27 July – 2 August: Motoring Milestones

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

 

220 years ago this week, English inventor George Medhurst was issued with a British patent for his ‘Aeolian’ engine which used compressed air to power vehicles [2 August 1800]. In his pamphlet ‘On the properties, power, & application of the Aeolian engine, with a plan and particulars for carrying it into execution’, Medhurst proposed the establishment of Aeolian coach services, operated by pumping stations along the route……..120 years ago this week, the 837 mile Paris-Toulouse-Paris race, run over three stages, was won by Pierre Levegh, French racing driver, world-class ice hockey & tennis player, driving a 24 hp Mors with pneumatic Michelin tyres [28 July 1900]. He took a commanding lead and was never seriously challenged (by a field of the previously dominant Panhard & Levassor cars). His winning time was 40.2 mph. Levegh died in a crash at LeMans when his car launched over barriers, killing 83 spectators and injuring A series of fatal accidents on the 1903 Paris-Madrid race brought an end to the staging of point-to-point events on the open roads……..P F Olds & Sons, Inc., manufacturers of gasoline engines, was established in Lansing, Michigan, US with Pliny F Olds as President and Ransom E Olds as Secretary, Treasurer and General Manager [31 July 1900]……110 years ago this week, North America’s first driver-licensing law came into effect in the state of New York, though it initially applied only to professional chauffeurs…….70 years ago this week, the 5,000,000th Oldsmobile was produced, a Holiday 4-door hardtop [27 July 1950]……. British racing driver Joe Fry (34), a distant member of the Fry’s Chocolate family died [29 July 1950]. He became the primary driver for the highly successful Shelsley Special “Freikaiserwagen”, created by his cousin David Fry and Hugh Dunsterville, with help from Dick Caesar. Tragically, Fry was killed at the wheel of the Freikaiserwagen at the 1950 Blandford hillclimb, less than two months after driving a Maserati 4CL in the 1950 British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Raymond Mays said: “The death of Joe Fry, from injuries received while practicing for a Blandford hill-climb, was a great blow to me and to British motor sport in general”…….The “Bug”, generally considered to be the first rail dragster, raced for the first time. Dick Kraft was the driver [30 July 1950]……. The Ford Motor Company created its Defence Products Division in order to handle the large number of government contracts related to the Korean War [2 August 1950]. The conversion from automobile manufacturing to weapons production had already been made several times in history, including during World War Two, when civilian car production in the US virtually ceased as manufacturers began turning out tanks instead……..60 years ago this week, the last Armstrong Siddeley car was produced [31 July 1960]. Formed in 1919 Armstrong Siddeley – cover image – is best known for the production of luxury motor cars and aircraft engines. The company was created following the purchase by Armstrong Whitworth of Siddeley-Deasy, a manufacturer of fine motor cars, that were marketed to the top echelon of society. After the merge of companies this focus on quality continued throughout in the production of cars, aircraft engines, gearboxes for tanks and buses, rocket and torpedo motors, and the development of railcars. Company mergers and takeovers with Hawker Aviation and Bristol Aero Engines saw the continuation of the car production but the production of cars ceased in August 1960. The company was absorbed into the Rolls-Royce conglomerate who were interested in the aircraft and aircraft engine business and eventually the remaining spares and all Motor Car interests were sold to the Armstrong Siddeley Owners Club Ltd who now own the patents, designs, copyrights and trademarks, including the name Armstrong Siddeley. The first car produced was a fairly massive machine a fairly massive machine, a 5-litre 30 hp. A smaller 18 hp appeared in 1922 and a 2-litre 14 hp was introduced in 1923. 1928 saw the company’s first 15 hp six; 1929 saw the introduction of a 12 hp vehicle. This was a pioneering year for the marque, during which it first offered the Wilson preselector gearbox as an optional extra; it became standard issue on all cars from 1933. In 1930 the company marketed four models, of 12, 15, 20, and 30 hp, the last costing £1450. The company’s rather staid image was endorsed during the 1930s by the introduction of a range of six-cylinder cars with ohv engines, though a four-cylinder 12 hp was kept in production until 1936. In 1933, the 5-litre six-cylinder Siddeley Special was announced, featuring a Hiduminium aluminium alloy engine; this model cost £950. Car production continued at a reduced rate throughout 1940, and a few were assembled in 1941. The week that World War II ended in Europe, Armstrong Siddeley introduced its first post-war models; these were the Lancaster four-door saloon and the Hurricane drophead coupe. The names of these models echoed the names of aircraft produced by the Hawker Siddeley Group (the name adopted by the company in 1935) during the war. These cars all used a 2-litre six-cylinder (16 hp) engines, increased to 2.3-litre (18 hp) engines in 1949. From 1949 to 1952 two commercial variants of the 18 hp cars were produced, primarily for export. The Utility Coupé was a conventional coupe utility style vehicle, while the Station Coupé was effectively a dual cab vehicle, although it still retained only two doors. However, it did have two rows of seating to accommodate up to four adults. From 1953 the company produced the Sapphire, with a 3.4-litre six-cylinder engine. In 1956, the model range was expanded with the addition of the 234 (a 2.3-litre four-cylinder) and the 236 (with the older 2.3-litre six-cylinder engine). The Sapphire 346 sported a bonnet mascot in the shape of a Sphinx with namesake Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire jet engines attached. The 234 and 236 Sapphires might have looked to some of marque’s loyal customers like a radical departure from the traditional Armstrong Siddeley appearance. However, in truth, they were simply too conservative in a period of rapidly developing automotive design. If the “baby Sapphire” brought about the beginning of the end for Armstrong Siddeley, it was because Jaguar had launched the unitary-construction 2.4 saloon in 1955, which was quicker, significantly cheaper, and much better-looking than the lumpy and frumpy 234/236 design. The last model produced by Armstrong Siddeley was 1958’s Star Sapphire, with a 4-litre engine, and automatic transmission. The Armstrong Siddeley was a casualty of the 1960 merger with Bristol; the last car left the Coventry factory in 1960…….on the same day [31 July 1960] Atlanta Motor Speedway (formerly Atlanta International Raceway) opened as a standard 1.5 mile (2.4 km) oval track [31 July 1960]. The opening scenes of the 1980 movie Smokey and the Bandit II were filmed at the track, as were scenes of the 1983 film Stroker Ace. Former US President Jimmy Carter once worked as a ticket taker at the track, and attended several races there as Georgia governor and as US President. In 1994, 46 condominiums were built over the northeastern side of the track. In 1997, to standardize the track with Speedway Motorsports’ other two 1.5-mile (2.4 km) ovals, the entire track was almost completely rebuilt. The frontstretch and backstretch were swapped, and the configuration of the track was changed from oval to quad-oval. The project made the track one of the fastest on the NASCAR circuit…..50 years ago this week, George Follmer drove a Ford-powered Lotus 70 to victory in the L&M Continental Formula A race at St. Jovite, Quebec, Canada [1 August 1970]……. The Hockenheim Circuit hosted the German Grand Prix for the first time when the Formula 1 drivers decided at the French Grand Prix to boycott the Nürburgring unless major changes were made [2 August 1970] More than 100,000 spectators witnessed Jochen Rindt’s victory in a Lotus-Ford. In the following year the German Grand Prix went back to the Nürburgring until the 1976 German Grand Prix. From 1977 to 2006 the Hockenheimring hosted the German Grand Prix with the exception of 1985 when the Nürburgring Grand Priz track was introduced……..40 years ago this week, Neil Bonnett drove his Mercury to a narrow decision over Buddy Baker to win the Coca-Cola 500 at Pocono, Pennsylvania, US [27 July 1980]. Title contender Richard Petty crashed hard on the 57th lap and suffered a broken neck. Tim Richmond, making his NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National debut, finished 12th……..30 years ago this week, at 4:00 pm on 27 July 1990 the last Citroen 2CV rolled off the production line at the company’s plant in Mangualde, Portugal. Since its debut in 1948, a total of 5,114,959 2CVs had been produced worldwide. It was conceived by Citroën Vice-President Pierre Boulanger to help motorize the large number of farmers still using horses and carts in France. The 2CV featured a low purchase cost; simplicity of overall maintenance; an easily

The last 2CV rolls of the production line

serviced air-cooled engine (originally offering 9 hp); low fuel consumption; and an extremely long travel suspension offering a soft ride, light off-road capability, high ground clearance, and height adjustability via lengthening/shortening of tie rods. Its front and rear wings, doors, bonnet, fabric sunroof and trunk lid were all-detachable. One automotive author described the 2CV as “the most intelligent application of minimalism ever to succeed as a car”, calling it a car of “remorseless rationality”……. On the same day [27 July 1990] the Musee National de l’Automobile in Mulhouse, France unveiled the ‘seventh’ Bugatti Royale, a recreation of the Armand Esders roadster mounted on a chassis made largely from spare parts [27 July 1990]…….. The last Formula One Grand Prix to be held in West Germany prior to its re-unification with East Germany, was won by 1988 World Champion, Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna driving a McLaren MP4/5B [29 July 1990]. He took a six second victory over Italian driver Alessandro Nannini driving a Benetton B190 who was just two seconds in front of Senna’s Austrian teammate Gerhard Berger…….Ian Gow (53) MP was killed by a car bomb planted by the IRA while at his home in Sussex, England [30 July 1990]…… Patrick Depailler (35) died during Alfa Romeo free practice, ten days before the German Grand Prix [1 August 1990]…….. Sven-Erik Soderman, driving an Opel Kadett at Mora, Sweden, set a world’s record in stunt driving. Soderman reached a speed of 102.14 mph (164 km/h) while driving his car on two side wheels [2 August 1990]……20 years ago this week, the 62nd German Grand Prix and the 24th to be held at Hockenheim was held over 45 laps of the 6.8-kilometre circuit for a total race distance of 307 kilometres [30 July 2000]. The race was won by Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello driving a Scuderia Ferrari F1-2000 in his debut Grand Prix victory. Barrichello won by 7 seconds over Finnish driver Mika Häkkinen in a McLaren Mercedes MP4/15. Häkkinen’s British team-mate David Coulthard was third…….. The Boycott the Pumps campaign, also referred to as Dump the Pumps, was organised in the UK, with motorists being urged not to visit petrol stations [1 August 2000]. Support for the day was reported to be patchy, with forecourts in the North-West being hit the hardest, some reporting a 50% drop in business.

 

 

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