May 10th – 16th | This Week In Automotive History

May 10th, 1927

Dodge Senior Six Sedan

The first Dodge Senior Six was produced.

May 11th, 1915

The trademark Volvo (which is Latin for I roll) was first registered by the ball bearing maker SKF, with the intention to use it for a special series of ball bearing for the American market (however in the application for the trademark, it was also designated for the purpose of automobiles), but it was never used for this purpose. SKF trademark as it looks today was used instead for all the SKF-products. Some pre-series of Volvo-bearings stamped with the brand name ‘Volvo’ were manufactured but was never released to the market and it was not until 1927 that the trademark was used again, now as a trademark and company name for an automobile. When Volvo AB was introduced on the Swedish stock exchange in 1935, SKF sold most of the shares in the company. Volvo Cars was owned by AB Volvo until 1999, when it was acquired by the Ford Motor Company as part of its Premier Automotive Group. Geely Holding Group then acquired Volvo Cars from Ford in 2010.

May 11th, 1947

B.F. Goodrich Company of Akron, Ohio, announced the development of a tubeless tire, a technological innovation that would make automobiles safer and more efficient. Pneumatic tires, or tires filled with pressurized air, were used on motor vehicles beginning in the late 1800s when the French rubber manufacturer Michelin & Cie became the first company to develop them. For the first 60 years of their use, pneumatic tires generally relied on an inner tube containing the compressed air and an outer casing that protected the tube and provided traction. The disadvantage of this design was that if the inner tube failed–which was always risk due to excess heat generated by friction between the tube and the tire wall–the tire would blow out immediately, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle. The culmination of more than three years of engineering, Goodrich’s tubeless tire effectively eliminated the inner tube, trapping the pressurized air within the tire walls themselves. By reinforcing those walls, the company claimed, they were able to combine the puncture-sealing features of inner tubes with improved ease of riding, high resistance to bruising and superior retention of air pressure. While Goodrich awaited approval from the U.S. Patent Office, the tubeless tires underwent high-speed road testing, were put in service on a fleet of taxis, and were used by Ohio state police cars and a number of privately-owned passenger cars. The testing proved successful, and in 1952, Goodrich won patents for the tire’s various features. Within three years, the tubeless tire came standard on most new automobiles.

May 12th, 1969

Chevrolet announced that it would discontinue production of the Corvair. The car, which had come under heavy attack in Ralph Nader’s 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed, never achieved great success, thanks mostly to its reputation for poor safety. Nader called the Corvair ‘one of the nastiest-handling cars ever built’.

May 13th, 1958

Robert F. Borkenstein working on his Breathalyzer Prototype, invented in 1954.

‘Breathalyzer’, the brand name for the instrument developed by inventor Robert Frank Borkenstein 1912-2002), for estimating blood alcohol content (BAC) from a breath sample, was registered as a trademark. Many people use the term ‘breathalyzer’ to refer to any generic device for estimating blood alcohol content. Borkenstein was a captain with the Indiana State Police in the United States and later a professor at Indiana University Bloomington. His Breathalyzer used chemical oxidation and photometry to determine alcohol concentrations. Subsequent breath analyzers have converted primarily to infrared spectroscopy. The invention of the Breathalyzer provided law enforcement with a non-invasive test providing immediate results to determine an individual’s breath alcohol concentration at the time of testing.

May 14th, 1966

The Subaru 1000, the first front-wheel-drive Subaru produced by Fuji Heavy Industries that was in the Japanese government “compact car” classification, went on sale. Previous Subaru models such as the Subaru 360 and the Sambar had been rear-engined, rear-wheel drive Kei cars. It was the first production Subaru to use a boxer engine. In 1960, Subaru management decided to introduce a successor to the prototype Subaru 1500 with a new code name “A-5” with a four-cycle air-cooled horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine displacing 1500 cc, driving the front wheels in a compact car platform. It was to have a double-wishbone front suspension. Due to FHI’s limited resources, the car wasn’t produced. The Subaru 360 was selling at the time but Subaru wanted a car that could comfortably carry four passengers without a cramped compartment, which would appear to be an alternative to the Toyota Publica, the Datsun 110/210, the Hino Contessa, and the Mitsubishi Colt 600. 

May 14th, 1991

General Motors ended production of the Buick Reatta, a two-seater sports car that had been introduced in 1988. As Buick’s first two-seater and its first convertible since the 1985 Riviera, the Reatta was manufactured in a highly specialized assembly program at the Reatta Craft Centre (later known as the Lansing Craft Centre) in Lansing, Michigan—achieving production of over 21,000 units in four years. The presence of the Chevrolet Corvette, Pontiac Fiero and Cadillac Allante at the time of the Reatta’s introduction meant that with the exception of Oldsmobile, all of GM’s passenger-car divisions offered two-seaters during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

May 15th, 1942

Gasoline rationing began in 17 eastern states as an attempt to help the American war effort during World War II. Rationing began on the East Coast on July 22, 1942. These states were chosen due to better public transportation and shorter distances traveled, and because the U-boat menace off the East Coast made transport of oil and gasoline more hazardous. However, this also wasn’t enough, and on Dec. 1, 1942, rationing went into effect nationwide. 

May 16th, 1862

Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir built the first automobile with an internal-combustion engine. He had adapted his two-stroke cycle engine to run on liquid fuel and with his vehicle made a 6-mile (10-kilometre) trip that took two to three hours to complete. His other inventions include an electric brake for trains (1855), a motorboat using his engine (1886), and a method of tanning leather with ozone.

This week in Automotive History is produced by Branding Roar