February 22nd-28th | This Week in Automotive History

February 22nd, 1907

A Knightsbridge motor taxi rank in 1907 

The first cabs with taxi meters begin operating in London. Cabs thus fitted became known as ‘taxicabs’, abbreviated to ‘taxis’.

February 23rd, 1967

1967 Pontiac Firebird 400

The Pontiac Firebird was introduced. The Firebird featured new styling, twin grilles of a bumper-integral design, three vertical air slots on the front edge of the rear body panels, and vent windows in the front. A hardtop coupe or convertible body style were available and came with any of the Tempest or GTO powertrains. The six-cylinder engine displaced 230 cubic-inches (3.8 liters) and offered 165 horsepower. The base V8 engine was an overhead valve unit that displaced 400 cubic-inches and offered 335 horsepower. Pontiac produced 67,032 examples of the coupe and just 15,528 of the convertible. Pricing for the coupe began at $2,660 while the convertible sold for $2,900. Through good times and bad, the Pontiac Firebird was at the forefront of America’s muscle car generation. Introduced in 1967 and following through to 2002 shows just how successful its reign was.

February 24th, 1909

Roy Chapin, left, in a 1910 Hudson.

A total of eight Detroit businessmen formed the Hudson Motor Car Company to produce an automobile which would sell for less than $1,000. One of the chief “car men” and organizer of the company was Roy D. Chapin, Sr., a young executive who had worked with Ransom E. Olds. (Chapin’s son, Roy Jr., would later be president of Hudson-Nash descendant American Motors Corp. in the 1960s). The company quickly started production, with the first car driven out of a small factory in Detroit on July 3, 1909.

February 25th, 1919

Oregon became the first US state to impose a tax on gasoline. The funds collected from the 1% tax were used for road construction and maintenance.

February 26th, 1936

Adolf Hitler opened the first manufacturing plant of Germany’s “peoples car” – the Volkswagen. Designed by Ferdinand Porsche of Auto Union fame, the later named “Beetle”, whose features included a streamlined body, an air-cooled flat four 23.5 hp, four-stroke engine mounted at the rear, and torsion bar sprung. The Beetle was intended for mass production at popular prices and capable of smooth running at 60 mph on German autobahns that were under construction. Hitler’s idea was to put the nation on wheels, doing for Germany what Henry Ford did for the US.

February 26th, 1944

The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) is incorporated in Boston by seven sports car enthusiasts. The SCCA traces its roots to the Automobile Racing Club of America (not to be confused with the current stock car series of the same name). ARCA was founded in 1933 by brothers Miles and Sam Collier, and dissolved in 1941 at the outbreak of World War II.The SCCA began sanctioning road racing in 1948 with the inaugural Watkins Glen Grand Prix. Cameron Argetsinger, an SCCA member and local enthusiast who would later become Director of Pro Racing and Executive Director of the SCCA, helped organize the event for the SCCA. In 1951, the SCCA National Sports Car Championship was formed from existing marquee events around the nation, including Watkins Glen, Pebble Beach, and Elkhart Lake. Many early SCCA events were held on disused air force bases, organized with the help of Air Force General Curtis LeMay, a renowned enthusiast of sports car racing. LeMay loaned out facilities of Strategic Air Command bases for the SCCA’s use; the SCCA relied heavily on these venues during the early and mid-1950s during the transition from street racing to permanent circuits. By 1962, the SCCA was tasked with managing the U.S. World Sportscar Championship rounds at Daytona, Sebring, Bridgehampton and Watkins Glen. The club was also involved in the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix. SCCA Executive Director John Bishop helped to create the United States Road Racing Championship series for Group 7 sports cars to recover races that had been taken by rival USAC Road Racing Championship. Bishop was also instrumental in founding the SCCA Trans-Am Series and the SCCA/CASC Can-Am series. In 1969, tension and infighting over Pro Racing’s autonomy caused Bishop to resign and help form the International Motor Sports Association.

This week in Automotive History is produced by Branding Roar