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September 11, 1987 – BMW Z1 introduced
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September 11, 1987 – BMW Z1 introduced

The first of the BMW Z car coupes debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show on this day in 1987. Development of the BMW Z1 began in 1985 at BMW Technik GmbH, with oversight by Ulrich Bez and lead design work by Harm Lagaay. A road going prototype appeared just one year later and BMW unveiled the project publicly. At the start of 1987 BMW announced it would bring the car to market, showing off the production model that fall at Frankfurt. It would finally reach the assembly line in 1989. BMW Z1 Doors and Body Above: Rear view of a BMW Z1. By ilikewaffles11 - CC BY 2.0. Top: Front view of BMW Z1. By Karrmann - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 The most obvious design feature of the Z1 are its unique doors, which retract downward. However, the car has many other distinctive traits. For one, BMW d...
August 30, 1980 – “On the Road Again” hits the charts
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August 30, 1980 – “On the Road Again” hits the charts

On this day in 1980, Willie Nelson’s hit song “On the Road Again” entered the Billboard 100 charts at #78. Nelson wrote the tune on an airplane barf bag after co-passengers director Jerry Schatzberg and executive producer Sydney Pollack asked him to write a song for their upcoming film Honeysuckle Rose. Nelson would star in the film, which followed an aging country star who had yet to achieve the fame he dreamed of. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gdlyi5mckg0 Top: Willie Nelson in 2007. By Auld Rasmie - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 In the movie, the character spent much of his time on the road playing small venues all across the country. When the producer asked Nelson to create a song, Nelson asked what he wanted it to be about. The producer responded “Can it be something about bein...
July 26, 1998 – Disaster strikes at Michigan International Speedway
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July 26, 1998 – Disaster strikes at Michigan International Speedway

On lap 175 of 250 of the CART series U.S. 500 on this day in 1998 Adrian Fernandez hit the wall at Michigan International Speedway, causing a tire and suspension parts to break loose and fly into the crowd. The wreck resulted in the deaths of three fans. An additional six people suffered injuries. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnHpeP4s5L4 Adrian Fernandez 1998 wreck at Michigan International SpeedwayTop: Moment of impact. Image courtesy ESPN Fernandez's car hit the wall going upwards of 200 mph. The race was placed under caution but was not stopped, much to the dismay of reporters covering the event. In an effort to prevent further tragedies the fencing was extended to 17 feet high around any grandstand areas.
June 30, 1953 – The first production Corvettes leave the factory
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June 30, 1953 – The first production Corvettes leave the factory

The automotive industry changed forever when the first production Chevrolet Corvette rolled out of a General Motors’ assembly facility in Flint, Michigan, on this day in 1953. The Corvette, a dream vehicle designed by Harley Earl, first met the public in January 1953. The prototype fiberglass bodied sports car debuted at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City during GM's annual Motorama. The response from the crowd was enough to warrant putting the vehicle into production. https://youtu.be/Oxyy8_K03w0 Above: Video of 1953 Corvette productionTop: The first Chevrolet Corvettes leave the factory (GM) Just 300 handbuilt 1953 Corvettes left the assembly line that first year. Each was a white convertible with red interior and a black canvas top. The fiberglass body hid a mild dr...
May 1, 1994 – F1 driver Ayrton Senna da Silva dies in a wreck
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May 1, 1994 – F1 driver Ayrton Senna da Silva dies in a wreck

Tragedy struck on this day in 1994 at the San Marino Grand Prix when Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna da Silva was killed in a crash while leading the race. At the time of his death, he held a record six victories at the Monaco Grand Prix, and was the fifth-most successful F1 driver of all time in terms of race wins.  Senna attracted controversy throughout his career, particularly during his turbulent rivalry with Alain Prost. For example, at both the Japanese Grand Prix of 1989 and 1990, the championship deciding race that year between the two, Senna and Prost collided, resulting in Prost taking home the championships.  Senna's death was considered by many of his Brazilian fans to be a national tragedy. The Brazilian government called for three days of national m...
April 24, 1918 – The first tank vs. tank battle occurs in war
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April 24, 1918 – The first tank vs. tank battle occurs in war

A different sort of automotive machine made history when the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux broke out near Amiens in northern France on this day in 1918, during World War I. It was at this battle site that the first recorded tank versus tank engagement occurred in the history of warfare. Above: A German A7V tankTop: A destroyed British Mark IV tank The battle occurred when a German A7V tank advanced on three British Mark IV tanks. Two of the British tanks were armed only with machine guns, both of which were damaged and forced to withdraw. The remaining British tank was equipped with a 6 pound gun. This Mark IV fired on the German tank and eventually hit it, disabling it. The British tank continued to fire until the German tank withdrew. The British tank was able to continu...
April 8, 1916 – Auto racing pioneer Bob Burman dies in wreck
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April 8, 1916 – Auto racing pioneer Bob Burman dies in wreck

Daredevil. Racer. Pioneer. These are all things that describe Bob Burman, one of auto racing's early heros. He participated in many significant automotive events in the early 20th century, including winning the Prest-O-Lite Trophy Race in 1909 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the precursor to the Indy 500. Unfortunately, his love for racing is exactly what would kill him. Burman died on this day in 1916, at age 31, when he crashed his open-cockpit Peugeot on a track in Corona, California. The wreck also took the life of his riding mechanic, Erick Schrader, an on-duty policeman, and the lives of three spectators. Another five fans suffered serious injuries. Above: Bob BurmanTop: Louis Chevrolet & Bob Burman in the Buick Bugs of 1910 Leading up to that fateful wreck, Burman has...
March 29, 1927 – Henry Segrave becomes the first person to go 200 MPH on land
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March 29, 1927 – Henry Segrave becomes the first person to go 200 MPH on land

On this day in 1927, residents of Daytona Beach, Florida, rose to clear, sunny skies. The early spring sun pushed temperatures to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Perfect conditions for setting a new land speed record, which is just what British race car driver Henry Segrave intended to do on the sands of the beach. Segrave, who set his first land speed record in 1926, was anxious to earn the top spot once again after a rival out did him. This time he'd make a run from behind the wheel of the 1,000 horsepower Sunbeam. The Sunbeam, also known as “Mystery” and “The Slug,” was powered by two Sunbeam Matabele aircraft engine. More unique is the fact that one sat in front of the driver and one behind.   During his record run on this day in 1927, Segrave recorded a speed of 203.79 mph (327.97 km/h...
March 24, 1970 – Buddy Baker breaks 200 MPH barrier on closed circuit
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March 24, 1970 – Buddy Baker breaks 200 MPH barrier on closed circuit

Buddy Baker arrived at Alabama International Motor Speedway on this day in 1970 after a morning of skeet shooting. He wasn't there to race, however. Chrysler tapped him for testing as part of the ongoing Daytona program from Dodge. However, engineers knew that Baker would likely break the 200 mph closed circuit speed barrier during his runs that day, as it had been nearly snapped in recent attempts. To ensure any records went down in the official history books, chief NASCAR timer and scorer Joe Epton brought his timing equipment to Talladega to track Baker. Despite heavy rains the night before, the track dried up by mid afternoon, allowing the testing to move forward. Baker was glad, as he was ready to head to the fishing hole after waiting around all day. With Epton's tools ready...
March 14, 1914 – NASCAR great Lee Petty is born
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March 14, 1914 – NASCAR great Lee Petty is born

The patriarch of the Petty racing family, Lee Arnold Petty, was born on this day in 1914. Petty got a late start in racing, first taking the wheel in professional competition at age 35. Soon after getting a taste for the dirt, he participated in the first sanctioned NASCAR race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. His beginnings did not foreshadow the success he would find on the track. During that race on June 14, 1949, Petty drove a 1948 Buick Roadmaster that he borrowed from his neighbor. He informed the neighbor that the prize money he'd earn would cover any damages the car may incur during the race. Petty rolled the car. Petty rose to fame in the 1950s and 1960s as one of NASCAR’s early superstars, even winning the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959. During his NASCAR career he would rack ...

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