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September 30, 1955 – James Dean dies driving Porsche 550 Spyder
Features, This Day

September 30, 1955 – James Dean dies driving Porsche 550 Spyder

Actor James Dean had just finished filming the movie Giant and was ready to get back to the action on the racetrack. During production of the movie, Warner Bros. barred Dean from pursuing a new passion, racing. The fear, of course, was injury, or worse, death. Unfortunately, Dean would not make it to the track before fate had its way. On this day in 1955, at the age 0f 24, James Dean was killed behind the wheel of his new Porsche 550 Spyder, en route to the Salinas Road Race.  Dean driving a Porsche 356 Dean, who starred in such movies as East of Eden, Giant and Rebel Without a Cause, took an interest in auto racing in 1954. His first professional race would come at Palm Springs Road Races, held March 26-27, 1955. The young driver's were on full display, taking first place in t...
September 29, 1913 – Inventor of the Diesel engine mysteriously disappears
This Day

September 29, 1913 – Inventor of the Diesel engine mysteriously disappears

On this day in 1913 the inventor of the Diesel engine disappeared from a ship never to be seen alive again. To tell the end of his journey, we must start at the beginning. In 1870, at the age of 12, Rudolf Diesel and his family fled Paris for London due to the Franco-Prussian war. Before the conflict ended Rudolph’s parents sent him to stay with an aunt and uncle in Augsburg. There he became fluent in German and developed an interest in math while watching his uncle teach it. Rudolph remained in Augsburg following the conflict to study engineering. He later landed a scholarship to the Royal Bavarian Polytechnic of Munich. After graduating in January of 1880 with the highest educational honors in his class, Rudolph moved to Paris to work for his former professor, Carl von Linde. The...
September 28, 1938 – Charles Duryea dies
This Day

September 28, 1938 – Charles Duryea dies

Charles Duryea On this day in 1938 US automobile inventor Charles Duryea passed away. Duryea, an engineer, and his brother Frank are recognized by many historians as the first people to manufacture a working automobile in the United States. Duryea grew up in Illinois before making his way to Washingon D.C. where he and Frank built bicycles. After relocating to Springfield, Massachusetts the pair began working on their motorized Duryea Wagon. Charles designed and engineered the machine while Frank handled much of the hands on construction. On September 22, 1893 they completed their first road test of the vehicle. After refining their design and producing 13 of the same cars in 1896, the Duryea Motor Wagon Company became the first automobile manufacturer in the country. Their ve...
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 ...
September 26, 1982 – Knight Rider debuts
Business

September 26, 1982 – Knight Rider debuts

On this day in 1982 the TV show Knight Rider made its prime time debut. The show starred David Hasselhoff as crime fighter Michael Knight who drove a customized 1982 Pontiac Trans AM named K.I.T.T., which stood for Knight Industries Two Thousands. The following is a previously written description of the car from Wikipedia: K.I.T.T. was designed by Michael Scheffe using Pontiac's 1982 Trans Am. Michael Scheffe had worked for Mattel designing toys, and had done some design work on Blade Runner. Scheffe had around 18 days to create his first mock up of K.I.T.T. for the network.  Stuntman Jack Gill says the car was dropped about an inch and a half from GM's stock height. The car also had around $2,000,000 worth of modifications. Spare cars were always on hand, and Universal eventually ...
September 25, 1963 – First ads run for Chevrolet Chevelle
This Day

September 25, 1963 – First ads run for Chevrolet Chevelle

Should you have opened your newspaper on this day in 1963, you may have come across an ad for a brand new Chevrolet, the Chevelle. Officially introduced by Bunkie Knudsen at a press conference the next day, the Chevelle was the only all new US car for the 1964 model year. (But what about the '64 1/2 Mustang!? Ford marketed and VINed the first Mustangs as 1965 models). Chevelle, Hebrew for "My god is a vow," or bold and beautiful, filled the gap between the smaller Chevy II and Chevrolet's full sized models. In its first year, 338,286 units left dealer lots. Top: The first Chevrolet Chevelle newspaper ads ran on this day in 1963 Above. 1964 Chevrolet Chevelle Malbu Coupe. By Barnstarbob CC BY-SA 3.0 Chevelle two door, four door, convertible and wagon variants came to market throu...
September 24, 1948 – Honda Motor Company is incorporated
This Day

September 24, 1948 – Honda Motor Company is incorporated

In 1937 Soichiro Honda founded a company to produce piston rings for Toyota. The walls soon came tumbling down, quite literally. At first, Toyota forced him to forfeit the contracts due to poor quality of his parts. While enhanced manufacturing research led them to be reinstated, another catastrophe lurked. During WWII a US bomb fell on one of Honda's factories, his other plant collapsed in an earthquake in 1945. His business dreams in ruin, he sold off salvageable parts and machinery. With the funds, he went in another direction, founding the Honda Technical Research Institute in 1946. This led to the development of a motorized bicycle powered by Honda’s first mass produced engine. It's success led to the incorporation of Honda Motor Company on this day in 1948. Above: 1949 Honda ...
September 23, 1972 – Crystal Palace sees its last professional race
This Day

September 23, 1972 – Crystal Palace sees its last professional race

The Crystal Palace circuit, a motor racing circuit in Crystal Palace Park in south London, England, saw its final professional race on this day in 1972. Club events would continue through 1974 before the track closed indefinitely.  Above: Surviving portion of Crystal Palace circuit. By Christopher Hilton, CC BY-SA 2.0 Top: Racing at Crystal Palace circuit The circuit opened in 1927 with a motorcycle race on May 21. The original one mile track primarily followed existing paths around the lake on the property. The road surface was made up of tarmac bends and hard packed gravel straightaways. At the end of 1936 track improvements began, which increased the course’s length to two miles.  The first London Grand Prix was held there on July 17, 1937, being won by Prince B...
September 22, 1893 – Duryea Brothers test first car
This Day

September 22, 1893 – Duryea Brothers test first car

On this day in 1893, brothers Frank and Charles Duryea debuted their first automobile on the streets of Springfield, Massachusetts. That initial drive came to a sudden halt after just a few hundred feet when their self-engineered transmission failed. Frank made a slight adjustment to the design and had the car back up and running, covering a half a mile later in the day. This event is often regarded as the first time an American manufactured, gasoline powered car was driven in the country. Above: Duryea Patent. Top: Duryea Brothers They build a second Duryea Wagon in 1894, using it to enter the Chicago Times Herald race the next year. The Duryea completed the 54 mile course ahead of the pack, winning the first automobile race in America. The Duryea Motor Wagon Company offici...
September 21,1959 – Plymouth Valiant starts rolling off the line
This Day

September 21,1959 – Plymouth Valiant starts rolling off the line

1960 Plymouth Valiant. By Emdx - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 It could have been the Falcon, given its code name during development, but Henry Ford II called dips on the bird. So, Chrysler settled on Valiant for its all new entry into the compact car market dominated by the VW Beetle at the end of the 1950s. As headlights illuminated the end of days for tail fins and excess chrome, Chrysler produced its first Valiant on this day in 1959. It would debut as a stand alone model for 1960, before receiving Plymouth script for 1961. In '62 and '63 it returned to lone wolf status, but it's Plymouth badge became permanent the next year. It would survive for four generations, with Plymouth Valiant production ending in 1976.

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