Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: rallycross, Daytona, Malcolm Campbell, hillclimb, Toyota and Top Gear.
210 years ago this week, Isaac de Rivaz was issued with a French patent for his explosion motor, an important
ancestor of the modern internal combustion engine [30 January 1807]…… 120 years ago this week, the first-ever speed hillclimb was held over a 10.3 mile course from Nice to La Turbie, just outside Monte Carlo, forming the last stage of the Marseille-Nice race [31 January 1897]. It was won by Pary driving Andre Michelin’s 15 hp De Dion Bouton steam, which averaged just under 20 mph. A 18 hp De Dion steamer driven by Compte de Chasseloup-Laubat finished second followed by the 6 hp petrol-driven Peugeot of Lemaitere, which took more than 20 minutes longer to cover the course than the winning car…… A prototype Daimler parcel van, the first petrol-powered truck to be manufactured in Great Britain, completed a successful 70-mile round trip between Coventry and Birmingham with a full payload [2 February 1897]……110 years ago this week, the Parisian newspaper Le Matin challenged men and machines to come forward and race from Peking to Paris, a distance of 9,900 miles (c. 16,000 km) [31 January 1907]. Twenty five teams would respond…… Leon Serpollet (48), died in Paris, France [1 February 1907]……. 90 Years ago this week, Malcolm Campbell established a new World Land Speed record of 174.883 mph along Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire, Wales driving the British built 500 hp Napier-Aero engined Bluebird [4 February 1927]. It was his third attempt to break the record, the other two ending in failure. A similar fate almost happened again when Bluebird ground to a halt after just 100 yards. “My heart was quaking”, said Campbell, but luckily the car started again and he sped off. He again avoided disaster in the middle of the record-breaking run when the wind tore off his goggles temporarily blinding him. “It was a most terrifying moment and an experience I never wish to have again as long as I live”, he said later…… 80 years ago this week, the first Rand Grand Prix was held at Lord Howe. It was won by Pat Fairfield driving an ERA [30 January 1937]…… Petrol in Britain went up a halfpenny to 1/7d a gallon [12 February 1937]…… 75 years ago this week, the last pre-war automobiles produced by Chevrolet and DeSoto rolled off the assembly lines [30 January 1942]. Wartime restrictions had shut down the commercial automobile industry almost completely in the US, and car manufacturers were racing to retool their factories for production of military gear……70 years ago this week, Charles C Morgan Jr. (83), an official of the American Trucking Association who was an advocate of highway safety and cofounder of the National Truck Driving Rodeo, died [3 February 1947]……60 years ago this week, the first rotary engine, initially called a Wankel engine,
after its inventor, Felix Wankel, juddered to life in a NSU laboratory in Germany [1 February 1957]. NSU had contracted Wankel to develop a rotary-valve system for its racing motorcycles that led to a rotary compressor (supercharger), from which it was an inevitable step to a rotary engine. A Spider version of the NSU Prinz, introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963, became the first production car with a Wankel engine. It was followed in 1967 by the NSU Ro-80 luxury saloon, a car so advanced that it still looks contemporary……..50 years ago this week, racer Carlos J Martin died from injuries suffered two days earlier in a crash during the Gran Premio International in Mar del Plata, Argentina – three spectators also died as a result of the accident [31 January 1967]……. The sport of Rallycross was born at Lydden, Kent, UK. Rallycross is a form of sprint style automobile racing, held on a closed mixed-surface racing circuit, with modified production or specially built road cars, similar to the World Rally Cars, although usually with about 200 bhp (150 kW) stronger engines, due to e.g. their 45 mm turbo restrictor plates [4 February 1967]. The sport started as a TV show (with especially invited rally drivers), produced by Robert Reed of ABC television for ITVs World of Sport programme, at Lydden Circuit (between Dover and Canterbury) in Great Britain on this day. The first ever true rallycross was organised by Bud Smith († 1994) and the Tunbridge Wells Centre of the 750 MC, with the aid of Lydden Circuit owner Bill Chesson († 1999), and was won by later Formula One driver as well as 1968 Rally
Monte Carlo winner Vic Elford in a showroom Porsche 911 of the British importer AFN, ahead of Brian Melia in his Ford Lotus Cortina and Tony Fall in a BMC Mini Cooper S. After that inaugural event there were another two test rallycrosses at Lydden, on 11 March and 29 July, before the new World of Sport Rallycross Championship for the ABC TV viewers started with round one on 23 September, to be followed by round two on 7 October. The series was run over a total of six rounds (three at Lydden and three at Croft) and was eventually won by Englishman Tony Chappell (Ford Escort TwinCam), who became the first ever British Rallycross champion after winning the final round of the new series on 6 April 1968 at Lydden. Since 1973, Lydden Circuit has seen rounds of Embassy/ERA European Rallycross Championships and FIA European Championships for Rallycross Drivers, the first 23 (till 1996) all organised by the Thames Estuary Automobile Club (TEAC). To this day, Lydden, as the so-called “Home of Rallycross”, still holds British Rallycross Championship racing, especially with its popular Easter Monday meeting. Rallycross is mainly popular in the Nordic countries, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Great Britain. An inexpensive, entry level type of rallycross is the Swedish folkrace or its Norwegian counterpart, the so-called bilcross. The folkrace is most popular in Finland where it was founded back in late 60’s. In Europe, rallycross can also refer to racing 1:8 scale off-road radio-controlled buggies…… The Daytona 24 Hour Race was won by Danny Chris Amon and Lorenzo Bandini in a Ferrari P4 [5 February 1967]. After having lost in 1966 both at Daytona and at Le Mans to the Fords, the Ferrari Prototypes staged a triumphant 1-2-3 side-by-side parade finish at the banked finish line in 1967. To celebrate the victory over the rival at his home race, Ferrari named its V12-powered road car Ferrari Daytona after the race…….30 years ago this week, Al Holbert, Chip Robinson, Derek Bell, and Al Unser Jr. drove the Lauwenbrau Porsche 962 to victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona [1 February 1987]……. 20 years ago this week, seven drivers (Rob Dyson, James Weaver, Butch Leitzinger, Andy Wallace, John Paul Jr., Elliott Forbes-Robinson, John Schneider) shared the Daytona 24 Hours winning Dyson Racing R&S Mk III-Ford [2 February 1997]…..10 years ago this week, the first
Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé destined for the US was bought at a charity auction held during the annual Naples Winter Wine Festival in Florida for $2 million [30 January 2007]…… Cars.com named its top 10 most memorable TV cars; a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am named KITT from the show “Knight Rider” topped the list [31 January 2007]. The second-place vehicle on the Cars.com list was the the General Lee, a souped-up 1969 Dodge Charger featured on “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Third place on went to the mythical Mystery Machine, a multicolored van from the cartoon “Scooby-Doo.” Coming in fourth was the Ferrari 308 GTS
from “Magnum, P.I.” Fifth on the list was the Batmobile, a modified 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car that was featured on the show “Batman.” Rounding out the second half of the list were the 1975 Ford Gran Torino from “Starsky and Hutch,” the 1973 Chevrolet El Camino from “My Name is Earl,” the 1983 GMC G-Series from “The A-Team,” the Mach 5 from the animated show “Speed Racer” and the 2005 Maserati Quattroporte seen on “Entourage”….. Toyota Auris, an all-new Toyota, a family hatchback designed, developed and engineered for the European market went on sale [1 February 2007]. Prices started from £11,995 on the road (T2 1.4 VVT-i three-door). In 2007, Toyota aimed to sell around 22,000 Auris in the UK……A tanker carrying liquefied carbon dioxide crashed, overturned and exploded in Tigbao, Philippines, killing 50 and injuring 65 [2 February 2007]…… In an episode aired on this day, BBC 2’s Top Gear, presenter James May reached 253 mph (407 km/h) in a Bugatti Veyron at Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft’s (VAG) test track facility in Ehra-Lessien, Germany [4 February 2007].