30 March – 5 April: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, the first Napier cars, three 2 cylinder (8 hp) and three 4 cylinder (16 hp), all with aluminum bodies by Mulliners and chain driven, were delivered to customers, at a price of £500 [31 March 1900]……… Robert E. Twyford, a resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was issued with a US patent (646,477) for the first four-wheel drive system, which included a mechanical power steering mechanism [3 April 1900]. Chrysler Corporation introduced the first commercially available passenger car power steering system on the 1951 Chrysler Imperial under the name “Hydraguide”………110 years ago this week, Thomas B. Jeffery of Rambler died in Pompeii, Italy aged 65 [2 April 1910]. He was an inventor and bicycle manufacturer with his partner, R. Philip Gormully, who built and sold Rambler bicycles through his company, Gormully & Jeffery Mfg. Co., in Chicago from 1878 to 1900. He was one of America’s first men interested in automobiles, and in 1897, he built the first Rambler motor car. Jeffery was serious about motor cars so he sold his stake in G&J and founded the Thomas B. Jeffery Company. He used the G&J money to buy the old Sterling Bicycle Co. factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he set up shop to manufacture automobiles on a large scale. From 1902 until 1908, Jeffery moved steadily to bigger, more reliable models. His cars were built on assembly lines (the second manufacturer to adopt them — Ransom Olds was first while Ford went to the moving assembly line in 1913), and in 1903 he sold 1,350 Ramblers. By 1905, Jeffery more than doubled this number. One reason may have been because he went to the steering wheel before 1904. After his death, Charles T. Jeffery changed the automotive branding from Rambler to Jeffery to honor Thomas B. Ultimately, his family sold the manufacturing business to Charles Nash, who renamed the company Nash Motors and greatly expanded their manufacturing efforts……..90 years ago this week, Rover, Lanchester and Standard announced they would merge [3 April 1930]…….80 years ago this week, the Buick Y-Job (cover image), the auto industry’s first concept car, was unveiled to the press [5 April 1940]. Designed by Harley J. Earl, the car had power-operated hidden headlamps, a “gunsight” hood ornament, electric windows, wraparound bumpers, flush door handles, and prefigured styling cues used by Buick until the 1950s and the vertical waterfall grille design still used by Buick today. The car itself was actually driven for a number of years by Harley Earl, until he replaced it with a 1951 model car. Sometime after that, the car was restored at the Henry Ford Museum, until 1993 when it was returned to the GM Design Center……70 years ago this week, Tim Flock scored his first victory in NASCAR’s top series, outrunning his brother Bob to prevail at 0.75-mile Charlotte Speedway, North Carolina, US [2 April 1950]. Flock bypassed pole-starter Red Byron in the 48th lap and leads the rest of the 200-lap main event. Flock won 39 times in his 13-year career, which included championships in 1952 and ’55……..60 years ago this week, the Lancaster Bypass (UK) opened as the second part of the M6, leaving the A6 just north of Carnforth going south to a junction with the A683, then continuing east of Lancaster to rejoin the A6 at Hampson Green. The Lancaster and Preston Bypasses were originally two lane with the provision to make a 3rd lane out of a very wide central reservation, the rest of the M6 opened as a 3 lane motorway……… Carrol Shelby drove a Birdcage Maserati to victory in the Los Angeles Examiner Herald-Express International Grand Prix at Riverside, California, US [3 April 1960]……50 years ago this week, American Motors Corp. (AMC), the company that first introduced the compact car in the 1950s, introduced the $1879 Gremlin, America’s first sub-compact car [1 April 1970]. AMC was the only major independent car

company to survive into the 1970s. AMC’s success relied heavily on the vision of the company’s first President George Romney, who strongly believed that to compete with the Big Three his company must offer smaller, more fuel-efficient alternatives to their cars. The AMC Rambler, a compact car, accounted for nearly all of AMC’s profits through the 1950s, the era during which the company enjoyed its most substantial success. AMC’s fortune faded rapidly after Romney left the company in 1962, and by the end of the ‘ 60s, the company’s output had dropped to a dismal 250,000 sales per year. The release of the Gremlin in 1970 marked the company’s return to Romney’s vision. Designed to compete with the imported Volkswagens and Japanese sub-compacts, the Gremlin was essentially the AMC Hornet with its back end cut off. AMC President Roy Chapin attempted to re-create the vigorous personal campaign that Romney had used successfully to market the Rambler in the 50s. He appeared before the American public in advertisements to extol the virtues of the “first sub-compact” car. Unfortunately for AMC, the Gremlin was out on the market for only a short time before the Big Three released their own sub-compact models………. Miriam Hargrave of England eventually passed her drivers test on her 40th try [3 April 1970]….40 years ago this week, Dale Earnhardt outran Darrell Waltrip for his third win in NASCAR’s top series, leading 208 of 500 laps in the Valleydale Southeastern 500 at Bristol International Speedway, Tennessee, US [30 March 1980]. Waltrip took second, a distant 8.7 seconds behind, with Bobby Allison third, the last driver on the lead lap in a 1-2-3 sweep by NASCAR Hall of Famers…….on the same day [30 March 1980], the USA Grand Prix (West) at Long Beach California was again marred by accidents and retirements but Nelson Piquet from pole cruised to his first win; he also

recorded the fastest lap. He admitted that his main worry was to make a clean start and not to get caught behind anyone on the opening laps “because that’s when the accidents happen”. Shortly before the end Clay Regazzoni survived a bad crash when the throttle on his Unipart Ensign jammed and he cannoned off an abandoned car into a wall at around 170mph. He underwent a five-hour operation for spinal and leg injuries……. John Egan was appointed Chairman of Jaguar Cars Ltd [1 April 1980]. He studied petroleum engineering at Imperial College London and subsequently from 1962 to 1966 worked for Shell in the Middle East. After further studies, this time at London Business School, he moved to AC Delco in 1968 and then British Leyland where he played a part in boosting the fortunes of its Unipart business. After a four-year spell as Corporate Parts Director of Massey Ferguson, Egan was appointed chairman of Jaguar Cars, turning round what had been a struggling business. A carmaker worth around £300m when he took over was sold ten years later to Ford for £1.6bn, at which time Egan moved to become chairman of BAA. Egan then assumed a variety of non-executive business roles and served as president of the CBI from 2002 to 2004, when he took on the chairmanship of Midlands water company Severn Trent….. on the same day [1 April 1980] rear fog lamps become mandatory in the UK to most vehicles manufactured after 1 October 1979 and used from this date …… Driving a Ford Mustang, Jacqueline De Creed established a new record for the longest ramp jump in a car, with the car landing on its wheels and being driven on, of 232 feet (70.73m), at Santa Pod Raceway, Bedfordshire, UK [3 April 1980]…….30 years ago this week, the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) was created as an executive agency of the Department of Transport. DSA promoted road safety in Great Britain by improving driving and motorcycling standards [1 April 1990]. It set standards for education and training, as well as carrying out theory and practical driving and riding tests. The DSA was abolished on 31 March 2014, and the DVSA took over its responsibilities on 1 April 2014……. On the same day [1 April 1990], Dale Earnhardt edged Mark Martin to win the TranSouth 500 at Darlington, South Carolina (US), an event in which veteran Neil Bonnett was injured after a 212th-lap crash. Bonnett suffered a concussion and amnesia……..20 years ago this week, the Chevrolet Corvette Convertible

received the award for “Best Engineered Car of the 1990’s and Best Engineered Car of the 20th Century” from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International) [30 March 2000]……. Pranksters painted a zebra crossing across three lanes of the M3 between junctions 4 and 4A on the northbound carriageway near Farnborough in Hampshire, England [1 April 2000]…… Third-generation driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr., won the 500-miler at Texas Motor Speedway, Texas (US) for his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory. Earnhardt, Jr., won comfortably over Jeff Burton [3 April 2000]…….. Lee Petty, an early star of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and the patriarch of a racing dynasty that includes his son, NASCAR legend Richard Petty, died at the age 86 in Greensboro, North Carolina, US [5 April 2000]. Lee Petty won more than 50 races during his career, including three NASCAR championships, the first driver to rack up that many championship titles. He also won the first-ever Daytona 500, held in 1959………10 years ago this week, In Fremont, California, the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant (NUMMI) produced its last Toyota Corolla after 25 years of operations building cars the “Toyota Way” [1 April 2010].

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