8-14 January: Motoring Milestones

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

100 years ago this week, Barney Oldfield won 2 of 3 main events at Ascot in Los Angeles, California, driving the Miller “Golden Submarine”, but with the fully enclosed body removed [12 January 1917]……. 70 years ago this week, the last 1947 Pontiac was produced, 12 days after production of the 1948 Pontiacs had began, one of the few times that two model years were produced concurrently [9 January 1948]…….. 60 years ago this week, John Duff (61), the only Canadian to win at Le Mans, who had been inducted in the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, died [9 January 1958]. He was one of only two Canadians who raced and won on England’s famous Brooklands Motor Course……Toyota and Datsun make their first appearances in the United States at the Imported Motor Car Show in Los Angeles, California. The first Nissan products were sold in the U.S. under the trade name“Datsun” and the first Toyotas were “Toyopets”. Unofficially, a few Datsuns and Toyopets had arrived in the United States with the return of servicemen stationed in Japan in the mid 1950s. Officially, the first two Toyopets arrived in September of 1957 for testing in the American market. It turned out that the cars were totally unsuitable for North American terrain and roads. While the Toyopets were perfect Taxis in Tokyo, they couldn’t handle the hilly Los Angeles roads. Not only that, but the head of the Toyota USA division didn’t like the name “Toyopet”. He complained that the name “Toy” sounded like a toy, and “toys break”. pet, meantime, brought to mind dogs. Datsun’s premarketing test went considerably better. A Datsun 210 was brought to Los Angeles and tinkered with. The test included an uphill drag race with a Volkswagen Beetle. The Datsun won. Later, the Datsun was damaged in a traffic accident. All told, the Nissan engineers told their Japanese bosses that Datsuns could be sold in the U.S. if they were modified with stronger engines and drivetrains. The vehicles selected

Datsun 1000 - 1958

Datsun 1000 – 1958

for the L.A. Import Show included A Datsun-1000 (PL210) four door sedan. The Toyopet sedan was a slightly larger vehicle. Both vehicles were given “passing” scores on body quality but were judged lacking in the engine departments. It turned out that Datsun had the advantage of showing a smaller car plus a pickup model. The prices and performance were competitive with the top import of the day, the VW Beetle. Dealerships soon were opened as Datsun cars and pickups began appearing on the streets. Meanwhile the Toyopet was given high marks for sturdiness and quality, but it was considered to be overpriced and underpowered for the American market. Sales were lackluster, so Toyota withdrew from the U.S. market in 1960. In 1965, Toyota began anew with a completely redesigned Toyopet Crown that featured a larger engine and more luxury features. The car also came back with a new name, Toyota Corona. The vehicle was the first of a successful line for the company that, years later, renamed the model “Camry”, the Japanese word for “crown”……. The Ford Motor Company announced plans to enter the heavy and extra-heavy truck field [10 January 1958]……. The following day New Zealand Grand Prix at Ardmore was won by Jack Brabham driving 2-litre Cooper-Climax [11 January 1958]……. The Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln (M-E-L) Division was formed [14 January 1958]…...on the same day [14 January 1958] Hugh Howie (34), former Scottish international footballer, who won three League Championships in 1947-48, 1950-51 and 1951-52 with Hibernain, died in a car accident……. 50 years ago this week, advertising appeared on a Grand Prix car for the first time when Jim Clark put his John Player Gold Leaf Lotus 49 on pole for the non-championship New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe [8 January 1968]……. Matra unveiled their 3-litre V-12 F1 engine [11 January 1968]…… 30 years ago this week, Briton Donald Mitchell Healey, the man behind Austin-Healey and Austin-Healey Sprite cars, former chairman of Jensen Motors and speed-record holder, died in Perranporth, Cornwall at the age of 89 [13 January 1988]. In 1945, he formed the Donald Healey Motor Company Ltd, based in an old RAF hangar in Warwick. In 1949, Healey established an agreement with Nash Motors to build Nash-engined Healey sports cars. The first series of the 2-seaters were built in 1951 and they were designed by Healey. The car used a Nash Ambassador 6-cylinder engine, an aluminum body, and the chassis of a Healey Silverstone. However, Pininfarina restyled the bodywork for 1952 and took over the production of its new steel body. The

Roger Clark

Roger Clark

company is best remembered for the Austin-Healey and the Austin-Healey Sprite cars developed through a licensing arrangement with the British Motor Corporation in 1952 and 1959……. 20 years ago this week, U.S. Post Office unveiled a new Ford Model T stamp [9 January 1998]……. Four time British Rally champion Roger Clark died in Leicestershire, England, at the age of 58, after suffering a stroke [12 January 1998]. Although justly famous for the first British driver to win a World Rally championship event and twice winning Britain’s RAC International Rally in Ford Escorts – in 1972 (with Tony Mason as his co-driver) and in 1976 (with Stuart Pegg) – in a glittering career he won 25 other major international rallies, in Britain, Europe, Canada, and South Africa. For two decades he was not only the best of British, but was warily respected by rivals all over the world. When not rallying, which was rarely, he helped run the expanding family businesses in the Leicester area, and opened Roger Clark Cars in Narborough (Leicestershire) in the 1970s. Hit hard by the collapse of the economy in 1990, these had to close down, but in his final years, even though in precarious health, he set up Roger Clark Motor Sport, which prepared cars for others to use in rallying……The 150-mph+, 5.9-litre, 237-bhp Bristol Blenheim 2 was announced. Like its predecessor, it was built in workshops next to Filton Airfield in Bristol – the home of the original Bristol Aeroplane Company [14 January 1998]……. 10 years ago this week, at the New Delhi Auto Expo in India, Tata Motors unveiled the Nano, billing

Tata Nano - 2008

Tata Nano – 2008

it as the world’s cheapest car [10 January 2008]: The anticipated price tag was around $2,500. Tata, India’s largest automaker, called the four-door, bubble-shaped mini-vehicle (it was just 5 feet wide and 10 feet long) the “People’s Car” and declared that it would be a vehicle for families who previously hadn’t been able to afford a car. (At the time, it wasn’t uncommon to see an entire Indian family precariously packed onto a single motorbike.) The Nano was originally scheduled to go on sale in October 2008; however, production was delayed because of a land dispute in West Bengal, where the car’s production plant was being built. The company opted to move its production facilities to another part of India and the Nano officially went on sale across the country in April 2009. The basic model carried a starting price of approximately $2,000 (not including taxes) and came without a radio, air conditioning, airbags, power steering or power windows. It had a body made of plastic and sheet metal and a 32-horsepower, 624cc two-cylinder rear-mounted engine, and it could reach speeds of 65 miles per hour. In another nod to cost-cutting, the car had just one windshield wiper.

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