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Automotive

January 20, 1946 – Kaiser Frazer debuts
Automotive, This Day

January 20, 1946 – Kaiser Frazer debuts

Following WWII, many entrepreneurs foresaw the need for new commodities, such as houses and automobiles. Successful shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser was one of those businessmen, and set his sights on the auto industry. To build vehicles, Kaiser partnered with Graham-Paige Motors to create the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation in August 1945. The name came from combining Kaiser's name with Graham-Paige CEO Joseph Frazer. It was on this day in 1946 that non-running prototypes of the new Frazer and its counterpart, the Kaiser K85 front wheel-drive car, debuted at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.  Development of the front wheel drive vehicle proved difficult to the extent that the idea died. Instead, the same body of the Kaiser would be planted on both the initial Frazer and Kaiser...
November 27, 1996 – The last Cadillac Fleetwood
Automotive, This Day

November 27, 1996 – The last Cadillac Fleetwood

The Fleetwood Metal Body was an early 20th century automobile coach builder that specialized in applying traditional methods of carriage construction that dated back as far as 300 years to modern automotive design. From its founding in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania in 1909, until Fisher Body purchased it in 1925, the company manufactured custom coaches for a variety of top tier automakers. One could order a Fleetwood body for their Packard, Duesenberg, Bentley, Mercedes, Pierce-Arrow, Stutz and sever other fine automobiles. Cadillac, too, was a customer of Fleetwood in its early days. Above: 1922 Duesenberg Model A bodied by Fleetwood. By Rex Gray CC BY 2.0 Top: Second generation Cadillac Fleetwood, similar to the last one made on this day in 1996 When Fisher Body acquired Fleetwood, ...
September 27, 1925 – Construction on Nürburgring racing circuit begins
Automotive, This Day

September 27, 1925 – Construction on Nürburgring racing circuit begins

On this day in 1925 construction on the Nürburgring racing circuit in Nürburg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany begins. The first races would take place on June 18, 1927 for motorcycles with sidecars, which Toni Ulmen won on an English 350 cc Velocette. Rudolf Caracciola took the checkers at the first automobile race, the following day. He drove a Mercedes Compressor to victory in the 5000 cc class. Above: Vintage sports car race at the track. Top: Rudolf Caracciola drives a Mercedes-Benz SSKL Rennsportwagen to victory at the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, July 19, 1931 with his co-driver Wilhelm Sebastian. Today, the motorsports complex features a Grand Prix track built in 1984 and has a crowd capacity of more than 150,000 people. The track’s biggest weekend of the year ...
April 25, 2001 – Michele Alboreto killed while testing Audi R8
Automotive

April 25, 2001 – Michele Alboreto killed while testing Audi R8

Michele Alboreto driving an Audi R8, similar to the one in which he died. By lecates CC BY-SA 2.0. Italian race car driver Michele Alboreto died on this day in 2001 during a test drive of an Audi R8 when he blew a tire during straight line speed tests, resulting in a fatal crash. Alboreto competed in Formula One from 1981 until 1994, racing for a number of different teams. This included five seasons with Ferrari between 1984 and 1988. In 1985 he placed second in the Formula One World Championship behind Alain Prost, but would go on to achieve numerous victories throughout his racing career. Notable wins came at the 1997 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 2001 12 Hours of Sebring sports car races. 
February 28, 1975 – AMC Introduces the Pacer
Automotive, This Day

February 28, 1975 – AMC Introduces the Pacer

The “first wide small car,” the AMC Pacer, hit showrooms on this day in 1975. Quickly earning the nickname the Flying Fishbowl, the Pacer and its 37% glass surface area was AMC’s sub compact snub to the gas guzzlers that were continuously rolling out of American auto plants. Despite worries from inside AMC about its design, the economical car received various accolades from Car and Driver and Road and Track. Popular Mechanics even wrote, “This is the first time in the history of the American automobile industry that a car manufacturer has said in advance of bringing out a new product that some people may not like it.” Above: D/L Coupe - By Triskel99 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0Top: 1975 AMC Pacer D/L by Greg Gherdingen Richard Teague, American Motor’s chief stylist, began work on th...
February 24, 1955 – F1 Champ Alain Prost is born
Automotive

February 24, 1955 – F1 Champ Alain Prost is born

2 Four time Formula One Driver’s Champion Alain Prost was born on this day in 1955. The French race car driver is tied for third most F1 Championships with Sebastian Vettel. He falls behind Juan Manuel Fangio, with five, and Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton, who are tied with seven trophies each.  Top: Prost practicing for his first event for Ferrari, the 1990 United States Grand Prix. By Stuart Seeger from College Station, Texas, USA - Prost Champion, CC BY 2.0, Above: Alain Prost driving a Renault RE40 by Jake Archibald, CC BY 2.0 Prost began his racing career in karting at the age of 14 after discovering the sport on a family holiday. By age 24 he had worked his way up from Formula Three to join McLaren’s Formula One team in 1980. Between his rookie year and 1993, Prost...
February 19, 1954 – Ford Thunderbird concept is completed
Automotive, This Day

February 19, 1954 – Ford Thunderbird concept is completed

The 1954 Ford Thunderbird concept at the Detroit Auto Show Ford Motor Company knew it needed a response, and fast, when Chevrolet rolled out the Corvette prototype in January 1953. Ford unveiled a plan to launch what would become the Thunderbird the very next month. From idea to rolling reality in just one year, the Ford Thunderbird prototype received its finishing touches on this day in 1954. The concept would debut to the public the following day at the Detroit Auto Show. We featured this 1955 Ford Thunderbird in our first episode of Cars & Bars. Watch here. Henry Ford II and William Clay Ford checking out the Thunderbird concept at the Detroit Auto Show in 1954. The Thunderbird would go into production the next fall and officially go on sale as a 1955 model on October 2...
December 8, 1956 – The Ford Ranchero debuts
Automotive

December 8, 1956 – The Ford Ranchero debuts

The Ford Ranchero made its debut at the New York Auto Show on this day in 1956. This car/truck mashup was a new type of automobile in the American market, but had sold steadily overseas for years. Years before the Ranchero came to market, the idea for the car/truck came from Ford Australian designer Lew Brandt. Inspired by a farmer looking for a vehicle to drive to church on Sundays and haul pigs on Mondays, Brandt grafted a bed into the body of the existing 1934 sedan models. The Ute, as it came to be known, remains a popular body style in Australia and elsewhere around the globe. In the USA domestic market, the most recent attempts to sell a similar vehicle includes the Chevrolet SSR, designed by Brian Baker, and the Subaru Baja, one of which this author proudly owns. Ford based ...
October 17, 1968 – Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen and a ’68 Mustang, debuts
Automotive, This Day

October 17, 1968 – Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen and a ’68 Mustang, debuts

The film Bullitt debuted on this day in 1968. In brief, I'll let film critic Roger Ebert explain the plot, using an excerpt from his 1968 review. "McQueen plays a San Francisco cop assigned as bodyguard to a syndicate witness. The witness gets shotgunned -- in the most brutally direct 10 seconds of film I can remember -- and McQueen becomes a political football. Robert Vaughn (better than usual) is the politician who puts the heat on, and it's up to McQueen to hide the victim's body until he can untangle the case." Alright, so what does this have to do with cars? Besides McQueen being a professional race car driver and lover of all things with wheels, the movie's highlight is a 10 minute car chase. This isn't your average Hollywood burn out. It's perhaps the best chase scene to eve...
August 13, 1898 – James Packard buys a Winton – dislikes it and starts Packard
Automotive, This Day

August 13, 1898 – James Packard buys a Winton – dislikes it and starts Packard

On this day in 1898, James Packard purchased a Winton Automobile, the 12th one of the make produced. Packard found himself dissatisfied with his new vehicle, which is strange, seeing as there was hardly, if anything, to compare it to at the time. In any case, he took his complaints directly to Alexander Winton, the founder of the car company. Any suggestions for improvement that Packard may have offered were waved off with a smirk and some phrase was uttered along the lines of, “If you think you can do better, then do so.” Packard took the challenge to heart. On November 6, 1899, the first Packard automobile was completed in Warren, Ohio. Above: 1911 Packard Thirty Touring car ad. Top: William Packard driving a c.1900 Packard Model A In September 1900 James and his brother Will...

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