6-12 July: Motoring Milestone

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

 

110 years ago this week, Charles Steward Rolls (32), pioneer aviator and co-founder of Rolls Royce, was killed when the tail of his plane snapped off in mid-air during a flying exhibition in Bournemouth, England [12 July 1910]. The third son of Lord and Lady Llangattock, who had their ancestral seat in Monmouth, Wales, Rolls was a card-carrying member of the British aristocracy. He was educated at Eton and at Cambridge University’s Trinity College, where he first developed his love for the new sport of motoring. His first vehicle, a Peugeot with 3.75 horsepower, was the first car to be seen at Cambridge, and enabled him to drive home to Monmouth in an astonishingly quick time of two days. In 1900, Rolls drove a 12-horsepower Panhard car in the famous British auto race the Thousand Mile Trial; he also took part in a number of other early long-distance European races. Considered the best driver in Wales, he was reportedly responsible for changing the national speed limit at the time from 4 to 12 miles per hour. In 1902, Rolls went into the business of selling cars. Two years later, at the Midland Hotel in Manchester, England, he met with Frederick Henry Royce, an electrical engineer of modest background who had his own engineering business, Royce Ltd., and had built several experimental cars of his own design. After that historic meeting, Rolls and Royce merged their firms in 1906 to form Rolls-Royce Ltd. The Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, produced that year, became one of the world’s most admired cars. While Royce was responsible for every aspect of car design, Rolls provided the bulk of the financing, as well as the social connections that helped make sales. In addition to automobiles, Rolls became passionate about aviation, including hot air balloons and early airplanes. In February 1910, Rolls wrote to the inventor Wilbur Wright to complain about the Wright plane he had bought in Europe. In the letter, Rolls told Wright he had resigned his former position at Rolls Royce and taken another, which “does not require any regular attendance at the office,” in order “to devote myself to flight.” That June, Rolls became the first aviator to fly nonstop across the English Channel and back………100 years ago this week, the Available Truck Company of Chicago, Illinois, registered “Available” as a trademark [10 July 1920]……..80 years ago this week, the last two-door Ford E93A Prefect rolled off the production line [8 July 1940]…….70 years ago this week, the first race meeting was held at the former wartime airfield of Castle Combe, Wiltshire (UK) although spectators were not allowed [8 July 1950]. Spectators were allowed into the next meeting on the 7th October, where a crowd of 12,000 saw Peter Collins and Stirling Moss competing in F3 race…….60 years ago this week, two unique stainless steel 1960 Ford Thunderbirds were completed at the Ford Motor Company factory in Wixom, Michigan, US in collaboration with the Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation and The Budd Company [11 July 1960] They had done this before, back in 1936, when Ford built six Tudor Sedans for Allegheny Ludlum in stainless steel, all of which went on a coast-to-coast promotional tour to demonstrate the durability,

Stainless steel Ford Thunderbird

flexibility, and beauty of stainless steel. Due to the hard properties of the stainless material, forming body panels would be more difficult than with conventional carbon steel, so panels for the two specially-ordered Thunderbirds would need to be stamped at the end of the production run, after all the carbon steel panels required for assembly had been done, as well as extras that would be required for service replacements in the field to repair cars damaged in collisions. As expected, the dies that had been used for three years to stamp out thousands of panels were rendered useless after the stainless panels were made, and were said to have been scrapped afterward, although we have it from a respected authority that the dies weren’t actually destroyed, but would have required time to make them usable again. One panel in particular presented a problem for the stampers. The roof panel was normally stamped using a single die, but the stainless stock material wasn’t wide enough to accommodate the width of the roof, so the stainless roof panels were constructed by making two separate roof stampings for each car, then welding the panels together down the center line of the roof to complete the panel. There were other concerns that needed to be addressed, as well. One was the fact that dielectric corrosion occurs when two dissimilar metals are placed in contact with each other, and since the stainless and conventional steel panels needed to be joined together in many areas, copper spacers were used to prevent them from touching. Standard production nuts, bolts, screws, and other assorted fasteners were already made of stainless steel, so no special parts were required for these components. When the cars were completed, some of the people involved with the project felt that the stainless steel finish was too shiny, so both cars underwent a buffing process that gave the finish a satiny sheen and brushed look.Over the years, some restoration and maintenance has been performed on both cars, including a freshening up of the engines, interior carpeting, and other things that would be expected on any well cared for older vehicle. Padded instrument panels were replaced, as virtually all of the original pads deteriorated internally and caused the panel to lose its shape and shrink. The 1960 Thunderbirds would not be the last cars created with stainless steel. In the mid-sixties, three Lincoln Continental Convertibles were built and used for promotions around the country. All were equipped with dark blue leather interiors, and were titled as 1967 models, which was the last year for the glorious four door Lincoln Continental Convertible. Two of the cars reportedly carried 1966 trim, while the third was decked out in full 1967 regalia……..50 years ago this week, Santa Pod Raceway, Northamptonshire, England held its first International meeting with “the top Swedish

Santa Pod Raceway – 1970s

dragster and funny car in attendance” [11 July 1970]. These were Hazze Fromms “Roaring Viking” Capri Funny and the “Valkyrion” dragster of Bjorn Anderson. The meeting was run as two separate eliminations, one on the Saturday and one on the Sunday. It appears that the main event was the Sunday elimination as many cars did not run on the Saturday. Priddle won Saturdays Top Dragster elimination but crashed through some marker boards after getting some oil on his goggles. This wrecked the front end so he was unable to run on the Sunday. To make matters worse he had earlier borrowed the front wheels from John Siggery after a puncture. This meant that John would also have been unable to run on the Sunday until Alan Blount nipped home to Kettering and lent him the wheels from his part built new car…… The Chaparral 2J ‘sucker car’ with vacuum assisted road holding features made its racing debut in the Cam-Am Challenge race in Watkins Glen, New York, but driver Jackie Stewart retired with minor mechanical problems [12 July 1970].On the chassis’ sides bottom edges were articulated plastic skirts that sealed against the ground (a technology that would later appear in Formula One). At the rear of the 2J were housed two fans (sourced from a military tank engine) driven by a single two stroke twin cylinder engine. The car had a “skirt” made of Lexan extending to the ground on both sides, laterally on the back of the car, and laterally from just aft of the front wheels. It was integrated with the suspension system so the bottom of the skirt would maintain a distance of one inch from the ground regardless of G forces or anomalies in the road surface, thereby providing a zone within which the fans could create a partial vacuum which would provide a downforce on the order of 1.25–1.50 G of the car fully loaded (fuel, oil, coolant). This gave the car tremendous gripping power and enabled greater manoeuvrability at all speeds. Since it created the same levels of low pressure under the car at all speeds, down-force did not decrease at lower speeds. With other aerodynamic devices, down-force decreases as the car slows down or achieves too much of a slip angle, both of which were not problems for the “sucker car”. The 2J competed in the Can-Am series and qualified at least two seconds quicker than the next fastest car, but was not a success as it was plagued with mechanical problems. It ran for only one racing season, in 1970, after which it was outlawed by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). Although originally approved by the SCCA, they succumbed to pressure from other teams, McLaren in particular, who argued that the fans constituted “movable aerodynamic devices”, outlawed by the international sanctioning body, the FIA, a rule first applied against the 2E’s adjustable wing. There were also complaints from other drivers saying that whenever they drove behind it the fans would throw stones at their cars. McLaren argued that if the 2J were not outlawed, it would likely kill the Can-Am series by totally dominating it — something McLaren had been doing since 1967. A similar suction fan was used in Formula One eight years later on the Brabham BT46B, which won the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix, but Brabham reverted to the non-fan BT46 soon afterwards due to complaints from other teams that the car violated the rules. The car was found to be within technical specifications allowing the victory to remain……..40 years ago this week, the Bentley Mulsanne was

Bentley Mulsanne

introduced in Paris, France [8 July 1980]. The name “Mulsanne” is derived from Bentley’s motorsport history, which included five victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans between 1924 and 1930 — the ‘Mulsanne Straight’ being the stretch of the Le Mans racecourse where cars reach their highest speeds. The Mulsanne shared the traditional 6.75 L (6750 cc/411 in³) Rolls-Royce V8 with aluminium alloy cylinder heads. Two SU carburettors were replaced by Bosch fuel injection on all cars from 1986. All Mulsannes use a 3-speed automatic transmission. The Mulsanne was based on the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit/Silver Spur introduced at the same time and would be the basis for all Bentley models until the 1998 introduction of the Arnage………30 years ago this week, part-time driver Hendrick driver Greg Sacks won the Pepsi 400 pole position [7 July 1990]. But in post-qualifying inspection, NASCAR officials determined that the Hendricks team’s engines had an unapproved “floating block” in the intake manifold sitting under the restrictor plate. NASCAR officials required the team to weld the block in place for race day, which effectively robbed the engine of horsepower. At the start, Sacks was essentially a sitting duck, and at the conclusion of the first lap, his car was sent spinning in front of nearly the entire field. At least 22 cars were collected in the huge pileup in the tri-oval. The crash became known as the original “Big One.” Six cars in the lead pack narrowly escaped the incident, among those was Dale Earnhardt who dominated the depleted field on the way to victory……. The French Grand Prix almost saw one of the most remarkable upsets in Formula One history with the Leyton House Racing team of Italian driver Ivan Capelli and Brazilian driver Mauricio Gugelmin running first and second for an extended period of the race in their Leyton House CG901s [8 July 1990]. French driver Alain Prost claimed the lead late in the race to take the win in his Ferrari 641 by eight seconds over Capelli. Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna finished third in his McLaren MP4/5B……..20 years ago this week, Eight weeks to the day after Adam Petty’s crash, NASCAR Winston Cup driver Kenny Irwin (30) was killed in the same turn on the same race track in Loudon, New Hampshire, during practice for the thatlook.com 300 [7 July 2000]. Irwin’s car hit the concrete wall and flipped on its roof. Both Irwin’s and Petty’s crashes at the speedway are blamed on a stuck accelerator that prevented the drivers from slowing down…….. The Rover CityRover, a rebadged version of the Indian-developed Tata Indica, was introduced [8 July 2000]. Offered with only one engine size, a Peugeot-derived 1,405-cc (1.4-L), 4-cylinder, 8-valve producing 85 bhp, it could accelerate to 60 mph in 11.9 seconds, with a top speed of 100 mph. Although the interior space and performance of the CityRover were considered good for a small car in contemporary road tests, the overall lack of quality, below-par road handling and high price were not well received. According to car reviewer Parkers, the CityRover (cover image) was the worst-rated Rover car from MG Rover, with a rating of 2 out of 5….. the following day [9 July 1990], Tony Stewart outran Joe Nemechek in the final laps and was declared the winner at New Hamp­shire (US) when a thunderstorm shortened the scheduled 300-lapper to 273 laps. Kenny Irwin, Jr., a promising young star, was killed in a practice crash.

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