Motoring Milestones: 11-17 December

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

100 years ago this week, the first Moore was produced by the Moore Motor Vehicle Company of Minneapolis, US. George L Moore, the local Ford dealer hoped his car would compete favourably against Ford’ Model T [15 December 1917]…… 80 years ago this week, Doug van Riet driving an Austin Van Riet won the “II Rand Grand Prix” handicap race at the Lord Howe track, South Africa from Roy Hesketh (MG) and Don Giovanni “Johnny” Lurani (Maserati) [16 December 1937]……. 70 years ago this week, the Maine Turnpike, the first “superhighway”

Entrance to the Maine Turnpike at Kittery

Entrance to the Maine Turnpike at Kittery

in New England and the first such highway in the United States built without state or federal tax dollars, opened to traffic [13 December 1947]. The Maine Turnpike Authority was created by the Maine Legislature in 1941 to connect Kittery and Fort Kent. In 1947, the first section of highway, designated the Maine Turnpike, opened between Kittery and Portland. In 1953, the Turnpike Authority began construction on an extension to the state capital at Augusta using the former right-of-way of the Portland–Lewiston Interurban railway from Portland through Falmouth. When the first section opened in 1947, it was only the second superhighway in the United States following the October 1940 opening of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. For these reasons, the Maine Turnpike was named a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1999. In 1956, one year after the Portland-Augusta extension opened, Congress created the Interstate Highway System. The remaining sections to be built—from Augusta to Fort Kent—would be publicly funded freeways instead of toll roads under the Maine Turnpike Authority. Today this highway, which ends at Houlton instead of Fort Kent, is signed as Interstate 95 throughout and the Maine Turnpike between the New Hampshire line at Kittery and the junction with US 202 near Augusta. The former head of the Maine Turnpike Authority served 19 months in prison for stealing as much as $230,000 from the toll revenue generated by the Maine Turnpike Authority for his personal use from 2003 to 2010. The segment of Interstate 95 from Kittery to Augusta runs along the Maine Turnpike. This is a toll road for all of its length except for sections near Kittery and Lewiston. Flat-fee tolls are paid upon entering the turnpike. There are also barrier tolls in York, New Gloucester, and West Gardiner. Drivers using exits 44 and 52 must also pay a toll upon exiting. The turnpike joined the E-ZPass electronic toll collection network in 2005, replacing the former Maine-only system designated Transpass that was implemented in 1997. The tollbooths on the Maine Turnpike were not supposed to be permanent. Toll collections were to stop once the Maine Turnpike Authority paid off the debt from the road’s construction. In the 1980s the bonds were going to be paid off but the Maine Legislature authorized the Maine Turnpike Authority in 1982 to continue as a quasi-governmental agency and to continue to collect tolls in order to fund the maintenance of the section of highway

NASCAR is born

NASCAR is born

controlled by the MTA…… The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) was founded at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida (US [14 December 1947]. It was the first formal organisation for stock-car racing, a sport said to have begun with souped-up bootlegger hot-rods during Prohibition. Starting in 1953, the major auto makers invested heavily in racing teams, producing faster cars than ever before: good results on the stock-car circuit were believed to mean better sales on the showroom floor. In 1957, however, rising costs and tightened NASCAR rules forced the factories out of the sport, and the modern era of the NASCAR superspeedway began……. On the same day [14 December 1947] French pioneer automotive engineer and manufacturer, Louis Delage (73) died in poverty. Frenchman Louis Delage realized the enormous potential for the automobile and raised enough money to open his own assembly plant in a converted barn in Levallois at the outskirts of Paris in 1905. The stylish road cars sold well and two decades on the Company entered the motor racing scene. In 1927 Robert Benoist won all the major Grands Prix with the superb Delage 15-S-8. Louis Delage’s dream evaporated with the Great Depression of the 1930s, the

Louis Delage

Louis Delage

Company struggled and went into liquidation, the rights to the Delage name auctioned off to the Delahaye car company in 1935. Louis Delage was nearly 60 years old and he found himself too poor to afford a car…….60 years ago this week, Ford built the last of its early two-seat Thunderbirds as public demand sparked a shift to four-seaters [13 December 1957]. Restyled a year earlier, the ’57 T-Bird featured tail fins, opera windows, and a clean back bumper for better handling, plus a choice of five V-8s including a supercharged 340 hp NASCAR option. For 1958, the first of the so-called “Square Birds” featured twin headlights, a functional hood vent, flat-folding front bucket seats and a choice of convertible or the new hardtop. That marked the end of the classic T-Bird’s carefree, wind-in-the-hair image. Less than six percent of those 1958 four-seaters were convertibles and Thunderbird dropped the ragtop option after 1966…….50 years ago this week, the Lincoln Continental Mark III was previewed by the press [11 December 1967]. The Mark III was created when Lee Iacocca, president of Ford Motor Company at the time, directed Design Vice President, Gene Bordinat, to “put a Rolls Royce grille on a Thunderbird”. Introduced in April 1968 as an early 1969 model, the model was a remarkable commercial success

Lincoln Continental Mark III

Lincoln Continental Mark III

because it combined the high unit revenue of a luxury model with the low development costs and fixed cost – amortizing utility of platform-sharing, in a car that was appealing enough to buyers that many units were sold. Iacocca said, “We brought out the Mark III in April 1968, and in its very first year it outsold the Cadillac Eldorado, which had been our long-range goal. For the next five years [Marks III and IV] we had a field day, in part because the car had been developed on the cheap. We did the whole thing for $30 million, a bargain-basement price, because we were able to use existing parts and designs.” Iacocca explained that this transformed the Lincoln-Mercury Division from losing money on every luxury car (via low unit sales on high fixed costs) to a profit centre that in its best year of the series earned Ford almost $1 billion profit from Lincoln alone, making the new Mark series as big a success as any he ever had in his career…….. The Silver Bridge connecting Point Pleasant, West Virginia and Gallipolism Ohio (US), over the Ohio River, collapsed while full of rush-hour traffic [15 December 1967]. Dozens of cars fell into the icy water. Forty-six people lost their lives in the accident, and many others were injured. Two of the victims were never found. Investigation of the wreckage pointed to the cause of the collapse being the failure of a single eyebar in a suspension chain, due to a small defect 0.1 inch deep. Analysis showed that the bridge was carrying much heavier loads than it had originally been designed for and was poorly maintained. The collapse focused much needed attention on the condition of older bridges, leading to intensified inspection protocols and numerous eventual replacements. There were only two bridges built

Silver Bridge collapse - 1967

Silver Bridge collapse – 1967

to a similar design, one upstream at St. Marys, West Virginia, and the notably longer Hercilio Luz Bridge at Florianópolis, Brazil. The St. Marys bridge was immediately closed to traffic and the bridge was demolished by the state in 1971. A small truss bridge was kept to allow access to an island in the river. The Hi Carpenter Memorial Bridge was later built to replace the demolished bridge. The Hercilio Luz Bridge remained in active service until 1991 and still stands at Florianópolis due to being built to a higher safety factor than the West Virginia bridge. Modern non-destructive testing methods allow some of the older bridges to remain in service where they are located on lightly traveled roads. Most heavily used bridges of this type have been replaced with modern bridges of various types.The collapse inspired legislation to ensure that older bridges were regularly inspected and maintained; however, aging infrastructure is still a problem in the United States. In 1983 the Mianus River Bridge in Greenwich, Connecticut, collapsed, causing the deaths of three drivers. The I-35W Mississippi River bridge disaster in 2007 resulted in 13 deaths. In early September 2009, the failure of an eyebar in the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge was discovered during a scheduled closure, resulting in an emergency repair to reinforce the failed member. A memorial was installed in Point Pleasant to commemorate the 46 bridge collapse victims. The collapsed bridge was replaced by the Silver Memorial Bridge, which was completed in 1969…….40 years ago this week, Chrysler Europe announced its new Horizon range of five-door front-wheel drive hatchbacks, to be built in Britain as a Chrysler and France as a Simca [12 December 1977]. It gave buyers a more modern alternative to the Avenger range of rear-wheel drive saloons and estates……. 30 years ago this week, the last American Motors-designed Eagle station wagon was produced [14 December 1987]. The AMC Eagle was a compact-sized four-wheel drive passenger vehicle that was produced by American Motors Corporation (AMC) from 1979. Affordable cars offering a comfortable ride and handling on pavement together with superior traction in light off road use through AMC’s innovative engineering and packaging. the AMC Eagle is “today known as the first crossover vehicle.” In March 1987, Chrysler Corporation reached an agreement to acquire AMC……. 20 years ago this week, an Italian judge, Antonio Costanza acquitted three track officials and three members of the Williams Grand Prix team of manslaughter (omicido colpose) in the death of Ayrton Senna involving his accident during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, Italy [16 December 1997]…. On the same day [16 December 1997] George W. Drum (72), an early leader in automobile club circles, and the first director of the Crosley Car Owners Club died. With Edward Herzog, he worked to preserve the stock of spare parts for Crosley automobiles and trucks when the parent company Crosley Motors, Incorporated was sold to General Tire in July of 1952 and production halted on July 3rd of that year……. The first stage of the 21 km Southern Expressway in Australia, the world’s longest reversible one-way freeway, opened to traffic [17 December 1997]. Built as a corridor to relieve heavy traffic in Adelaide’s south, the Southern Expressway is open approximately 22.5 hours per day – a one-way freeway operating for over 11 hours in each direction. The northbound direction occurs on weekday

Adelaide's Southern Expressway

Adelaide’s Southern Expressway

mornings and weekend evenings, the southbound direction occurs on weekday evenings and weekend mornings. It is closed between approximately 12:40am – 1:10am and 12:30pm – 1:30pm except for Saturday and Monday mornings when the direction remains unchanged. During each closure all road signs, lights and boom gates switch, and the road is inspected for debris or car breakdowns…….10 years ago this week, Ryton manufacturing plant located in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Warwickshire, England produced its last car, a Peugeot 206 [12 December 2007]. After the war Ryton became the headquarters of the Rootes Group, but when the organisation entered financial difficulties in the 1960s the company (in stages) and thus the plant were taken over by American car-making giant Chrysler. Chrysler itself entered financial difficulties and sold the plant, along with the rest of its European operations for a symbolic US$1.00 to PSA Peugeot Citroën in 1978. The 140-acre site was sold to developer Trenport Investments Ltd for industrial use in March 2007 and was demolished in November 2007……. The curtain finally fell on the Spygate scandal with McLaren’s unreserved apology to the FIA and Ferrari. In a grovelling letter, McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh expressed his team’s “sincere regret” adding it “apologised wholeheartedly” to the FIA for the embarrassment caused [13 December 2007]. The letter satisfied FIA president Max Mosley, who asked WMSC members, “in light of McLaren’s public apology and undertakings” and “in the interests of the sport, to consider this matter closed”. McLaren had been fined £50 million and stripped of all constructors’ 2007 points for being in unauthorised possession of confidential Ferrari information.

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