April 12th, 1902
King Edward VII became the first reigning British monarch to travel by car when John Scott-Montague drove him through the New Forest in a 24 hp Daimler. Montagu later said of the trip: ‘I distinctly remember that His Majesty displayed immense interest in the details of the car … and with his wonderful alertness of mind he had evidently grasped what a remarkable effect upon the locomotion of the world the coming of the motor car would have.’
April 13th, 1907
The Rolls Royce Silver Ghost was introduced to the press. Originally named the “40/50 h.p.” the chassis was first made at Royce’s Manchester works, with production moving to Derby in July 1908, and also, between 1921 and 1926, in Springfield, Massachusetts, US. Chassis no. 60551, registered AX 201, was the car that was originally given the name “Silver Ghost.” Other 40/50 hp cars were also given names, but the Silver Ghost title was taken up by the press, and soon all 40/50s were called by the name, a fact not officially recognized by Rolls-Royce until 1925, when the Phantom range was launched. The Silver Ghost was the origin of Rolls-Royce’s claim of making the “Best car in the world” – a phrase coined not by themselves, but by the prestigious publication Autocar in 1907.
April 14th, 1927
The first regular production Volvo, the “Öppen Vagn 4 cylindrar” (OV4), nicknamed “Jakob,” left the assembly line in Goteborg, Sweden. Volvo (“I roll” in Latin) was the result of collaboration between Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson. When the first series-produced ÖV4 was about to drive out of the factory and engineer Eric Carlberg put it into first gear, the car went backward, where the car was actually in reverse gear. The explanation was that the differential gear in the rear axle had been fitted incorrectly. This mistake delayed the introduction by one day and the official introduction day for the ÖV4 was then adjusted to 14 April 1927, the day AB Volvo officially says the automobile company Volvo was “born”. The OV4’s 1,944cc side-valve engine made 28hp, while the transmission was a three-speed and the brakes were mechanical and acted on the rear wheels. Of the ten prototype cars Volvo built, nine were open touring cars, and one was a closed sedan, the PV4 (Person Vagn, or passenger car, 4-cylinders). All used the “iron” or “Mars” symbol on their radiator shell to signify the famous Swedish iron and steel that this Swedish car was made from; the diagonal slash that bisected the radiator to fix the symbol in place was simply the easiest way to hold it there, but it became the automaker’s signature mark.
April 15th, 1924
Rand McNally released its first comprehensive road atlas – the New Automobile Road Map of New York City & Vicinity. Today Rand McNally is the world’s largest maker of atlases in print and electronic media.
April 17th, 1911
Charles F. Kettering applied for a U.S. patent for the self-starting mechanism he had designed for the Cadillac Car Company. The vision for the self-starter is said to have been the result of the peculiar death of Cadillac founder Henry Leland’s close friend, Byron Carter. In 1910, Carter, the manufacturer of the Cartercar, suffered a broken jaw and arm when he stopped to help a woman with the crank-starter on her car. The crank, linked directly to the car’s driveshaft, was capable of bucking out of the hands of its “cranker,” and Carter suffered for it. His injuries complicated and combined with a case of pneumonia to kill him. Distraught by the event, Leland determined to solve the problem of the crank-starter. He hired Kettering, then famous for creating an electric engine small enough for the electric cash register. Kettering believed he could create an engine capable of starting the motor of a car that was light enough and small enough not to hinder the car’s ability to run. The engineering problem took him no time at all. He offered Leland a prototype in December of 1910. Kettering’s system relied on a storage battery that supplied a 24-volt charge to the starter to ignite the engine. The battery then switched to six volts to feedback into the battery and recharge it. His first operating model was delivered to Cadillac on February 17. Leland ordered 12,000 units to be installed in the 1912 Cadillac. The self-starter gave women access to cars for the first time. Without the arduous task of cranking the engine to deter them, women could drive cars on their own. Since there were almost as many rich women as rich men, the self-starter drastically broadened the market for the automobile.
April 18th, 1900
The Long Island Road Race was won by Anthony L Riker driving his special low-sprung Riker Torpedo electric vehicle. The 50-mile race was held on Merrick Road from the Springfield Boulevard intersection in Queens to Bablyon in Suffolk County and back. It was the fourth automobile race ever held in the United States and according to The New York Times, it was “the first automobile 50-mile race ever run in America.”
This week in Automotive History is produced by Branding Roar