Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: Jack Kerouac, Charles Rolls, Formula 1 and Goodyear tires.
130 years ago this week, Lucius D Copeland of Phoenix, Arizona, US was issued with a United States patent for his steam-powered bicycle [5 April 1887]…….115 years ago today, Hon Charles Rolls, driving a 60 hp Mors at Archeres Park, France made four
attempts at a new land speed record, but his fastest run of 63.10 mph was slower than the 1899 record by Camille Jenatzy [9 April 1902]……. 100 years ago this week, America entered World War I, and motor racing was suspended throughout the US for the duration [6 April 1917]. The Indianapolis Speedway became an aviation-repair facility and airport……. The ‘Wingfoot Express’, a Packard Model E 5-ton truck sponsored by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, established the first interstate trucking route with regular nonstop runs from the Akron tire factory in Ohio to the company’s tire fabric mill in Connecticut, US [9 April 1917]. The truck had the first sleeper cab in the trucking industry, so that the two-man crew could alternate driving chores. Most novel about Goodyear’s truck were the big pneumatic tires it rolled on. Solid rubber tires were standard equipment for short truck hauls. The trucks of the day motored along at 8 to 10 miles per hour, and the solid tires gave a bone-jarring ride. Cargo was limited to less-than-fragile items. The company was convinced that air-filled tires could carry heavier loads faster and offer a smoother ride.That inaugural journey was filled with adventure. The truck, accompanied by a movie man and publicist in two support cars, was barely to Akron outskirts when it got stuck in the mud. The agonizing odyssey included muddy ditches, collapsed bridges, flat tires and two engine failures. F
inally, 21 days overdue, the exhausted men arrived in Killingly, Connecticut.To their surprise, they were greeted by a rousing brass band and hundreds of fabric mill workers. One driver said, “It took 28 days and 28 tires.” But lessons were learned. Tire engineers promptly gave the truck tires a stronger bead and heavier sidewalls. Future trips used seven Wingfoot Express trucks, and the 740-mile trip was pared down to 80 hours within a year. The pneumatic truck tires became so reliable that in 1918, the trucks carried Boy Scouts on a 3,000-mile excursion along the East Coast without a single flat…….90 years ago this week, the Twin Coach Company was incorporated in Delaware to manufacture buses and other commercial vehicles, and acquired the plant of the Fageol Motors Company in Kent, Ohio, US [5 April 1927]……. 70 years ago this week, President Louis Horowitz and Vice President Charles D. Thomas of the Playboy Motor Car Corporation of Buffalo, New York announced plans to produce a subcompact car [3 April 1947], the Playboy. The most interesting feature of the new Playboy was the fold-down steel top. This was hinged in the middle above the passengers and the seam was sealed with a rubber gasket that company engineers swore would not leak. It was counterbalanced and manually operated and could be raised and lowered from the driver’s seat. When folded, the top formed part of the rear deck. In this endeavour, Playboy joined a few others such as Peugeot in the 1930s and Ford’s retractable Skyliner of the ’50s. Several manufacturers now offer true hard-top convertibles. Apart from the folding steel top the rest of the Playboy was pretty conventional. Its 40-horsepower Continental (and a few Hercules) four-cylinder, side-valve engine drove the rear wheels through a three-speed manual transmission. The car was quite small with a 2,286 mm (90 in.) wheelbase, width of 1,473 mm (58 in.) and over-all length of just 3,962 mm (156 in.). And the tiny 6.00 by 12-inch tires must have been taxed to support the Playboy’s 862 kg (1,900 lb) weight. The body and frame were welded together to form a kind of unit construction. The Playboy was an “assembled” car in that major components like engine, transmission and other parts came from outside sources. The company turned this to its advantage by advertising that “all standard automotive parts are used, thus facilitating servicing.” Suspension was conventional, being independent A-arms and coil springs in front and a solid axle and leaf springs at the rear……. Henry Ford (83), the man who revolutionised modern transport with his mass produced Model T- died by candlelight during a power-cut caused by floods in Detroit, US [7 April 1947]. Most of his personal estate, valued at $205 million, was left to the Ford Foundation…….60 years ago this week, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, an inspiration for a generation of restless spirits, was first published [5 April 1957]. Kerouac’s free-flowing, madcap account of several cross-country road trips struck a chord with the freedom-loving youth of America, and brought Kerouac international fame. Regarded as the foundation text for the Beat movement, the way that On the Road was composed is as equally legendary as its spirited story. The entire book was written on a single scroll of paper, made up of 12-foot long sheets of tracing paper that were taped together and fed through a typewriter continuously, so that Kerouac would not have to pause his train of thought. He
wrote in fits of inspiration that would last for days, fueled by amphetamine binges and lack of sleep. The entire process took 20 days and ended with a single spaced, 120-foot long scroll……. Lotus built its first single-seat racecar [9 April 1957]……40 years ago this week, the United States Grand Prix West held over 80 laps of the temporary Long Beach street course (2.02 mi) will always be remembered as one of the magical days in US motor racing history, as Mario Andretti thrilled the home crowd with the third of his 12 career Grand Prix wins [3 April 1977]. It was the first victory of the first ‘wing car’, the Lotus 78, and the only Formula 1 victory by an American on home soil……. The International Gold Cup at Oulton Park was won by Derek Bell driving a Penske-Cosworth PC3 [8 April 1977]……. .30 years ago this week, Bill Elliott set a NASCAR qualify record of 212.809 mph at Talladega, Alabama [3 April 1987]…… Eight died in a M6 pile-up near Manchester [5 April 1987]…….10 years ago this week, Robin Montgomerie-Charrington died aged 91 [3 April 2007]. He was a well educated British farmer’s son who made his first attempts in racing in the early 1950s. Married to an American wife he became Robin Montgomerie-Charringtonhis and raced his AJB Aston-Butterworth Formula 2 car in the blue and white racing colors of the USA at a number of Grands Prix in 1952. He finished third in Chimay in June and also raced at Monza for the Grand Prix dellíAutodromo, the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa and in the Grand Prix de la Marne at Reims before retiring to the USA with his wife. Only in his later age he would return to the UK where he appeared at a historic festival or two……. The 1,000,000th MINI was built in Oxford, England [4 April 2007]. It was Pepper White with an Almond Green roof displaying a graphic which consisted of one million little MINIs…….. The one millionth Fiat Panda rolled off the production line [5 April 2007]. A city car from the Italian automobile manufacturer Fiat, it is now in its third generation. The first generation Fiat Panda was introduced in 1980, and was produced until 1986, when it underwent several changes. From 1986 until 2003, it was produced with only a few changes. They are now sometimes referred to as the “old Panda”. The second generation, launched in 2003, is sometimes referred to as the “New Panda” or “Nuova Panda” (in Italian), and was the European Car of the Year in 2004. The third generation debuted at Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2011 and assembled in Italy at Pomigliano d’Arco. Fiat has sold over 6.5 million Pandas globally, with more than 4.5 million being the first series Panda……. The Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang was won by Fernando Alonso in a McLaren-Mercedes MP4-22 [8 April 2007]. McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton finished second. This marked McLaren’s first one-two finish since the 2005 Brazilian Grand Prix.