Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: James Pollock, Soybean Car, Pikes Peak, Formula 1, and Knight Rider.
120 years ago this week, Ransom E Olds tested his first gasoline-powered automobile in Lansing, Michigan – the body for the vehicle was designed and built by Old’s friend Frank G Clark [11 August 1896]…..115 years ago this week, the first rally race in Ireland, sponsored by the Irish Automobile Club, was held as 12 cars attempted an organised journey from Dublin to Waterford [9 August 1901]. A rally took place over a specified public route with a driver and navigator straining to maintain a breakneck pace from checkpoint to checkpoint. The course was generally kept secret until the race began. Rally racing became extremely popular after World War II, and weekend rallies became common worldwide. The longest rally took place in 1977, over 19,239 miles from London to Sydney…… Charles A. Yont and W.B. Felker driving an 1899 Locomobile steamer, completed the first ascent to the summit of Pikes
Peak, Colorado. Climbing 14,110 feet to the top was quite a feat for the little 2-cylinder steamer [12 August 1901]. The trip took just over nine hours and was accomplished by pushing as well as driving the motorcar. Peak is well known because of its commanding location and easy accessibility, and the view from the summit is said to have inspired the song “America the Beautiful.” Today, an ascent to the top is made easy by a graded toll road….. 100 years ago this week, the first Pike’s Peak hillclimb contest in the Rocky Mountains was held [10-12 August 1916], to celebrate the completion of a new road built by Spencer Penrose, who presented a 60-lb silver trophy. Rea Lentz with a Romano Eight, which climbed the Peak in 20 minutes 55.6 seconds, won the competition. The event is named after Lt Zebulon Pike who was commissioned by President Jefferson to carry out a survey in July 1806, but eventually abandoned as ‘utterly impossible’ his attempt to scale the 14,110 ft mountain….. 80 years ago this week, the Ford Motor Company’s soy bean plastics factory began operations [13 August 1936]. In 1932-33, the Ford Motor Company spent approximately $1,250,000 on soybean research. By 1935, every Ford car had soy involved in its manufacture. For example, soybean oil was used to paint the automobiles, as well as fluid for shock absorbers. Ford’s involvement with the soybean opened many doors for agriculture and industry to be linked more strongly than ever before……75 years ago this week, the “Soybean Car“, a plastic-bodied car, was unveiled by Henry Ford at Dearborn
Days, an annual community festival [13 August 1941]. The frame, made of tubular steel, had 14 plastic panels attached to it. The car weighed 2000 lbs., 1000 lbs. lighter than a steel car. The exact ingredients of the plastic panels are unknown because no record of the formula exists today.. One source claimed the car panels were a complex blend of soybeans, wheat, hemp, flax and ramie, but those who worked on the project have stated that they were a blend of soybean fiber, phenolic resin and formaldehyde, which would make them similar in architecture (if not materials) to the Duroplast panels later used on the East German Trabant (composed of cotton fibers and phenol resin). The car was exhibited in 1941 at the Dearborn Days festival in Dearborn, Michigan. It was also shown at the Michigan State Fair Grounds the same year. Because of World War II all US automobile production was curtailed considerably, and the plastic car experiment basically came to a halt. By the end of the war the plastic car idea went into oblivion……70 years ago this week, the first post-war race in Britain, the Ulster Trophy run at Ballyclare was won by ‘Bira’ driving a ERA C-Type at 78.47 mph over 50 miles [10 August 1946]….. 60 years ago this week, influential abstract impressionist painter Jackson Pollock died at age 44 in a car crash that occurred less than a mile from his home in Springs, New York [11 August 1956]. He was driving under the influence of alcohol when he skidded and slid off the road before crashing into a tree. One of the passengers, Edith Metzger, was also killed in the accident, while his mistress Ruth Kligman, survived….. 50 years ago this week, the first Chevrolet Camaro drove out of the manufacturing plant in Norwood, Ohio [11 August 1966]. The 1967 Camaro
coupe was named just weeks before production; General Manager Elliot Estes, when publicly announcing the name, quipped, “I went into a closet, shut the door and came out with the name.” Camaro is actually French for “comrade, pal, or chum.” The Camaro was a hit with the public, sporting a base price of only $2,466 for a 6 cylinder engine and three-speed manual transmission….. 30 years ago this week, the last episode of the TV show Knight Rider aired in the US [8 August 1986]. The program featured David Hasselhoff as private eye Michael Knight, but the real star of the show was “KITT,” his talking car. KITT was a modified Pontiac Firebird, complete with artificial intelligence and glowing red lights. KITT assisted Michael on his crime-fighting missions, communicating with him through a remote device Michael wore on his wrist…. The first Formula One Grand Prix was held behind the Iron Curtain [10 August 1986]. A record of 200,000 spectators from everywhere from the Eastern European communist countries attended the first Hungarian Grand Prix in 50 years. The race was won by Nelson Piquet for
Williams….. 25 years ago this week, James B. Irwin, (61) pilot of the Lunar Rover Vehicle, died in Glenwood Springs, Colarado, US [8 August 1991]. Irwin visited the surface of the moon during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971,
during which he spent almost three days on the moon’s surface investigating the Hadley-Apennine site, 462 miles north of the lunar equator. The Lunar Rover was a specially designed vehicle used to transport Irwin and David Scott around the moon’s surface while collecting rocks and core samples.…..20 years ago this week, the highest average speed achieved in a non-stop reverse drive exceeding 500 miles of 30.36 mph was set by John Smith, who drove his Chevrolet Caprice 501 miles in 13 hr 48 min at the I-94 Speedway, Fergus Falls, Minesota, US [11 August 1996]…..15 years ago this week, the Hungarian Grand Prix saw Michael Schumacher win his fourth World Championship and equal Alain Prost’s record of 51 Grand Prix victories [13 August 2001]. Rubens Barrichello in the other Ferrari finished second and McLaren driver David Coulthard finished third…..5 years ago this week, the record for longest distance riding a motorcycle in 24 hours of 3,249.9 km (2,019.4 miles) was achieved by L. Russell “Rusty” Vaughn (USA) at the Continental Tire Test Track, Uvalde, Texas, USA [10 August 2011]. Mr. Vaughn used his own personal 2010 Harley-Davidson FLHTK Electra-Glide Limited for the attempt and completed 238 laps of the test track.