5- 11 February: Motoring Milestones

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

100 years ago this week, Thomas A. Edison, perhaps the America’s greatest ever inventor was issued a US patent for a “Starting and Current-Supplying System for Automobiles” (No. 1,255,517) [5 February 1918].……80 years ago this week, Harvey S. Firestone (89), founder of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, died in Miami Beach, Florida, US [7 February 1938]. At the age of 31, Firestone developed a new way of manufacturing carriage tyres and began production with only 12 employees. Eight years later, Henry Ford asked Harvey Firestone to provide the tyres for the Ford Model T, and Firestone Tires became a household name. Firestone and Ford remained great friends, but, unfortunately, neither man would live to see the marriage of their grandchildren and the legal union of their empires……on the same day [7 February 1938] the first bench tests of the new Mercedes-Benz 3-litre V-12 engines were conducted prior to its installation into the W154 chassis…….The Cord Corporation reorganised as the Aviation and Transportation Corporation (ATCO) [11 February 1938]…….60 years ago this week, it was announced that Mayfair in London would be the first place in Great Britain to

Traffic Warden – Mayfair – 1958

have parking meters [5 February 1958]……. The following day [6 February 1958] the Sunbeam Rapier Series II was announced, available in hardtop and convertible forms. It was a great improvement over the Series I. Rootes arranged for nine of the new cars to be in Monte Carlo for the press to try at the end of the Monte Carlo Rally (in which Peter Harper came 5th overall in a works-prepared Series I)…….DAF’s first production car, the automatic transmission ‘600’, financed by the success of DAF trucks, was introduced at the Auto RAI Amsterdam [7 February 1958]. The 590cc 2 cylinder four-stroke engine was capable of developing 22 hp, giving it a top speed of just 55 mph (90km/h). In the beginning the cars were available in two versions, the “Standaard” (standard) and the “Luxe” (luxury). The Standard was very basic, only available in grey-green colour with grey interior, without wheel covers and with ivory coloured bumpers. Most buyers however opted for the “Luxe” which was available in six colours. The combination of a white roof and white walled tyres was optional. The interior was dark grey with grey or black and white. The wheel covers and bumpers were chrome……on the same day [7 February 1958] the 2,000,000th Cadillac was produced, a Sedan DeVille that was met at the end of the assembly line by Division General Manager James M Roche and Joe Malachinski, a Cadillac employee since 1903…….S G Allen won the Baskerville Grand Prix held in Hobart, Australia, driving a Fiat Special. Baskerville Raceway, the oldest continuously operating circuit in Australia, is set in a natural amphitheatre with spectators able to sit in their cars and view the entire circuit [9 February 1958]. The track is a tight and demanding 1.25 miles in length that includes a fast straight, off camber corner and a relatively blind corner at the top of a steep hill…… on the same day [8 February 1958] Jimmy Bryant, driving a Mercury, won the USAC stock car race on the dirt track at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona, USA…….NASCAR legend Marshall Teague died at age 37 attempting to raise the closed-course speed record at the newly opened Daytona International Speedway [11 February 1958]. The “King of the Beach” was conducting test sessions in preparation for the April debut of the United States Auto Club championship with Indy-style roadsters. He was piloting a “Sumar Special” streamliner, a Kurtis-Kraft chassis with a Meyer-Drake Offenhauser 270 engine, streamlined fenders, and a canopy enclosing the driver, thus being classified as Formula Libre. On February 9, 1959, Teague set an unofficial closed course speed record of 171.821 mph (276.5 km/h). Teague was attempting to go even faster on this day, eleven days before the first Daytona 500. “Teague pushed the speed envelope in the high-powered Sumar Special streamliner – to an estimated 140 mph (230 km/h). His car spun and flipped through the third turn and Teague was thrown, seat and all, from his car. He died nearly instantly……. 50 years ago this week, the 100,000th Triumph Spitfire rolled off the production line, a Mk3 [8 February 1968]. Production Based on a design produced for Standard-Triumph in 1957 by Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti, the Spitfire was produced from 1962 to 1980. The platform for the car was largely based upon the chassis, engine, and running gear of the Triumph Herald saloon, and was manufactured at the Standard-Triumph works at Canley, in Coventry…….Jim Clark drove his Lotus 49-Ford to victory in round 5 of the Tasman series, a 100 mile race at Surfers Paradise International Motor Circuit, Queensland, Australia [11 February 1968]. Practice the day before was marred by confusion over on car advertisements and overseas driver’s permits. The Australian sanctioning body (CAMS) did not yet allow advertising to appear on the cars. This had not been a problem in the New Zealand rounds as New Zealand’s sanctioning body was affiliated with England’s RAC, which had recently approved advertising and did not require permits where as the Australian governing body was directly affiliated with the FIA. Lotus and BRM did not conform to the advert rule and, as such, weren’t allowed to compete in the 10 lap preliminary event…….40 years ago this week, Rolf Stommelen, Toine Hezemans and Peter Gregg teamed to win the Daytona 24 Hours Sports Car race, round 1 of the 1978 World Championship for Makes [5 February 1978]. The winners averaged 108.743 mph in their Porsche 935, finishing 30 laps ahead of the Porsche 935 of Dick Barbour, Champ Car driver Johnny Rutherford and Liechtenstein’s Manfred Schurti…….Racer Hans Stuck (77) died in Gronau, West Germany [9 February 1978]. Stuck’s experience with car racing started in 1922 with early morning runs bringing milk from his farm to Munich, shortly after his first marriage. This eventually led to his taking up hill-climbing; he won his first race, at Baden-Baden, in 1923.

Hans Stuck

A few years later, after a year as a privateer for Austro-Daimler, he became a works driver for them in 1927, doing well in hill climbs, and making his first appearance in a circuit race (the German Grand Prix) that year as well. In 1931, Austro-Daimler left racing, and Stuck eventually wound up driving a Mercedes-Benz SSKL in sports car racing, where he continued to excel. In 1933, his acquaintance with Adolf Hitler (whom he had met by chance on a hunting trip in 1925) led to his involvement with Ferdinand Porsche and Auto Union in Hitler’s plans for German auto racing. With his experience from racing up mountain passes in the Alps in the 1920s, he was virtually unbeatable when he got the new Auto Union car, which was designed by Porsche. Its rear mounted engine provided superior traction compared to conventional front engine designs, so that its (eventually) 500+ horse-power could be transformed into speed even on non-paved roads. In circuit racing, the new car was very hard to master, though, due to the swing axle rear suspension design initially adopted by Porsche (relatively advanced for its day, it is now utterly obsolete because of its many problems). His career with Auto Union was quite successful. In 1934, he won the German, Swiss and Czechoslovakian Grand Prix races (as well as finishing second in the Italian Grand Prix and Eifelrennen). There was no European Championship for the circuit races that year, or he would have won it. Wins in a number of hill-climb races brought him European Mountain Champion, the first of three he would eventually collect. In 1935, he won the Italian Grand Prix (along with second at the German Grand Prix; he also won his usual collection of hill-climb wins, again taking the European Mountain Championship. 1936 was leaner; he placed second in the Tripoli and German Grands Prix, finishing second in the competition for the European Championship. After Stuck missed a number of hill-climbs because of injuries suffered in accidents, that year the European Mountain Championship fell to his famous team-mate, Bernd Rosemeyer. 1937 was equally lean, bringing only second places in the Rio de Janeiro and Belgian Grands Prix. 1938 opened poorly; Stuck was either fired from, or quit, the Auto Union team (accounts from the two sides differ). After a series of injuries to other team drivers, as well as pressure from the German government (again, accounts differ as to what combination of factors was the cause), he was re-hired, and proved himself by winning a third European Mountain Championship, his last major pre-war success…….After 9 years 2 months 8 days, Saburo Ohio of Japan completed an epic motor-caravan journey of 116,770 miles, having driven through 91 countries [10 February 1978]……. 20 years ago this week, Tim Kelly (34), guitarist for the Slaughter band, died from injuries sustained when an 18-wheeler jackknifed and collided with his car on State Route 96 in Arizona., US [5 February 1998]…….Austrian singer Johann (Hans) Hölzel, better known by his stage name, Falco (40) died from a head injury when he got drunk at a party and got hit by a bus as he backed his SUV out into a street in the Dominican Republic [6 February 1998]. He scored the 1986 UK & US No.1 single ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ making him the first-ever Austrian act to score a UK and US No.1 hit single…….A Chevrolet Corvette convertible featured on the cover of the 90th Chicago Auto Show program [7 February 1998]. A record-breaker crowd of 1,080,637 attended the 1998 show. Big hits at the annual event, were the Volkswagen New Beetle, 1999 Chevy Tahoe Z71, Ford Libre concept convertible, Mercedes-Benz Maybach, Kia sponsored Elan sports car, and the debut of next-generation Mitsubishi Galant…….10 years ago this week, the official Elvis Presley Tennessee license plate was unveiled at a ceremony at Graceland (US) [5 February 2008]. Proceeds from the sale of the plate benefited the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center at The Med and The Med Foundation. The first license plate was placed on the first Rolls Royce ever owned by Presley. The plate – license number (EP)000 – was donated to the Graceland archives…….Tony Rolt, the last surviving driver from the very first F1 race in 1950, died in Warwickshire aged 89 [6 February 2008]. He competed in two other British Grand Prix in 1953 and 1955 but failed to finish any of the F1 races he entered. He made his racing debut in 1936 and by 1937 he had won the Coronation Trophy races twice at Donington Park. He drove his ERA “Remus”, which is still used in historic competition today, to victory at Donington in the prestigious 200-mile British Empire Trophy in 1939. His greatest achievement in motorsport was at Le Mans where he competed in the 24-hour race for seven consecutive years between 1949 and 1955, famously winning the 1953 event in a Jaguar C-Type shared with Duncan Hamilton. During World War II he spent several years as a prisoner of war, latterly at Colditz where he was involved in a legendary attempt to escape using a homemade glider…….Force India unveiled its first car, the VJM01 at ceremony in Mumbai. It was the first car produced by the team under Vijay Mallya’s ownership but didn’t live up to the Indian billionaire’s expectations as it failed to score a single point all season[7 February 2008. It came closest in the hands of Adrian Sutil at the Monaco Grand Prix but Kimi Raikkonen’s out-of-control Ferrari rear-ended him while he was running in fourth…….Tolls were officially abolished on the Forth and Tay Road Bridges (Scotland) after years of campaigning by drivers [11 February 2008]. The final fee-paying motorists crossed the bridges at midnight before the charges, of £1 on the Forth Bridge and 80p on the Tay Bridge, were lifted. Scrapping of the tolls was a major manifesto commitment by the SNP during the 2007 Scottish elections.

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