2-8 December: Motoring Milestones

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

120 years ago this week, British racing legend John R. Cobb, was born [2 December 1899]. He set a series of lap records at the famous Brooklands track, including an unbroken record of 143.44 mph in 1935 as well as breaking the land speed record on three occasions. Driving a Railton he set a new land speed record in 1938 of 350.194 mph, breaking the 345.489

mph record set by George Eyston two weeks earlier. Eyston, driving a Thunderbolt, regained the land speed title later that year. Cobb returned to Bonneville to snatch the title from Eyston for good, raising the record to 369.741 mph (595.04 km/h). This record stood until 1947, when Cobb himself returned to Utah in another Railton and set a new record of 394.196 mph (634.40 km/h). Cobb was killed at the age of 52 while trying to set a new water-speed record on Loch Ness in Scotland. His land-speed record stood until 1963, when Craig Breedlove, driving a jet-propelled vehicle………110 years ago this week, the Stafford Motor Car Company was incorporated by Terry Stafford in Missouri, US [3 December 1909]…..Hugh Chalmers purchased the Chalmers-Detroit Motor Company interests of Roy D. Chapin, Howard E. Coffin, and Frederick O. Bezner of $788,000 while the three latter men purchased Chalmers’ interest in the Hudson Motor Car Company for $80,040, resulting in the separation of the two firms [6 December 1909]…… Charles Rayfield applied for a United States patent for his carburettor, a design that would become the favourite of race car designers and drivers and standard equipment on several well known marques [8 December 1909]………90 years ago this week, construction was completed on the Royal Gorge Bridge near Canon City, Colorado, US [6 December 1929]. At 1,053 feet above the Arkansas River, it is the second highest bridge in the world and is one of the most-visited tourist attractions in Colorado since its construction. The road is designated as Fremont County Road 3A. The Royal Gorge Route Railroad runs under the bridge along the base of Royal Gorge………80 years ago this week, the Rolls Royce ‘Silver Rippler’ (cover image), a small prototype with 3.5 litre 6-cylinder engine, was completed [6 December 1939]………70 years ago today, the Central States Racing Association, a rival Midwestern-based stock car racing sanctioning body, announced it would sanction the inaugural Southern 500 at the new Darlington Raceway, South Carolina, US in 1950 [5 December 1949]. Track president Harold Brasington attempted to get NASCAR to sanction the first 500-mile stock car race, but Bill France turned down the offer, fearful the Strictly Stock cars couldn’t go a full 500 miles……. 60 years ago this week, Stirling Moss, driving an Aston Martin DBR2, won the Governor’s Trophy race at Nassau in the Bahamas [4 December 1959]…….50 years ago this week, American Motors and Kaiser Industries Corporation signed an agreement whereby Kaiser could sell their Kaiser-Jeep operation to AMC [2 December 1969]……….40 years ago this week, the last “fresh, bold and functional-looking” Pacer was produced by the American Motor Company [3 December 1979]. The ‘jellybean’ styled Pacer was a reasonably popular economy car, though its Jetson-styled body attracted criticism from both the press and TV comedians, The Pacer gained attention as the mighty roadmobile piloted by Garth in Wayne’s World……..The last MG Midget rolled off the production line [7 December 1979].

MG Midget

The Midget can trace its lineage back to the Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite, the car which brought affordable sports car motoring to the British public in 1958. In 1961 the Austin-Healey Sprite Mk2 arrived, and with it the badge engineered MG Midget – a better appointed version that shared the majority of components with its Austin-Healey stablemate. Original cars were fitted with a 948cc A-series engine – the same engine that was used in the Frogeye in 1958, only uprated from 43bhp to 46bhp. Twin SU carburettors and the revvy nature of the A-series engine made performance engaging, if not truly quick. By 1962 the ageing 948cc engine was replaced by the updated 1098cc A-series, which was also shared with the Morris Minor, amongst others. Peak power was now a healthy 56bhp and the front drum brakes were replaced with more powerful discs as a result. While early cars certainly have their charms, they are somewhat lacking in creature comforts – a heater was only an option and windows were in the form of side screens, or curtains……..30 years ago this week, Hughie Thompson, John Weston and Richard Steel (all UK) completed a 54,289 mile (87,367 km) journey through 18 countries in the World Bus, a red London Routemaster double-decker bus [3 December 1989]. The route was London, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Milan, Istanbul, Dubai, Lahore, Bombay, Singapore, Perth, Sydney, Rio, Santiago, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Liverpool, London……..Centre International de l’Automobile Museum opened in Paris, France [6 December 1989]……….20 years ago this week, the Ferrari team drivers finished 1-2, with Michael Schumacher leading Rubens Barrichello, in a charity go-kart race in Koln, Germany – featuring past and present racing stars [3 December 1999]. The event raised $130,000 for the UNESCO “Children in Need” program…….. On the same day [3 December 1999], an online survey Americans chose the Ford Mustang as their all-time favourite car……..10 years ago this week, the world’s first concept demonstration tyres made with BioIsoprene, a breakthrough alternative to replace a petrochemically produced ingredient in the manufacture of synthetic rubber with renewable biomass, made their debut in Copenhagen, Denmark [2 December 2009]…….Silverstone signed a 17-year contract to host the British Grand Prix from 2010 onwards [7 December 2009].

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