Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: German Grand Prix, Mercedes McLaren, Nigel Mansell, Jaguar and Woodrow Wilson.
100 years ago this week, after being the first sitting President to visit an automobile factory, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Aid Road Act, the first grant-in-aid enacted by Congress to help states build roads [11 July 1916]. In 1916, roads throughout America were generally poor and most were susceptible to weather. The advent of the Ford Model T brought on new interests in higher standards for roads, and by the early 1900s, motorist clubs like the American Automobile Association (AAA) had rallied around the call for federally funded long-distance highways. Farmers balked at the idea, arguing that paying taxes so city people could go on car tours was unfair. As the car became more important to farmers, however, the ground became fertile for legislation to raise the quality or roads across the country. In 1907, the legal issue of the federal government’s role in road-building was settled in the Supreme Court case Wilson vs. Shaw. Justice David Brewer wrote that the federal government could “construct interstate highways” because of their constitutional right to regulate interstate commerce. By 1912, bills concerning federal funding of the highways were considered on the House floor, although a split in constituencies had divided the advocates. Farmers wanted sturdy, all-weather postal roads, and urban motorists wanted paved long-distance highways. Many state officials claim that any federal-funding package would only be used as a “pork barrel” to interfere with the operations of the state. In the end, a bill was passed that included the stipulation that all states have a highway agency staffed by professional engineers who would administer the federal funds as they saw fit. The bill on offer leaned in the favour of the rural populations by focusing on rural postal roads rather than interstate highways. The cause of interstate highways would not be addressed until many years later during President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration, but the Federal Aid Road Act was the cornerstone for today’s highway system and the precedent for all highway legislation to come. The rural road improvement that happened as a result of the act helped rural Americans participate more efficiently in the national economy…..90 years ago this week, the first German Grand Prix was held at the AVUS track in Berlin [11 July 1926].
Run in heavy rain, it was won by native driver Rudolf Caracciola. After he won his sixth and final victory in 1939, no other German driver would take the chequered flag at a German Grand Prix until Michael Schumacher in 1995. The 1926 race was marred by an accident involving driver Adolf Rosenberger, whose car crashed into one of the marshals’ huts, killing three people. The German Grand Prix would not return to the AVUS track until 1959…… A series of races were held on the 1.5 mile board Atlantic City Speedway, a track that featured turns banked at 45 degrees [17 July 1926]. Harry Hartz drove a Miller to victory in the featured mile race while Hartz, Norman Batten and Fred Comer won 60 mile ‘Sprint’ races, all in Millers. Hartz averaged 128.66 mph in winning his 60 miler, the fastest average of the events….. 70 years ago this week, Tazio Giorgio became the oldest Grand Prix winner (in pre-World Championship days) when he won the Albi Grand Prix at Albi, France, aged 53 years 240 days [14 July 1946] …..60 years ago this week, the death of two one-race Formula One drivers – Bill Whitehouse (48) and Herbert MacKay-Fraser (30) – came during an Formula 2 race at Reims [14 July 1956]. Whitehouse died when his borrowed Cooper-Climax left the track after a tyre burst, somersaulted and exploded in flames, while later on MacKay-Fraser lost control of his Lotus at high speed and was killed on impact….. Dewey H. Campbell, Chief Engineer of the P & G Manufacturing Company and the inventor of the valve gapper, a tool which checks valve gaps on overhead valves, died [17 July 1956]….. 50 years ago this week, British Motor Corporation (BMC) and Jaguar announced they were to merge as British Motor Holdings [11 July 1966]….. British Transport Minister Barbara Castle stated that the 70mph speed limit was to stay [12 July 1966]….. The first RAC British Grand Prix held at Brands Hatch was won by Jack Brabham driving a Brabham-Repco BT19 [16 July 1966] .The race, the first of the new three-litre engine regulation era where starters reached 20 cars. It was Brabham’s his second win in succession after winning the French Grand Prix two weeks earlier. New Zealand driver Denny Hulme finished second in his Brabham BT20, a first 1–2 win for the Brabham team. The pair finished a lap ahead of third placed British driver Graham Hill in his BRM P261……30 years ago this week, Rover 800 was launched, taking the place of the decade-old Rover SD1 [11 July 1986]……. Nigel Mansell secured a popular home win at Brands Hatch but the day was marred by a massive pile-up which started when Thierry Boutsen lost control of his Arrows and resulted in the innocent Jacques Laffite crashing head-on into a barrier [13 July 1986]. The 42-year-old Laffite, who was equalling Graham Hill’s record of 176 grands prix starts, had to be cut from the wreckage and the accident brought to an end his F1 career. After an hour-and-a-half delay the race was restarted, and once Mansell had taken an early lead his only moments of concern came on the final laps when he had to ease off to conserve fuel….. 20 years ago this week, the West Cross Route (WCR), a 0.75 miles (1.21 km)-long dual carriageway section of the A3220 route in central London, was occupied by the direct action collective, Reclaim the Streets [13 July 1996]. 6,000 protestors took over part of the elevated
motorway, played sound-systems and danced. Sand was placed on the motorway for young children to play on. Hidden underneath dancers walked on stilts and wore huge, wire-supported dresses, while environmental activists drilled holes in the tarmac and planted trees…. Williams’ Jacques Villeneuve in a Williams-Renault FW18 took his second win of the season at the British Grand Prix, from Benetton’s Gerhard Berger, with McLaren’s Mika Häkkinen coming home third for his first podium since his near-fatal crash at Adelaide the year before [14 July 1996]…..10 years ago this week, the Octavia Elegance 2.0 TDI estate made history by being the ten millionth car produced in the history of Skoda [13 July 2006]….. A supercar set a new land speed record for central London of 175.7mph on an airport runway [15 July 2006]. The
£317,500 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren hit the top speed during a challenge event at London City Airport.