22-28 May: Motoring Milestones

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Momentous motoring events that took place during this week in history …..

120 years ago this week, the western Blackwall Tunnel, part of the A102, designed by Sir Alexander Binnie and built by S. Pearson & Sons for London County Council, was opened by the Prince of Wales. [22 May 1897] It was then the longest underwater

A framing section of the Blackwall Tunnel being constructed at the Thames Ironworks around 1895

A framing section of the Blackwall Tunnel being constructed at the Thames Ironworks around 1895

tunnel in the world at 4,410 feet (1,344 m) and was initially lit by three rows of incandescent streetlights. To clear the site in Greenwich, more than 600 people had to be rehousedand a house reputedly once owned by Sir Walter Raleigh had to be demolished. Costing £1.4 million and employing 800 men, it took 6 years to construct, using a tunnelling shield and compressed-air techniques. A tunnel in the Blackwall area was originally proposed in the 1880s. According to Robert Webster, then MP for St Pancras East, a tunnel would “be very useful to the East End of London, a district representing in trade and commerce a population greater than the combined populations of Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.” By this time, all road bridges in London east of the ferry at Chiswick were toll-free, but these were of little use to the two fifths of London’s population that lived to the east of London Bridge. The Thames Tunnel (Blackwall) Act was created in August 1887, which provided the legal framework necessary to construct the tunnel. The initial proposal, made by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, called for three parallel tunnels, two for vehicular traffic and one for foot, with an expected completion date of works within seven years. It was originally commissioned by the Metropolitan Board of Works but, just before the contract was due to start, responsibility passed to the London County Council (LCC) when the former body was abolished in 1889 and Bazalgette’s work on the tunnel ended…….110 years ago this week, in a 24 hour “Endurance Derby” on the 1 mile dirt Point Breeze oval, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Brown and Robert Maynes drove an Autocar to victory. The winners completed 791 miles [25 May 1907]…… The world’s first 24-hour race, the Endurance Derby staged at the Point Breeze dirt track in Philadelphia, L US concluded with winners J L Brown an Robert Maynes-who covered 791 miles in their Autocar at an average speed of just under 33 mph [26 May 1907]…… The first Isle of Man TT Races took place, over the triangular St John’s Circuit. from St John’s → Ballacraine

Rem Fowler on the Peugeot-engined Norton, winner of the 1907 twin-cylinder race

Rem Fowler on the Peugeot-engined Norton, winner of the 1907 twin-cylinder race

Kirk Michael → Peel → St John’s [28 May 1907]. The race was ten laps of the 15 mile 1,430 yards course, a total race distance of 158.125 miles. At 10am 25 riders started in pairs in a time-trial format for the road-legal touring motorcycles with exhaust silencers, saddles, pedals and mud-guards. On lap 1, Jack Marshall riding a Triumph suffered a fall and F. Applebee Junior a puncture to his 5 hp Rex machine. By lap 2, Stanley Webb riding a 5 hp Triumph had to stop at St. Johns to adjust a belt and retired on lap 3 with an engine exhaust-valve problem. At the compulsory 10 minute replenishment stop, Oliver Godfrey had to retire when his 5 hp Rex motorcycle caught fire. The single-cylinder class race was won by Charles R. Collier riding a Matchless in 4 hours, 8 minutes and 8 seconds at an average race speed of 38.21 mph. His brother Harry Collier, also riding a Matchless, had problems with an engine seizure on lap 2 and eventually retired on lap 9. The twin-cylinder class and overall race was initially led by Rem Fowler riding a Norton. On lap 1, Fowler completed the course in 23 minutes and 19 seconds, in second place was Billy Wells in a time of 23 minutes and 21 seconds and Charlie Collier in the single-cylinder class with a time of 23 minutes and 45 seconds. The overall lead fell away as Fowler suffered a number of problems with drive-belts and spark-plugs, and on lap 7 crashed at nearly 60 mph due to a burst tyre at the “Devils Elbow” on the Kirk Michael to Peel section of the course. Fowler nearly gave up, but was told by a spectator that he led the twin-cylinder class by 30 minutes from Wells and went on to win at an average race speed of 36.22 mph and set the fastest lap of the race at 42.91 mph……. 90 years ago this week, Ford Motor Company announced the end of Model T and named its replacement, the Model A [25 May 1927]….. the following day [26 May 1927], Henry Ford and his son Edsel drove the 15 millionth Model T Ford out of their factory, marking the famous automobile’s official last day of production. More than any other vehicle, the

Henry Ford standing by the first car he made called "The Quadricycle" and the fifteenth million Model T manufactured by his company.

Henry Ford standing by the first car he made called “The Quadricycle” and the fifteenth million Model T manufactured by his company.

relatively affordable and efficient Model T was responsible for accelerating the automobile’s introduction into American society during the first quarter of the 20th century. Introduced in October 1908, the Model T—also known as the “Tin Lizzie”—weighed some 1,200 pounds, with a 20-horsepower, four-cylinder engine. It got about 13 to 21 miles per gallon of gasoline and could travel up to 45 mph. Initially selling for around $850 (around $20,000 in today’s dollars), the Model T would later sell for as little as $260 (around $6,000 today) for the basic no-extras model. Largely due to the Model T’s incredible popularity, the U.S. government made construction of new roads one of its top priorities by 1920. By 1926, however, the Lizzie had become outdated in a rapidly expanding market for cheaper cars. While Henry Ford had hoped to keep up production of the Model T while retooling his factories for its replacement, the Model A, lack of demand forced his hand. On May 25, 1927, he made headlines around the world with the announcement that he was discontinuing the Model T. As recorded by Douglas Brinkley in “Wheels for the World,” his biography of Ford, the legendary carmaker delivered a eulogy for his most memorable creation: “It had stamina and power. It was the car that ran before there were good roads to run on. It broke down the barriers of distance in rural sections, brought people of these sections closer together and placed education within the reach of everyone.” After production officially ended the following day, Ford factories shut down in early June, and some 60,000 workers were laid off. The company sold fewer than 500,000 cars in 1927, less than half of Chevrolet’s sales. The Model A’s release beginning in select cities that December was greeted by throngs of thousands, a tribute to Ford’s characteristic ability to make a splash. No car in history, however, had the impact—both actual and mythological—of the Model T: Authors like Ernest Hemingway, E.B. White and John Steinbeck featured the Tin Lizzie in their prose, while the great filmmaker Charlie Chaplin immortalized it in satire in his 1928 film “The Circus.”…… 80 years ago this week, the Battle of the Overpass took place in which labor organizers clashed with Ford Motor Company security guards at the River Rouge Plant complex in Dearborn, Metro-Detroit, Michigan [26 May 1937]. The United Auto Workers had planned a leaflet campaign entitled, “Unionism, Not Fordism”, at the pedestrian overpass over Miller Road at Gate 4 of the River Rouge Plant complex. Demanding an $8 (equivalent to $132 today) six-hour day for workers, in contrast to the $6 (equivalent to $99 today) eight-hour day then in place, the campaign was planned for shift change time, with an expected 9,000

UAW leaders Walter Reuther and Richard Frankensteen following the Battle of the Overpass at the Ford Rouge Plant.

UAW leaders Walter Reuther and Richard Frankensteen following the Battle of the Overpass at the Ford Rouge Plant.

workers both entering and leaving the plant. At approximately 2 p.m., several of the leading UAW union organizers, including Walter Reuther and Richard Frankensteen, were asked by a Detroit News photographer, James R. (Scotty) Kilpatrick, to pose for a picture on the overpass, with the Ford sign in the background. While they were posing, men from Ford’s Service Department, an internal security force under the direction of Harry Bennett, came from behind and began to beat them. The number of attackers is disputed, but may have been as many as forty. Frankensteen had his jacket pulled over his head and was kicked and punched. Reuther described some of the treatment he received:’Seven times they raised me off the concrete and slammed me down on it. They pinned my arms . . . and I was punched and kicked and dragged by my feet to the stairway, thrown down the first flight of steps, picked up, slammed down on the platform and kicked down the second flight. On the ground they beat and kicked me some more. . .’ One union organizer, Richard Merriweather, suffered a broken back as the result of the beating he received. The security forces mob also attempted to destroy photographic plates, but the Detroit News photographer James R. Kilpatrick hid the photographic plates under the back seat of his car, and surrendered useless plates he had on his front seat. News and photos of the brutal attack made headlines in newspapers across the country. In spite of the photographs, and many witnesses who had heard his men specifically seek out Frankensteen and Reuther, security director Bennett claimed — “The affair was deliberately provoked by union officials. . . . They simply wanted to trump up a charge of Ford brutality. … I know definitely no Ford service man or plant police were involved in any way in the fight.” The incident greatly increased support for the UAW and hurt Ford’s reputation. Bennett and Ford were chastised by the National Labor Relations Board for their actions. Three years later Ford signed a contract with the UAW. ……. Week long celebrations began to mark the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge, connecting San Francisco with Marin County, California. [27 May 1937]. Approximately 200,000 people crossed the bridge in honor of its opening, paying a sum of $0.25 to cross. The following day traffic was allowed on the bridge, which was constructed from

Golden Gate Bridge - 1937

Golden Gate Bridge – 1937

January 1933 to May 1937. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, at 4,200 feet. Following the Gold Rush boom that began in 1849, speculators realized the land north of San Francisco Bay would increase in value in direct proportion to its accessibility to the city. Soon, a plan was hatched to build a bridge that would span the Golden Gate, a narrow, 400-foot deep strait that serves as the mouth of the San Francisco Bay, connecting the San Francisco Peninsula with the southern end of Marin County. Although the idea went back as far as 1869, the proposal took root in 1916. A former engineering student, James Wilkins, working as a journalist with the San Francisco Bulletin, called for a suspension bridge with a center span of 3,000 feet, nearly twice the length of any in existence. Wilkins’ idea was estimated to cost an astounding $100 million. So, San Francisco’s city engineer, Michael M. O’Shaughnessy (he’s also credited with coming up with the name Golden Gate Bridge), began asking bridge engineers whether they could do it for less. Engineer and poet Joseph Strauss, a 5-foot tall Cincinnati-born Chicagoan, said he could. Eventually, O’Shaughnessy and Strauss concluded they could build a pure suspension bridge within a practical range of $25-30 million with a main span at least 4,000 feet. The construction plan still faced opposition, including litigation, from many sources. By the time most of the obstacles were cleared, the Great Depression of 1929 had begun, limiting financing options, so officials convinced voters to support $35 million in bonded indebtedness, citing the jobs that would be created for the project. However, the bonds couldn’t be sold until 1932, when San-Francisco based Bank of America agreed to buy the entire project in order to help the local economy.In May 1987, as part of the 50th anniversary celebration, the Golden Gate Bridge district again closed the bridge to automobile traffic and allowed pedestrians to cross the bridge. However, this celebration attracted 750,000 to 1,000,000 people, and ineffective crowd control meant the bridge became congested with roughly 300,000 people, causing the center span of the bridge to flatten out under the weight. Although the bridge is designed to flex in that way under heavy loads, and was estimated not to have exceeded 40% of the yielding stress of the suspension cables, bridge officials stated that uncontrolled pedestrian access was not being considered as part of the 75th anniversary on Sunday, May 27, 2012, because of the additional law enforcement costs required “since 9/11”…… The government of Germany–then under the control of Adolf Hitler of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party–formed a new state-owned automobile company, then known as Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH [28 May 1937]. Later that year, it was renamed simply Volkswagenwerk, or “The People’s Car Company.”The government allocated 480,000 reichmarks as start-up capital for the construction of a new factory, and on 26 May, 1938, Hitler laid the foundation stone in the Stadt des KdF-Wagens – renamed Wolfsburg in 1945, and still the home of Volkswagen today. After WWII, the factory found itself in the British occupied sector of Germany and was handed over to Major Ivan Hirst to run on behalf of the British military government. He persuaded the British Army to order 20,000 cars for its occupying personnel, effectively saving the company from ruin. The business, now renamed just Volkswagen was offered to various US and British car companies, who all rejected it. So in 1949, the company was made into a trust controlled by the West German government, and administered by the state of Lower Saxony, which still owns 20%. The German federal government floated its stake on the German stockmarket in 1960. The company went from strength to strength, becoming a potent symbol of German post-war regeneration. It suffered problems in the 1970s, but came back stronger to become the world’s second-largest vehicle-maker, behind Toyota ……70 years ago this week, Chung Ju Yung founded Hyundai Construction, the first of the Hyundai companies [25 May 1947]. Hyundai Motor Company was later established in 1967. The company’s first model, the Cortina, was released in cooperation with the Ford Motor Company in 1968. When Hyundai wanted to develop their own car, they hired the former Managing Director of Austin Morris, George Trumbull. In 1975, the Pony, the first Korean car, was released, with styling by Giorgio Giugiaro of ItalDesign and powertrain technology provided by Mitsubishi ofJapan. Exports began in the following year to Ecuador. In 1991, the company succeeded in developing its first proprietary gasoline engine, the four-cylinder Alpha, and transmission, thus paving the way for technological independence. In 1986, Hyundai began to sell cars in the United States, including the very affordable Excel. The company began to produce models with its own technology in 1988, beginning with the midsize

John Lennon's Rolls-Royce

John Lennon’s Rolls-Royce

Sonata…. 50 years ago this week, Beatle John Lennon took delivery of his famous psychedelic Rolls-Royce [25 May 1967]…. 40 years ago this week, Janet Guthrie from Iowa, became the first female to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 [22 May 1977]. Guthrie failed to finish the 1977 race due to mechanical troubles. The next year, however, she not only finished the race but landed in ninth place, a remarkable achievement considering her meager race funding. Guthrie explains her career beginning as the result of her passion for adrenaline rush and the purchase of her first sports car. “I’ve always loved adventure,” she said. “I went parachuting when I was 16, and got my pilot’s license when I was 17. I went to school for physics… and when I got out of school I bought a Jaguar, from my $125-a -week salary and my superb sense of moderation.” After 13 years of racing, Guthrie’s break came when she was asked to test a car at Indy. Her participation brought her immediate fame. Many men objected strongly to her driving at Indy. “The alarm and commotion took me by surprise,” she said. “The woman part of my participation was irrelevant to anything on the track. But people thought we were plotting a revolution… they said women will endanger our lives.” Guthrie responded to the criticism simply by racing the best she could. “In racing there is no room for a readout from your nervous system. Your body becomes part of the machine.” Guthrie gave up her dream of becoming an Indy Car driver for financial reasons, which she cites as a major obstacle to women becoming involved in the sport. “Drag racing gets more women because it costs about a tenth of Indy Car racing. It’s a very expensive sport. I managed to make do with $120,000 I got from Texaco, but most drivers have between two and three million dollars to work with.” …. On the same day [22 May 1977], Jody Scheckter won the Monaco Grand Prix, the 100th victory for the Cosworth DFV engine….. The Donington Park circuit closed in 1939 due to World War II, when it became a military vehicle depot, re-opened [27 May 1977]…. 20 years ago this week, Goran Eliasson of Boras, Sweden achieved 88.87 mph on two wheels of a standard Volvo 760 at Anderstop [24 May 1987]….. meanwhile, in the US in the same day, Al Unser Sr. won his fourth Indianapolis 500 driving the year-old March-Cosworth car [24 May 1987]. At 47 years and 360 days old, Al became the oldest winner in the event’s history. Unser wasn’t even slotted to drive in the race, but he replaced March-Cosworth’s injured racer, Danny Ongias. The win was a spectacular ending to Unser’s storied career. One of only three men to ever win the Indy 500 four times, Unser also won on the Indy car circuit 39 times, posted 27 poles, and won over $6 million before his final retirement in 1992. Sadly during the race, a spectator was killed when an errant tyre was hit into the grandstand, the first spectator fatality at the event in a racing-related incident since 1938…… At the Spanish Grand Prix held in Catalunya, Jacques Villeneuve sat on pole and won in his Williams with a

Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan

race time of 1:300:35 [25 May 1997]. Olivier Panis gave the Prost entry a wonderfully valued second place finish after starting twelfth on the grid. Jean Alesi was third after starting fourth. Schumacher was fourth in his Ferrari coming up from seventh. And Sauber driver, Johnny Herbert was fifth after starting tenth. The last point went to Coulthard in the McLaren. Fisichella set fastest lap in the Jordan but finished ninth…… The 13 mile long M2 Hills Motorway (also known as the Hills M2 Motorway, M2 Motorway or simply M2), a motorway in north-western Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, which utilises electronic tolling, opened to traffic [26 May 1997]. It forms part of Sydney Metroad 2 and the 110 km Sydney Orbital Motorway network. West of Pennant Hills Road, the M2 forms part of the National Highway….10 years ago this week, American actress, model and pop singer Lindsay Lohan lost control of her car and ran the vehicle up a curb [26 May 1997]. Beverly Hills police also found a “usable” amount of cocaine in her car and the police lab detected cocaine in her blood. After receiving treatment for minor injuries, Lohan was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence of alcohol. Two days later, Lohan entered the Promises Treatment Centers rehabilitation facility.

 

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