Automotive

June 7, 1992 – NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. died
Automotive, This Day

June 7, 1992 – NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. died

America’s prohibition era surely fueled the rise of NASCAR, but it took one man to make it official. Drivers who delivered illegal alcohol needed fast cars to outrun police, so they regularly tuned their vehicles for more power and better handling. Following prohibition, these drives still possessed a need for speed. They began to organize races, pitting their hopped up cars against each other, often in hopes of bringing home a cash prize. Daytona mechanic Bill France Sr., loved what the racing scene, but believed it could use more structure. With the assistance of a few partners, he developed a points system and race schedule for stock car racing. Above: The first NASCAR-sanctioned race was held on Daytona Beach in 1948 for modified-sportsman cars. (Photo by ISC Archives via Getty I...
May 30, 1911 – The first Indianapolis 500
Automotive

May 30, 1911 – The first Indianapolis 500

With more than 80,000 fans looking on from the grandstands of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a $25,000 prize purse up for grabs, the inaugural Indianapolis 500 got underway on this day in 1911. Some figures state as many as 100,000 actually watched trackside as 40 drivers zipped around the Brickyard. Finally, after six hours, 42 minutes and 8 seconds, the checkered flag flew. Ray Harroun, driving his Marmon Model 32-based Wasp, took the victory, or so it seemed. A controversy was brewing.  Bob Burman, Louis Disbrow, Jack Tower, and Joe Grennon at the 1911 Indianapolis 500 Harroun had outfitted his car with a rearview mirror, an invention of his own, which allowed him to be the only racer to compete without a riding mechanic. He was cited as a hazard on the racetrack due to this, a...
May 22, 1969 – Racing movie “Winning,” starring Paul Newman, debuts
Automotive

May 22, 1969 – Racing movie “Winning,” starring Paul Newman, debuts

Action racing drama "Winning" starring Paul Newman and directed by James Goldstone debuted on this day in 1969. Also starring Joanne Woodward and Robert Wagner, the film is about a race car driver who aspires to win the Indianapolis 500 at any cost. A number of professional drivers and racing industry people appear in the film, including Bobby Unser,Dan Gurney, Roger McCluskey, and Bruce Walkup. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPxZSodp3fc The plot, according to Wikipedia, is "Professional racecar driver Frank Capua (Paul Newman) meets divorcee Elora (Newman's real-life wife Joanne Woodward). After a whirlwind romance they are married. Charley (Richard Thomas), Elora's teenage son by her first husband, becomes very close to Frank, and helps him prepare his cars for his races. ...
May 7, 1998 – Daimler-Benz purchases Chrysler Corporation
Automotive, This Day

May 7, 1998 – Daimler-Benz purchases Chrysler Corporation

On this day in 1998 Daimler-Benz purchases Chrysler Corporation for $36 billion. This deal is the largest acquisition of a US company by a foreign buyer. The sale proved to be quite beneficial in the short term, as stock prices rose quickly on the New York Stock Exchange, but the sweetness soon turned sour. In 2006, following a $1.5 billion loss on the year, Daimler sold Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management for a measly $7.4 billion. Photo: Plymouth Prowler
May 5, 1914 – Cannonball Baker starts his first cross country run
Automotive

May 5, 1914 – Cannonball Baker starts his first cross country run

Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, the winner of the first race everz at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (a motorcycle race in which he rode an Indian), took off from San Diego on this day in 1914 in his first of many runs across America. He reached his destination, New York City, riding an Indian Motorcycle in just 11 days, smashing the old record by 9 days. After the incredibly quick run a journalist stated that Baker was faster than the Cannonball express train. The name stuck. To this day cross-country races, usually unsanctioned and outlawed, are known as cannonball runs all across the world. In the 1970s Car and Driver sponsored five Cannonball Runs, none were official races, yet they each gathered quite a crowd and allowed for numerous records to be set. They were conducted in protest ...
April 22, 1870 – Mitsubishi is founded with 3 old steam ships
Automotive, This Day

April 22, 1870 – Mitsubishi is founded with 3 old steam ships

After purchasing three agin steam ships, including the Golden Age (above), Yataro Iwasaki founded Mitsubishi Group on this day in 1870 as a shipping company. Iwasaki grew his business quickly by becoming the first Japanese business to offer overseas mail delivery to China. Over the next few years competition heated up on the seas, including with government rivals, but Mitsubishi was playing several other fields ashore during this time. Aside from shipping, the company expanded into mining copper and coal, and shipbuilding. In 1893, Yataro’s son Hisaya, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, became president of the company. He set up different divisions within the company, including banking, real estate, and marketing. Eventually, an automotive development group came about.  Above: M...
April 15, 1964 – Gail Wise is first to buy a Ford Mustang
Automotive

April 15, 1964 – Gail Wise is first to buy a Ford Mustang

On this day in 1964, two days before the Ford Mustang was officially supposed to go on sale, one mistakenly left the dealership. The lucky new owner, the first person to buy a Mustang , was Gail Wise, a 22 year old school teacher from Chicago. Her parents let her the money after she landed her new job, but had no way to get to and from the school she was to teach at. She head to a local dealership in search of a convertible. When she expressed her desires she was disheartened to learn no drop tops were in stock. Perhaps seeing her dismay, the salesman told her he had a special surprise and led her to a backroom. Not sketchy at all... History is Driven. $19.99 Much to her relief she found a baby blue Ford Mustang convertible. The car had yet to be released to the public, and the sale...
April 6, 1904 – VW Beetle & Porsche 356 designer Erwin Komenda is born
Automotive, This Day

April 6, 1904 – VW Beetle & Porsche 356 designer Erwin Komenda is born

Sure, Ferdinand Porsche often gets the credit for the Volkswagen Type 1, but let's not forget he had a huge team working for him during its development. Among his employees was Erwin Komenda, who first met Porsche while working as a designer at Steyr in the late 1920s. When Porsche left Steyr and began his own automotive engineering firm, Komenda followed him. He became the head of the the bodywork design department, a position he would hold until his death in 1966. Above: Erwin Komenda was a lead designer for the 1936 Porsche Type 60 prototype for the German "Volkswagen". By Ralf Roletschek -GFDL 1.2. Top: Erwin Komenda, left, with Ferry Porsche and Ferdinand Porsche and the first Porsche 356. Early in his career with Porsche he designed the body of what would become the Volkswagen...
March 24, 1970 – Buddy Baker breaks 200 MPH barrier on closed circuit
Automotive, This Day

March 24, 1970 – Buddy Baker breaks 200 MPH barrier on closed circuit

On this day in 1974 Buddy Baker drove a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona to 200.447 MPH at Talladega during "transmission testing." During the run he became the first person to break 200 MPH on a closed circuit track. Scroll down to see video of the run and then check out great this article from Hagerty about Larry Rathgeb, one of the engineers of the Daytona program. He unfortunately passed away in 2020 due to complications with Coronavirus. (Video below). Original video of the record setting run: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1rz4W560P0
March 21, 1960 – F1 World Drivers’ Champion Ayrton Senna da Silva is born
Automotive

March 21, 1960 – F1 World Drivers’ Champion Ayrton Senna da Silva is born

Brazilian F1 driver Ayrton Senna da Silva, commonly known as Ayrton Senna, was born on this day in 1960. During his career he would rack up numerous championships and miles of controversy. After racing karts for several years, he made his Formula One debut in 1984 with Toleman-Hart. After a stint at Lotus, he joined McLaren-Honda In 1988, becoming teammates with Alain Prost. Though racing for the same team, the two would become rivals on the track. Senna won his first World Drivers' Championship in 1988, while Prost earned his third the following year. Senna again won in 1990 and 1991, while Prost wouldn't snag the trophy again until 1993. The rivalry hit its highs during this time. The Japanese Grand Prix of 1989 and 1990 became the championship deciding race each year. Whoever perfor...