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7-13 May Motoring Milestones

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

150 years ago this week, British statesman and jurist Henry Peter Brougham (89), Baron Brougham and Vaux, died in Cannes, France [7 May 1868]. His name became synonymous with the closed carriage he preferred and has been perpetuated as a type of formal automobile body style……110 years ago today, the first women’s motor race was held at Brooklands [9 May 1908]…….The Ohio (US) Secretary of State required all automobiles to be registered and display state-issued license plates. Plate #1 was issued to Thomas B Paxton, a prominent Cincinnati attorney, for his Franklin [11 May 1908]……. on the same day [11 May 1908] Henry Ford informed William C Durant of his terms to add the Ford Motor Company to Durant’s General Motors, but lack of cash cause that deal and a similar one with Ransom E Olds of Reo fall through. Durant would later successfully negotiate with Samuel L Smith for the takeover of the Olds Motor Work……. 90 years ago today, the Borg-Warner Corporation, a US-based worldwide automotive industry components and parts supplier, was organised in Illinois through the merger of the Borg & Beck Company, the Marvel Carburetor Company, and the Warner Gear Company [9 May 1928]. The company is known for its powertrain products, which include transmissions and transmission components, turbochargers, engine valve timing system components, along with four-wheel drive system components……. 80 years ago this week, the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company was liquidated. In the 1870’s, the George N. Pierce Company produced common household items such as ice chests and birdcages [13 May 1938]. Pierce used his expertise in metal cage work to transition into the transportation field by manufacturing bicycles.As demand for improved bicycles grew, Pierce met high demands and industry innovation with the introduction of bicycle advancements such as the cushion frame and coaster brake. The George N. Pierce Company built a 75,000 square foot factory on Hanover and Prime Streets on Buffalo’s waterfront at Canalside. In 1901, the company produced its first, one single-cylinder automobile and also had a bicycle display at the Pan-American Exposition. The company continued manufacturing bicycles and motorcycles at this location until 1915. In late 1906, the Pierce Arrow Motor Car Company moved into their new location AT 1695 Elmwood Avenue, on the northwest corner of the site of the Pan-American Exposition. Over 1,500,000 square feet was built with buildings arranged to permit additions when necessary. In 1915, the company boasted that it was the greatest user of aluminum in the world. During WWI Pierce-Arrow employed almost 10,000 men and women. The factory stands today and is occupied by several businesses. The George N. Pierce Company became the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company in 1908 and began manufacturing larger luxurious automobiles for an affluent market. Pierce-Arrow’s luxury brand was featured in advertisements that were quietly artistic and sophisticated. Pierce-Arrows were marketed as much more than a car. They were symbols of wealth and status (see cover image). In 1909, President Howard Taft requested two Pierce-Arrows to serve as official cars of the White House. Pierce-Arrows served as presidential vehicles from Taft to Roosevelt. Foreign royals, diplomats and business tycoons, including John D. Rockefeller, the Shah of Persia, J. Edgar Hoover, the secret service, and many more all drove Pierce-Arrows. Famous Americans like aviation pioneer Orville Wright and hall of fame baseball player Babe Ruth also had Pierce-Arrows in their personal car collections. Pierce-Arrow was known for many automotive innovations. The most notable and distinctive was the fender light designed by Herbert Dawley in 1914. He also designed the hood ornament known as the “Helmeted Archer,” which was used on the 1928 Pierce-Arrow. More stylized archers were used on Pierce-Arrows through 1938. Pierce-Arrow introduced larger, more powerful cars in 1915 and 1916, that offered more luxury options. The company realized profits of $4 million per year. Pierce-Arrow’s success reached its peak during World War I, producing a great number of trucks to be used in the War in Europe. The War ended and Pierce-Arrow’s success and popularity continued to grow. As the Great Depression loomed, Pierce-Arrow drastically changed its approach and released a new line of automobiles. The company abandoned the six cylinder engine in favor of a straight eight cylinder used by its competitors. The new Pierce-Arrows sat lower to the ground and were considerably longer than the previous models. The new roadsters, touring cars and sedans proved to be a success in the years leading up to the Depression. However, when the economy collapsed, the auto industry was hit especially hard, specifically luxury lines like Pierce-Arrow. This led to drastic price drops and Pierce-Arrow struggled to sell vehicles. In 1928, Pierce-Arrow was bought by Studebaker. This resulted in a number of engineering and design alterations. Studebaker invested money in research and new developments at the Buffalo factory, but investments did not result in sales. Studebaker went bankrupt in 1933, and sold Pierce-Arrow to Buffalo management. Pierce-Arrow continued to manufacture automobiles. Prices were dropped considerably in an attempt to appeal to a larger market. Toward the end of production, Pierce-Arrow manufactured its own line of Travelodge trailers, complete with gas stoves, ice chests, water tanks and dining areas. 450 Travelodge trailers were produced, but the company continued to falter and filed for bankruptcy in 1938……. 70 years ago this week, Stirling Moss made his racing debut driving his 500cc Cooper in a hillclimb at Prescott, England, sponsored by the Bugatti Owners Club [9 May 1948]……. 60 years ago this week,

Robert F. Borkenstein working on his Breathalyzer Prototype, invented in 1954.

‘Breathalyser’, the brand name for the instrument developed by inventor Robert Frank Borkenstein 1912-2002), for estimating blood alcohol content (BAC) from a breath sample, was registered as a trademark [13 May 1958]. Many people use the term ‘breathalyser’ to refer to any generic device for estimating blood alcohol content. Borkenstein was a captain with the Indiana State Police in the United States and later a professor at Indiana University Bloomington. His Breathalyzer used chemical oxidation and photometry to determine alcohol concentrations. Subsequent breath analyzers have converted primarily to infrared spectroscopy. The invention of the Breathalyzer provided law enforcement with a non-invasive test providing immediate results to determine an individual’s breath alcohol concentration at the time of testing. In 1967 in Britain, William ‘Bill’ Ducie and Tom Parry Jones developed and marketed the first electronic breathalyser. They established Lion Laboratories in Cardiff. Bill Ducie was a chartered electrical engineer and Tom Parry Jones was a lecturer at UWIST. The Road Safety Act 1967 introduced the first legally enforceable maximum blood alcohol level for drivers in the UK, above which it became an offence to be in charge of a motor vehicle; and introduced the roadside breathalyser, made available to police forces across the country. In 1979, Lion Laboratories’ version of the breathalyser, known as the Alcolyser and incorporating crystal-filled tubes that changed colour above a certain level of alcohol in the breath, was approved for police use. Lion Laboratories won the Queen’s Award for Technological Achievement for the product in 1980, and it began to be marketed worldwide. The Alcolyser was superseded by the Lion Intoximeter 3000 in 1983, and later by the Lion Alcolmeter and Lion Intoxilyser. These later models used a fuel cell alcohol sensor rather than crystals, providing a more reliable curbside test and removing the need for blood or urine samples to be taken at a police station. In 1991, Lion Laboratories was sold to the American company MPD, Inc……. 50 years ago this week, British driver Mike

Mike Spence

Spence (31), who participated in 37 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix (1 podium, and scored a total of 27 championship points, died [7 May 1968]. During practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Spence driving the #60 Lotus 56 turbocar (later qualified and driven by Joe Leonard), ran a lap of 169.555 mph – fastest of the month so far. Later in the afternoon, Spence was asked by Chapman to take out turbocar #30 for a test run after driver Greg Weld had difficulty getting the car up to speed. Spence quickly got the car to a lap of 163 mph, but on his second lap he misjudged his entry to turn one and collided heavily with the concrete wall. The right-front wheel of the Lotus swiveled backwards into the cockpit and struck Spence on the helmet. Mike Spence died in the hospital later that evening at 9:45pm from massive head injuries. His fastest lap speed set earlier that day would remain unsurpassed for the next five practice days…….The Spanish Grand Prix was held at Jarama Circuit [12 May 1968]. It was the first race after the death of former double World Champion Jim Clark, who had died in a non-championship Formula Two event in Hockenheim, Germany. Graham Hill driving a Lotus-Cosworth 49 won the race ahead of Denny Hulme and fellow Brit Brian Redman……… 40 years ago this week, Patrick Depailler won the Monaco Grand Prix driving a Tyrrell-Cosworth 008. It was won by Patrick Depailler of France, his first Formula One victory [7 May 1978]…..Joie Chitwood, Texas-born race car driver, set a world record when he drove a Chevette 5.6 miles on just 2 wheels [13 May 1978]……. 30 years ago this week, Christie’s sold an Alfa Romeo 8C-35 for $2,850,000 at an auction in Monte Carlo, a record for a Grand Prix car [11 May 1988]…….. 20 years ago this week, German automobile company Daimler-Benz, maker of the world-famous luxury car brand Mercedes-Benz, announced a $36 billion merger with the US-based Chrysler Corporation [7 May 1998]. The purchase of Chrysler, America’s third-largest car company, by the Stuttgart-based Daimler-Benz marked the biggest acquisition by a foreign buyer of any U.S. company in history. Though marketed to investors as an equal pairing, it soon emerged that Daimler would be the dominant partner, with its stockholders owning the majority of the new company’s shares. For Chrysler, headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan, the end of independence was a surprising twist in a striking comeback story. After a near-collapse and a government bailout in 1979 that saved it from bankruptcy, the company surged back in the 1980’s under the leadership of the former Ford executive Lee Iacocca, in a revival spurred in part by the tremendous success of its trendsetting minivan. While Daimler had been attracted by the profitability of Chrysler’s minivans and Jeeps, over the next few years profits were up and down, and by the fall of 2003 the Chrysler Group had cut some 26,000 jobs and was still losing money. In May of 2007 DaimlerChrysler announced it was selling 80.1 percent of Chrysler to the private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management for $7.4 billion. DaimlerChrysler, soon renamed Daimler AG, kept a 19.9 percent stake in the new company, known as Chrysler LLC. By late 2008, increasingly dismal sales led Chrysler to seek federal funds to the tune of $4 billion to stay afloat. Under pressure from the Obama administration, the company filed for bankruptcy protection in April 2009 and entered into a planned partnership with the Italian automaker Fiat. The takeover was later documented by Bill Vlasic and Bradley A. Stertz in their book “Taken for a Ride: How Daimler-Benz Drove Off with Chrysler.”……The Spanish Grand Prix held at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona) was won by Mika Häkkinen driving a McLaren-Mercedes MP4-13. Mika Häkkinen qualified in pole position, 0.7 seconds

1998 Spanish Grand Prix

ahead of his McLaren team-mate David Coulthard in second place, with Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher a further 0.8 seconds behind in third [10 May 1998]. The race proved to be a formality for Häkkinen, winning the race ahead of Coulthard in second, and Schumacher in third. Arrows driver Pedro Diniz started from the pit lane due to stalling on the warm up lap. At the start the McLarens got away well, but Schumacher made a poor start and fell back to fifth behind his team-mate Eddie Irvine and Benetton’s Giancarlo Fisichella. They ran in these positions until the first round of pit stops, when Irvine delayed Fisichella sufficiently for his team-mate Schumacher to emerge ahead of them both and regain third. Fisichella and Irvine continued to battle until lap 28, when Fisichella attempted a passing manoeuvre around the outside of Irvine, resulting in a collision spearing them both off into the gravel trap. This led to Fisichella’s Benetton team-mate, Alexander Wurz, inheriting fourth place which he held until the finish. Mika Häkkinen was consistently faster than his team mate David Coulthard throughout the race weekend, unable to match his pace, even though they were in the same car. Respected ex driver and pundit Martin Brundle made the comment that Häkkinen was “in a class of his own”. During the race, Michael Schumacher and Minardi’s Esteban Tuero were given 10 second stop-go penalties for pit lane speeding. The Stewart of Rubens Barrichello earned two points by finishing in fifth place, which were team’s first of the season, this was made possible by the new engine and chassis the team used (however teammate Jan Magnussen ran with the old chassis). Reigning World Champion Jacques Villeneuve finished in sixth place, after Williams had their worst qualifying result since the 1989 United States Grand Prix. On the final lap, Williams driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen passed Prost’s Jarno Trulli for eight place when Trulli was incorrectly shown the blue flags as the marshalls had mistaken the Williams for a Ferrari. “I am truly angry because I had to give up a great battle, and it isn’t fair to lose a position because they are blind and can’t recognise one car from another. Of course it doesn’t matter much to finish eighth or ninth, but for a racer it matters. In a case of a blue flag I didn’t have an alternative”. Jarno Trulli.  Post race, Fisichella was given a $7,500USD fine for the collision with Irvine……. 10 years ago this week, “Speed Racer,” the big-budget live-action film version of the 1960’s Japanese comic book and television series “MachGoGoGo,” made its debut in U.S. movie theatres [9 May 2008]. Warner Brothers, the studio behind “Speed Racer,” brought on Larry and Andy Wachowski, the brothers who created the blockbuster science-fiction hit “The Matrix” and its two sequels, to write and direct the long-awaited movie. Emile Hirsch starred in the title role of Speed, an 18-year-old driver whose family’s business is building race cars. Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon and Matthew Fox co-starred in “Speed Racer” alongside Hirsch. Another key cast member was not an actor but an automobile: the mighty Mach 5, a race car designed and built by Speed’s father, Pops Racer. As in the American version of the comic, the sleek Mach 5 used in the film is white with red accents, bears similarities to an early Ferrari Testarossa and is outfitted with an array of special features, including jacks that automatically boost the car, allowing for easy repair; rotary saws that protrude from the front tires; and a deflector that seals the driver into a crash-proof container. As part of the publicity for the Wachowskis’ “Speed Racer,” the Mach 5 went on display in January 2008 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. As reported in USA Today, however, the car saw little real action on the track. During filming, it was attached to a crane, and most of the effects for the racing scenes were computer generated…….In India, Renault-Nissan and India’s Bajaj group said they planned to make a 2,500-dollar car by early 2011, their second effort to make a cheap car for the South Asian nation’s rapidly growing middle class [12 May 2008].

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