Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: Formula 1, flying cars, Spyker, Pontiac Firebird and Seinfeld.
180 years ago this week, Thomas Davenport, of Brandon, Vermont, US, received a patent for an “Electric Motor” (“Improvement in Propelling Machinery by Magnetism and Electro-Magnetism”) – the first commercially successful direct current electric motor [25 February 1837]. Operated by battery power, the motor consisted of a wheel, two spokes of which were electromagnets, situated between two stationary electromagnets. When current was applied to the stationary magnets and through a commutator switch to the wheel magnets, the wheel rotated…… 110 years ago this week, Hendrik Spijker of Spyker drowned when his North Sea steamer broke up in a storm off the coast of the Hook of Holland, the Netherlands, and his loss led to the bankruptcy of the company [21 February 1907]. Spyker was a Dutch car manufacturer, started in 1880 by coachbuilders Jacobus and Hendrik-Jan Spijker, but to be able to market the brand better in foreign countries, in 1903 the ‘ij’ was changed into ‘y’. In 1898 Spyker manufactured the “Golden Carriage”, still in use by the Dutch Monarchy today. In 1899 they started building automobies and in 1900 put their first models on display, two-cylinder 3-hp and 5-hp similar to the Benz. Four-cylinder models were introduced in 1903, along with the six-cylinder Spyker 60 HP, a racer with the world’s first ever four-wheel drive car with a single engine and four-wheel brakes.An engine with six cylinders was also a world’s first. The 1905 cars featured a round radiator grille which became a feature of many of the pre-war cars. In 1907, an 18-hp model successfully competed in the Peking to Paris race. The Spyker Cars Company founded in
1999 is only related to the old firm by the name…… The first cabs with taxi meters begin operating in London [22 February 1907]…….100 years ago this week, “Motor Age” magazine quoted American speed king Barney Oldfield as saying “If deflecting planes will drive an airplane up and down, why won’t a deflecting plane on a car going more than 100mph help drive it down to the ground and add weight for traction…?” [22 February 1917]……80 years ago this week, the first a successful automobile-airplane combination had its first flight. Built by the Westerman Arrowplane Corporation of Santa Monica, California, the vehicle was dubbed the Arrowbile, and claimed a top air-speed of 120 mph and 70 mph on a highway [21 February 1937]. Designed by aeroengineer Waldo Dean Waterman, it evolved from the prototype Arrowplane, a project to design a simple, easy to fly, low cost airplane. The Studebaker Corporation, which supplied the 100 hp engines, eventually took delivery of five Arrowbiles……70 years ago this week, the Stockholm Grand Prix at Vallentuna was won by Reg Parnell in an ERA A-Type [23 February 1947]……60 years ago this week, Sir William M. Letts, pioneer British automobile designer and founder of the Automobile Association, died in Llandudno, Wales one day short of his 84th birthday [25 February 1957]. Working for Crossley Motor Works, he was responsible for the construction of Crossley’s National Aeroplane Factory Number Three at Heaton Chapel, Stockport during the Great War……50 years ago this week, Heston services located between junctions 2 and 3 on the M4 was opened
by the then Miss United Kingdom, Jennifer Lynn Lewis and entertainer Joe Brown in a stunt designed to advertise the services’ proximity to London and Heathrow [21 February 1967]. Shortly after opening the eastbound services were described by architects as “disastrous, cramped and desolate”. The larger westbound services fared better, only being called “harsh”…… The Pontiac Firebird was
introduced [23 February 1967]…… “The show must go on,” was the theme of the 1967 Chicago Auto Show, when four weeks prior to its opening, a catastrophic fire destroyed McCormick Place [25 February 1967]. A rapid reorganization returned the event to its former venue, the International Amphitheatre, where it would remain until McCormick place was rebuilt/reopened in 1971. Popular vehicles at the ’67 show included the restyled Plymouth Barracuda, new Ford Thunderbird Landau sedan, Sunbeam Tiger, and Maserati’s two-passenger Mistral…… Mario Andretti dominated the Daytona 500 race [26 February 1967]. He led 112 of the 200 laps including the last 33 laps to capture his only NASCAR Grand National win……40 years ago this week, Cale Yarborough beat Benny Parsons by 1.39 seconds to win the NASCAR Daytona 500 [20 February 1977]……20 years ago this week, an episode of the hit TV sitcom “Seinfeld” titled “The Pothole” aired for the first time; it included a story line in which the character Kramer adopted a stretch of the fictional Arthur Burghardt Expressway through the real-life Adopt-a-Highway program [20 February 1997]. The roots of the Adopt-a-Highway program date back to 1984, when James Evans, an engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation, noticed litter blowing out of the back of a pickup truck he was driving behind in Tyler, Texas. Concerned about the growing cost to the government of keeping roadways clean, Evans soon began asking community groups to volunteer to pick up trash along sections of local highways they could “adopt.” Though Evans got no takers for his idea, Billy Black, the public information officer for the Tyler District of the Texas Department of Transportation, took up the cause and organized the first official Adopt-a-Highway program, which included training and equipment for volunteers. The first group to participate in the program was the Tyler Civitan Club, and on March 9, 1985, a sign was erected to indicate that the group had adopted a two-mile stretch along Texas’s Highway 69. Similar signs began popping up in the area as other groups volunteered to beautify their own stretches of highway. The program eventually spread to thousands of towns and cities across the U.S. and to such countries as Canada, Japan, and New Zealand……Frank Williams, Patrick Head and Adrian Newey along with three officials from the Imola race circuit were put on trial in Italy, charged with culpable homicide for the death of Ayrton Senna [20 February 1997]. The case rumbled through the Italian legal system for nearly a whole year before all six were cleared of all charges……10 years ago this week, a website was launched to help motorists tackle the increasing scourge of Britain’s potholed roads [22 February 2007]. The logically named, potholes.co.uk, was designed to assist long-suffering tax-payers highlight poor road surfaces to their local councils, plus advise on how to make a compensation claim should their own vehicle be damaged by a pothole…… Oliver Tomlinson (71), father of NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson, was killed when the 1969 Chevy pickup truck in which he was riding blew a tyre, causing the truck to swerve out of control and flip on a highway near Waco, Texas…… Four years after its debut, the second generation Porsche Cayenne
went on sale in the United Kingdon [24 February 2007]. The Cayenne S now featured a larger 4.8 litre, naturally-aspirated V8 engine. Courtesy of the new direct petrol injection system and the addition of VarioCam Plus valve control, the V8 now produces 500 Nm (previously 420 Nm) of torque and power output rises by 45bhp (33kW) to 385 bhp (283 kW). These higher figures translate into a 0-62mph time of 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 157mph. (Previous model: 6.8 seconds and 150mph.) The Cayenne S was priced from £46,610…… In an action-packed Durban street race, A1 Team Pakistan managed to stay on course, scoring their first point of the series despite being the last team to cross the finish line [25 February 2007]. Germany’s win made driver Nico Hülkenberg the most successful individual driver in A1GP history…… In an effort to raise awareness of environmental issues, the Honda Formula One (F1) team unveiled its Earth Car, a race car emblazoned with a large image of the planet instead of the typical advertising and sponsorship logos featured on most F1 vehicles [26 February 2007]. Honda announced that people who made a donation to an environmental charity through a special Web site would get their name (in the size of an individual pixel) on the Earth Car. The vehicle’s debut came at a time when F1’s governing body was interested in shedding the sport’s reputation for gas-guzzling vehicles and wastefulness.