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4-10 March: Motoring Milestones

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

Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat

120 years ago this week, Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat with a Jeantaud electric car weighting 1.5 tons won the third of a series of challenges with Camille Jenatzy in the famous Jamais Contente. Sponsored by the French newspaper La France Automobile (with the aim of breaking the 66 second per kilometre record set by Albert Champion) over a 2 kilometre course in Archeres park, near Paris [4 March 1889]. The Count won and in the process established a new world land speed record of 92.69 km/h (57.60 mph)……. 110 years ago this week, North Carolina, US required all automobiles to register with the Secretary of State, except New Hanover County where motorists were required to register with the Superior Court [6 March 1909]………..90 years ago this week, David Dunbar Buick, the founder of the Buick Motor Company,

David Dunbar Buick

died in relative obscurity and meagre circumstances at the age of 74 [5 March 1929] . In 1908, Buick’s company became the foundation for the General Motors Corporation; however, by that time David Buick had sold his interest in the company……..on the same day [5 March 1929], fire destroyed the Los Angeles Automobile Show (cover image). Over 320 new cars, including the Auburn Motor Company’s only Auburn Cabin Speedster, were lost in the flames.In a page one story, the Los Angeles Times reported: “Fire starting from a smoldering cigarette broke out at the Los Angeles Auto Show at 4:10 p.m. yesterday, and a half hour later the $1,250,000 display at the corner of Washington and Hill streets, housed in four huge tents, was a mass of smoking embers, charred wood, blazing rubber and twister steel. The loss is covered by a blanket insurance police, officials of the show stated. The flames originated, according to investigators, in or near the display of the Monocoupe Company, in the northeast corner of Tent No. 2, just in rear of the offices of the show, and near the restrooms….. When the fire was discovered it was a small red trickle leaping up the hangings to the top of the tent. The flames soon burned a hole in the canvas and the wind whipped the blaze to a fury and it leaped from tent top to tent top. Firemen, stationed at the show, made a futile attempt to halt the blaze with the use of the extinguishers scattered about the four tents, but found themselves powerless in the first few moments. Approximately 2500 spectators were in the four tents when the call of fire was sounded, and there appeared to be no stampede to reach the exits…. Light explosions, as gasoline tanks burst on account of the heat, and heavy tires ignited, adding a light hazard to the attempt of the firemen to move some of the cars from the fire……..The 1,000,000th Oakland was produced [8 March 1929]. The Oakland Motor Car Company of Pontiac, Michigan, was an American automobile manufacturer and division of the General Motors Corporation. Purchased by General Motors in 1909, the company continued to produce modestly priced automobiles until 1931 when it was renamed Pontiac……..60 years ago this week, Curtis Turner drove a T-Bird to the win in the 100 mile NASCAR GN race on the 1/2 mile dirt Concord Speedway. Turner led from lap 16, crossing the line more than a lap ahead of second finisher Cotton Owens in a Pontiac [8 March 1959]……. On the same day [8 March 1959], Ken Miles drove a Porsche to victory in the 150 mile USAC Sports Car race on a 2 mile circuit at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds……..50 years ago this week, visitors to the 1969

1969 Chicago Auto Show

Chicago Auto Show at the International Amphitheatre continued to enjoy the annual musical stage review, which included live dancers, singers and the introduction of the latest models. Chevrolet’s displayed: the T-top Corvette, the compact Nova, and the Camaro pony car. Pontiac launched the first Firebird Trans Am at the show, as a mid-year model [6 March 1969]……..The Pontiac Firebird Trans Am was introduced [8 March 1969]. The Firebird Trans Am was just one in a series of muscle cars released by Pontiac in the 1960s, including the Grand Prix and the GTO. It all began in 1959 when Pontiac hired a young car designer named John DeLorean. DeLorean’s designs increased sales for Pontiac by 27 percent between 1962 and 1968. The Grand Prix and the Firebird accounted for half of the gain. On the basis of its muscle cars, Pontiac ruled the youth market of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Trans Am, originally a limited model Firebird, would become a symbol in the muscle car niche of automobile manufacturing…… the following day [9 March 1969], David Pearson drove a Holman-Moody Ford Torino to a NASCAR Grand National win at Rockingham, North Carolina, US……….30 years ago this week, John Bowe drove Ford Sierra to victory in the ATCC Group A race at Amaroo Park, New South Wales, Australia [6 March 1989]……..20 years ago this week, Ford entered into a definitive agreement with AB Volvo for the purchase of Volvo’s worldwide passenger car business for a price of $6.45 billion [5 March 1999]…….From sixth on the grid, Eddie Irvine and Ferrari chalked up another win at the Australian Grand Prix [7 March 1999]. His time of 1:35.01 was just 1.026 seconds over Frentzen in the Jordan as he chased him over the line. Ralf Schumacher in the Williams was third on the podium another seven seconds back. Michael Schumacher who set fastest lap of the race, finished 1 lap down from the leaders. Hakkinen was on pole but had his throttle break 21 laps into the event…….. 10 years ago this week, Briggs Automotive Company (BAC), a British sports car manufacturing company based in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire was founded by brothers Neill and Ian Briggs to produce specialist sports cars targeted at enthusiasts [4 March 2009].

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