6-12 January: Motoring Milestones

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

10 years ago this week, the Detroit Automobile Company finished its first commercial vehicle, a delivery wagon [12 January 1900]. A young engineer named Henry Ford, who had produced his own first motor car, the quadricycle, before joining the company, designed it. Ford soon left the Detroit Automobile Company to start his own company……….90 years ago this week, the first US diesel-engine road trip was completed [6 January 1930]. To promote the diesel engine, Cummins Engine Company owner Clessie Cummins mounted a diesel engine in a used Packard Touring Car and set out for

1935 First Diesel Powered Passenger Car Clessie inside.

the National Automobile Show in America’s first diesel-powered automobile in January of 1930. The 800-mile trip from Indianapolis to New York City used 30 gallons of fuel, which cost $1.38, and showed that diesel was a viable alternative to the internal combustion engine. It was the first of many diesel-powered driving feats Cummins would attempt and it established his company as an engine supplier that would lead to success in the trucking industry. Production diesel cars would start in 1933 with Citroën’s Rosalie, which featured a diesel engine option. The Mercedes-Benz 260D and the Hanomag Rekord were introduced a few years later in 1936. Diesel automobiles did not gain popularity for passenger travel until their development in Europe in the 1960s. In 1931, Cummins installed his diesel in the Cummins “Diesel Special” race car, hitting 101 mph at Daytona and 86 mph at the Indianapolis 500 race, where Dave Evans became the first driver to complete the Indianapolis 500 without making a single pit stop, completing the full distance on the lead lap and finishing 13th, relying on torque and fuel efficiency to overcome weight and low peak power. In 1935, Cummins drove a diesel-powered Auburn from New York to San Francisco on $7.62 worth of fuel……..Henry A Nadig, who many historians consider to have produced the first gasoline-powered car in the US, died in Allentown, Pennsylvania, US [10 January 1930]. The German-born mechanic living in Allentown, built his gas-powered carriage in 1889 two years before Charles E. Duryea’s first gas-powered automobile. Police forced him to drive the carriage at night, because during the day it scared horses. The vehicle was discovered rusting in a collapsed shed in Allentown, and restored and is on show in the City’s America On Wheels is an over-the-road transportation museum………80 years ago this week, General Motors celebrated the production of its 25-millionth American-made car, a silver Chevrolet Master Deluxe four-door town sedan [11 January 1940]. That evening a celebratory banquet was hosted by Albert Sloan Jr and William S Knudsen, with a nostalgic appearance by corporation founder William C Durant…….70 years ago this week, Luigi Villoresi driving a Ferrari 166 won the Eva Duarte Perón Grand Prix at Palermo Park [8 January 1950]…….. 50 years ago this week, John J Riccardo was elected President of the Chrysler Corporation [8 January 1970]……. The 1970 New Zealand Grand Prix was a race held at the Pukekohe Park Raceway [10 January 1970]. The race had 20 starters. It was the 16th New Zealand Grand Prix, and doubled as the second round of the 1970 Tasman Series. Frank Matich won his first New Zealand Grand P in his McLaren Formula 5000 ahead of British racer Derek Bell driving a Tasman Formula specification Brabham-Cosworth. The first New Zealand driver to finish was Graeme Lawrence in the 1969 Chris Amon Ferrari…….George Brough (79), motorcycle racer, world record holding motorcycle and automobile manufacturer, and

George Brough

showman, died [12 January 1970]. He was known for his powerful and expensive Brough Superior motorcycles which were the first superbikes. The name Superior was suggested by a friend but his father reputedly took it personally. George’s motorcycles lived up to the claim, however, and he brought together the best components he could find and added distinctive styling details. He had a flair for marketing and in 1922 rode a Brough Superior SS80 which he called Spit and Polish at Brooklands, managing an unofficial 100 mph (160 km/h) lap.3,048 motorcycles of 19 models were made in 21 years of production. Most were custom built to customers’ requirements and rarely were any two of the same configuration. Each motorcycle was assembled twice. The first assembly was for fitting of all components, then the motorcycle was disassembled and all parts were painted or plated as needed, then the finished parts were assembled finally. Every motorcycle was test ridden to ensure that it performed to specification, and was certified by George Brough. The SS100 model was ridden at 100 mph or more prior to delivery. The SS80 model was ridden at 80 mph (130 km/h) or more before delivery. If any motorcycle did not meet specification, it returned to the shop for rework until it performed properly. His legacy lives on in the many Brough Superior motorcycles maintained by enthusiasts to this day……..40 years ago this week, Jimmy Carter signed a bill authorising $1.2 billion in federal loans to save the failing Chrysler Corporation [6 January 1970]. At the time it was the largest federal bailout in history. The “Big Three” American car makers (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) had suffered through the 1970s, as Japanese competitors led by Honda and Toyota outperformed them in quality and price. Chrysler, which lacked the vast cash reserves of GM and Ford, was brought to the brink of bankruptcy by 1980. The federal bailout, which required Chrysler to find billions in private financing in order to receive the federal money, brought Chrysler back from the brink. Lee Iacocca, the charismatic executive largely responsible for Ford’s successful Mustang, joined Chrysler in late 1979, and engineered the company’s return to profitability during the 1980s…….20 years ago this week, veteran F1 commentator Murray Walker, 76, signed a one-year deal with ITV despite earlier insisting he was ready to quit [6 January 2000]. “I was seriously thinking of jacking it in because I have always wanted to quit while I was ahead,” he said. “This will be my 52nd year in the business and I would hate to have people thinking: ‘Why doesn’t the old fool stop’?” He did just that at the end of the following season……… The ‘Ford Racing Puma’ (cover image) officially went on sale in the UK, OTR prices started at £22,750 [7 January 2000]. The Ford Racing Puma was the name eventually given to Ford’s concept Puma, the Puma RS, which was first unveiled to the public at the 1999 Geneva Motorshow. At the time, Ford were keen to stress that this was no mere styling job and the idea was to transfer the know-how and technology learned directly from Ford Puma race and rally programmes to a road car. It was created by the Ford Rally specialist team at Boreham. The strictly limited production run was initially pencilled to run for 1000 units, with 500 destined for the German market, and 500 for the UK. All conversions were carried out by Tickford, Daventry UK. In the end, only the 500 destined for the UK market were produced and sold. Less than half of the 500 cars were actually sold directly to customers, with the vehicle’s high price often cited as a reason, as rival performance cars such as the Subaru Impreza (with an additional 50+ BHP/Turbo, four-wheel-drive and rallying pedigree) were being offered for a maximum of £21,000 with the optional Pro Drive pack. The lower than anticipated demand had Ford offering Racing Pumas to senior managers through their MRC scheme, which enabled cars to continue being registered and converted.…… The Ford Focus was named the 2000 North American Car of the Year at North American International Auto Show in Detroit -the first Car of the Year winner in both Europe and North America [10 January 2000].TH!NK, an enterprise of Ford Motor Company, unveiled a family size salon powered by the latest generation methanol reformer fuel cell electric powertrain…..the following day [11 January 2000], Jaguar’s new F-Type Concept roadster was unveiled. Inspired by the XK180 concept car presented at the Paris Salon in 1998, Jaguar designers set out to create the ideal, compact roadster, evoking the spirit of the legendary E-type.

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