Once again, Graeme Rice looks back on the mo­tor­ing worlds of 100, 75, 50, and 25 years ago

New Zealand Classic Car - - Automobilia Collectible Models / Lifestyle / Book -

For an ex­panded ver­sion of this month’s Time­lines, visit www.clas­s­ic­car.co.nz and search ‘Time­lines’

Fe­bru­ary 1915

Her­bert Austin was an early ben­e­fi­ciary of the war ef­fort when the Rus­sians placed an or­der for over £50,000’ worth of ve­hi­cles. Top of the list were 48 ar­moured cars, each able to carry a crew of five and two ma­chine guns, and ca­pa­ble of reach­ing 80kph. Next on the list were 100 three-ton gen­eral-trans­port lor­ries, then 18 work­shop wag­ons, 16 tankers to carry petrol, and 120 light- and 20 heavy am­bu­lances.

It was a shame about the Euro­peans be­ing oth­er­wise en­gaged and not able to par­tic­i­pate fully in the Amer­i­can rac­ing sea­son, but at least it pro­vided great con­tests be­tween two of the best sports cars of the gen­er­a­tion, the Mercer and the Stutz. Bar­ney Old­field took a Stutz from Los An­ge­les to Phoenix in a 1114km (696 mile) race across deserts, through snow, sleet and heavy rain. Old­field won at an av­er­age of 50kph af­ter av­er­ag­ing only 24kph for the first few hours.

Late in the month, Dario Resta drove a Peu­geot to victory in the Amer­i­can Grand Prix, at an av­er­age speed of 90.3kph over 644km, in San Fran­cisco.

Fe­bru­ary 1940

That great show­man, en­tre­pre­neur, rac­ing cy­clist and tri­cy­clist, rac­ing car driver, and the man who prob­a­bly should be ac­cred­ited as the mo­tor in­dus­try’s first PR man, decades be­fore the ti­tle was in­vented, Sel­wyn Fran­cis Edge, died at home in East­bourne on Fe­bru­ary 15.

Born in Syd­ney in 1868, Edge was an Aus­tralian for the first nine years of his life, then the fam­ily moved back to the UK. Af­ter suc­cess­fully com­pet­ing in long-dis­tance cy­cling events, Edge bought a Pan­hard Levas­sor in 1898 and set about learn­ing all he could about mo­tors. Fel­low cy­cling en­thu­si­ast Mon­tague Napier was con­vinced by Edge to set up car pro­duc­tion in 1901. In 1902 Edge won the Gor­don Bennett race in a Napier, in 1903 he con­vinced Mon­tague Napier to build the in­dus­try’s first pro­duc­tion six, and then in 1907 he com­pleted the as­tound­ing 24-hour run on the new Brook­lands Track, ce­ment­ing Napier’s rep­u­ta­tion and stand­ing as the car to bet­ter.

In early 1940 Juan Manuel Fan­gio was be­gin­ning to make his mark. He had led part of the 1939 Gran Premio Ar­gentino and won a stage of its con­tin­u­a­tion, the Gran Premio Ex­traor­di­nario. Th­ese feats had helped him make some­thing of a name for him­self.

Fe­bru­ary 1965

A Christchurch gen­tle­man was try­ing to sell his 1938 Rolls-royce Phantom III. This was the mas­sive 7430cc V12, de­vel­op­ing around 119kw, which ac­cord­ing to a 1936 Autocar road test was ca­pa­ble of 148.8kph (92.5mph), and hauled its 2656kg (5850lb) bulk from rest to 60mph in 16.5 sec­onds, at the cost of a healthy 28l/100km (10mpg) thirst.

Ap­par­ently it was in im­mac­u­late con­di­tion, and a su­perb-mo­tor­ing car. All this class and rar­ity for what seems like a rel­a­tively mod­est ask­ing price of £1650. For that money buy­ers could have opted for a 1963 Ford Fal­con Fu­tura with 4000 miles (6437km) on the clock for £1695. If some­thing with wal­nut and leather was more de­sir­able, a 1963 Wolse­ley 6/110 with just 26,000 miles (41,843km) un­der its belt was sell­ing for £1575. Or maybe the Queen’s favourite — a 1962 Rover 3.0-litre four-speed with over­drive for £1785.

The Aus­tralian races in the 1965 Tas­man Se­ries saw Jim Clark and the Lo­tus 32B con­tinue his win­ning ways at War­wick Farm, with var­i­ous Brab­hams mop­ping up the next six places, but Jack Brab­ham was able to get some re­venge for the Aussies at Sandown the fol­low­ing week, ahead of Clark, and Phil Hill and Mclaren in Coop­ers. The Sandown race was marred by the death of popular Aussie driver Lex Dav­i­son in prac­tice.

Fe­bru­ary 1990

One of the more bizarre sales pro­mo­tions took place in Dunedin when the lo­cal Holden dis­trib­u­tor lined up a Span­ish In­ter­na­tional Cir­cus, its ele­phant Mi­ayak, and a 3.8-litre V6, five-speed-man­ual Holden Calais plus a gen­er­ously pro­por­tioned trailer. Turned out to be a bit of an an­ti­cli­max re­ally. All the public had to do was guess the weight of the ele­phant, look at the weight the Calais could tow and go fig­ure. Win­ners got $100 and free seats for the cir­cus. How many $32,995 Calais were sold? Safe to say there were more buy­ers for the car than the ele­phant.

BMW was build­ing 5000 M3s over 12 months to qual­ify for Group A tour­ing car rac­ing. Two-time win­ners of the Welling­ton Street race, th­ese lit­tle Beemers were great gi­ant-killers. A big­ger en­gine — 2.5 litres in place of the old 2.3-litre mo­tor — and more power, at 175kw rather than the pre­vi­ous 158kw (238/215bhp), meant a top speed of 248kph and zero to 100kph in 6.5 sec­onds. Big­ger wheels and low­ered sus­pen­sion helped the han­dling.

Af­ter all the wran­gling through­out Jan­uary, Mclaren boss Ron Den­nis had to apol­o­gise to FISA and pay the US$100,000 ($168,000) fine and fur­ther apol­o­gize for the late pay­ment. Fi­nally, the way was clear for Senna to com­pete in F1 for 1990, and ev­ery­one else could con­cen­trate on get­ting pre­pared.

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