31 August – 6 September Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, the town of Flint, Michigan, began its central role in automotive history, when Charles Wisner introduced the first car built in Flint [3 September 1900]. Designed by Wisner, the car was a home-built prototype that appeared in the city’s Labor Day parade – the first car of millions that would eventually be manufactured in Flint. The town’s thriving carriage industry at the turn of the century evolved into body, spring, and wheel suppliers for the Buick Motor Company. However, the real turning point came in 1908 when William C Durant consolidated Flint’s manufacturers into the General Motors Company (GM). By the 1950s, Flint was second only to Detroit in automobile manufacturing. In recent years, the closing of several GM plants in Flint has brought darker times to the city…….. Andrew L. Riker set a new speed record, 29 mph (46.67 km/h), driving an electric car over for the five-mile course in Newport, Rhode Island, proving that the electric car could compete with its noisier petroleum-fuelled cousins [6 September 1900]. The electric car in fact remained competitive until 1920, often preferred for their low maintenance cost and quieter engine. However, developments in petrol engine technology, along with the advent of cheaper, mass-produced non-electrics like the Model T, proved to be the death knell of the electric car. However, rising fuel costs and environmental concerns has renewed interest in electric cars, and several models have recently launched……..90 years ago this week, cross-country trips were no longer considered big news in 1930, but Charles Creighton and James Hargis’ unique journey managed to make headlines. The two men from Maplewood, New Jersey, arrived back in New York City [5 September 1930], having completed a 42-day round trip to Los Angeles while driving their 1929 Ford Model A the entire 7,180 miles in reverse gear…….70 years ago this week, a new chapter in Porsche history began with the company’s return to Zuffenhausen, Germany, and the completion of the first Porsche [1 September 1950]. The first car to bear the Porsche name had actually been built two years earlier by Ferry Porsche and his design team, but this Porsche was the first car to boast a Porsche-made engine. Porsche became an independent automobile manufacturer during this year and soon sealed its success with a stunning victory at Le Mans in 1951…… on the same day [1 September 1950] Mrs Ransom Olds, the former Miss Woodward who was three days younger than her husband, died six days after her husband’s death…….. Mike Hawthorn, driving a Riley Nine, won the 1,100 cc class at the Brighton Speed Trials for his first racing victory [2 September 1950]. At the same event, Raymond Mays, driving a 2-litre ERA, won the standing-start kilometre event – the last sprint event of his career……. Giuseppe ‘Nino’ Farina won the Italian Grand Prix to become the first winner of the newly instituted drivers’ championship [3 September 1950]. The Ferrari 375F1 4.5 litre car make its debut, with Alberto Ascari at the wheel, but the car retired with engine trouble. Philippe Etancelin, driving a Talbot-Lago T26C, who was placed 5th, became the oldest at the age of 53 years, 248 da to earn points in a Formula 1 championship race……. Johnny Mantz of Long Beach, Calif., drove a Plymouth to an overwhelming victory in the Labor Day Southern Five-Hundred, nine laps ahead of runner-up Fireball Roberts [4 September 1950]. Mantz collected $10,510, the largest purse so far in stock car history……..Ab Jenkins recorded a one hour run of 195.5 miles at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah in the Mormon Meteor III, a Curtiss-engined car built by August S Duesenberg in 1938 and now enshrined in the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City [4 September 1950]…….60 years ago this week, the British Hot Rod Association (BHRA) was formed by the amalgamation of clubs like the Highwaymen with the intent of unifying Sprint Clubs and holding organised Drag Races at disused airfields like Duxford and Graveley [1 September 1960]. Brian Coole was chairman…….. William F O’Neill (75), founder of the General Tire & Rubber Company, died in Akron, Ohio, US [4 September 1960]….. and on the same day [4 September 1960], British teams boycotted the Italian Grand Prix held on the banked Monza track on safety grounds. Phil Hill recorded his first Formula 1 World Championship title winning the race in his Ferrari Dino 246. His efforts marked the final World Championship-qualifying Grand Prix victory, pole position and fastest lap achieved by a front engined Formula 1 car…… Mechanics Paul McDuffe and Charles Sweatland along with race official Joe Taylor were killed when two cars crashed into the pit area during a NASCAR race in Darlington, South Carolina, US [5 September 1960]……. The final Armstrong-Siddeley, a Sapphire long-wheelbase Limousine was dispatched to Ghana [6 September 1960]…….50 years ago this week, Jochen Rindt (28)

lost his life in an accident during qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza [5 September 1970]. Denny Hulme, who was following Rindt at the time, described the accident as follows: “Jochen was following me for several laps and slowly catching me up and I didn’t go through the second Lesmo corner very quick so I pulled to the one side and let Jochen past me and then I followed him down into the Parabolica, […] we were going very fast and he waited until about the 200 metres to put on the brakes. The car just sort of went to the right and then it turned to the left and turned out to the right again and then suddenly just went very quickly left into the guardrail” Upon impact, a joint in the crash barrier parted, the suspension dug in under the barrier, and the car hit a stanchion head-on. The front end of the car was destroyed. Although the 28-year-old Rindt was rushed to hospital, he was pronounced dead. The German-born driver, who drove for Austria throughout his career, had a 20-point lead in the world championship and, as none of his rivals were able to exceed his total of 45 points by the end of the season, he became the sport’s first and only posthumous champion. Rindt started motor racing in 1961, switching to single-seaters in 1963, earning success in both Formula Junior and Formula Two. In 1964, Rindt made his debut in Formula One at the Austrian Grand Prix, before securing a full drive with Cooper for 1965. After mixed success with the team, he moved to Brabham for 1968 and then Lotus in 1969. It was at Lotus where Rindt found a competitive car, although he was often concerned about the security of the notoriously unreliable Lotus vehicles. He won his first Formula One race at the 1969 United States Grand Prix. Overall, he competed in 62 Grands Prix, winning six and achieving 13 podium finishes. He was also successful in sports car racing, winning the 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans, paired with Masten Gregory in a Ferrari 250LM……. The Ontario Motor Speedway, California staged its first event, the California 500, an Indycar event won by Jimmy McElreath in a Coyote-Ford [6 September 1970]. It was the first and only automobile racing facility built to accommodate major races sanctioned by all of the four dominant racing sanctioning bodies: USAC (and now IndyCar Series) for open-wheel oval car races; NASCAR for a 500-mile (800 km) oval stock car races; NHRA for drag races; and FIA for Formula One road course races. Constructed in less than two years, the track opened in August 1970 and was considered state of the art at the time.The first full year of racing included the Indy-style open wheel Inaugural California 500 on September 6, 1970; the Miller High Life 500 stock car race on February 28, 1971, the Super Nationals drag race on November 21, 1970 and the Questor Grand Prix on March 28, 1971. Each of these inaugural races drew attendance second only to their established counterparts, the USAC Indianapolis 500, the NASCAR Daytona 500, the NHRA U.S. Nationals, and the U.S. Formula One race at Watkins Glen.The track was purchased for real estate development by Chevron Land Company in late 1980 and demolished at a cost of $3 million in 1981. It is estimated that the 800-acre (3.2 km2) facility, with 155,000 permanent seats and an air-conditioned private stadium club would have a replacement cost in 2009 of over $350 million……..40 years ago this week, Australian driver Alan Jones became the first man to win the world championship with Willliams, but he was made to work for the title [31 August 1980]. The Dutch Grand Prix of that year marked the first time he failed to finish on the podium. Jones suffered a big crash in practice but still manage to qualify fourth. Jones then took the lead on the second lap after a good start but damaged one of his skirts in his car after driving over kerbing. Having been forced to pit for repairs, Jones struggled home 11th, three laps down on race winner Nelson Piquet, who closed the gap in the standings to just two points with three races remaining. Jacques Laffite and Carlos Reutemann also maintained slim hopes of the title after finishing third and fourth behind Rene Arnoux……. Ford launched one of the most important new cars of the year – the third generation Escort [1 September 1980]. Codenamed “Erika”, the car, Ford Europe’s second front-wheel drive, was originally meant to be called the “Ford

Erika”, but ended up retaining the Escort name. Some say this was due to British consumers reluctance to let go of the “Escort” badge (as the first two generations of Escort had been among Britain’s most popular cars, with the MK2 being Britain’s best selling car in 1976), and some say that the Germans were concerned with the song Erika, which was a famous battlemarch of the German armed forces during World War II. Unlike the Mark II, which had essentially been a reskin of the original 1968 platform, the Mark III was a completely new “wheels-up” design, and was conceived as a hi-tech, high-efficiency vehicle which would compete with the Volkswagen Golf – considered at the time the class benchmark, and indeed the car was launched with the advertising tagline “Simple is Efficient”. From launch, the car was available in base (Popular), L, GL, Ghia and XR3 trim……. Sophomore driver Terry Labonte scored his first NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National victory in the Southern 500 at Darlington, South Carolina, US [1 September 1980]. Labonte came from fourth to first when a crash wiped out the three leaders in the closing laps…….. The St. Gothard Tunnel, the world’s second longest highway tunnel, opened. Stretching from Goschenen to Airolo, Switzerland, the 10.14-mile tunnel took ten years to build and cost $417 million [5 September 1980]…….30 years ago this week, the Czechoslovakian government authorised the privatization of Skoda [4 September 1990]……. Renault SA acquired Mack Trucks Inc [6 September 1990]…….20 years ago this week, Bobby Labonte, who failed to lead a single green-flag lap, won the rain-shortened Pepsi Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, South Carolina [3 September 2000]. After starting 37th, Labonte grabbed the lead with a quick caution-flag pit stop and was out front when a thunderstorm brought the race to a halt.

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