30 May – 5 June
Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: Indianapolis 500, the first US motor accident, Le Mans, Henry Ford and the Monaco Grand Prix.
120 years ago this week, the first motor car accident occurred in New York City. A Duryea Motor Wagon, driven by Henry Wells from Springfield, Massachusetts collided with a bicycle ridden by Evylyn Thomas of New York City [30 May 1896]. On the same day, Cosmopolitan magazine organised a 104 mile race from Manhattan to Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, and back, with a grand prize of $3,000. Only three of the six race entrants made it out of Manhattan. Those three cars, unable to ascend Ardsley Hill in Westchester, had to be pushed to the top by spectators. Frank Duryea eventually won the race in petrol-powered car [30 May 1896]…… Several days later, Sylvester Roper (72) a
pioneering builder of early automobiles and motorcycles died whilst riding his a twin-cylinder steam velocipede, with a coal-fired boiler between the wheels, at the Charles River bicycle track, near Harvard Bridge, Cambridge, Massachusetts [1 June 1896]. He made several laps, pacing bicyclists who could not keep up with the steam powered machine. Roper was clocked at 2 minutes 1.4 seconds for the flying mile, for a top speed 40 mph (64 km/h). He was seen to wobble and then fall on the track, suffering a head wound, and was found dead….. Henry Ford drove his first vehicle, the Quadricycle, from the workshop behind his home at 58 Bagley Avenue in Detroit, Michigan [4 June 1896]. The Quadricycle was basically a light metal frame fitted
with four bicycle wheels and powered by a 2-cylinder, 4-horsepower petrol engine. With his assistant John Bishop bicycling ahead to alert passing carriages and pedestrians, Ford drove the 500-lb vehicle down Detroit’s Grand River Avenue, circling around three major thoroughfares. It had two driving speeds, no reverse, no brakes, rudimentary steering ability and a doorbell button as a horn. It reached about 20 mph….. 90 years ago this week, 23 year-old racing sensation Frank Lockhart won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie in a Miller 122. He was the first winner born in the 20th century [31 May 1926]…… 80 years ago this week, Louis Meyer becomes the first driver to win a third time at Indianapolis 500 [30 May 1936]……70 years ago this week, Tony Hulman, the new Speedway President presided over his first Indianapolis 500 race, won by George Robson. Sadly, Robson would be killed later that year [30 May 1946]…..60 years ago this week, the AAA dropped out of sanctioning racing after the 1955 Vukovich crash at the Indianapolis 500 and public outcry that briefly followed, and the tragedy at Le Mans that same year [30 May 1956]. The USAC was formed to sanction Indianapolis style racing. Pat Flaherty won. A few days later, Peter Collins driving a Ferrari D50 won the Belgian Grand Prix run over 36 laps of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit [3 June 1956]….. 50 years ago this week, Jackie Stewart led the Indianapolis 500 by over a lap when his oil pressure dropped too low on lap 192 and his car stalled [30 May 1966]. Fellow rookie Graham Hill led a total of 10 laps to win, the first rookie winner since 1927. Eleven of the 33 starters, a whole third of the field, were eliminated in a first lap accident. Only seven cars, the fewest finishers ever, were still running by the end of the race. Interesting fact: Jim Clark’s machine was supposed to have a 16 cylinder engine, which was supposed to give extra power, but the factory that made the engine was robbed, and the engine was lost. An 8-cylinder engine was put in, and he spun twice due to the improperly balanced weight……The Automobile Association announced its first subscription increase since it was formed in 1905 from 2 to 3 guineas a year [1 June 1966]…..40 years ago this week, the Monaco Grand Prix was contested over 78 laps of the 3.3 km street circuit for a race distance of 257 kilometres. [30 May 1976]. The race was won by Ferrari driver Niki Lauda, who had also taken pole position in his Ferrari 312T2. Lauda won by 11 second over Jody Scheckter driving a six-wheeled Tyrrell P34, whilst Scheckter’s teammate, Patrick Depailler, completed the podium in third position. As a consequence of the race, Lauda extended his lead in the World Drivers’ Championship to 36 points over his team mate Clay Regazzoni who had retired after starting second, going off track on oil laid down when James Hunt retired, climbing back to third before crashing….. 30 years ago this week, Nevada in the US ignored the national 55 mph speed limit by posting a 70 mph (110 km/h) limit on a 3 mile (5 km) stretch of Interstate 80 [1 June 1986]…… 20 years ago this week, the Second Severn Crossing, carrying the M4
motorway over the estuary of the River Severn between England and Wales, was opened by the Prince of Wales [5 June 1996]. Tolls (from £6.40 upwards in 2014) are collected from westbound traffic near Rogiet in Monmouthshire, some 2.1 miles from the Welsh portal of the bridge….. 10 years ago this week, Martin Groves became the first man to dip under 23 seconds at Shelsley Walsh hillclimb, when he recorded 22.86 seconds [3 June 2006]…..1 year ago this week, a speeding motorist was stopped by police after being caught driving at 149mph on the M6 motorway [31 May 2015]. Officers were carrying out routine patrols on the M6 toll between junctions T7 and T5 in Staffordshire when they spotted the Ford travelling at more than double the speed limit. The police’s on-board speed detection cameras recorded the driver travelling at 149mph, which equates to nearly two-and-a-half miles in a minute. The motorist was believed to be one of the fastest speeding drivers caught in England and Wales over the past 12 months.