This Day

September 16, 1920 – The first Lincoln automobile
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September 16, 1920 – The first Lincoln automobile

npcc.30643 1915 National Photo Company Henry Leland founded Lincoln Motor Company in 1917 to produce Liberty V12 aircraft engine for the US involvement in World War I. Leland, who also founded Cadillac in 1903, was able to fund the company after receiving a $10 million government contract to produce the engines. By the time the war concluded, the company's Detroit plant had been the final assembly location of more than 6,500 airplane motors made of parts sourced from Ford, Cadillac, Packard and other automakers. Since their contract ended with the war, Leland and his son planned a transition into building luxury automobiles. While retooling their facility they officially reorganized as an automaker in January of 1920. Just nine months later, on this day in 1920, the first Lin...
September 15, 1909 – Henry Ford loses legal fight of a lifetime, files appeal
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September 15, 1909 – Henry Ford loses legal fight of a lifetime, files appeal

It was on this day in 1909 that a court battle between George Selden and Henry Ford that started on October 22, 1903 came to an end...almost. To get to this point, let’s review: George Selden held an 1895 US patent for the gasoline powered automobile. This made him eligible to receive royalties from all automakers in the United States, all without manufacturing any vehicles himself. With executives at Electric Vehicle Company (EVC), he founded the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers (ALAM) in 1903 as an overlord of the American auto industry. This association set up a simple way for automakers to pay their royalties to Selden and the EVC.  When Henry Ford set up Ford Motor Company in 1903 he tried to join ALAM, but he was denied. It’s theorized he was not admitted...
September 14, 1969 – Dodge Charger Daytona makes NASCAR debut, wins at Talladega
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September 14, 1969 – Dodge Charger Daytona makes NASCAR debut, wins at Talladega

On this day in 1969 the inaugural Talladega 500 went under the green flag, despite many of NASCAR’s biggest names skipping the race. Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Wendell Scott, Buddy Baker and other members of the Professional Driver Association boycotted the event, due to concerns about tire safety. During Grand National practice at the new track, which held its first auto race just the day before, multiple drivers experienced blowouts. Many believed the cause of the trouble was the track being too fast, resulting in increased tire wear. To ensure the show went on, NASCAR founder Bill France enticed enough drivers from the previous day’s Grand Touring event to race the 500 too. Amid the controversy, a brand new car hit the track for the first time, the 1969 Dodge Ch...
September 13, 1899 – First pedestrian killed by a car in the USA
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September 13, 1899 – First pedestrian killed by a car in the USA

On this day in 1899, as Henry Bliss exited a streetcar at West 74th Street and Central Park West in New York City an electric taxicab driven by Arthur Smith struck him. The vehicle crushed Bliss’ head and chest, causing him to die from his injuries the next morning. His passing marked the first time an automobile killed a human in the United States. Smith, who was ferrying Dr. David Edson, the son of former NYC mayor Franklin Edson, faced charges of manslaughter, but his case was later acquitted. On the 100th anniversary of the event a plaque was placed and dedicated at the intersection where the accident occurred. It reads, “Here at West 74th Street and Central Park West, Henry H. Bliss dismounted from a streetcar and was struck and knocked unconscious by an automobile on the e...
September 12, 1966 – The press meets the Chevrolet Camaro
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September 12, 1966 – The press meets the Chevrolet Camaro

On this day in 1966 members of the press were invited to a special General Motors event to meet the car that would go head to head with the Ford Mustang, the Chevrolet Camaro. The car had already been rolling off assembly lines since August 11, but this was the first time anyone outside GM got an up close look at the “Small vicious animal that eats Mustangs,” as described by Chevrolet general manager Pete Estes. The car would officially go on sale as a 1967 model about two weeks later, on September 29. Above: 1967 Chevrolet Camaro. By GTHO - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0. Top. First generation Chevrolet Camaro ad. Available as a 2+2 coupe or convertible, buyers had many options to choose from when selecting their new car. Under the hood alone there were seven options for 1967, ranging ...
September 11, 1970 – The Ford Pinto goes on sale
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September 11, 1970 – The Ford Pinto goes on sale

The public met the Ford Pinto on this day in 1970, exactly one year to the day Ford fired former president Bunkie Knudsen. Ford developed the subcompact to compete with the influx of small cars of the era, particularly imports, but also domestics such like the Chevy Vega, introduced one day prior. Between 1971 and 1980, more than 3 million Pintos would roll out off assembly lines. However, it wasn’t the fact that the Pinto was the first mass produced car to feature rack-and-pinion steering that put it in the headlines. The explosive news coverage the car received throughout the 1970s can be attributed to an ill placed gas tank on pre-1977 models. Above: Ford Pinto - By Joost J. Bakker CC BY 2.0 The vehicle earned a reputation for bursting into flames in rear end accidents at speeds ...
September 10, 1970 – Chevrolet Vega goes on sale
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September 10, 1970 – Chevrolet Vega goes on sale

On this day in 1970, dealerships began selling the 1971 Chevrolet Vega. The subcompact commuter, which won Motor Trend's Car of the Year award for 1971, was developed under chief engineer Ed Cole and chief stylist Bill Mitchell. In the years following its introduction, various issues with engineering, safety and reliability were discovered. The media blamed Chevrolet's rush to get the car to market for the numerous issues, as development took less than two years. Many believe insufficient testing occurred during that period to warrant sending the vehicle to market. This ultimately left it up to customers to discover its flaws. Above: The Vega was designed to be shipped vertically in a train car. Top: 1971 Chevrolet Vega The Chevrolet Vega came as a coupe, notchback, wagon and pa...
September 9, 1954 – The First Ford Thunderbird
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September 9, 1954 – The First Ford Thunderbird

Ford's answer to the Corvette, the Thunderbird, began rolling off assembly lines on this day in 1954 for the 1955 model year. The Thunderbird, while aligned to compete with Chevrolet's sports car, was positioned as a personal luxury vehicle. Ford emphasized its new car's comfort and convenience, letting shoppers discover its sportiness during the test drive. It worked, with the Thunderbird outselling the Corvette some 20 to 1 in 1955. Above: 1965 Ford Thunderbird By F.G.Bendiks. Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0. Top: 1955 Ford Thunderbird by Nminow. Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 Though the two-seater found continued success through 1957, engineers and designers at Ford thought they could sell far more than 23,000 of the cars in a year. Executive Robert McNamara called for a four-seater version, ...
September 8, 1974 – Evel Knievel attempts to jump Snake River Canyon
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September 8, 1974 – Evel Knievel attempts to jump Snake River Canyon

Evel Knievel has lifted off On this day in 1974 Evel Knievel attempted and failed to jump the Snake River Canyon in Idaho in a steam-powered, rocket-like motorcycle. The widely publicized event was broadcast on pay-per-view and into movie theaters around the country. With tens of thousands watching on, Knievel launched at 3:36 PM. Shortly after the vehicle, dubbed the Skycycle X-2, left the launching ramp, its parachutes deployed prematurely. While photographs show that the craft did make it across, winds pushed the soaring bike and chute backward, sending it drifting to the bottom of the canyon. Skycycle X-2. By Docob5 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 In order to obtain permission from the state of Idaho to complete the jump, the Skycycle X-2 had registered as an aircraft, opp...
September 7, 1896 -“Get a Horse!”
This Day

September 7, 1896 -“Get a Horse!”

The start of the race When the first auto race to take place on an American race track began on this day in 1896 it started so slow that spectators were shouting, "Get a horse!" The race, sponsored by automobile manufacturers hoping to attract new buyers, took place at the Narragansett Trotting Park in Cranston, Rhode Island. It marked the first time a US auto race was held on a track, opposed to on public streets. Narragansett was a one mile-long dirt oval track at the state fairgrounds that was generally reserved for horse racing. But on this day seven cars took the field to participate in the five lap “Providence Horseless Carriage Race.” After the trot of a start more than 60,000 spectators became wooed as they watched as a Riker Electric complete the five lap race first, averaging...