Friday, February 5, 2016

American Automobile Technological Firsts, 1893-1929

1893 -- Duryea -- 1st car built in the USA
1898 --Winton -- 1st US Car Sold
1901 -- Autocar -- 1st Shaft -Driven US Car
1901 --Olds--1st Volume-Produced Car
1903-- Winton -- 1st Car to Cross US
1903 Rambler -- 1st Standard Windshield
1905 -- Ignition Locks and Packard Magneto Ignition
1906 -- Front Bumpers Appear
1907 -- First Service Station in the US; First Demountable Rims
1908 -- Rambler -- First Spare Tire
1911 -- Cadillac -- First Self-Starter
1913 -- Ford -- First Moving Assembly Line
1914 First Spiral-Bevel Rear Axles
1914 -- Maxwell -- First Adjustable Seat
1916 -- First Hand-Operated Windshield Wiper; First Standard Stop lights on Some Cars
1917 -- First Battery under Hood
1919 -- City of Detroit has first 3 colored traffic lights
1921 -- Hudson/Essex Closed Stell-Bodied Car
1922 -- First Carburetor Air Cleaner
1923 -- Duco Paint Finish; Packard 4 wheel Brakes
1924 -- Tetraethyl Lead Gasoline Additive
1924 -- Ballon Tires Standard; Thermostatic Control of Cooling System; Chrysler High Compression Engine, 7 Bearing Crankshaft
1925 -- First Hydraulic Shock Absorber
1926 -- First Chrome Plating
1928 -- Safety Glass Windshield Standard
1928 -- Fuel Pumps Introduced
1929 -- First Downdraft Carburetor and Auto Radio

Friday, January 29, 2016

Ferdinand Porsche at the 1900 Paris Exhibition

Paris, 1900: The fifth World Exhibition eclipsed everything that had gone before. An area covering more than 200 hectares in the midst of the Metropolis between the Ferris wheel and the Grand Palais presented the “achievements of a century”, with over 75,000 exhibitors displaying everything that was modern and exciting.
Ferdinand Porsche also travelled to Paris, along with his employer, the Austrian vehicle builder Ludwig Lohner. The young Porsche had spent the recent months exclusively in the workshop, deeply immersed in his designs or standing for hours at the workbench bent over electric motors, wheel hubs and massive, heavy lead-acid batteries. After only four years working at the Vereinigte Elektrizitäts-AG in Vienna, the 22-year-old had advanced to become head of the test department, where he had attracted attention by his achievements, including the design of an electric bicycle and a drive system for the Viennese coachbuilder Ludwig Lohner.
Lohner was so inspired by the visionary designer that he headhunted Ferdinand Porsche without further ado in 1898 – and put him completely in charge of building an improved successor to the electric coach. Within a mere ten weeks, Porsche had assembled the first “Lohner Porsche” from his bold plans. Two electric motors were arranged directly in the hub of the front wheels so that the drive wheels also carried out the steering function. However, there was one main reason why Porsche was able to create a drive system of such unparalleled efficiency – by leaving out transmission, belts and chains, he minimised friction losses.
In the automotive sector, this “Electric Phaeton” was the greatest innovation at the World Exhibition – and a tremendous success. The Lohner Porsche was hailed by the press as the “most distinctive novelty” and “epoch-making innovation”. And its creator? The World Exhibition in Paris set the stage for his first major appearance. “He is still very young,” Ludwig Lohner explained when asked about the hitherto unknown designer. “But he is a man with a great career ahead of him. You are going to hear a lot more from him, his name is Ferdinand Porsche.”

An Introduction to the History of the Automobile in America during the 1970s

My wife and our 1973 Pinto?

The 1970s: Never Forgotten, Never Celebrated
“Nobody is apt to look on the 1970s as the good old days.” – Time Magazine.
“It seemed like nothing happened.” – Peter N. Carroll title of his monograph on the 1970s.

Personally, the 1970s was a lost decade. And my memories of that time are for the most part filed in the deepest recesses of my mind, perhaps to preserve my present equillibrium.  My cars from those days reflect a similar mentality.  Nostalgia of those days is largely absent, and amnesia is the general rule. In looking back, how can a decade can be seen as positive  “auto” biographically, when the best car that I owned during the decade was a 1973 Pinto?
 That Pinto was a trooper of a car, powered by a 1.6 liter Kent engine that never quit. And contrary to my student’s perceptions, that car did not explode and kill its occupants! In contrast, my 1974 Capri V-6 was my first (and last) new car, a vehicle plagued with issues that included a clutch cable that kinked time after time after replacement, often at the most inconvenient times as I was crossing the Mississippi River Bridge in New Orleans.  The Capri was equipped with a water pump that for a year or so would last would last less than a 1000 miles. Those were the good ones, as several pumps could not be bolted on properly because flanges were not machined flat and thus uneven pumps fractured when bolted down!   And to add insult to injury, at the end of the decade my family purchased a 1979 Chevy Malibu that I subsequently inherited, featuring the infamous THM-200 transmission that blew pan gaskets and overheated repetitively. That problem was only solved after I tore that transmission out and replaced it with one proper for a V-8 engine. And it seems that everyone from my generation has similar car story disasters to tell.
On a far broader scope than that of personal or auto history, Andreas Killen has argued that the seventies continue as "the foundling of recent American history, claimed by no one." It was a decade of dwindling birth rates, the lowest in American history.  Given what happened to the U.S. in Vietnam, it was a time in which the limits of the nation’s global power was once and for all exposed. And our national identity was transformed, as homogenized culture derived from traditional class and economic structures gave way to new sensibilities that were linked to ethnicity, race, and gender.  Gays, feminists, African –Americans, and the elderly all wanted a place at the table, and to a lesser degree perhaps, their own distinctive rides.
One significant question centers on the extent that a complacent American automobile industry recognize the emergence of a rapidly evolving new social matrix, one contained within an economy characterized by both inflation and recession?[1] Secondly, how pervasive was the notion that the automobile had become a social problem, as argued by James Flink in his The Automobile Age and reflected in the contemporary writings of Ralph Nader, Emma Rothschild, John Jerome, Lester Brown, and others?
For the American automobile industry, the seventies have never ended. Intense foreign competition, high fuel prices, federal government regulation concerning safety and the environment, quality and reliability, potential power train transitions, and disaffected consumers all surfaced during the early 1970s and really never went away.  Yet, scholars focusing on automobile history have utterly neglected the decade.  Perhaps the oversight is because these years followed the glorious 1950s and 60s. Perhaps, the disregard is a consequence of enthusiasts' distain of what is regarded as the post-1972 "Malaise Era." 
      Nevertheless, in terms of both automobile history and global history this period contains all the ingredients of revolutionary and enduring change.  It was an era characterized by the loss of product quality and Detroit Three market shares due to the emergence of a rapidly changing global economy.  On the street, Americans experienced the appearance of cars equipped with ugly bumpers and poor running engines, annoying buzzers, and quick-to-rust body parts.

[1] Peter N. Carroll, It Seemed Like Nothing Happened (New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 2nd ed., 2000), Preface.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Salon Retromobile February 3 to 7 2016

from the 2011 show

French classic-car enthusiasts established the Salon Rétromobile 40 years ago. Since its premiere in 1976, the show has become one of the most important events on the international classic-car calendar and also the season's curtain-raiser. Given the huge popularity of the show in recent years, the 2016 event is being held in Halls 1 and 2.2 of the Exhibition Centre at Porte de Versailles, Paris.
The organisers are expecting around 450 exhibitors and more than 100 clubs with over 500 vehicles on display. In addition to manufacturers, associations and dealers, exhibitors include restorers, art dealers and service providers covering multiple aspects of classic cars. Focal points of the event include the new vehicles from the year in which the Rétromobile was established – 1976 – among them the Mercedes-Benz W 123, which marks a milestone in the E-Class tradition.
Further highlights include an exhibition of record-breaking cars from the collection at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, futuristic vehicle designs from past decades and classics from the early years of the 20th century. Rétromobile 2016 will also feature auctions of historic cars, hosted by the Artcurial auction house among others.
The Salon Rétromobile show takes place from 3 to 7 February 2016. On the Wednesday (3 February) the show is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., while on the other days the opening times are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Preview: Porsche and the 24 Hours at Daytona, January 30-31, 2016

The new Porsche 911 RSR and the new Porsche 911 GT3 R contest their first races on the Daytona International Speedway. The Porsche North America works squad campaigns the 911 RSR in the GTLM class, with the 911 GT3 R fielded by customer teams in the GTD class. Porsche’s track record at Daytona includes 22 overall and 76 class victories, making Porsche the most successful manufacturer in the history of this prestigious race.

The race

Next to Le Mans, Daytona is the greatest long distance classic in international motor racing. The 24-hour event is held on the 5.729-kilometre Daytona International Speedway, one of the most famous racetracks in the world. Combining the original oval and the infield, the circuit includes twelve turns, two of them banked.

The Porsche drivers

Nine Porsche factory pilots and one Porsche Junior tackle Daytona. The reigning IMSA GT Champion Patrick Pilet (France) as well as Nick Tandy (Great Britain) and Kévin Estre (France) take on the GTLM class in the number 911 vehicle of Porsche North America, the winner of all three GT titles in the 2015 IMSA SportsCar Championship. Sharing the cockpit of the number 912 contender for the legendary endurance race are their works driver colleagues Earl Bamber (New Zealand), Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and Michael Christensen (Denmark). Other Porsche works drivers contest the GTD class with the 911 GT3 R for customer teams: Wolf Henzler (Germany) drives for Seattle/Alex Job Racing, Patrick Long (USA) for Black Swan Racing and Jörg Bergmeister (Germany) for Park Place Motorsports. Porsche Junior Sven Müller (Germany) will also compete at Daytona in the 911 GT3 R fielded by Frikadelli Racing.

The Porsche vehicles

The 911 RSR received not only a new factory finish for the 2016 season. The 470 hp winning racer from Weissach, which is based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car, received modifications to the aerodynamics to comply with the new regulations. The position of the rear wing was moved further to the back, with the rear diffuser now considerably larger. Moreover, the 911 RSR received a modified front spoiler lip as well as wide side sills. The new 911 GT3 R celebrates its race debut at Daytona mounted with the new ultra-modern four-litre flat-six engine with direct fuel injection. Porsche built the 500 hp customer sport racer, based on the 911 GT3 RS production sports car, for GT3 series worldwide. In developing the vehicle, the engineers at Weissach paid special attention to lightweight design, better aerodynamic efficiency, reducing consumption as well as improved handling.

Porsche’s successes

The first of 22 outright victories for Porsche at Daytona went to Vic Elford, Jochen Neerpasch, Rolf Stommelen, Jo Siffert and Hans Herrmann in 1968 with the Porsche 907. The most recent overall win in 2010 went to Joao Barbosa, Terry Borcheller, Ryan Dalziel and Mike Rockenfeller with the Porsche-Riley. In the traditionally very competitive GT classes, Porsche has notched up a record 76 wins. 2014 yielded the most recent victory with Richard Lietz, Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet clinching GTLM class honours. 

The schedule

The Daytona 24-hour race starts on Saturday, 30 January, at 14.40 hours local time (20.40 hours CET). Outside the USA, the race can be seen live on

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Part II: A Second "Simple" Article on what is a Sports Car

In a March, 1956 Road & Track article Alan Beck, wrote perhaps the best contemporary explanation of what exactly was this unpractical thing  called a sports car:
A sports car is a fast-moving, slow-drifting, road loving heap of mechanistic perfection that will go faster, stop quicker, last longer, outgun, out run, and out fun any other pile of iron ever bolted together in this, or any other grand old country. It is like a smooth, well-built, brown-eyed blond who moves in the society of Hollywood, Manhattan, London, Paris, or Rome, but prefers stupid old you from Keokuk, Iowa….
            A sports car is a flash in the rainy night, a creature with a mind and a will of its own….
            A sports car is the twin jabs of the downshift at 50 miles an hour as the 90 degree corner comes up without any tire-screaming, gravel throwing slide into the shoulder. It is the rock-steady whine of 5000 rpm on the long straight-away, the big needle touching the magic 100 figure on the circular black dial. It is the whoosh that went by you on the lonely back road. It is what gives that heart-in-the mouth sensation as you sail as you sail down the long hill into Watkins Glen for race week and the sense the magic ahead….
            A sports car expects and deserves the pampering of a spoiled and expensive wife….
            It is a barky exhaust, the long sweep of a clean fender, an honesty of line, a functional hunk of power dictated by engineers instead of housewives….

            Sports cars are a happy and proud breed – like the Scotch tartans, French fleur-de-lis. And British crests, but wjen you acquire one, don’t expect understanding, credit, appreciation, or admiration. To the world, a sports car will ever evoke: “What do you want that thing for?  It’s not practical.” And you can’t answer – because the answer is out there in the sunset of a winter’s day on the wide open road, the wind stinging past your upturned mackinaw, the contented purr of the big engine turning into a whine, and the needle of the rev counter creeping up into the red.