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9-15 April: Motoring Milestones

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

130 years ago today, Henry Ford married Clara Bryant Ford in Greenfield, Michigan, on her 22nd birthday. Clara described her intended to her parents as “quiet, pleasant, keen-minded, and sensible” [11 April 1888]. When Clara Bryant married Henry Ford, he was living on a 40-acre plot of land that belonged to his father. Instead of farming the land Ford had it cleared and sold the lumber. Once the lumber was gone, he took a job as an engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company. The move was the beginning of Ford’s precipitous rise through the ranks of the engineering world, a career that saw he and his wife move 11 times between 1892 and 1915, always to finer circumstances. Not many wives in that day would have approved of such a migrant lifestyle, but Clara Bryant Ford did. She is credited with backing her husband in all of his endeavors. There was a time when Henry Ford’s success as a maker of cars was dubious at best. Indeed, Ford spent the years between 1895 and 1901 as a virtual unknown and unpaid tinkerer. In 1896, Ford met Thomas Edison for the first time. Edison encouraged him in his car-building mission, exhorting Ford to continue his work, “Young man, that’s the thing. You have it. The self-contained unit carrying its own fuel with it.” Ford wasn’t the only man, and not nearly the first person, “to have it,” but Edison’s words affected him. “No man, up to then,” Ford explained, “had given me encouragement.” But his wife had. The union of Clara and Henry would reach its most celebrated stages after Henry had become a success. Clara Bryant stood by her man, it’s true, but there were times when she objected to his practices, and on those occasions she intervened. She is often credited with forcing her reluctant husband to finally give in to labor negotiations. In 1941, most of the workers at Ford’s colossal River Rouge Plant walked out on their jobs. Even after a successful strike, Henry Ford refused to negotiate with the UAW. He believed that Ford workers were essentially loyal and that the union had bullied them into striking. The stubborn Ford said, “let the union take over,” meaning he wouldn’t run the company if they were a part of it. The government informed Ford that they would take over were he to close the plants. Ford was immovable. He insisted the government, by backing the unions, would hurt the American auto industry and not Henry Ford. Finally, though, Henry capitulated. Apparently, Clara informed him that should he close the plants or he would have to seek a new wife………110 years ago this week, Vincenzo Trucco in a Isotta-Fraschini (4 min 53 sec) won the final Padova – Bovolenta 10km race in Italy, followed by Nando Minoia in an Isotta-Fraschini and Domenico Piccoli in a SPA [10 April 1898]…….The Rockford Automobile & Engine Company of Rockford, Illinois, US registered ‘The Federal’ as a trademark [11 April 1908]. The Federal marque, occasionally known as the Rockford, was produced 1907-09 in three different cities, but the firm ultimately failed…….The first issue of Ford Times, a monthly publication produced by the Ford Motor Company, was published [15 April 1908]. It remained in publication until 1996. The magazines were similar to Reader’s Digest and Yankee. Ford Times magazines were 4×6 inches in size. Each issue usually consisted of several stories about destinations for sports or vacations or of historic interest, by such writers as Edward Ware Smith, Corey Ford, Bernard De Voto, and Edward Weeks as well as promotional information about current Ford vehicles. Early issues were monochrome. Issues in the 1950s and 1960s featured many paintings. Arthur Lougee was the art director then of both the Ford company’s New England Journeys, Ford Times and Lincoln Mercury Times. He featured in these publications dozens of America’s contemporary watercolor artists such as John Whorf, Henry McDaniel, Forrest Orr, Glenn MacNutt, Loring Coleman, Stuart Eldridge, Paul Sample, King Coffin, Maxwell Mays, Robert Paul Thorpe, Estelle Coniff, Glen Krause, JWS Cox, C Robert Perrin, Edward Turner, Ward Cruickshank II, Alphonse J Shelton, RJ Holden, Dorothy Manuel, Frederick James, William Barss, Campbell Tinning, Eunice Utterback, Andrew Winter. Paintings by Charley Harper and Henry E McDaniel were often on the covers…….90 years ago this week, Antibes Juan-les-Pins Grand Prix held at Garoupe, was won by Louis Chiron driving a Bugatti T35C [9 April 1928]…….The first official Opel rocket car test run was made for the press [12 April 28]. Of the 12

rockets attached to the ‘Rak’ vehicle (a motor car stripped of engine and brakes), five failed to function, but the vehicle reached 110 kmph (60 mph) and the press were appropriately impressed.The Opel-RAK 1 was followed by the Opel-RAK 2, which was fitted with short, inverse wings to hold it to the ground as it sped along. Opel-RAK 2, fitted with 24 rockets and with Opel himself at the wheel, sped down a track in Berlin on May 23, 1928, at a speed of 143 mph (230 km/h). These tests were followed by the RAK 3 railway-car experiments in June and October 1928. The first, conducted between Celle and Burgwedel, were powered by 24 large powder rockets that accelerated the car to well over 100 mph. The second series of tests, using 30 solid rockets, was held between Blankenburg and Halberstadt. One run was successful, reaching a speed of 157 mph (254 km/h); the other, with a larger and heavier payload, was not…….80 years ago this week, the first hillclimb event at Prescott, Gloucestershire, England was staged, on what is now the Short Course (880 yards) [10 April 1938]. As announced in Motor Sport: “The Opening Rally on April 10th will comprise an assembly at Cheltenham for lunch, followed by a run to Prescott and possibly timed runs up the hill, followed by tea at the Prescott club-house. Prescott will be ready for the first official meeting on Sunday, May 15th.” Unofficial fastest time in April was set by I. Craig in a 4.9-litre supercharged Bugatti in a time of 55.58 seconds…….on the same day [10 April 1938] the Pau Grand Prix at Pau was won by René Dreyfus driving a Delahaye 145……60 years ago this week,  started from the pole and rolled to victory in the NASCAR Convertible Series at Asheville-Weaverville (North Carolina, US) Speedway [13 April 1958]. Banjo Matthews starts and finishes second, and Frankie Schneider does the same in third place. Welborn’s second straight win was one of eight that season, helping him clinch the series championship…… on the same day [13 April 1958] Luigi Musso in a Ferrari 246 won the Syracuse Grand Prix held at Syracuse Circuit in Sicily, Italy. For most of its existence, it formed part of the Formula One non-Championship calendar, usually being held near the beginning of the season before the World Championship races…….50 years ago this week, Heinrich Nordhoff (69), German engineer famous for his leadership of the

Heinrich Nordhoff

Volkswagen company as it was rebuilt after World War II, died [12 April 1968]…….Jochen Rindt recovered from a spectacular mid-race spin to win the F2 ‘Thruxton Trophy’ on the 2.35 mile Thruxton circuit [15 April 1968]. Rindt was about a 1/4 mile ahead when his Brabham hit an oil slick. Rindt’s car spun sideways off track, tore down a billboard and narrowly missed a steel guard rail before sliding into a shallow ditch. With the engine still running, Rindt drove out of the ditch and back onto the track barely in front of Jean-Pierre Beltoise. Rindt went on to stretch the margin and crossed the line 8 seconds ahead of Beltoise’s Matra with Derek Bell 3rd in another Brabham. Rindt spun again on his victory lap. Henri Pescarolo retired his Matra early after he spun and split a fuel tank. Earlier, Rindt and Pescarolo won 15 lap preliminary heats. The race was round 2 of the ’68 European F2 Championship. It was the first time the traditional Easter Monday meeting had been held on the recently re-opened Thruxton circuit. It previously had been held at Goodwood……. 30 years ago this week, white-haired, underfunded, 50-years-plus former drag-boat and motorcycle race Eddie Hill became the first person to run a ¼ -mile dragstrip in under 5 seconds when he ran a 4.990 second ET in his Top Fuel dragster at the Texas International Hot-Rod Association Nationals [9 April 1988]. An on-board computer readout showed he set the record on seven cylinders, as one failed at launch…….on the same day [9 April 1988] Dave Prater (50) of soul duo Sam & Dave was killed when his car left the road and hit a tree in Syracuse, Georgia. He recorded for Stax Records from 1965 – 1968, including the hits, ‘Soul Man’ and ‘Hold On, I’m Coming.’….. 20 years ago this week, Edsel B. Ford II resigned post as president of Ford Credit to continue family involvement in community service [9 April 1998]…….. 10 years ago this week, Iran reported that the SenIran Auto plant in Thies, Senegal’s second largest city, had built its first Iran-Khodro Samand sedan [10 April 2008]. Iran Khodro is the largest carmaker in the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa regions with annual production of more than one million various vehicles including cars, trucks and buses…….The Argentine Grand Prix held at Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez, Buenos Aires was won by Michael Schumacher driving a Ferrari F300 [12 April 1998]. The race was also notable as it was the last time (to date) there was an Argentine Grand Prix.

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