2-8 November: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, the first significant car show in the United States opened in New York City [3 November 1900]. The Automobile Club of America organised the week-long event held in Madison Square Garden. Fifty-one exhibitors displayed 31 automobiles along with various accessories. The show also featured ramps to demonstrate hill-climbing abilities and starting and braking contests. Tickets for the popular event, nicknamed the ‘Horseless Carriage Show’, cost 50 cents. By the end of show week it is also estimated that 48,000 visitors had attended. The vehicles on display range from $280 – nearly 6 months salary at the average annual wage of $589 – up to $4,000……110 years ago this week, the Morgan Company launched its original three-wheeler at the Olympia Motor Show in London. Built in Malvern, Worcestershire (England), it was claimed to be the best-engineered and most reliable three-wheeler of its time [4 November 1910]. It would become the most successful vehicle in its class, setting standards for other manufacturers to follow……. Percy Hendy of Southampton, was appointed Britain’s first Ford dealer, nearly a year before the Ford factory at Trafford Park, Manchester, produced its first Model T [7 November 1910]……100 years ago this week, Leyland Eight,

Leyland Eight

Britain’s first car with an in-line eight cylinder engine, with an overhead camshaft and a capacity of 7 litres, was launched at the London Motor Show [4 November 1920]. The price was over £3000 and perhaps not surprisingly there were few takers, with total production amounting to not more than 18 units. The Leyland Eight bristled with ingenious features and had considerable performance potential, as evidenced by special racing versions designed by Parry Thomas which gave up to 200 bhp and set several speed records…… The Orpington, built by Frank Smith and Jack Milroy at their Pond Garage, opposite Priory Road in Orpington, Kent, England went on a test run in front of the press [6 November 1920]. It was a two-seater with a dickey seat capable of accommodating two more small people behind the driving wheel, had a 10-bhp engine, and cost £495……. 90 years ago this week, the first vehicular tunnel to a foreign country opened, from Detroit (US) to Windsor (Canada) [3 November 1930]. At 120 feet short of a mile, the underwater tunnel carries 13,000 vehicles daily. The Detroit–Windsor Tunnel was built by the firm Parsons, Klapp, Brinckerhoff and Douglas (the same firm that built the Holland Tunnel)…….. Alfred Arthur Rouse murdered an unknown man and burnt him in his (Rouse’s) vehicle at Hardingstone in Northamptonshire, the first murder case in Britain to centre around a car [6 November 1930]. This case is also unusual in English legal history in the sense that the identity of the victim was never known and consequently Rouse was convicted of the murder of an unknown man. In the early hours of 6 November 1930, two young men returning from

Alfred Arthur Rouse

the town of Northampton to their home in the nearby village of Hardingstone saw a fire in the distance. A man approaching them from the direction of the fire observed that ‘somebody must be lighting a bonfire’. The two men went to investigate and discovered the fire was coming from a vehicle that was ablaze, containing a body charred beyond recognition. The number plate identified the car as belonging to an Alfred Arthur Rouse, a north-Londoner. Rouse had gone to Wales to one of his girlfriends, but returned to London a day later. He was arrested and confessed, saying that he had picked up the victim during a ride to Leicester. While Rouse went to defecate, the man lit a cigarette in the car. According to Rouse, there was a flash of light, and subsequently the car burst into flames. Alfred Rouse stood trial in Northampton in January 1931, and was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Rouse’s personality was the cause of his failure to win support for the counter-theory that the man in the car was responsible for the explosion that killed him. Rouse, after initially trying to run off, decided to hand himself over to the police. But while giving his statement of what he claimed happened (an accident – but the other fellow was to blame) he let slip a comment that got into the newspapers, referring to his career as a salesman and the women he knew. He referred to these ladies as his “harem”. That did not sit well with the public. His failure to explain why he picked up the unknown person (supposedly just to give him a lift) was dented when he made the callous comment that the unknown person was just somebody who nobody would miss. The final blow to the accident theory was delivered not by Sir Bernard Spilsbury (who did give forensic evidence of the remains of the unknown person), but by an expert on cars who studied the remains of the Morris Minor, and found somebody had forcefully turned a nut and screw to allow petrol to flow into the motor (making a fire easier to set). The chief prosecuting counsel at Rouse’s trial was William Norman Birkett, 1st Baron Birkett and the chief defence counsel was Donald Finnemore. On Tuesday, 10 March 1931, he was hanged in Bedford Gaol. He confessed to the crime shortly before the execution. In Alan Moore’s novel Voice of the Fire, set in Northampton at various times throughout history, one chapter tells Rouse’s story in first-person narrative, an evasive and self-serving musing to himself as he sits in the dock during his murder trial. The chapter ends with Rouse seemingly convinced of his ability to charm his jury into acquitting him, with his judgment in this purchase tramadol generic ultram matter proving as poor as it had been throughout the entire story. Dorothy Sayers used the Rouse case to construct her short story “In the Teeth of the Evidence”, published in her short story collection of that name in 1939. The case is mentioned by name. The case was dramatized on a 1951 episode of Orson Welles’ radio drama The Black Museum entitled “The Mallet” The PD James novel, The Murder Room (2003), also mentions the Rouse case among other famous murder cases in the interwar years…….80 years ago this week, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Washington, US collapsed due to high winds [7 November 1940]. Remarkably, there was just one casualty, a dog. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was built during the 1930s and opened to traffic on July 1, 1940. It spanned the Puget Sound from Gig Harbor to Tacoma, which is 40 miles south of Seattle. The channel is about a mile wide where the bridge crossed the sound. Sleek and slender, it was the third longest suspension bridge in the world at the time, covering 5,959 feet. Leon Moisseiff designed the bridge to be the most flexible ever constructed. Engineers of the time believed that the design, even though it exceeded ratios of length, depth and width that had previously been standard, was completely safe. Following the collapse, it was revealed that the engineers had not properly considered the aerodynamic forces that were in play at the location during a period of strong winds. At the time of construction, such forces were not commonly taken into consideration by engineers and designers. On November 7, high winds buffeted the area and the bridge swayed considerably. The first failure came at about 11 a.m., when concrete dropped from the road surface. Just minutes later, a

Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse

600-foot section of the bridge broke free. By this time, the bridge was being tossed back and forth wildly. At one time, the elevation of the sidewalk on one side of the bridge was 28 feet above that of the sidewalk on the other side. Even though the bridge towers were made of strong structural carbon steel, the bridge proved no match for the violent movement, and collapsed. Subsequent investigations and testing revealed that the bridge was vulnerable to vibrations generated by wind. When the bridge experienced strong winds from a certain direction, the frequency oscillations built up to such an extent that collapse was inevitable. A replacement bridge opened on October 14, 1950, after more than two years of construction. It is the fifth longest suspension bridge in the United States, 40 feet longer than the original. Construction of the new bridge took into account the lessons learned in the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, as did that of all subsequent suspension bridges. Today, the remains of the bridge are still at the bottom of Puget Sound, where they form one of the largest man-made reefs in the world. The spot was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in order to protect it against salvagers……..70 years ago this week, the first Pebble Beach Road Races (California) were staged, with the main event won by Phil Hill in a Jaguar XK120 [5 November 1950]. The races were managed under the auspices of the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America), as were most races from that day to this. The route was originally 1.8 miles (2.9 km) long, but was lengthened from 1951 onwards to 2.1 miles (3.4 km). Not all of the “track” was paved; the original 1950 route consisted of both paved two-lane roads and sections of dirt or loose gravel…….50 years ago this week, double World Champion Graham Hill drove the first Ford RS car (Escort RS 1600) from a purpose built production line within Ford Advanced Vehicle Operations (FAVO) of South Ockendon, Essex, England [2 November 1970]. RS originally stood for Rallye Sport and introduced a new breed of affordable sporting Fords. Based on the formidable international rally and race-winning Escort, with a pioneering Cosworth-crafted 16-valve engine, the RS1600 established a line of more than 20 Ford RS-badged derivatives that would sell over 100,000 examples . In production line trim, the RS1600 offered deft cornering capabilities of true RS products coupled to a detuned 120 hp engine in a light and simple layout which allowed a 113 mph maximum sped alongside a 0-60 mph of 8.9 seconds, but its main point was its sports potential…….40 years ago this week, Cale Yarborough won the Atlanta Journal 500 at Atlanta Inter­national Raceway (Georgia, US) to move to within 29 points of Dale Earnhardt in the NASCAR cham­pionship chase [2 November 1980]. Earnhardt, who had led the standings since the second race of the season, finished third…….30 years ago this week, in a small shopping centre in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the National Corvette Museum Annex was opened [2 November 1990]……. Dale Earnhardt took the lead in the 51st lap and never looked back, pacing the rest of the 312-lap Checker 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, Arizona, US [4 November 1990]. Ken Schrader finished a close second, 0.67 seconds back, with Morgan Shepherd third. The victory allowed Earnhardt to snatch the points lead away from Mark Martin, who finished 10th on the mile track in the desert. Two weeks later in Atlanta, Earnhardt sealed the fourth of his record-tying seven championships in NASCAR’s premier series…. On the same day, [4 November 1990], The 500th Formula One Grand Prix was held in Adelaide. The Australian Grand Prix was won for the second race in a row, by Brazilian veteran Nelson Piquet in his Benetton, giving the triple World Champion back to back wins for the first time since he won the 1987 German and Hungarian Grands Prix while driving for Williams-Honda.

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