21-27 October: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, the first automobile race was held in Austria. The 5.5 km race at the Trabrennbahn in Vienna was won by Baron Theodor von Liebieg driving the Nesseldorf Wien [22 October 1899]………110 years ago this week, General Motors purchased Cartercar [26 October 1909]. Byron J. Carter built a gasoline-powered car as early as 1899. In 1901, he formed the Michigan Automobile Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan to produce a steam car that he also designed. In 1902, he improved the design and organized the Jackson Automobile Company to build the new model. He then left his job as manufacturing superintendent at Jackson in 1905 and formed the Motor Car Company. He soon found financial backing in Detroit and moved the company there and changed the name to Cartercar Company. Not long afterwards the company was again relocated in the Pontiac Spring & Wagon Works in Pontiac, Michigan. Production reached 101 vehicles in 1901, 264 in 1907 and 325 by 1908. But then Byron Carter died suddenly on April 6, 1908. He is said to have died from complications after trying to hand crank start a car for a stranded woman motorist on the Belle Isle bridge and after hearing of this, Charles Kettering of the Dayton Engineering Laboratories (Delco) went to work on designing a safer way to start cars. The result was an electric self-starter that Kettering had built from a small high-torque cash register motor he designed while at the National Cash Register Company. The Cartercar Company caught the eye of Billy Durant. He liked the friction drive that the car used. It was advertised as the car with “A thousand speeds—No clutch to slip—No gears to strip—No universal joints to break—No driveshaft to twist—No bevel gears to wind and howl—No noise to annoy” and after 4,000 miles, the friction drives paper fiber rims could be replaced for 3 or 4 dollars. Durant thought friction drive had a great future and General Motors bought the company on October 26, 1909. By 1910, Durant was out as head of GM. The Cartercar didn’t live up to the 1000-2000 yearly sales that Durant had predicted, but GM continued producing touring cars, roadsters, coupes, sedans and even trucks. In 1915, production was limited to only roadsters and touring cars and the Board of Directors decided to discontinue production after the 1916 model. By the time Durant returned to head GM, it was too late for the Cartercar. The factory was converted over to produce Oaklands and the Cartercar name was gone for good………90 years ago this week, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison dedicated the Edison Institute in Dearborn, Michigan, on the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the electric light [21 October 1929]………70 years ago this week, the Triumph Mayflower was unveiled to invited members of the Technical Press and the Company’s Distributors in a specially decorated section of the main canteen at the Banner Lane factory, Coventry (UK) [23 October 1949]. Two Mayflowers and an oval dining table centred by an approximately four foot high model of the Mayflower sailing ship were the center of attraction……..60 years ago this week, the London Motor Show opened to the public- considered by many to be the greatest ever – as the news announcer said at the time, ‘There’s something for nearly every purse’ [21 October 1959]. For the sporty type of chap there was the Sunbeam Alpine or the Austin-Healey 3000 and drivers with very understanding bank managers considered the Rolls-Royce Phantom V or the SP250 Dart and the Majestic-Major on the Daimler stand. For those buying their first new small cars, there were four main show attractions – five if you counted Citroen’s Bijou, a 2CV assembled in Slough and sporting a glassfibre two-door body. The Herald was comparatively expensive but it was well appointed and the Triumph badging set it at a class above the outgoing Standard 8/10 range. But the Herald not only featured a turning circle smaller than a London taxi, it was Italian styled transport for the sort of chap who pretended to like expresso coffee and French art house films. Meanwhile, the Anglia 105E was the first British Ford with a four-speed gearbox and electric (as opposed to vacuum) windscreen wipers as standard, although most show-goers were more impressed with the ‘Breezeaway’ rear windscreen- ‘The World’s Most Exciting Light Car’………The 6th Tokyo Motor Show opened [24 October 1959]. On display were the Mitsubishi 500 following the Subaru 360 which appealed as a people’s car for “My Car” Japan, and Bluebird which refreshed itself from popular Datsun to a completely new European style car. Japan’s first full-scale sports car, the Datsun S211, was also displayed. This was a high performance car with a 1-litre, 34 hp engine. Its top speed was 155 kph. It attracted attention primarily because of its all-plastic body. Also popular were the Toyota Masterline, equipped with Japan s first automatic transmission and a mid-sized passenger car, the Gloria from Fuji Precision Machinery. Many new trucks were displayed. Most representative were the Jupiter from Mitsubishi Heavy-Industries, Elf from Isuzu, Datsun Truck G220 and Caball C43 from Nissan, and Prince Skyway Van/Pick-up from Fuji Precision Machinery. This show featured many new models developed with Japan’s own technology……….Jack Smith roared from the middle of the pack on Concord (North Carolina) Speedway’s half-mile dirt track to win the Lee Kirby 300, the season finale for NASCAR’s top series [25 October 1959]. Smith, who took the green flag in 18th in a draw for starting position, took the lead when Cotton Owens was sidelined by mechanical failure in the 90th lap and led the rest of the 300-lap main event. Lee Petty took second place, one lap down, while Buck Baker placed third, seven laps off the pace………50 years ago this week, the Datsun 240Z sportscar was introduced [22 October 1969]. The first draft of the Datsun 240Z was created by German car designer Dr. Albrecht Graf von Goertz, a man who co-designed both the BMW 507 and the Porsche 911. The car was to be a joint project between Datusn and Yamaha but a lasting agreement couldn’t be reached and as such, plans for the car were put on ice. Nissan’s Chief Designer Yoshihiko Matsuo couldn’t bear to see the project on the shelf for too long and finally managed to get approval to build the car as a 100% Nissan project. The original design was modified but the influences of both the E-Type Jaguar and Porsche 911 are still quite apparent in the finished styling. Performance from its rorty 2.4-litre power unit that owed a lot to the BMC C-Series and well as Mercedes-Benz’s straight-six, was more than ample. Being a Datsun, reliability was a given, but the agile (if tail-happy) handling was a pleasant surprise. During its five year run, more than 150,000 were produced, but survivors are now seriously appreciating. Rust has been its main enemy, so be careful when buying, even if you’re buying a restored example……….30 years ago this week, Alessandro Nannini’s one and only Formula 1 win at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka came in the wake of Ayrton Senna being disqualified [22 October 1989]. After clashing with Alain Prost, Senna rejoined the race in a way allegedly giving him an advantage according to the stewards of the meeting. The incident and the controversial decision gave Alain Prost his third title. Years after Ayrton Senna’s death, Max Mosley admitted that his predecessor as FIA president, Jean-Marie Balestre, orchestrated the whole process in an unfair manner against Senna……….U2 bass player Adam Clayton was convicted of a drink driving offence by a

White Lightning Electric Streamliner

Dublin court after being found driving twice over the legal limit [27 October 1989]. He was fined £500 and banned from driving for 1 year…….20 years ago this week, the White Lightning Electric Streamliner, driven by Patrick Rummerfield (USA), at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, USA, recorded the highest speed achieved by an electric vehicle 395.821 km/h (245.523 mph) [22 October 1999]. Propelled by two 200 hp alternating current motors, this 1,111-kg (2,450-lb) vehicle could reach 161 km/h (100 mph) in 8 seconds and had a theoretical top speed of over 482.8 km/h (300 mph)……..Comedian Rowan Atkinson crashed his £650,000 McLaren F1 supercar £650,000, bought to celebrate the success of his movie in the role of Mr Bean [25 October 1999]. The front of the McLaren F1 supercar was wrecked in the collision with the rear of a Rover Metro in Lancashire. The driver of the Metro, suffered minor whiplash injuries, while Mr Atkinson was unhurt in the accident on the A6 at Forton, Lancashire.


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