20-26 March: Motoring Milestones

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Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: Formula 1, Craig Breedlove, Mille Miglia and SSC.

110 years ago this week, the first internal combustion-powered cabs in London with taximeters began operating [22 March 1907]. The taximeter gave the cab its modern name. Its purpose was to indicate to both driver and

London motor taxi c 1907

London motor taxi c 1907

passenger the distance travelled and so avoid arguments about the fare. The word derives from French (taxe = price) and Greek (metron = measure). The taximeter was invented by Wilhelm Bruhn in 1891……. 90 years ago this week, the inaugural Mille Miglia, the most famous long distance race of its time, run over 1,618 km (1,005 miles) from Brescia to Rome and back, began [26 March 1927]. Just 51 of the 77 starters reached the finishing post. Entry was strictly restricted to unmodified production cars, and the entrance fee was set at the nominal level of 1 lira. The winner, Giuseppe Morandi, completed the course in just under 21 hours 5 minutes, averaging nearly 78 km/h (48 mph) in his 2-litre OM. Brescia based OM swept the top three places. The Mille Miglia was responsible for popularising the Alfa Romeo, which won the race 11 times between 1928 and 1939……. 80 years ago this week, Craig Breedlove, a five-time world land speed record holder, was born [23 March 1937]. He was the first to reach 400 mph, 500 mph, and 600 mph, using several turbojet-powered vehicles that were all named “Spirit of America”. Breedlove was raised in Southern California, where as a

Craig Breedlove

Craig Breedlove

teenager he built cars and was a drag racer. As a young man, he designed a three-wheeled, rocket-shaped vehicle powered by a surplus military J-47 plane engine and dubbed it the Spirit of America. On October 5, 1963, Breedlove became the fastest man on wheels when he recorded an average speed of more than 407 mph in the Spirit of America at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats. Located approximately 100 miles west of Salt Lake City, the Bonneville Salt Flats are a hard, flat 30,000-acre expanse formed from an ancient evaporated lake. In 1914, Teddy Tezlaff set an auto speed record at Bonneville, driving 141.73 mph in a Blitzen Benz. By the late 1940s, Bonneville had become the standard place for setting and breaking world land-speed records and has since attracted drivers from around the globe who compete in a number of automotive and motorcycle divisions……. 70 years ago this week, Earl S MacPherson applied for a United States patent for his vehicle wheel suspension system [21 March 1947]……. 60 years ago this week, Mercury discontinued the Turnpike Cruiser convertible Indianapolis 500 Pace Car replica after producing 1,265 units [20 March 1957]……. 50 years ago this week, Trowell services on the M1 motorway north of junction 27 in Nuthall, Nottinghamshire, was opened by Mecca Leisure [23 March 1967]. It appeared in an episode of the second series of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, where the actors discuss who they would be in The Magnificent Seven. Trowell services was also the location for part of the 2009 British film Hush and is also used as a Visual Reference and Reporting Point for general aviation traffic entering East Midlands Airport controlled airspace from the north…….. The inaugural race in the European Formula Two championship was won by Jochen Rindt in a Brabham-Ford. Graham Hill finished 2nd as F1 stars dominated the initial event [24 March 1967]. Third finisher Alan Rees was the only non-F1 driver in the top 6. Denis Hulme, Bruce McLaren and Jack Brabham finished 4th through 6th and Jackie Stewart, Hill and Rindt tied for the fastest race lap on the 2.7 mile Snetterton circuit……. 40 years ago this week, James Hunt driving a McLaren-Cosworth M23 won the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch [20 March 1977]…….30 years ago this week, thirty-one people were injured after a car bomb exploded at a British army base in West Germany [23 March 1987]. The device, believed to contain 300lbs (136kg) of explosive, went off close to the officers’ mess at Rheindahlen, 50 miles (80km) from the West German capital Bonn. Twenty-seven West Germans and four Britons were hurt…….25 years ago this week, the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos was won by Ayrton Senna driving a McLaren-Honda MP4/6 by a mere 2.9 seconds from Riccardo Patrese, who had to be lifted bodily from the car due to exhaustion and driven to the podium in the medical car [24 March 1991]……. 15 years ago this week, racer Boris ‘Bob’ Said (69), first American to win a road race in Europe after World War II – the 1953 Rouen Grand Prix – died while watching TV [24 March 2002]. He began racing in 1952 in the USA but turned his attention to Europe where he raced with Masten Gregory. He raced in the American Grand Prix in 1959 at Sebring, driving Paul Emery’s ancient Connaught. Bob had to give up racing as he lost his entire fortune in 1962. Not only did Boris Said rebuild his wealth, he through property speculation and real estate, he also took up winter sports as a member of the USA’s bobsled team, participating in the Winter Olympics in 1968 and 1972. Thereafter he became involved with the film industry and turned into an Emmy award winning producer. He got so involved in the industry that he died on the night of the Oscar award ceremony, victim of a heart attack while watching the event on TV. He is the father of NASCAR’s Boris Said Jr……. 10 years ago this week, SSC tested the top speed capability of the Ultimate Aero TT on on a 12-mile

SSC Ultimate Aero TT

SSC Ultimate Aero TT

closed stretch of US Route 93 in Nevada [22 March 2007]. Their goal was to replace the Bugatti Veyron as the fastest production car ever produced, which at the time could achieve 254.3 mph. Simulation and testing at NASA’s Virginia facility had shown that the Ultimate Aero TT should be capable of approximately 273 mph (439 km/h).The attempt failed to break the record, apparently due to sub-optimal conditions. Test driver Rick Doria reported “wheel-spin” at speeds above 190 mph (306 km/h). Despite the failure of the attempt, the car still reached 242 mph (390 km/h)……. Rookie Oliver Jarvis broke A1 Team Great Britain’s duck giving the team its maiden victory in the Mexico City Feature race [26 March 2007]. Despite finish third overall in the first season and sitting in third place again in the 2006/07, Great Britain had made it 39 races without a single win.

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