23-29 September: Motoring Milestones

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

220 years ago this week, Philippe Lebon d’Humbersin was issued with a French patent for his two-stroke internal combustion coal-gas motor featuring many principles of the modern two-stroke engine [28 September 1799]………. 90 years ago this week, Maserati’s new V4, a 16-cylinder car driven by Baconin Borzacchini set a new flying 10 kilometer land speed record of 153 mph (246 km/h) during a race in Cremona, Italy [28 September 1929]……..The Packard 734 Speedster Eight was introduced [29 September 1929]. Intended as Packard’s driver’s car, the 734 Speedster was a powerful, robust car that outperformed is luxurious counterparts in the Packard range. It’s Speedster name was not descriptive of the body type, but more the high performance nature of the chassis……..on the same day [29 September 1929], Ernst Henne (cover image) riding a 750 cc BMW sets a new motorcycle record, reaching a speed of 134.65 mph (216.75 km/hr)………80 years ago this week, P. MacArthur pulled across the finish line in Ballinascorney, Ireland, winning the last Irish hillclimb before World War II [23 September 1939]. Hillclimbing events usually took place on a public road, and they became wildly popular in Great Britain and Ireland during the early days of the automobile. Cars of all shapes and sizes would race up a hill, with drivers gunning their engines and showing off the prowess of their new motor car. Cheered on by a crowd of onlookers, the fastest car up the hill won. World War II brought an end to hillclimbs and car racing in general, as manufacturers funneled their efforts into military production. However, hill climbing returned after the war, more popular than ever……… 70 years ago this week, trolley buses replaced trams in Auckland, the first New Zealand city to do so [24 September 1949]. By 1964, the last tram ran in Wellington……..The sixth race of the inaugural NASCAR Strictly Stock season was held at Martinsville Speedway, Virginia, US [25 September 1949]. Curtis Turner won the pole. Red Byron all but wrapped up the 1949 Strictly Stock championship with an overwhelming triumph in the 100-miler at Martinsville Speedway…….Robert A. Weinhardt, a design engineer with Ford, Packard, Kaiser-Frazer, and Willys, died at the age of 66 [26 September 1949]. Weinhardt had helped design the first demountable disc wheels and shock absorbers…….60 years ago this week,

production began on the 1959 Edsel. Original plans for the 1959 Edsel had been in place well before the 1958 model was introduced [23 September 1959]. As with the ’58s, Mercury would share the body style with the big series Edsels (Corsair & Citation), and a smaller series (Ranger, Pacer) would team up the Edsel with the 1959 Ford body. 
A decision was made in early 1958 to drop the big Edsels from the 1959 line, leaving Mercury to stand alone in the Ford stables with a mid-size car. The remaining Edsels were to be renamed – “Ranger” surviving as the standard version and “Corsair” taking the deluxe model spot that was to be the Pacer. 
With the disasterously low sales volume of the 1958 model, costs had to be slashed on the 1959 Edsel. In a series of money-saving measures, the Teletouch Drive transmission that was originally planned as an option on the 1959 Edsel, was eliminated. Unique design elements were cut, and the Edsel began to lose some of the features that made it distinct. Taillights from the 1958 Continental were used, the chassis was the same as the Fairlane, and the dashboard became almost identical to the Ford.
 Also, as a result of the public’s changing need for a more economical car, the available engine size for 1959 Edsels were significantly smaller than in the 1958 models. The powerful E-475 motor was eliminated, and the E-400 that was once standard was now a high-performance option. Styling was much more conservative this year as well. The large distinctive grille was reduced and incorporated into a more Ford-like horizontal configuration.None of the changes could turn the marque around, and sales dropped well below the 1958 model year total………Rolls-Royce launched its new £8,905 Phantom V, powered by a 6,230-cc, 90-degree V8 engine with twin SU carburettors, coupled with a 4-speed automatic transmission [24 September 1959]. Notable Phantom V owners included

Rolls Royce Phantom V

Queen Elizabeth II and her mother, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Those owned by Elizabeth II were official state cars, adapted for that purpose with a flag staff and illuminated heraldic shield above the windscreen……..Rudolf Caracciola (58), who won the European Drivers’ Championship, the pre-1950 equivalent of the modern Formula One World Championship, an unsurpassed three times, died [28 September 1959]. He also won the European Hillclimbing Championship three times – twice in sports cars, and once in Grand Prix cars. Caracciola raced for Mercedes-Benz during their original dominating Silver Arrows period, named after the silver colour of the cars, and set speed records for the firm……..50 years ago this week, the Northern Star newspaper of Northern Illinois University ran a story claiming that Paul McCartney had been killed in a car crash in 1966 and had been replaced by a look-a-like [23 September 1969]. Russell Gibb of WKNR-FM in Detroit picked up on the claim and the story went worldwide. By late October 1969 the hoax was so well entrenched, that McCartney came out of seclusion at his Scottish farm to deny the story. When McCartney was asked to comment by a reporter visiting Macca’s farm, he replied, “Do I look dead, I’m as fit as a fiddle”…….Team McLaren drivers, Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme finished 1-2 in the only Can-Am event ever held at Michigan International Speedway, US [28 September 1969]…….30 years ago this week, Gerhard Berger took his first, and only, victory of the season for Ferrari at the Portuguese Grand Prix [24 September 1989]. Alain Prost finished in second place for McLaren, strengthening his championship chances after his team-mate and rival Ayrton Senna had been involved in a collision with Ferrari driver Nigel Mansell which resulted in them both retiring. Mansell had just been black flagged at the time of incident for reversing back into his pit box after overshooting it during a stop. The podium was completed by Stefan Johansson, who took both his last and Onyx’s only podium, and also Onyx’s last points. During the race, Pierluigi Martini managed to lead a lap for the only time in both his and Minardi’s time in Formula One. Ten drivers from ten different teams finished in the top ten places in the race, with Jonathan Palmer scoring his last ever point in sixth place. The race was also Alain Prost’s 150th Grand Prix start, and Coloni’s last, though it attempted races for another two years without a single start……..20 years ago this week, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. (TMMC) became the first automobile plant outside of Japan to manufacture the luxury brand of Lexus vehicles [26 September 1999]. The first Canadian-built Lexus RX 330, the luxury sport utility vehicle (SUV), rolled off a dedicated Lexus line at the plant in Cambridge, Ontario in view of TMMC team members, as well as Toyota executives from around the globe, and government dignitaries………10 years ago this week, it was reported that solar power company SolarCity and Dutch Bank RaboBank had teamed together to build 5 recharging stations along Highway 101, between the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, to support the new Tesla electric cars [23 September 2009]. The $109,000 roadster was limited to range of about 250 miles. Fully charging the cars took over 3 hours at a cost of about $4…….The Singapore Grand Prix was won under the lights by McLaren-Mercedes driver and reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton [27 September 2009]. Toyota’s Timo Glock finished second and 2008 race winner Fernando Alonso took third position, making this the only race of the season with neither a Brawn nor a Red Bull driver on the podium.

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