29 May- 4 June: Motoring Milestones

checker-cab

Momentous motoring events that took place during this week in history …..

120 years ago this week, the Erie & Sturgis gasoline carriage designed and built by James Philip Erie and Samuel D Sturgis was given its first test drive in Los Angeles, California [30 May 1897]…. on the same day [30 May 1897] Barney Oldfield driving the Ford 999 at the Empire City Track in New York City, defeated Charles Wridgway in a 40 hp Peerless, in the process becoming the first US citizen to hit 60 mph and breaking the record set just hours earlier by F E Stanley…… also on the same day [30 May 1897], the first of the streamlined Stanley ‘Wogglebug’ racers made its debut at the Readville Track near Boston, Massachusetts, US. F E Stanley would defeat all comers to set a US one-mile speed record. It was the first steam-powered car to have the boiler, engine, and tanks all up front under the hood. The five-passenger touring car weighed 2800 pounds and cost $2800……. 110 years ago this week, the first motorised taxicab service in the United States started in New York City, US [31 May 1907]. Harry N. Allen, incensed after being

Harry Allen and French Darracq cabs, 1907

Harry Allen and French Darracq cabs, 1907

charged five dollars ($126.98 in today’s dollars) for a journey of 0.75 miles (1.21 km), decided “to start a [taxicab] service in New York and charge so-much per mile.” He imported 65 gasoline-powered cars from France and began the New York Taxicab Company. The cabs were originally painted red and green, but Allen repainted them all yellow to be visible from a distance. By 1908 the company was running 700 taxicabs. Within a decade several more companies opened business and taxicabs began to proliferate. The fare was 50 cents a mile, a rate only affordable to the relatively wealthy. By the 1920s, automobile manufacturers like General Motors and the Ford Motor Company began operating fleets. The most successful manufacturer, however, was the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company. Founded by Morris Markin, Checker Cabs produced large yellow and black taxis that became the most common taxis in New York City. In 1937 Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia signed the Haas Act, which introduced official taxi licenses and the medallion system that remains in place today. The law limited the number of licenses to 16,900. The medallions are now worth hundreds of thousands of dollars with fleet medallions topping $600,000 in 2007. In 1967, New York City ordered all “medallion taxis” be painted yellow to help cut down on unofficial drivers and make official taxicabs more readily recognisable. By the mid-1980s and into the 1990s the demographic changes among cabbies began to accelerate as new waves of immigrants arrived in New York. According to the 2000 US Census, of the 62,000 cabbies in New York 82 per cent are foreign born: 23 per cent are from the Caribbean (the Dominican Republic and Haiti), and 30 per cent from South Asia, and Pakistan. In 1996, when Chevrolet stopped making the Caprice, the Ford Crown Victoria became the most widely used sedan for yellow cabs in New York. In addition, yellow cab operators also use the Honda Odyssey, Isuzu Oasis, Chevrolet Venture, Ford Freestar, and Toyota Sienna minivans which offer increased passenger room. The distinctive Checker cabs were, due to their durable construction, phased out slowly, the last one being retired in July 1999, being over 20 years in service and nearly one million miles on its odometer. Laws since 1996 require taxis be replaced every 6 years regardless of condition. In 2005, New York introduced incentives to replace its current yellow cabs with electric hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape Hybrid. As of February 2011, New York City had around 4,300 hybrid taxis, representing almost 33 per cent of New York’s 13,237 taxis in service, the most in any city in North America. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced the Nissan design as the winner to replace the city’s 13,000 yellow cabs, to be phased in over five years starting in 2013…….100 years ago this week, Henry Leland, the founder of the Cadillac Motor Car Company, resigned as company president [1 June 1917]. Ever since William Durant had arranged for

Henry Leland

Henry Leland

General Motors (GM) to purchase Cadillac, Leland and Durant had endured a strained relationship. Leland started the Lincoln Motor Car Company. He won the first contract to manufacture Liberty engines for the war effort. Leland worked closely with British, French, and American engineers to design a high-production, high-powered twelve-cylinder airplane engine for the war effort. By the war’s end, Lincoln had manufactured more Liberty engines than any other single company……. 90 years ago this week, rookie George Souders won the Indianapolis 500 by eight laps, the largest margin since 1913 [30 May 1927]. Many racing pundits viewed Souders’ race as the most surprising, ‘longest-shot’ 500-Mile Race win in history until 1987…….80 years ago this week, Wilbur Shaw led the 1937 Indianapolis 500 for most of the way but had to slow down late on to conserve engine oil [31 May 1937]. Ralph Hepburn caught Shaw in turn 4 on the final lap, but Shaw stepped on the gas and pulls away to win by 2.16 seconds – the closest finish at that time…….70 years ago this week, Bill Holland led 143 laps of the Indianapolis 500 before being overtaken by team mate Mauri Rose [30 May 1947]. The team had displayed an ‘EZY’ signal, telling the drivers to hold station to the finish. Holland thought Rose was a lap behind and let him past. Rose won again but on sheer pace next year and Holland finally won in 1949. Rose was fired by the team after the 1949 race when he again ignored orders and tried to pass Holland, only for his car to fail. Only 30 cars started the 1947 race because of a union dispute…… Oldsmobile unveiled its high compression, overhead V-8 engine at the summer meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers [ 3 June 1947]…….60 years ago this week, after thirteen years of trying, Sam Hanks finally won the Indianapolis 500, and then, amidst tears, became the second winner, after Ray Harroun in 1911, to announce his retirement in victory lane [30 May 1957]. Hanks’ win came in a radical “lay-down” roadster chassis design created by engineer George Salih that, with the engine tilting 72-degrees to the right, gave the car a profile of a mere 21 inches off the ground. Salih built the car next to his California home, and was rewarded with victory as both designer and owner after stepping out on a financial limb in entering the car himself……. United States automakers agreed to delete speed and performance references from its advertising and stress safety features [4 June 1957]……. 50 years ago this week, the

Mazda 110S Cosmos, the world’s first two-rotor rotary engine production car, was officially launched with NSU rotors, beating even NSU’s own Ro 80 to market by 3.5 months [30 May 1957]. Mazda paid NSU hefty licence fees for the use of the Wankel design, and all Mazda rotor housings had ‘NSU licence’ cast into them. The Series I/L10A Cosmo was powered by a 0810 two-rotor engine with 982 cc of displacement and produced about 110 hp (thus the 110 name). It used a Hitachi 4-barrel carburetor and an odd ignition design – two spark plugs per chamber with dual distributors. A

Mazda 110S Cosmos

Mazda 110S Cosmos

4-speed manual transmission and 14 inch (335 mm) wheels were standard. In Japan, the installation of a rotary engine gave Japanese buyers a financial advantage when it came time to pay the annual road tax in that they bought a car that was more powerful than a traditional inline engine, but without having the penalty for having an engine in the higher above-one-litre tax bracket. The front independent suspension was A-arm/coil spring design with an anti-roll bar. The rear used a live axle with a de Dion tube, trailing arms, and semi-elliptic leaf springs. Power-unassisted 10 inch (254 mm) disk brakes were found in front with 7.9 inches (201 mm) drum brakes in the rear. Performance in the quarter-mile (400 m) was 16.4 s, with a 115 mph (185 km/h) top speed. The price was lower than the Toyota 2000GT at 1.48 million yen (US$4,100)…….. Vanden Plas (England) 1923 Ltd lost its status as a subsidiary company when it officially became the Vanden Plas division of BMC, sitting within the Austin-Morris group [2 June 1967]. Following BMC’s acquisition of Jaguar/Daimler the previous year, it was planned that Vanden Plas would assemble and trim the forthcoming Daimler DS420 limousine, which remained in production (latterly at Jaguar’s Coventry works) until the early 1990s……. The ground-breaking Lotus 49 won on its debut at the Dutch Grand Prix with Jim Clark at the wheel [4 June 1967]. The car was powered by the Ford-financed Cosworth-built Double Four Valve (DFV) engine……. 40 years ago this week, A.J. Foyt, known as “SuperTex,” became the first four-time winner of the Indy 500, driving a Coyote-Foyt of his own design [29 May 1977]. Foyt started the race in the fourth spot, unseating pole-sitter Tom Sneva, who finished second, and holding off a charge from fellow racing legend Al Unser. Janet Guthrie, the first woman to compete and finish at the Indianapolis 500, placed ninth……. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) was completed [31 May 1977]. TAPS includes the trans-Alaska crude-oil pipeline, 12 pump stations, several hundred miles of feeder pipelines, and the Valdez Marine Terminal. TAPS is one of the world’s largest pipeline systems. It is commonly called the Alaska pipeline, trans-Alaska pipeline, or Alyeska pipeline, (or the pipeline as referred to in Alaska), but t

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Janet Guthrie – 1977 Indianapolis 500

hose terms technically apply only to the 800 miles (1,287 km) of the pipeline with the diameter of 48 inches (122 cm) that conveys oil from Prudhoe Bay, to Valdez, Alaska. The crude oil pipeline is privately owned by the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. Several notable incidents of oil leakage have occurred since, including those caused by sabotage, maintenance failures, and bullet holes. The pipeline has shipped approaching 20 billion barrels (2.5×109 m3) of oil……. 30 years ago this week, the Monaco Grand Prix was won by Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna driving a Lotus 99T, the first of his six wins at the famous street circuit and the fifth Grand Prix victory of his career [31 May 1987]. Senna won by 33 seconds over fellow Brazilian Nelson Piquet driving a Williams FW11B with Italian Michele Alboreto scoring the first podium of the year for Ferrari in his Ferrari F1/87 in third place…….. 20 years ago this week, Béla Barényi (90), the father of passive safety in automobiles, who developed the concept of the crumple zone, non-deformable passenger cell, collapsible steering column etc. and other features of Mercedes-Benz automobiles, died [30 May 1997]…… New drivers in the UK from this day [1 June 1997] who gained six or more penalty points during their first two years of driving, lost their licence and had to retake both the theory and practical driving test before being allowed back on the road……. The Road Traffic Act (New Drivers) 1997 came into force in the UK, introducing a two year probationary period for newly qualified drivers [2 June 1997]. Drivers receiving six or more penalty points in their first two years after qualifying would have their licence revoked and had to take a new test……. 10 years ago this week, production at the 73-year-old Windsor Casting Plant in Canada ended as the Ford Motor Company continued to transform its North American automotive operations into a profitable and sustainable business [29 May 2007]. The Windsor Casting Plant opened in 1934 and employed 500 people. It produced cylinder block castings for 4.2-litre V6 engines and crankshafts for 4.2-litre V6, 5.4-litre V8, 3.0-litre V6, 4.6-litre V8 and 2.3-litre engines. The plant was also one of the largest recyclers of iron and steel in Southern Ontario. All the

 Aston Martin DBRS9

Aston Martin DBRS9

steel used in the cylinder blocks and crankshafts was recycled material….. Ford’s Wixom Assembly in Michigan stopped production of all models [31 May 2007]. Over the plant’s 50 years of operation it produced 6,648,806 automobiles. The last car produced was a white chocolate Lincoln Town Car which rolled off the line at 12:55pm……. Lord Drayson and Jonny Cocker drove their Aston Martin DBRS9 to victory during the British GT championship race at Snetterton England – the first time a car fuelled by ethanol had won a race in the series [3 June 2007]. The Aston Martin DBRS9 was based on the Aston Martin DB9 road car but with several modifications to make it suitable for racing. While it retains the DB9’s six litre V12 engine, the fuelling system had been modified and the ECU recalibrated for the bio-ethanol fuel. The drive train and general suspension configuration was also retained from the road car, but the DBRS9 had racing springs and dampers, as well as a sequential racing gearbox and composite bodywork to help reduce the weight.

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