March 8th, 1885
Gottlieb Daimler purchased a stagecoach made by Wilhelm Wimpff & Sohn on this day. With the help of Wilhelm Maybach they adapted it to hold his “grandfather clock” engine, thereby creating the world’s first four-wheeled automobile. It was capable of a top speed of 18 kilometers per hour. In 1890, Daimler founded the Daimler Motor Company in Cannstatt, near Stuttgart, to mass-produce his designs. The only distinction about this carriage was that it carried an internal combustion engine. None of many similar attempts to adapt carts, boats, or carriages—in many countries—were propelled by this type of engine. In 1899, Daimler asked Maybach to design a racing car, which was given the name “Mercedes.”
March 28th, 1936
The first stock car race was held on the Daytona Beach Road Course, promoted by local racer Sig Haugdahl. The race was 78 laps long (250 miles) for street-legal family sedans sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (AAA) for cars built in 1935 and 1936. The city posted a $5000 purse with $1700 for the winner. The race was marred by controversial scoring and huge financial losses to the city. Ticket-takers arrived to find thousands of fans already at the beach track. The sandy turns at the ends of the track became virtually impassable with stuck and stalled cars. Second and third place finishers protested the results. The city lost $22,000.
March 9th, 1964
The first Ford Mustang rolled off the assembly line. The Mustang was basically the utilitarian Ford Falcon with a lot better looking body. The Mustang defined the “pony car” segment: Long hood, short trunk, that Chevy, Pontiac, Chrysler, and AMC would all imitate. It was a great little car for the money. It was the perfect car for the times, and Ford couldn’t make them fast enough. The Mustang went go on sale April 17, 1964 [as a 64 ½ model] and set all kinds of sales records. The first car sold to the public was a Wimbledon White convertible. This Mustang was delivered with the following options: Wimbledon White paint, 260ci 2V V8 engine, Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission, Rally Pac gauges, power brakes, power steering, power convertible top, padded visors, reverse lights, a heavy duty battery, full-length console, tinted windshield, a push-button AM radio with antenna, rocker panel moldings, Deluxe wheel covers with spinners, white wall tires, heater delete, seat belt delete, dual outside mirrors, compass, day/night mirror, and 2-speed electric wipers and washer. The base price of the car was only $2,368, but buyers averaged over $1,000 of extra features. Ford executive Lee Iacocca said, “People want economy so badly they don’t care how much they pay for it.” Over it first two years the Mustang earned $1.1 billion in profits for Ford.
March 10th, 1966
The Fiat 124 was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show and won “Car of the Year” in 1967. It superseded the Fiat 1300 and Fiat 1500 and spawned variants including an estate (with stiffened springs and a revised final drive ratio), four-seater coupé, two-seater spider convertible and a slightly lengthened and more luxurious version, the 125, launched in early 1967. The 124 had a new 4 cylinder, 1197cc, 60 bhp engine. Approximately 1,543,000 saloons and estates were built in Italy, before it was replaced in Italy in 1974 by the Fiat 131/132 4-door saloon, although production in other countries continued. Worldwide around 4 million Fiat 124s were produced.
March 12th, 1904
Colonel Harley Tarrant won the first automobile race in Australia, held at Sandown Racecourse. His interest in motoring began in this period. In 1897-98, basing his account primarily on overseas journals, he helped to publicize the new motor car in the cycling monthly Austral Wheel. His rural background and surveying experience had made him aware of its potential value in a country of immense distances and relatively few railway lines. In August 1897 he patented an engine powered by kerosene, a fuel which he declared to be safe, cheap and readily available, whereas electric motors needed recharging stations, and steam-driven machines were dangerous and ‘too heavy for rough country roads’.
March 13th, 1864
N A Otto & Cie was organised in Cologne by Nickolaus Otto and Eugene Langen to produce internal combustion gas engines. This company, which was moved to Deutz on the other side of the Rhine in 1867 , still exists today under the name of Deutz AG .
This week in Automotive History is produced by Branding Roar