Discover the most momentous motoring events that took place this week in history…
120 years ago this week, the world’s first gasoline-fuelled car crash in which the driver died occurred at Grove Hill Harrow, England [25 February 1999]. The car, a Daimler Wagonette, was being demonstrated by Mr Sewell to Major James Richer, Department Head at the Army & Navy Stores, as a possible purchase for his company. Mr Sewell, the driver, was killed on the spot. When the passenger, Major Richer, died four days later without regaining consciousness, he became Britain’s first passenger whose death resulted from a car crash………100 years ago this week, Oregon became the first US state to impose a tax on gasoline. The funds collected from the 1% tax were used for road construction
and maintenance [25 February 1919]……..The first regular production ReVere was completed [2 March 1919]. Named for Paul Revere, the ReVere Motor Car Corporation of Logansport, Indiana, was founded in 1918. It sprung up with a lot of fanfare and its chassis engineer was none other than Gil Andersen, the Norwegian-born pole sitter for the second running of the Indianapolis 500. The first ReVere models were built in 1919 and the 1920 models were exactly the same. The Model A featured a marvelous engine from Duesenberg. It’s a 5.9-liter straight-four making 106 horsepower. It is touted as the most powerful American car of its day. The body is aluminium – it was made to go fast. And why wouldn’t it? It had three keys of speed going for it: an engine designed by the Duesenberg brothers, a factory within an hours drive of Indianapolis, and two race car drivers on the development payroll. Demonstration runs in the cars were performed by Cannonball Baker. Unfortunately, the people at the top of the managerial heap at ReVere were more interested in robbing investors. The company was more or less a front to sell stock and rip people off. It worked and they raised a lot of money – but only built a few cars. The company was shut down in 1922 and one of the early founders (Adolph Monsen) tried to relaunch it, but ReVere was gone for good after 1926……..90 years ago this week, the American Austin Car Company
was incorporated and operated in premises that had belonged to the Standard Steel Car Company, in Butler, Pennsylvania, US [28 February 1929]. Their intention was to assemble and sell in the United States a version of the Austin 7 car, called American Austin. After some initial success the Great Depression set in, and sales fell off to the point that production was suspended. In 1934 the company filed for bankruptcy. The automobile was designed in the hopes of creating a market for small-car enthusiasts in the United States. The cars had 747 cc (45.6 cu in) inline-four engines, enabling the car to return 40 mpg‑US (48 mpg‑imp; 5.9 L/100 km), and travel 1,000 miles or 1,600 kilometres per 2 US qt (1.7 imp qt; 1.9 l) fill of oil. It was capable of 50 mph (80 km/h) in high gear.Styling resembled small Chevrolets, with Stutz- and Marmon-style horizontal hood louvres. The bodies were designed by Alexis de Sakhnoffsky and made by the Hayes Body Company of Detroit. The coupe was billed as a sedan, and sold for $445, slightly less than a Ford V8 roadster. The Great Depression made the cheaper secondhand cars more appealing, so sales dropped off. More than 8,000 cars were sold during the company’s first (and best) year of sales, but sales fell off to the point that production was suspended in 1932. It restarted in 1934 with bodies now made in-house, but stopped again between 1935 and 1937. About 20,000 cars were produced. Beginning in the 1960s, the car gained a following with hot rodders, as well as among drag racers. The 75 in (1,900 mm) wheelbase made it attractive, even compared to the Anglia……..80 years ago this week, the Bentley ‘Scalded Cat’, with an
experimental straight-8 engine mounted in a standard Mark V chassis, was completed [27 February 1939]…….The Opel Kapitän was launched at the Geneva Motor Show, initially available in many different body styles, the most popular one being the 4-door saloon [3 March 1939]. The pre-war Kapitän featured a unitary body, a modern feature for its time. The car inherited its 2.5-litre engine from its predecessor: in this application a maximum speed of 73 mph (118 km/h) was reported………70 years ago this week, Adriano Malusardi died during practice for the Gran Premio Internacional San Martín, Argentina when his car crashed and rolled several times [26 February 1949]. An explosion occurred a few seconds later probably due to the breaking of the fuel tanks….. A second experimental Strictly Stock Late Model race was added to the three-event racing card at Broward Speedway, Florida, US [27 February 1949]. Benny Georgeson drove a 1947 Buick to victory in the 10-mile contest. Roadsters and Sports Cars were the headline attraction, but much interest was focused on the new Strictly Stock event. Bob Flock won the Roadster race at an average speed of 104.5 mph………. The Connecticut Light and Power Company installed the first automatic streetlight system in which the streetlights turned themselves on when it became dark in New Milford, Connecticut, US [2 March 1949]. Each streetlight contained a photoelectric cell that measured the intensity of outside light. By November of 1949, seven miles of New Milford’s roads were automatically lit at dusk by a total of 190 photoelectric streetlights…….The post-war car market was so strong in the United States that a number of bold entrepreneurs formed independent car companies to challenge the established Big Three. Arguably the most remarkable such independent was the Tucker Corporation, founded by Preston “P.T.” Tucker. Tucker, a gifted marketer and innovator, created a phenomenon felt through the automotive industry when he released his car, the Tucker. Along with the cars, Preston Tucker sent a magazine called “Tucker Topics” along to dealers, hoping to increase the salesmen’s enthusiasm for his automobile. The Tucker was equipped with a number of novel features. It had six exhaust pipes, a third headlight that rotated with the axle, and a “bomb shelter” in the backseat. Beyond the frills though, the Tucker packed a powerful punch, making zero to sixty in ten seconds and reaching a top speed of 120 mph. Great anticipation surrounded the awaited release of the Tucker, but in 1949, before his cars could reach their market, the Securities and Exchange Commission indicted Preston Tucker on thirty-one counts of investment fraud. Tucker had only produced fifty-one cars. On 3 March 1949, the Tucker Corporation went into receivership and the Tucker automobile became merely a historical footnote………..60 years ago this week, Lee Petty was officially declared the winner of the inaugural Daytona 500-mile race 61
hours after the checkered flag fell on the historic event [25 February 1959]. There were no caution periods in the race; making it one of the few “perfect games” in NASCAR history, though it would occur in three of the first four Daytona 500s, as the Daytona 500 also went caution-free in both 1961 and 1962. This would be repeated ten years later with the 1969 running of the Motor Trend 500. Welborn led the early laps in the race but his race ended after 75 laps (of 200) with engine problems. Other leaders in the first 22 laps of the race were “Tiger” Tom Pistone and Joe Weatherly. Fireball Roberts took over the lead on lap 23, leading the next 20 laps before dropping out on lap 57 due to a broken fuel pump. When Roberts went to the pits on lap 43, Johnny Beauchamp, running in second place, became the leader. On lap 50,Piston took over first place and Jack Smith moved into second; Beauchamp was third and Lee Petty was fifth. From lap 43 to 148 the race leaders were Piston, Smith, and Beauchamp. Although Smith and Pistone led most of these laps, Beauchamp led a few times, for example records show he led on lap 110. There is print information about the details of the race, including the leaders of the race in five lap intervals. Pistone and Jack Smith both had dropped out of contention by lap 149 and Beauchamp took over first place. 100 miles (160 km). Richard Petty also had to retire from the race with an engine problem and earned $100 ($839.50 when adjusted for inflation) for his 57th-place performance. Lee Petty battled with Beauchamp during the final 30 laps of the race, and they were the only two drivers to finish on the lead lap. Petty took the lead with 3 laps left, and led at the start of the final lap. Petty and Beauchamp drove side by side across the finish line at the end final lap for a photo finish. Beauchamp was declared the unofficial winner by NASCAR officials, and he drove to victory lane. Petty protested the results, saying “I had Beauchamp by a good two feet. In my own mind, I know I won.” Beauchamp replied “I had him by two feet. I glanced over to Lee Petty’s car as I crossed the finish line and I could see his headlight slightly back of my car. It was so close I didn’t know how they would call it, but I thought I won.” Early leader Fireball Roberts, who was standing by the finish line, said “There’s no doubt about it, Petty won.” It took NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr. three days to decide the winner the following Wednesday. In the end, with the help of photographs and newsreel footage, Petty was officially declared the winner. The controversial finish helped the sport. The delayed results to determine the official winner kept NASCAR and the Daytona 500 on the front page of newspapers…….. Curtis Turner drove a Holman and Moody Ford Thunderbird to victory in the 110-lap race on the .9-mile dirt oval in Hillsborough, North Carolina, USA. It was the first NASCAR win for a Thunderbird [1 March 1959]…….50 years ago this week, Jackie Stewart won the Formula One South African Grand Prix held at Kyalami, the first round of the 1969 F1 season, in his Matra-Cosworth MS10. Stewart started in the second row and went on to lead every lap, finishing 18.8 seconds ahead of Graham Hill’s Lotus [1 March 1969]……..40 years ago this week, Barry Sheene won the first ITV World of Sport Superbike Challenge Series “made for TV” motorcycle race, held at Donnington Park in Leicestershire, England [25 February 1979]………the estate version of Renault 18 launched [1 March 1979]……..Gilles Villeneuve won the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami in a Ferrari 312T4 [2 March 1979]……….30 years ago this week, William Clay Ford announced his retirement from the Ford Motor Company [27 February 1989]……..20 years ago this week, Ford entered into a definitive agreement with AB Volvo for the purchase of Volvo’s worldwide passenger car business for a price of $6.45 billion [1 March 1999]…….. 10 years ago this week, the ultra-luxurious Maybach Zeppelin saloon (cover image) went on sale, with a starting price of $523,870 for the Maybach 57 Zeppelin and $610,580 for the Maybach 62 Zeppelin. Daimler-Benz, owner of the Maybach brand, announced that only 100 Zeppelins would be built, with each vehicle hand-crafted to its individual buyer’s specifications [3 March 2009]. Among the Zeppelin’s many optional amenities was the world’s first perfume-atomising system, for which customers could even have their own personal fragrance designed.