4-10 June: Motoring Milestones

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

Daimler-Knight sleeve valve engine

110 years ago this week, American Charles Yale Knight obtained a British patent for his internal-combustion engine that used sleeve valves instead of the more common poppet-valve construction [6 June 1908]. In September the same year Daimler announced that these so-called ‘Silent Knight’ engines would be installed in some of its 1909 models. To combat criticism from its competitors, Daimler had the RAC (Royal Automobile Club) carry out their own independent tests on the Daimler-Knight. RAC engineers took two Knight engines and ran them under full load for 132 hours nonstop. The same engines were then installed in a touring car and driven for 2,000 miles (3,200 km) on the Brooklands race track, after which they were removed and again run on the bench for 5 hours. RAC engineers reported that, when the engines were dismantled, there was no perceptible wear, the cylinders and pistons were clean, and the valves showed no signs of wear either. The RAC was so impressed that it awarded Daimler the 1909 Dewar Trophy. The RAC reports caused Daimler’s share price to rise, £0.85 to £18.75 and the company’s competitors to fear that the poppet-valve engine would soon be obsolete. W O Bentley was of the opinion that the Daimler-Knight engine performed as well as the comparable Rolls-Royce power plant. The Knight engine (improved significantly by Daimler’s engineers) attracted the attention of the European automobile manufacturers. Daimler bought rights from Knight “for England and the colonies” and shared ownership of the European rights, in which it took 60%, with Minerva of Belgium. European rights were purchased from them and used by Panhard et Levassor and Mercedes…..The first powered flight by the British aviator Algenen Vernon Roe took place along the Finishing Straight of the Brooklands circuit, Surrey, England [8 June 1908]. After encountering problems with the management of Brooklands he moved his flight experiments to Walthamstow Marshes, where he rented space under a railway arch at the western end of the viaduct. Despite many setbacks, Roe persisted with his experiments and there is now a blue plaque commemorating his first successful flight (in July 1909) at the site. His aircraft, Avroplane, a triplane, is preserved in London’s Science Museum. In addition, a working replica was unveiled on 7

Dodge Victory Six Sport Roadster

June 2008 at the Brooklands Museum………90 years ago this week, the first Dodge Victory Six Sport Roadster was produced [6 June 1928]…….on the following day [7 June 1928], the last Salmson GP was sold …….80 years ago this week, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1938, which called for a report on the feasibility of a system of transcontinental toll roads [8 June 1938]. The “Toll Roads and Free Roads” report was the first official step toward creation of the Interstate Highway System in the United States……..70 years ago this week, Stirling Moss celebrated his first racing success when he won the 500cc class with his Cooper with a run of 58.78 seconds over the course which was being used for the first time, at Stanmer Park, near Brighton, England [5 June 1948]. With a gradient of only 1 in 10, it was sometimes rated as a hillclimb, sometimes as a speed trial. Bob Gerard made the fastest run (50.87 seconds) in a 2-litre ERA, then crashed into several parked cars past the finishing line, at which point the meeting was abandoned…… Charles W. Nash (84), co-founder of Buick Cars, General Manager of General Motors and the force behind Nash Motors, died [6 June 1948]. He started his career working in the Durant-Dort carriage works, where he developed the straight-line conveyor-belt system, which became a standard item in auto assembly plants. When Durant left the wagon business to start Buick, Nash went along with him and in 1910 he became president of that company. Buick so prospered under Nash’s leadership that in 1912 he was made president of General Motors, a position he held until 1916. In that year Nash purchased the Thomas B. Jeffery Company and in 1917 began to manufacture Nash cars. Nash remained president of the Nash Motor Company until 1930 when he became chairman of the board. Shortly thereafter, merger negotiations with the Kelvinator Corporation were completed, and the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation was formed with George Mason as president and Charles W. Nash as chairman of the board…….Chico Landi (81), the first Brazilian driver to win a Grand Prix race, taking a Ferrari to victory at the Bari Grand Prix in 1948, died [7 June 1948]. Landi came from a modest middle class family, and got into racing through owning a garage. Along with wealthy diplomat’s son Manuel de Teffé he popularized motor racing in Brazil in the late mid-thirties. Landi had left school at eleven to work as a mechanic, and later began illegal street racing at nights, where he had frequent run-ins with the police. In 1934 he made his racing debut, at the second Rio Grand Prix in 1934. He led until eight laps from the finish, when his engine gave out. He was the most popular Brazilian driver of his time, as many considered Teffé a wealthy expat rather than an actual Brazilian, as he had started his racing career while living in Italy. Irineu Corrêa, who ended up winning the 1934 Rio Grand Prix, died in a crash on the first lap of next year, leaving Landi as the undisputed master of pre-war racing in Brazil. Landi went abroad in 1938, finishing eighth at Bern in what is generally considered the first Brazilian Grand Prix entry (Teffé had raced abroad earlier but is generally thought of as an Italian with Brazilian parents). Landi’s first Brazilian Grand Prix victory came at the 1941 Rio de Janeiro Grand Prix. Landi was the first Brazilian driver to win a Grand Prix race, taking a Ferrari to victory at the Bari Grand Prix in 1948, run that year to Formula Two regulations. He also finished second in the 1952 (non-championship) Albi Grand Prix in a Ferrari 375. Landi also won the 1960 Mil Milhas Brasil in a Alfa Romeo JK 2000, together with Christian “Bino” Heins. This was the first time that a Brazilian-made car won this prestigious race, rather than an American-based “Carretera” special…….The 1949 Ford model range, featuring the marque’s first post-World War II design, were previewed by the press at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City [9 June 1948]…….60 years ago this week, the 1,000,000th Plymouth V-8 engine is produced [8 June 1958]……. 50 years ago this week, Richard Petty drove a Plymouth to the 80th win of his career, prevailing in a 200-lap main event at Smoky Mountain Raceway in

Richard Petty

Maryville, Tennessee, US [6 June 1968] Petty’s win was the fifth of what would be a 16-win season and a third-place finish in the points standings. Rookie Pete Hamilton, who would later drive for Petty Enterprises, posts his best finish in the series to that point in second place, one lap down. James Hylton placed third. The half-mile track, which has since switched from pavement to dirt, is still in weekly operation……..Ludovico Scarfiotti (34) died at a hillclimbing event on the Roßfeldhöhenringstraße near Berchtesgaden, in the German Alps [8 June 1968]. He became the third Grand Prix driver to die in 1968, following Jim Clark and Mike Spence. ust prior to entering Formula One, he won the 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans for Ferrari. He later participated in 12 World Championship Formula One grands prix, and many non-championship races. He won one World Championship race, and scored a total of 17 championship points. A motor sports competitor for a decade, Scarfiotti won the 1962 European Hillclimb Championship. He was proclaimed Italy’s best driver in both 1962 and 1965…….The McLaren team scored its first victory at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa with founder Bruce McLaren at the wheel [9 June 1968]. The appearance of wings on the Lotus at Monaco did not go unnoticed and for the Belgian GP various teams arrived with experimental wings on the cars. McLaren thought he had finished second when he crossed the line but unbeknown to him, race leader Jackie Stewart had run out of fuel and been forced to pit at the start of the final lap. There was also a nasty crash when Brian Redman’s Cooper flipped and burst into flames. He escaped with a broken arm and minor burns. Only 5 of the 23 cars that started managed to reach the finish line…..the following day [10 June 1968], the 3,000,000th post-World War II Cadillac was produced, a gold DeVille convertible…….40 years ago this week, Mario Andretti won the Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama in a Lotus-Cosworth 79 from pole position [4 June 1978]. It was James Hunt who got a great start, and he led into the first corner from Andretti and Reutemann, with Peterson dropping all the way back to ninth. Hunt led for seven laps before Andretti passed him and pulled away. Reutemann ran third until he had to pit for tyres, and so John Watson inherited third until he was passed by Jacques Laffite, but soon the recovering Peterson passed both of them. Hunt now suffered from tyre problems and he also began to drop back, and so Peterson was able to take second and Laffite third. That was how it stayed to the end, Andretti winning from Peterson in another

Alexander Wurz rolls his Benetton at the first start of the 1998 Canadian Grand Prix

Lotus 1-2, and Laffite getting the final spot on the podium……..20 years ago this week, Volkswagen AG announced it had won the takeover battle for the ownership of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd, beating off competition from BMW AG [5 June 1998]……The first sub-7 second 1/4 mile run by a NMCA Pro-Street street legal car. Bob Rieger ran 6.976 seconds at 196.89 mph in a Pontiac Firebird at Indianapolis Raceway Park in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA [7 June 1998]….on the same day [7 June 1998], the Canadian Grand Prix contested over 69 laps, was the seventh round of the 1998 Formula One season. It was won by Michael Schumacher, in a Ferrari F300. However, the race is probably best remembered for the crash on the first lap involving Alexander Wurz and Jean Alesi, which resulted in the race being red flagged and restarted, only for another collision to take place and the race being started once again under the safety car……..10 years ago this week, angry autoworkers blockaded the entrance to General Motors of Canada headquarters in Oshawa, Ontario, one day after GM said it would shut its Oshawa truck plant as well as 2 plants in the US and one in Mexico [4 June 2008].

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