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24-30 June: Motoring Milestones

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

110 years ago this week, Mercedes introduced its iconic three-pointed star symbol, designed by technical Director Gottlieb Daimler [26 June 1909]. He drew this badge on a postcard, which he mailed to his wife as far back as in 1872, vowing that one day this image would become the symbol of a car giant. He created it as the attribute of class and perfection, meaning that three points of the star stood for the Mercedes’s dominance over land, air and sea, as its vehicles run in all the three environments. It was registered as a trademark, and one year on it was taken as the logo for cars. The emblem was put into a circle with four little stars above the circumscription “Mercedes” on its bordure in 1916. In 1926, after the merging of Benz and Daimler, which resulted in the inception of a new German automobile brand – Mercedes-Benz, the actual trademark was finally developed. It is a star of three pikes embosomed with a bordering with laureate wreath and the brand name on it, which still designates Mercedes cars. Since then the logo has experienced insignificant amendments, the bordering of laurel wreath morphed into an unpretentious circle…….. 90 years ago week, the 6,000,000th Chevrolet was produced [25 June 1929]………The “Blower” Bentley, a 4.5-litre with a Villiers supercharger, made its racing debut with Tim Birkin’s car retiring in the Brooklands 12 Hour Race with bearing failure [29 June 1929]……..The French Grand Prix (formally, the XXIII Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France) held over 37 laps of a 16.34 km (10.15 miles) Le Mans circuit for a total race distance of 604.58 km (375.67 miles), was won by “W. Williams,” driving a Bugatti T35B [30 June 1929]………80 years ago this week, Richard Seaman (26) crashed during the Belgian Grand Prix held at Spa-Francorchamps on the

Richard Seaman crash

La Source hairpin into a tree, causing the fuel line to break [25 June 1939]. Fuel rushed over the car and the car caught fire. Seaman couldn’t move because his right hand was broken and he was also trapped by his steering wheel. After a minute of futile rescue attempts, a Belgian soldier walked into the blaze and freed Seaman. However, he had suffered burns on sixty percent of the body and Britain’s most successful pre-war driver died before midnight. On his deathbed he remarked to the Mercedes chief engineer, “I was going too fast for the conditions – it was entirely my own fault. I am sorry”. After Seaman’s death, Mercedes-Benz dealerships worldwide were ordered to display his photograph in their windows…….on the same day [25 June 1939], Hans Stuck driving an Auto Union Typ D won the Bucharest Grand Prix…..The Ford 9N, the first American-made production-model tractor to incorporate Harry Ferguson’s three-point hitch system, a design still used on most modern tractors today, was first demonstrated in Dearborn, Michigan, US [29 June 1939]. Its model name reflected a model-naming system using the last digit of the year of introduction and a letter for product type, with “N” for tractors (hence 9N). Like the Farmall, it was designed to be a general-purpose row-crop tractor for use on smaller farms. An extremely simple tractor, the 9N was fitted with the Ferguson system three-point hitch, a three-speed transmission, and featured footpegs instead of running boards……..70 years ago this week, the first Le Mans 24 hours was held following the end of World War II [25-26 June 1949]. Even though the war had ended four years prior, major

reconstruction throughout France meant that the return of the race was of secondary concern, and thus was not run until after France had established itself again. Luigi Chinetti won the race in the first Ferrari barchetta by driving 23.5 hours. This race also saw the death of French driver Pierre Marechal when his Aston Martin DB2 was involved in an accident at Arnage late in the race……50 years ago this week, the last of 4,204,925 Ramblers was produced, ringing in the final hour for the storied car line [30 June 1969]. The Nash Rambler had originally been developed by George Walter Mason after World War II. Mason realised before anyone else that the postwar “seller’s market” would evaporate once the market was again saturated with cars. He predicted the difficulty that independent car companies would experience once they were faced with head-to-head competition with the Big Three’s advantage in their core markets. It was Mason’s plan that to compete with the Big Three, the independents needed to market a different product. He developed a number of smaller cars, including the Rambler, the Nash-Healey (a collaboration with British Healey), and the Metropolitan. None of the cars managed to capture the American market. But years later, after Nash-Kelvinator and Hudson merged to become AMC, the Rambler finally caught on as a sub-compact car. George Romney, Mason’s protege, coined the term “gas-guzzling dinosaur” to describe the Big Three’s products. Romney led a personal ad campaign promoting the AMC Rambler as an efficient, reliable car. His campaign was immensely successful, and the Rambler was able to single-handedly keep AMC alive during impossible times for independents…….20 years ago this week, General Motors celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the automatic transmission [25 June 1999]. Alfred P. Sloan, GM’s first chairman, had been more than impressed when he took his

inaugural ride in a 1940 Oldsmobile equipped with brand new Hydramatic transmission. ‘For fifteen years, I have felt that the gearshift lever had no place in a really modern car,’ Sloan wrote at the time. ‘I feel very strongly that it is only a matter of time when every car must have this kind of a transmission.’ The Hydramatic transmission had no torque converter. Instead, it used a two-element fluid coupling along with three separate planetary gearsets. Together, this mechanism created four forward speeds along with reverse. The standards were 3.82:1, 2.63:1, 1.45:1, and 1.00:1 when used in passenger cars. They were somewhat different in truck applications.The Hydramatic transmission had twin pumps to keep pressure in its hydraulic system. These units also circulated lubricant around the internal components. The front pump drew power from the fluid coupling, which pressurized it from the moment the driver started the engine. The rear pump was turned by the transmission’s output shaft, which minimized its pressure but simplified the design.When starting out, power ran from the Hydramatic’s front planetary gearset to the fluid coupling, then in to the rear gear, reverse gears, and output shaft. This caused a great deal of initial slippage, which actually enhanced performance when the vehicle was first starting out.Unfortunately, many Hydramatics had trouble moving across the 2-3 shift range, due to lack of synchronicity between the two bands and double clutches that completed the task. This sent many vehicles to the shop for frequent adjustments, which only the most experienced mechanics could perform properly. Another limitation of the transmission was that it had no parking gear – drivers had to engage the emergency brake to keep their car from rolling away. On the other hand, its internal architecture allowed those with dead batteries to roll, or “pop” start, their vehicles. Quirks aside, the Hydramatic transmission did its duty as the first of a long line of innovative GM transmissions. Its designers did the hard job: they proved the concept would work. It would be up to their successors to apply the finishing touches……… Contested over 72 laps of the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, the French Grand Prix was won by Heinz-Harald Frentzen driving a Jordan car after starting from fifth position [27 June 1999]. Mika Häkkinen finished second driving for McLaren, with Rubens Barrichello finishing third for the Stewart team. The remaining points-scoring positions were filled by Ralf Schumacher (Williams), Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), Eddie Irvine (Ferrari). Häkkinen extended his lead in the World Drivers’ Championship to eight points over Schumacher, with Irvine a further 14 behind.

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