29 July-4 August: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, the Automobile Company of America officially adopted ‘Locomobile’ as its tradename [29 July 1909]……….110 years ago this week, the Buick Motor Company acquired the Cadillac Motor Company on behalf of General Motors for $4.5 million [29 July 1909]. Cadillac was born from the ashes of the Henry Ford Company, a business organized by William Murphy to produce a car

by Henry Ford. Murphy had been one of the original backers of the Detroit Automobile Company, which had dissolved in 1901 after Ford had failed to build a car he was willing to put to market. Such faith did Murphy have in Ford that he gave him another chance in the Henry Ford Company, opting to use Ford’s name due to the recognition he had received from his recent racing ventures. Ford was so wrapped up in racing that he again failed to produce, and Murphy fired him. He then asked Henry Leland (cover image), a partner in Detroit’s successful Leland and Faulconer Machine shop, to appraise the business before he sold it. Leland persuaded Murphy and his partners to stay in business, promising them that he could design a car successful enough to make it profitable. In August 1902, they formed the Cadillac Car Company. Leland gradually took control of Cadillac’s daily operations, and by the end of 1903 2,500 Cadillacs had been produced. The founding of Cadillac helped solidify Detroit’s position as the centre of the automobile industry, and in 1904 Leland became president and general manager of Cadillac and agreed to merge Cadillac with Faulconer and Leland. Sales continued to rise and Cadillac established a reputation for exacting quality under Leland’s detail-oriented supervision. In a triumphant demonstration of the interchangeability of Cadillac’s parts, in 1908 three Cadillacs were disassembled by the Royal Automobile Club in England, reassembled at random, and driven away by the mechanics. In November 1908, Benjamin Briscoe made a bid for Cadillac, but he was unable to generate enough backing to carry the deal. William Durant seized the opportunity to add the valuable brand to his newly formed General Motors Corporation, and arranged a deal of stock transfer with the Lelands, but the Lelands ultimately refused it–they wanted cash. Finally, Durant got the cash together and purchased Cadillac, through Buick, on behalf of General Motors. Durant kept the Lelands on as management, saying, “I want you to continue to run Cadillac exactly as though it were still your own. You will receive no directions from anyone.”. Henry M. Leland and his son, Wilfred, continued operating Cadillac until 1917, when they left to form the Lincoln Motor Company……..100 years ago this week, the 1920 Winton Model 24 and Model 25 were introduced, the marque’s first totally redesigned cars since 1916 [1 August 1919]……….80 years ago this week, Brooklands race circuit in Surrey, England hosted its final

race, thereby ending the track’s 32-year history [3 August 1939]. It had opened in 1907 as the world’s first oval-style motorsport venue, as well as one of Britain’s first airfields. Nowadays it plays host to an aviation and motoring museum, and various vintage car rallies………90 years ago this week, the first

Ruxton – 1929

prototype Ruxton front-wheel-drive car was completed [1 August 1929]. The car was the brainchild of William Muller and was built in the Board Machine plant in Philadelphia, Moon Motor Car factory in St. Louis, Missouri, and Kissel Motors of Hartford, Wisconsin, who also produced the car’s transmission unit. While employed in the engineering department of the Budd Body Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Muller convinced his employer to invest in developing a front wheel drive prototype automobile. Budd would then sell the rights to the car to an automotive company which would contract with Budd for the body work. While Muller designed the drive train, Joseph Ledwinka designed the body for the car and the project was completed in 1928, and the engines were provided by Continental Motors, Inc. In an era when the American automobile had an average height of 6 feet (1,800 mm) from the ground to the level plane of the roof, Muller’s car was only 53 inches (1,300 mm) high, a feat accomplished by eliminating the drive shaft to the rear wheels. Ledwinka accentuated the lowness to ground through the elimination of the running boards. Instead of attracting an automotive producer, Muller’s concept car attracted the attention of Archie Andrews, a member of Budd’s Board who also sat on the Board of Hupp Motor Car Company. Andrews recognized the possibilities of producing the car and made it possible for Muller and Budd to present the idea to Hupp. When Hupp Motor Car Company passed on the car, Andrews took on the project himself, and with Muller formed New Era Motors which would market the car. Still, Andrews lacked an ability to build the car, and hoped-for support from Peerless, Gardner, and Marmon failed to materialize. In November 1929, Moon Motors of St. Louis, Missouri, reached an agreement to build the car, which Andrews had by then named the Ruxton, after William V.C. Ruxton, an investor Andrews hoped would support the project; Ruxton did not support the project, but it bore his name whether he wanted it to or not. Ultimately, Ruxton sued Andrews simply for the purpose of stating that he in no way supported Andrews or the car itself. Unhappy with Moon’s attention to the project, Andrews attempted to take over controlling interest in the company by buying up its stock. Ultimately, Andrews assumed control of the moribund company, much to the chagrin of its President C.W. Burst, who barricaded himself in the company headquarters in protest. Despite lawsuits and counter suits, the Ruxton went into regular production in June 1930. When Ruxton finally went on sale, some models sported Joseph Urban color schemes designed to lengthen the appearance of the car through broad bands of white intermixed with vivid colors such as blue, lavender, and navy blue. Many, but not all, Ruxtons featured the cat-like Woodlight headlights; while sleek, their performance paled in comparison to normal headlights. Most Ruxton owners soon learned that they either drove their cars during the daylight, or had them retrofitted with normal headlights or auxiliary driving lights. Andrews also entered into a deal with Kissel of Hartford, Wisconsin, to build the transmissions and drive lines. With Moon failing, Andrews turned to Kissel to build the cars, and while the project appeared to be on course, again Andrews grew impatient and started buying Kissel stock in preparation for another take over. Unlike Moon, which tried to fight off Andrews, the Kissel Brothers rebelled by filing for receivership in November 1930, and production of the Ruxton came to an abrupt end less than four months after it was introduced. After the Ruxton debacle, Andrews set his sights on rescuing Hupp, whether it wanted to be rescued or not. While he was able to seize control of the company, his tenure was short and Andrews was removed by angry shareholders. He died in 1938. Moon Motors’ legal entanglements continued through the courts until 1965, at which time 355 creditors held claim to the remaining assets of $26,000. Kissel emerged from its receivership as the Kissel Manufacturing Company and later was merged into the West Bend Aluminum Company. With a total production of some 96 vehicles, the Ruxton is recognized as a Classic Car by the Classic Car Club of America………60 years ago this week, groundbreaking

Charlotte Motor Speedway

ceremonies for the new Charlotte Motor Speedway, North Carolina, US took place on a sultry summer morning [29 July 1959]. The new speedway was built by Curtis Turner and Bruton Smith, and the first race was scheduled for May 1960……The Bristol Motorcycle and Light Car Club (BM&LCC) organised the first race meeting in conjunction with the Bristol Corporation at the then disused airfield at Whitchurch, Shropshire, England [1 August 1959]. The course was 1.0625 miles long, almost flat, and rectangular in shape with four corners known as Dundry, Hangar, Knowle, & Goram. The meeting consisted of six races, one of which was for Formula Two cars. This race was won by Henry Taylor, at a speed of 66.03mph, from Keith Greene and Tim Parnell, all of whom were Cooper mounted. The fastest lap was set by Taylor at 66.64mph……… on the same day [1 August 1959], Jean Behra (38) was killed driving for Porsche in a Formula 2 support race at the German Grand Prix. Behra could have been France’s first title winner, but despite having the talent never won a world championship grand prix. A fighter in the Gilles Villeneuve mould, with courage and car control to spare, he became a national hero leading the Gordini team after winning the non-championship Grand Prix de la Marne at Reims in 1952.His days with Maserati were only slightly less frustrating. In 1955, he had little chance against the all-conquering Mercedes W196s, then played second fiddle to superstar team-mates Stirling Moss and then Juan Manuel Fangio in 1956 and 1957. Punching Ferrari team manager Romolo Tavoni after retiring on his Ferrari debut in 1959 was a bad career move, and he was promptly sacked. A few weeks later, he was killed after being thrown from his Porsche RSK and hitting a flagpole during a sportscar race at Avus……..the following day [2 August 1959], The AVUS circuit in Berlin staged a Formula One race, the German Grand Prix, for the first and only time (although it had hosted the German Grand Prix once before in the pre-Formula One era). Run over two 30-lap heats, Scuderia Ferrari claimed the first three places. British driver Tony Brooks was declared the winner ahead of American teammates Dan Gurney and Phil Hill. All three drove Ferrari Dino 246S……..40 years ago this week, Alan Jones, in a Williams-Cosworth FW07 won the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim [29 July 1979]. Clay Regazzoni secured finished second also in a Williams. Pole starter Jean-Pierre Jabouille spun off on the seventh lap in an ill-advised attempt at passing Jones on the outside. Jones had a leaky rear tire for the last twenty laps of the race, but Regazzoni received orders to stay behind. Many championship contenders did not finish, and Williams moved into third place in the constructors’ championship………30 years ago this week, Ayrton Senna won the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim in his McLaren. He sat on Pole and took set fastest lap, winning over his teammate Prost by 18 seconds. Nigel Mansell was third in his Ferrari [30 July 1989]…………20 years ago this week, construction of the Bedford Autodrome (England), a modern, purpose-built, private facility, owned by Jonathan Palmer, was completed [1 August 1999]. Built on the northern section of the former site of the Royal Aerospace Establishment, Bedford airbase it took five years to convert to a track using the latest in track laying techniques to provide a quiet and smooth surface.It was designed for high performance road cars. Because the track has no Armco safety it is not eligible to hold races or have an area for spectators because of the inability to ensure their safety.

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