to create a stand-alone division above Lincoln. The new Continental Mark II of the Continental Division adopted a naming convention of “mark number”, also meaning “version number” or “model number”; while used in the European automotive industry, this was also used to identify versions of artillery, tanks, naval vessels, and aircraft, as demonstrated with the Jaguar Mark 1. The name was thus equivalent in original meaning to simply “Continental, version 2” or “Continental, model B”, although the name “Mark” later took on a brand-like feel of its own in the minds of many customers, which later branding efforts then expanded upon. In 1958, the Continental division was reintegrated back into the Lincoln product lineup, with Lincoln introducing the Mark III, IV, and V to replace the Mark II; they served as the flagships of the Lincoln line. In 1961, Lincoln went from a three-model line to a single Continental; the Mark series was dropped. For 1968, Lincoln restarted the Mark series with the Mark III. Instead of being a flagship model of the standard Lincoln, the Mark III was an all-new car. Based upon the Ford Thunderbird, it was a strict personal-luxury coupe like the Continental Mark II and the 1939-1948 Continental, thus restarting the series at Mark III. While sharing little to no common bodywork, the Mark series would share much of its underpinnings with the Ford Thunderbird for its entire production run from 1969 to 1998. The lone exception is the 1980-1983 Mark VI, which was based on the Ford LTD/Mercury Marquis coupe and Lincoln Town Car; the Mark VI is the only model ever produced as an optional 4-door……. 60 years ago this week, after sharp recession that hit the U.S. in the fall of 1957 led to steep declines in the sales of big, glitzy, middle-market cars like Ford’s new Edsel, the soaring sales of Nash’s compact Rambler and small imports like the Volkswagen Beetle, Henry Ford II approved the development of a compact Ford car [19 March 1958]. The new car, developed under the codename XK Thunderbird, underwent several changes of nomenclature before being dubbed “Ford Falcon” in April 1958. (That name was originally owned by Chrysler, but Ford obtained it through a bit of inter-corporate quid pro quo.)…… The Ferrari of Peter Collins and Phil Hill won the Sebring 12 Hour World Sports Car Championship race [22 March 1958]. The Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar and Aston Martin teams returned to WSC competition, and the Aston Martin of Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks led for 4 hours before falling off the pace……. The first two production DAF cars, DAF 600’s rolled of the assembly line [23 March 1958]. The 600 was
the first production car after the 1920s Clyno to have a continuously variable transmission (CVT) system – the innovative DAF Variomatic. The DAF Variomatic employs engine speed, via centrifugal weights, to shift the transmission and is enhanced by an engine manifold vacuum. It was the only car ever produced which went faster by the simple expedient of gently and gradually releasing the accelerator once top speed had been reached. This increased manifold vacuum which helped the variable pulleys shift to an even higher ratio so even though the engine RPM stays the same, the transmission increases the car’s speed, in the case of the DAF 600, from 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) to nearly 70 mph (110 km/h) given enough time and level road.The Variomatic also permitted increased engine braking by operating a switch on the dashboard which reversed the action of the vacuum on the pulley’s diaphragm, seeking a lower ratio with increased manifold vacuum…….. Work on the M1, Britain’s first full length motorway, began [24 March 1958]. The first 53.5 miles of the M1, from Luton to Crick, opened in November 1959. It is not the first stretch of motorway in Britain — that honour goes to the Preston bypass, opened a year earlier — but it is both the first inter-urban motorway and the first three-lane dual carriageway in the country. The M1 these days runs from Mill Hill in London all the way to Yorkshire. However, the first stretch to be constructed ran from Slip End (south of Luton, just north of present-day Junction 10), to Crick in Northamptonshire near Junction 18. This stretch was built as three-lane, dual carriageway throughout its length and contracted in four stages of roughly 12 miles each. Each construction stage
included up to 35 overbridges and underbridges. All four contracts were won on tender by John Laing Construction Ltd. The construction of the M1 heralded the results of the grand but troubled scheme for motorway construction devised by the post-war Labour government in 1946. Labour’s plans ran short of cash but under pressure from a wide variety of agencies, a Conservative government took up a similar scheme in 1951. In that year, Owen Williams & Partners (headed by Sir Owen Williams, his son Owen Tudor Williams and Thomas Vandy) began survey, routing and general design work. They set up an office at Welton Station (just north of Daventry, Northamptonshire), which was their base for this work and later for land acquisition and site supervision. Structural design was done in London. Welton was a symbolic choice since it’s very near the West Coast railway line, the Grand Union canal and the A5 road — all major transport links from London to the Midlands at that time. Detail design work began in 1955 and the go-ahead was given later that year. Construction began on 1st April 1958. It was during the design process that the motorway was expanded from two to three lanes wide. The carriageways were constructed using a dry lean concrete base some 355mm thick over a 152mm earthern sub-base. Wet conditions caused concern with the earthworks but local material was used. Over the concrete went two layers of hot-rolled asphalt — an initial layer of 63mm and the road surface of 38mm. Grass verges 2.4m wide lay either side but half of these were soon altered in finish and width to increase their strength and durability. Owen Williams’ influence can be most clearly seen in the distinctive design of the concrete overbridges and underbridges, though he was involved in all the work to some degree. For the bridges, a number of standardised designs were used (see separate entry on this site). Different aesthetic criteria exist for bridges that are to be viewed at speed and, with a total of 131 bridges and 92 culverts in just 53.5 miles of road, Williams was prescient in designing his as a recognisable visual package. At the southern end, the M1 joined up with the St Albans by-pass constructed by Hertfordshire County Council. In later years, the motorway was extended southwards, to its present commencement at Mill Hill just north of the North Circular Road. Owen Williams & Partners went on to design a second section of the M1 and other motorways, including the M6 into Birmingham, and Birmingham’s famous Spaghetti Junction interchange. For the second M1 section, significant design changes were made in response to new requirements from the Department of Transport……. 50 years ago this week, Cale Yarborough drove a Wood Brothers Mercury to victory in the NASCAR Grand National race at Atlanta, Georgia, US [21 March 1968]…… Hans Herrmann and Jo Siffert won the Sebring 12 Hour World Sports Car Championship race as Porsches finished 1-2 [23 March 1968]. The Paul Hawkins/David Hobbs Ford GT40 took the lead when the Porsches refueled. Hawkins led until a collision with a “lady driver” forced the Australian to pit for repairs. Hawkins charged back to second before the repaired suspension collapsed after 9 hours, leaving the Porsches uncontested. Mark Donohue and Craig Fisher finished third overall in Roger Penske’s Camaro…….Tinsley Viaduct, a two-tier road bridge in Sheffield,
England; the first of its kind in the UK, opened [25 March 1968]. It carries the M1 and the A631 1033 metres over the Don Valley, from Tinsley to Wincobank, also crossing the Sheffield Canal, the Midland Main Line and the former South Yorkshire Railway line from Tinsley Junction to Rotherham Central. The structure is unusual in that it is built as steel box girders, at a time when most long span bridges were being built of post tension concrete deck design……. 30 years ago this week, the last Pontiac Fiero was produced. The Fiero was designed by George Milidrag and Hulki Aldikacti as a sports car [20 March 1988]. The Fiero was the first two-seater Pontiac since the 1926 to 1938 coupes, and also the first and only mass-produced mid-engine sports car by a U.S. manufacturer. Many technologies incorporated in the Fiero design such as plastic body panels were radical for their time. Other features included hidden headlamps and, initially, integrated stereo speakers within the driver and passenger headrests. A total of 370,168 Fieros were produced over the relatively short production run of five years; by comparison, 163,000 Toyota MR2s were sold in their first five years. At the time, its reputation suffered from criticisms over performance, reliability and safety issues. The word fiero means “very proud” in Italian, and “wild”, “fierce”, or “ferocious” in Spanish. Alternative names considered for the car were Sprint (which ended up on a Chevrolet car instead), P3000, Pegasus, Fiamma, Sunfire (a name which would later be applied to another car), and Firebird XP. The Fiero 2M4 (two-seat, mid-engine, four-cylinder) was on Car and Driver magazine’s Ten Best list for 1984. The 1984 Fiero was the Official Pace Car of the Indianapolis 500 for 1984, beating out the new 1984 Chevrolet Corvette for the honor…….20 years ago this week, the signs all was not well in Tony Blair’s administration surfaced when he admitted to breaking House of Commons rules by failing to declare a £1500 “freebie” from Bernie Ecclestone [19 March 1998]. He accepted a rebuke from watchdog Sir Gordon Downey because all hospitality worth more than £215 must be registered in the House. Blair, who took his wife and their children to the £300-a-head British Grand Prix at Silverstone, vowed not to break the rules again……. Dale Jarrett fended off Jeff Gordon’s late charge to win the Transouth Financial 400 at Darlington Raceway, South Carolina, US [22 March 1998]. Jarrett led 68 of the 293 laps to win by .228 seconds. Gordon held on for second place with Rusty Wallace third. Jeff Burton, who led 195 laps, faded to fifth place by the checkered flag…….10 years ago this week, the X Prize Foundation and sponsor Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. offered $10 million to the teams that could “design, build and race super-efficient vehicles that will achieve 100 mpg (2.35 liter/100 kilometer) efficiency, produce less than 200 grams/mile well-to-wheel CO2 equivalent emissions, and could be manufactured for the mass market.”[20 March 2008]…..the following day [21 March 2008], it was reported that the French built Smart ForTwo by Daimler would be introduced in the US, the 37th country to sell the small car, for a starting price of $12,235, nearly 10 years after its European launch…….South Korea’s Hyundai Motor said it would begin mass producing hybrid cars next year amid growing demand for fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles [23 March 2008]…… Author William Neeley, best known for writing the 1974 classic “Stand on It: A Novel by Stroker Ace” died aged 77 [25 Match 2008]. Neeley loosely based the novel on his experiences in the 1960’s when he headed up Goodyear’s public relations.