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28 January – 3 February: Motoring Milestones

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

140 years ago this week, Mosley Street in Newcastle upon Tyne, England became the first street in the world to be lit by electric light – Joseph Swan’s invention [3 February 1899]…… 100 years ago this week, the 19th New York Automobile Show opened at Madison Square Gardens [1 February 1919]. Vehicles exhibited included the Oakland “Sensible” Six saloon, Hudson Super Six limousine and the Wills Overland small touring car……..Clessie Lyle Cummins incorporated Cummins Engine Co [3 February 1919]. The Columbus, Indiana company focused on developing the engine invented 20 years earlier by Rudolf Diesel, but in spite of several well publicized endurance trials, it was not until 1933 that they introduced the successful Model H, used in small railroad switchers. In the post WWII U.S. road building boom Cummins, with their N Series engines, became the leader in heavy duty truck engines, from 1952 to 1959 they had more than half the market…….90 years ago this week, the Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 (cover image) was unveiled at the Rome Auto Show [29 January 1929]…….Major H.O.D. Seagrave set a new

major H O D Seagrave – Golden Arrow – Feb 1929

landspeed record of 231.4 mph at Daytona Beach, Florida, driving a car called the Golden Arrow [3 February 1929]. Seagrave and Sir Malcolm Campbell dueled for land speed supremacy from 1925 to 1935, when Campbell decisively ended the competition by driving his Bluebird III over the 300mph mark at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. These two competitors established Great Britain as the dominant force in land speed technology, a supremacy it maintained until jet engine technology became the norm for land speed race cars………80 years ago this week, the first Studebaker Champion was produced, a Morocco Gray 4-door sedan [30 January 1939]. The success of the Champion in 1939 was imperative to Studebaker’s survival following weak sales during the 1938 model year. Unlike most  other cars, the Champion was designed from a “clean sheet”, and had no restrictions caused by necessarily utilizing older parts or requiring the subsequent use of its components in heavier vehicles. Market research guided the selection of features, but a key principle adhered to was the engineering watchword “weight is the enemy.” For its size, it was one of the lightest cars of its era. Its compact straight-6 engine outlasted the model itself and was produced to the end of the 1964 model year, with a change to an OHV design in 1961. The Champion was one of Studebaker’s best-selling models because of its low price (US$660 for the 2-door business coupe in 1939), durable engine, and styling. The car’s ponton styling was authored by industrial designer Raymond Loewy who had been under contract with Studebaker for the design of their automobiles. Champions won Mobilgas economy runs by posting the highest gas mileage tests. During World War II, Champions were coveted for their high mileage at a time when gas was rationed in the United States. From 1943–1945, the Champion engine was used as the powerplant for the Studebaker M29 Weasel personnel and cargo carrier, which also used four sets of the Champion’s leaf springs arranged transversely for its bogie suspension. The Champion was phased out in 1958 in preparation for the introduction of the 1959 Studebaker Lark. Prior to this, Studebaker had been placed under receivership, and the company was attempting to return to a profitable position……..70 years ago this week, Jean-Pierre Wimille (40), the leading driver in the immediate post-war years, was killed when he crashed into a tree while practicing for the Argentinian

Jean-Pierre Wimille

Grand Prix [28 January 1949]. Some said he was blinded by a shaft of sunlight coming between the trees, others that he had swerved to avoid a dog. It was the first time he had driven in a crash helmet. He won the 1947 Swiss and Belgian Grands Prix, and in 1948 the French and Italian, and was the leading driver of the season. In World War II came, following the Nazi occupation Wimille and fellow Grand Prix race drivers Robert Benoist and William Grover-Williams joined the Special Operations Executive, which aided the French Resistance. Of the three, Wimille was the only one to survive………The Juan Perón & Buenos Aires Grand Prix at Palermo Park was won by Alberto Ascari in a Maserati 4CLT/48 [30 January 1949]…….60 years ago this week, practice sessions began on the new Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the ­inaugural Daytona 500 [1 February 1959]. Shakedown runs were conducted despite the fact that the guardrail wasn’t completed……50 years ago this week, John DeLorean was named the top executive at Chevrolet [1 February 1969]. DeLorean had risen through the ranks at Pontiac, where he pioneered the successful GTO and Grand Prix models. As a top candidate for the presidency of General Motors (GM), DeLorean walked away from Chevrolet in late 1973 to start his own company. He brashly predicted he would “show [GM] how to make cars.” DeLorean raised nearly $200 million to finance his new venture, the DeLorean Motor Company. He built a factory in Northern Ireland

John DeLorean

and began production on the sleek, futuristic DMC-12 car. Interest in the car was high, but the company ran into serious financial trouble. Refusing to abandon his project, DeLorean involved himself in racketeering and drug trafficking in a desperate attempt to make the money that would save his company. In 1982, after being caught on film trying to broker a $24 million cocaine deal, DeLorean was arrested on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering. A federal jury later ruled that DeLorean had been the victim of entrapment, and he was acquitted of all charges. Nevertheless, DeLorean’s career and reputation were ruined…….on the same day [1 February 1969], Richard Petty, making his first start in a Ford, won the twice delayed NASCAR Grand National ‘Motor Trend 500’ at Riverside International Raceway. The race was postponed by flood causing storms two straight Sundays and was run on a Saturday before 46,300 fans. Petty spun off track twice, but still led 103 of the 186 laps, finishing 25 seconds ahead of polesitter and early leader A J Foyt. 1968 GN champ David Pearson finished 3rd with relief help from Parnelli Jones, as Ford swept the top 3 positions. The event ran caution free with Petty averaging a record 105.498 mph in the race that took 4 hours, 45 minutes and 37 seconds to complete. Five time race winner Dan Gurney never led, spun twice and retired on lap 66 with engine failure…….. Chris Amon drove his 2.4 liter Ferrari 246T V6 to victory in round 5 of the 1969 Tasman Cup series, the 34th running of the Australian Grand Prix, held on the undulating 1.5 mile Lakeside circuit [2 February 1969]. On the pole with a record lap, Amon got a good

start and jumped into the lead as fellow front row starter Piers Courage, winner of the previous round at Teretonga, apparently had trouble selecting a gear on his Frank Williams “bi-plane” Brabham. By the time Courage got his gear problem sorted, he was 3rd behind Graham Hill’s Lotus entering turn 1. In 4 laps, Amon was already 4 seconds ahead of Hill and pulling away. When Courage tried to pass Hill on the outside just past a bend, the two cars touched, sending Courage running off road and down a bank into retirement. Courage stomped angrily (mostly at himself) back to the pits. Interestingly, Hill was using Courage’s spare Cosworth motor, his own having expired after day 1 practice. In recovering from the contact, Hill lost 2nd to Amon’s teammate Derek Bell, putting the Ferraris 1-2. By the 39th of the 65 laps, Amon was 20.5 seconds ahead of Bell with Hill still within striking distance for 2nd. On lap 51, Hill’s rear suspension mounted wing broke. Hill continued to hurtle the car along with the wing hanging on the left rear tire, giving the Lotus mechanics time to find a hacksaw. Pitting to have the wing removed, Hill lost 3rd to Leo Geoghegan. Amon went on to take his 3rd checkered flag of the ’69 series, crossing the line 23.9 seconds ahead of Bell with Geoghegan’s 2.5 liter Lotus 39-Repco V8 a lap down in 3rd. Amon’s 3 wins and 2 thirds gave him a 13 point lead over Courage with two rounds remaining……..40 years ago this week, Shane Carson won the third annual Pete Folse Memorial race at the Columbia County Speedway, Ellisville, Florida, US [31 January 1979]. Doug Wolfgang was second followed by Dub May, Rick Ferkel, Jerry Nemire, Don Mack, Jr Parkinson, Bobby Allen, Van May and Roger Rager……..Jim Childers won the Sprint Car feature as part of the third annual Rocky Fisher’s Florida Sprint Car Nationals, at the DeSoto Memorial Speedway, Bradenton, Florida, US [2 February 1979]. Dave Scarborough finished second followed by Donnie Tanner, Lennie Waldo, Don Mack, Bill Roynan, Allen Barr, Mack McClelland, Robert Smith and Curt Kelley……..Donnie Tanner won the Sprint Car feature as part of the third annual Rocky Fisher’s Florida Sprint Car Nationals, at the Sunshine Speedway, St Petersburg, Florida, US [3 February 1979]. Don Mack finished second followed by Lennie Waldo, Robert Smith, Larry Brazil, Jim Childers, Wayne Reutimann, Greg Leffler, Roger Rager and Mack McClelland……..30 years ago this week, Chrysler Corporation and Hyundai Motor Company signed a marketing agreement whereby Chrysler could offer Hyundai motor cars in the US [1 February 1989]……20 years ago this week, the Ford Motor Co, confirmed the acquisition of the passenger car division of Volvo AB for $6.47 billion [28 January 1999]……….Head of the South Korean Daewoo corporation in South Africa, Yong Koo Kwon was found shot dead in his car in a wealthy suburb of Johannesburg, a victim of a car hijacking [3 February 1999]…….10 years ago this week, Country singer/songwriter John Rich released a song about the plight of autoworkers titled “Shuttin’ Detroit Down.” [28 January 2009]. The song, which featured such lyrics as “While they’re living it up on Wall Street in that New York City town, here in the real world they’re shuttin’ Detroit down,” quickly became a hit in Michigan, where the U.S. auto industry began, as well as across America. Rich wrote the song after becoming frustrated by news reports of government bailouts for Wall Street companies whose CEOs received stratospheric paychecks while autoworkers struggled to keep their jobs amidst widespread

layoffs. Rich, one-half of the country duo Big & Rich, whose hits include “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” and “Comin’ to Your City,” recorded “Shuttin’ Down Detroit” for his 2009 solo album “Son of a Preacher Man.” In January 2009, Michigan-based mlive.com reported that Rich said “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” was about: “the working men and women of America, and how Washington and New York City are slinging billions of dollars over the tops of our heads, while hard working people are going down the drain.” The song became a working-class anthem and had some fans calling up radio stations in tears after they heard it played………Teddy Mayer, who helped Bruce McLaren set up Bruce McLaren Motorsport in 1963, died aged 73 [30 January 2009]. Ron Dennis paid tribute to his predecessor: “Teddy was one of motor racing’s few truly great men. Bruce [McLaren] died tragically young in 1970, but when I bought into the team in 1980 Teddy had built on the foundations laid by Bruce, Tyler Alexander and himself.”……..The 37th Rolex 24 at Daytona saw Team Dyson take the overall win with Andy Wallace, Elliott Forbes-Robinson and Butch Leitzinger in a Ford powered Riley & Scott car [31 January 2009]. In GT3, the team of Alex Job Racing with Cort Wagner, Kelly Collins, Anthony Lazzaro and Darryl Havens won in a Porsche 911 RSR. And GT2 saw another 911 win; Roock Racings’ Andre Ahrle, Hubert Haupt, David Warnock and Raffaele Sangiuolo took those honours.

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