This Week In Motoring History: June 1st – June 9th

Week in Motoring history

June 1

Henry Leland, the founder of the Cadillac Motor Car Company, resigned as company president on this on June 1st. Ever since William Durant had arranged for General Motors to purchase Cadillac, Leland and Durant had endured a strained relationship, but Leland’s electric starter and introduction of the V-8 engine helped make Cadillac so successful early on that Durant had avoided meddling with the autonomy of his company. The two stubborn men continued to butt heads. Durant refused to respond to Leland’s urgings, and then Leland resigned. Leland left Cadillac and went on to start the Lincoln Motor Car Company.

The Nissan Motor Company is founded
In 1934, the Tokyo-based Jidosha-Seizo Kabushiki-Kaisha (Automobile Manufacturing Co., Ltd. in English) takes on a new name: Nissan Motor Company. In 1960, Nissan became the first Japanese automaker to win the Deming Prize for engineering excellence. New Datsun models like the Bluebird (1959), the Cedric (1960) and the Sunny (1966) helped spur Nissan sales in Japan and other global markets, and the company experienced phenomenal growth during the 1960s.

June 2

Henry Seagrave drove a Sunbeam to victory in the French Grand prix at Tours.

Bruce McLaren built his first car with the help of his father who was a mechanic with an interest in racing. He became the youngest man ever to win a Formula One Grand Prix event, which has still not been broken. McLaren exhibited a gift for car design and, by 1964, he was building his own racecars and aiding Ford’s design team in its highly successful GT program. In 1966 he won the 24 Hours of LeMans for Ford. He summed up his attitude toward the dangers of car racing eloquently, “To do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy. It would be a waste of life to do nothing with one’s ability, for I feel that life is measured in achievement, not in years alone.” In 1970, testing his newest Can-Am car, the M8D, McLaren lost his life pushing the limits of his abilities; the racing team that bears his name survives him as the one of Formula One’s dominant forces. Bruce McLaren was killed on this day in 1970 when his McLaren M8D lost its back end and collided with an earthen embankment at the Goodwood race track in England.

Consumer Reports called for recall of Suzuki Samurai SUV. After its tests determined that the Samurai was unstable and had a tendency to roll over, the consumer publication called for Suzuki to recall all of the Samurai models. The Center for Auto Safety had previously argued for the recall, but Suzuki continued to insist that the Samurai was a “safe and stable vehicle.”

June 3

Ransom Eli Olds was born to Pliny and Sarah Olds in the northeastern town of Geneva, Ohio. The Olds family moved to Lansing, Michigan, where his father opened a machine shop called Pliny Olds & Son. The son wasn’t Ransom but his older brother Wallace Ransom, though, worked in the shop part time, after school and on weekends while taking business courses at the Lansing Business College. After moving the company’s focus towards steam, he took the chance that putting a gas engine in a buggy would be successful. It doesn’t exist today, but it has paid off for 107 years.

Mack adopted Bulldog as symbol for Mack trucks.

Manfred von Brauchitsh scored the Mercedes-Benz Type W25 debut victory by winning the Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Du Pont in General Motors suit in 1957. It was ruled that the chemical company had to give up its large stock interest in the Detroit-based automobile company General Motors on the grounds that its concentration of power interfered with trade. Between 1917 and 1919 Du Pont invested $50 million in General Motors, becoming the automaker´s largest stockholder with a 23-percent share. The chemical company´s founder, Pierre S. Du Pont, served as GM´s president from 1920 to 1923 and as chairman of the company´s board from 1923 to 1929. By that time, General Motors had passed Ford Motor Company as the largest manufacturer of passenger cars in the United States, and had become one of the largest companies in the world, in any industry.

“Hot Rod Lincoln” reaches No. 9 on the Billboard charts. Although the song was first recorded in 1955, it was written by Charlie Ryan — who had a real hot rod Lincoln — and recorded by Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen in 1972. It reached as high as No. 7 in Canada as well. Today, George Frayne (Commander Cody) lives in upstate New York and is a well-known automotive artist.

June 4

At approximately 1:30 A.M. on June 4th, 1896, Henry Ford test drove his Quadricycle – the first automobile he ever designed or drove. Ford was working at the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit during the time in which he began building the Quadricycle. Ford completed his Quadricycle early in the morning on this day in 1896 and couldn’t wait to test the invention. Only one of his associates, Jim Bishop, was present at the time of the vehicle’s completion. In all of his enthusiasm in getting the car together Ford failed to consider that the 500-pound, two-cylinder vehicle was too wide to fit through the doors of the shed where it was built. Bishop and Ford took the doors and a portion of the wall off of the shed, and Ford took off down the alley behind his shop.

Kihachiro Kawashima, Executive Vice President, and General Manager of American Honda Motor Company (seven employees, operating capital of $250,000.) opened up shop in small storefront office on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles to serve consumers wanting small, lightweight, and easy to handle and maintain two-wheeled vehicles.

Colin McCrae and Derek Ringer win the Acroplis Rally in a Subaru Impreza.

June 5

Henry Ford initiated 32 hour work week.

Gordon M. Buehrig was issued a United States patent for his “vehicle top with removable panels,” an invention that would later appear as a “T-top” on the 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Gordon helped Smokey and The Bandit and hundreds of the rest of us look cool in the 70’s and early 80’s.

Bruce McLaren wins the USAC-sanctioned sports car race at Mosport, Ontario, Canada, driving a Cooper-Oldsmobile car.

Autoworkers´ union calls strike at General Motors parts factory
A total of 3,400 members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union 1998, walked out on their jobs at a General Motors (GM) metal-stamping factory in Flint, Michigan. This would begin a strike that lasted seven weeks and stalled production at GM facilities nationwide. By the late 1990s, years of improved profits had helped the union gain back the ground it had lost with those concessions, and relations between labor and management had subsequently become more contentious again. In the year leading up to the walkout in Flint, GM faced no less than seven strikes at factories across the country, mostly over issues of job security. The 1998 strike didn´t end General Motor´s problems with the UAW: In September 2007, the union launched a nationwide strike against GM, with 73,000 workers walking out and halting operations in 30 states for two days until a resolution was agreed upon.

June 6

Walter P. Chrysler renamed Maxwell Motor Company as the Chrysler Corporation.

The first gasoline tax levied by Congress was enacted on this day as a part of the Revenue Act of 1932. Congress placed one-cent per gallon tax on gasoline and other motor fuel sold around the country.

In 1933, eager motorists parked their automobiles on the grounds of Park-In Theaters, the first-ever drive-in movie theater, located on Crescent Boulevard in Camden, New Jersey. Park-In Theaters – AKA “drive-in” as they came to be known as – was the brainchild of Richard Hollingshead, a movie fan and a sales manager at his father´s company, Whiz Auto Products, in Camden. Reportedly inspired by his mother´s struggle to sit comfortably in traditional movie theater seat, Hollingshead came up with the idea of an open-air theater where patrons watched movies in the comfort of their own automobiles. Advertising it as entertainment for the whole family, Hollingshead charged 25-cents per car and 25-cents per person, with no group paying more than one dollar. Today, fewer than 500 drive-in theaters survive in the United States.

Dave Strickler, a 1960s drag racer (nicknamed “Old Reliable” Chevy), dies of a heart attack while mowing his lawn in York, Pennsylvania.

Daimler Chrysler was formed today! Daimler-Benz and Chrysler Corporation announced the world’s largest cross-border deal ever, valued at US $38billion, and the resulting change in company name to DaimlerChrysler AG.

June 7

Alberto Ascari drove a Ferrari 500 to victory in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.

The Ford Motor Company formed a styling/design team to take on the project of creating an entirely new car that would later be named the Edsel. The decision came as Ford enjoyed its greatest historical success in the 1950s. The 1954 Thunderbird had outsold its Chevy counterpart, the Corvette, and the consumer demand for automobiles, in all price brackets, was steadily increasing. The Edsel project was launched with great fanfare and vigorous advertising. During the years between the car’s conception and its production, by the time the Edsel was released in 1957, the American economy took a downturn. Public reaction to the car’s exaggerated styling was tepid at best, with its puckering grille. To this day the Edsel remains the biggest failure in American car history. History, however, has treated the Edsel a little more kindly.

Known as Schweizerische Kreditanstalt — Zurich, Switzerland opened the first drive-in bank

June 8

Noted automobile designer and engineer Dr. Ferdinand Porsche drove the first Porsche two-seat prototype, known as 356-1, in Gmund, Austria, near the sawmill where it was built.

Richard Petty wins the Tuborg 400 NASCAR stock car race at Riverside, California, USA (1975).

On this day in 1986 racecar driver Tim Richmond won the first of his seven Winston Cup Series races, a total that would vault him to third place in the Series point race and ultimately solidify his reputation as one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers. Richmond and fellow driver Dale Earnhardt were named co-drivers of the year by NASCAR. Tim Richmond was one of the most talented to ever race a stock car.

June 9

Robert Strange McNamara was born in San Francisco, California on this day. McNamara received a degree in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.B.A from Harvard Business School. Enter Ford Motor Corporation. Reigning atop a messy, outdated family company registering heavy losses, Henry Ford II was smart enough to recognize that the system he had inherited form his grandfather was in need of an overhaul. He hired a group of “Whiz Kids,” that ranged in age from 26 to 34 they began work in February 1946, and two, McNamara and fellow Whiz Kid Arjay Miller, rose to the position of company president. At Col. Thornton’s departure from Ford, McNamara became the de facto leader of the Whiz Kids. He instituted the systematic sampling of public opinion, known now as “market research”; he hired Ford President Lee Iacocca; and he conceived the Ford Falcon. A registered republican, McNamara was offered a cabinet position by John F. Kennedy after the 1960 presidential election, and given the choice of becoming Secretary of Defense or Secretary of the Treasury. He chose the Defense Department. McNamara remained Secretary of Defense until 1968, when his changing attitude toward the war in Vietnam led him to resign.

It was 2006, when the animated feature film “Cars,” produced by Pixar Animation Studios, roared into theaters across the United States. For “Cars,” which won the first-ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Pixar´s animators created an alternate America inhabited by vehicles instead of humans. “Cars” featured the voices of some of the leading figures in auto racing, beginning with the late Paul Newman, the legendary actor-turned-race car driver, Racing legends Mario Andretti (as himself), Richard Petty (as The King) and Michael Schumacher (as a Ferrari) can also be heard, along with sports announcers Darrell Waltrip and Bob Costas.


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