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November In Automotive History


Ford Model A begins production

For the first time since the Model T was introduced in 1908, the Ford Motor Company began production on a significantly redesigned automobile on this day--the Model A. The hugely successful Model T revolutionized the automobile industry, and over 15,000,000 copies of the "Tin Lizzie" were sold in its 19 years of production. By 1927, the popularity of the outdated Model T was rapidly waning. Improved, but basically unchanged for its two-decade reign, it was losing ground to the more stylish and powerful motor cars offered by Ford´s competitors. In May of 1927, Ford plants across the country closed, and the company began an intensive development of the more refined and modern Model A. The vastly improved Model A had elegant Lincoln-like styling on a smaller scale, and used a capable 200.5 cubic-inch four-cylinder engine that produced 40hp. With prices starting at $460, nearly 5,000,000 Model As, in several body styles and a variety of colors, rolled onto to America´s highways before production ended in early 1932.


The first gasoline-powered contest hits America

In early 1895, Chicago Times-Herald Publisher Herman H. Kohlstaat announced that his newspaper would sponsor a race between horseless carriages. It would be the first race in America to feature gasoline-powered automobiles. Kohlstaat, who was offering $5,000 in prizes, including a first-place prize of $2,000, received telegrams from European racing enthusiasts and from automobile tinkerers across America. After delaying the event for several months at the request of entrants who were still working on their racing prototypes, Kohlstaat finally settled on an official race date--November 2. When the day arrived, 80 automobiles had been entered, but only two showed up: a Benz car brought over from Germany by Oscar Bernhard Mueller, and an automobile built by Charles and Frank Duryea of Springfield, Massachusetts. The disappointed Kohlstaat agreed to delay the official race yet again until Thanksgiving, but approved an exhibition contest to be run on this day between the Duryea brothers and Mueller. Enthusiastic spectators gathered along the 90-mile course from Jackson Park in Chicago to Waukegan, Illinois, and back again, and the Duryea car, driven by Frank, took an early lead over Mueller´s motor wagon. However, less than halfway through the race, a team of horses pulling a wagon, frightened by the racket from Frank´s noisy car, bolted into the middle of the road and the Duryea automobile was forced off the road and into a ditch. The undriveable car was taken back to Springfield by railroad, and the brothers began hasty repair work for the official race on November 28. Mueller was declared the winner of the exhibition by default, but on Thanksgiving Day he would have to face the Duryeas again, in an event that would be known as the Great Chicago Race of 1895


America´s first car show

On this day, the first significant car show in the United States began in New York City. The week-long event, held in Madison Square Garden, was organized by the Automobile Club of America. Fifty-one exhibitors displayed 31 automobiles along with various accessories. Among the fathers of the automobile present at the "Horseless Carriage Show" was automaker James Ward Packard, who had completed his first car the year before, and brought three of his Packards to exhibit to the public. In addition to Packard, the show introduced a number of other fledgling automobile companies that became significant industry players in the coming decades, although none of the makes present would still be in business by 1980. The event also featured automotive demonstrations, such as braking and starting contests, and a specially built ramp to measure the hill-climbing ability of the various automobiles. Spectators paid 50¢ each to attend the event.


The first car to get air-conditioning

On this day, the 40th National Automobile Show opened in Chicago, Illinois, with a cutting-edge development in automotive comfort on display: air-conditioning. A Packard prototype featured the expensive device, allowing the vehicle´s occupants to travel in the comfort of a controlled environment even on the most hot and humid summer day. After the driver chose a desired temperature, the Packard air-conditioning system would cool or heat the air in the car to the designated level, and then dehumidify, filter, and circulate the cooled air to create a comfortable environment. The main air-conditioning unit was located behind the rear seat of the Packard, where a special air duct accommodated two compartments, one for the refrigerating coils and one for the heating coils. The capacity of the air-conditioning unit was equivalent to 1.5 tons of ice in 24 hours when the car was driven at highway driving speeds. The innovation received widespread acclaim at the auto show, but the expensive accessory would not be within the reach of the average American for several decades. However, when automobile air-conditioning finally became affordable, it rapidly became a luxury that U.S. car owners could not live without.


First automobile patent awarded to Selden

On this day, inventor George B. Selden received a patent for his gasoline-powered automobile, first conceived of when he was an infantryman in the American Civil War. After 16 years of delay, United States Patent No. 549,160 was finally issued to Selden for a machine he originally termed a "road-locomotive" and later would call a "road engine." His design resembled a horse-drawn carriage, with high wheels and a buckboard, and was described by Selden as "light in weight, easy to control and possessed of sufficient power to overcome any ordinary incline." With the granting of the patent, Selden won a monopoly on the concept of combining an internal combustion engine with a carriage. Every automaker would have to pay Selden and his licensing company a significant percentage of their profits for the right to construct a motor car, even though their automobiles rarely resembled Selden´s designs. In 1903, the newly created Ford Motor Company, which refused to pay royalties to Selden´s licensing company, was sued for infringement on the patent. Thus began one of the most celebrated litigation cases in the history of the automotive industry, ending in 1909 when a New York court upheld the validity of Selden´s patent. Henry Ford and his increasingly powerful company appealed the decision, and in 1911, the New York Court of Appeals again ruled in favor of Selden´s patent, but with a twist: the patent was held to be restricted to the particular outdated construction it described. In 1911, every important automaker used a motor significantly different from that described in Selden´s patent, and major manufacturers like the Ford Motor Company never paid Selden another dime.


The Packard is completed

James Ward Packard, an electrical-wire manufacturer from Warren, Ohio, first demonstrated his interest in automobiles when he hired Edward P. Cowles and Henry A. Schryver to work on plans for a possible Packard automobile in 1896. Although a functional engine was completed in 1897, it would take another two years, and James Packard´s purchase of a Winton horseless carriage, before his company fully flung itself into the burgeoning automobile industry. In 1898, James Packard purchased an automobile constructed by fellow Ohio manufacturer Alexander Winston, and Packard, a first-time car owner, experienced problems with his purchase from the start. Finally, in June of 1899, after nearly a year of repairing and improving the Winston automobile on his own, Packard decided to launch the Packard Motor Company. On this day, only three months after work on his first automobile began, the first Packard was completed and test-driven through the streets of Warren, Ohio. The Model A featured a one-cylinder engine capable of producing 12hp. Built around the engine was a single-seat buggy with wire wheels, a steering tiller, an automatic spark advance, and a chain drive. Within only two months, the Packard Company sold its fifth Model A prototype to Warren resident George Kirkham for $1,250. By the 1920s, Packard was a major producer of luxury automobiles, and this prosperity would continue well into the late 1950s.


Art Arfons Green Monster sets a new speed record

In 1964, Art Arfons, a drag racer from Ohio, built a land-speed racer in his backyard using a military surplus J79 jet aircraft engine with an afterburner. Arfons christened the vehicle Green Monster, and in September took the racer to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to join in the race to set a new land- speed record. On October 5, the Green Monster jet powered to 434.022--a new land-speed record. However, Arfons´ record would only stand for six days, for on October 13, Craig Breedlove set his second land-speed record when he reached 468.719 in his jet-powered Spirit of America. In 1965, Arfons returned to the Bonneville Salt Flats in a revamped Green Monster, and on this day shattered Breedlove´s record from the previous year, when he raced to 576.553mph across the one-mile course.


Founder of the Austin is born in England

Herbert Austin, the founder of the Austin Motor Company, was born in Little Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England, on this day. At the age of 22, Austin moved to Melbourne, Australia, where he served as an apprentice engineer at a foundry, before becoming the manager of the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Company. Long journeys into the wide-open spaces of Australia gave him insight into the benefits of gasoline-driven vehicles, and Austin decided to try his luck in the burgeoning automobile industry. Like his American counterpart, Henry Ford, Austin hoped to produce an affordable motor car for the masses, and by 1895 the Wolseley Company completed its first vehicle, a three-wheeled automobile, followed by the first four-wheeled Wolseley vehicle in 1900. In 1905, Herbert Austin founded the Austin Motor Company in Birmingham, England, and by 1914, the company was producing over 1,000 automobiles a year. The diminutive vehicle, boasting four-wheel brakes and a maximum speed of 50mph, was an instant success in England. In 1930, the Austin 7 was introduced to America, and enjoyed five years of modest U.S. sales before falling prey to the hard times of the Depression in 1935.


Robert McNamara crowned president of Ford

In 1946, Henry Ford II, the president of the Ford Motor Company, hired 10 young former intelligence officers from the Air Force, a group that the press soon dubbed the "Whiz Kids." Part of the genius of Henry Ford II, who was second only to his grandfather in business acumen, was his ability to find the most talented people in the industry and bring them into key positions in his rapidly growing postwar corporation. Robert McNamara, one of the Air Force "Whiz Kids," was one such individual. In addition to his other talents, McNamara was a financial disciplinarian who brought quantitative analysis and the science of modern management to the Ford Motor Company. Under the guidance of Henry Ford II and employees like Robert McNamara, Ford flourished during the 1950s, yielding such success stories as the Ford Thunderbird in 1954. On this day, Robert S. McNamara was named president of Ford, as Henry Ford II stepped down from the presidency and became chief executive officer. However, McNamara would remain at the reigns of Ford for less than two months--on January 1, 1961, McNamara resigned from Ford to become secretary of defense for the new administration of President John F. Kennedy.


Formula One racer Eddie Irvine was born

On this day, Formula One racer Eddie Irvine was born in Newtownards, Northern Ireland. In 1996, Irvine won a coveted place on the Ferrari team, racing alongside the likes of World Champion Michael Schumacher, but Irvine is also famous as one of the last of Formula One´s most endangered species--the playboy racing driver. The popular bachelor, who maintains an impressive neutrality in regard to his British or Irish nationality, has not won a grand prix as of 1998, yet enjoyed seven career-podium finishes and reached a Formula One ranking of fourth in the world in 1998. Irvine got his start in racing at the young age of 17, competing in his father´s Crossle FF 1600 Chassis, and by 1988 had worked his way up to British Formula Three series. 1990 saw him driving for the Jordan F3000 team, and he won his first race at Hockinheim that year, finishing third overall in the series. In the fall of 1993, Irvine made his Formula One debut driving for Sasol Jordan, and at the Suzuki racetrack in Japan he placed sixth, becoming the first driver since Jean Alesi to score points on a Formula One debut. In his first few years of Formula One racing, Irvine, a notoriously fearless and reckless driver, earned the nickname "Irv the Swerve." However, he also demonstrated enough driving potential to be offered the number-two position on the championship Ferrari team in 1996.


Hall of fame racer Rex Mays is laid to rest

Rex Mays, a 1993 inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, earned his place among the all-time greats of motor racing as much for his willingness to put the welfare of others before his own as for his actual racing ability. Mays got his start on the West Coast midget racing circuit in the 1930s, winning numerous races before entering national competition where he added sprint and champ-car racing to his repertoire. In 1934, he entered the racing big leagues when he placed ninth in his first Indianapolis 500. Mays never managed to win the esteemed event, but he placed second in 1940 and 1941, the same two years that he won the national titles for champ-car racing. In 1941, Mays gave up the fame and fortune of motor racing to serve his country as an Air Force pilot during World War II. After the war, Mays returned to racing. Although he was not as winning a racer as before the war, two separate incidents demonstrated the distinction of his character, and guaranteed his venerable place in the racing history books. In June of 1948, while competing in a champ-car race at the Milwaukee Mile in Wisconsin, Mays deliberately crashed into a wall, nearly ending his life, in order to avoid hitting racer Duke Dinsmore, who was thrown from his car a moment before. And in the fall of 1949, at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, New York, May prevented a possible fan riot when he silently took to the racetrack alone after other racers refused to compete because of a dispute over prize money. One by one the other racers joined him and violence was prevented. A few months later, on November 11, 1949, Rex Mays was killed during a race held at Del Mar, California, when he was run over by another car after being thrown from his vehicle in a mishap. In addition to his place in the Motorsports Hall of Fame, Rex is honored with a special plaque at the Milwaukee Mile, at the exact spot on the Turn One wall where he nearly gave up his life to save another.


Holland Tunnel between NYC and NJ opens

The Holland Tunnel between New York City and Jersey City, New Jersey, was officially opened on this day when President Calvin Coolidge telegraphed a signal from the presidential yacht, Mayflower, anchored in the Potomac River. Within an hour, over 20,000 people had walked the 9,250-foot distance between New York and New Jersey under the Hudson River, and the next day the tunnel opened for automobile service. The double-tubed underwater tunnel, the first of its kind in the United States, was built to accommodate nearly 2,000 vehicles per hour. Chief engineer Clifford Milburn Holland resolved the problem of ventilation by creating a highly advanced ventilation system that changed the air over 30 times an hour at the rate of over 3,000,000 cubic feet per minute.


E. L. Cord´s gets his first racing victory at 20

Errett Lobban Cord, the genius behind the Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg family of automobiles, first became involved with automobiles as a racing car mechanic and driver. On this day, the 20-year-old Cord won his first motor race in Arizona. Cord, driving a Paige vehicle designed by Harry Jewett, won the 275-mile race from Douglas, Arizona, to Phoenix, Arizona. From his racing beginnings, Cord moved into automobile sales, and in 1924 came to Auburn, Indiana, to save the faltering Auburn Automobile Company. Cord, a brilliant salesman, rapidly pulled the company out of debt by clearing out hundreds of stockpiled Auburn vehicles and excess parts, and was subsequently named the vice president and general manager at Auburn. Under Cord´s guidance, the Auburn line was entirely refashioned, and the new Auburns were known as some of the most luxurious and fashionable cars on the road. In 1926, Cord acquired the expert design skills of Fred Duesenberg, and in 1928, the Duesenberg Model J, one of the finest automobiles ever made, was introduced to the public. To make the family complete, the Auburn plant introduced the Cord L-29 in 1929, which was America´s first successful front-wheel drive car. The Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg automobiles that sold so well in the roaring 1920s also proved surprisingly resilient during the early years of the Depression, but by 1937, America´s hard times were too much even for E. L. Cord, and manufacturing ceased as his entire corporation was sold.


The first Dodge is completed “Old Betsy”

On this day, John and Horace Dodge completed their first Dodge vehicle, a car informally known as "Old Betsy." The same day, the Dodge brothers gave "Old Betsy" a quick test drive through the streets of Detroit, Michigan, and the vehicle was shipped to a buyer in Tennessee. John and Horace, who began their business career as bicycle manufacturers in 1897, first entered the automotive industry as auto parts manufacturers in 1901. They built engines for Ransom Olds and Henry Ford among others, and in 1910 the Dodge Brothers Company was the largest parts-manufacturing firm in the United States. In 1914, the intrepid brothers founded the new Dodge Brothers Motor Car Company, and began work on their first complete automobile at their Hamtramck factory. Dodge vehicles became known for their quality and sturdiness, and by 1919, the Dodge brothers were among the richest men in America. In early 1920, just as he was completing work on his 110-room mansion on the Grosse Point waterfront in Michigan, John fell ill from respiratory problems and died. Horace, who also suffered from chronic lung problems, died from pneumonia in December of the same year. The company was later sold to a New York bank, and in 1928, the Chrysler Corporation bought the Dodge name, its factories, and the large network of Dodge car dealers. Under Chrysler´s direction Dodge became a successful producer of cars and trucks marketed for their ruggedness, and today Dodge sells a lineup of over a dozen cars and trucks.


The 100,000,000th U.S.-built Ford

On this day, at the Mahwah plant in New York, workers completed the 100,000,000th Ford to be built in America: a 1978 Ford Fairmont four-door sedan. The Fairmont series was introduced at the beginning of the 1978 model year, to replace the discontinued Ford Maverick. Several Fairmont models were available in the first year of the series, and the available power ran from a 140 cubic-inch, four-cylinder engine to a 302 cubic-inch V-8. The most popular Ford Fairmont was the Sporty Coupe, which was introduced midway through the 1978 model year, and featured styling reminiscent of the Thunderbird. The vehicle was two inches longer than the other Fairmont models, and featured quad headlights and a unique roof design featuring a decorative wrap-over. In the 1979 model year, the Fairmont Sporty Coupe became the Fairmont Futura Sport, and, by 1980, was available as a four-door sedan in addition to the original two-door coupe. By 1981, the Fairmont Futura series was more of a high-trim automobile than its original manifestation as a sporty vehicle, and a Futura station wagon became available. At the end of the 1983 model year, the entire Fairmont line was discontinued.


First American to break a one minute mile

On this day, racer A. C. Bostwick became the first American racer to exceed the speed of a mile a minute on the Ocean Parkway racetrack in Brooklyn, New York. During a race sponsored by the Long Island Automobile Club, Bostwick achieved an average speed of 63.83mph along a one-mile straightaway on the course, thus completing the mile in 56.4 seconds. European car manufacturers and drivers dominated early motor racing, a phenomenon reflected in the first seven speed records. However, in 1902, just under a year after Bostwick´s historic run, William K. Vanderbilt Jr., a businessman and racing enthusiast, became the first American to enter the land speed record books when he ran a mile in 47.32 seconds, or at an average speed of 76.086mph. The Mors automobile that Vanderbilt drove was also the first vehicle with an internal combustion engine to enter the speed record books.


Honda founder is born in Hamamatsu, Japan

On this day, Honda Motor Company founder Soichiro Honda was born the son of a blacksmith in Hamamatsu, Japan, about 150 miles southwest of Tokyo. Honda, who displayed remarkable mechanical intuition even at a young age, began working in an auto repair shop in Tokyo at age 15. In 1928, Honda returned to Hamamatsu to set up another branch of the repair shop, and also began pursuing his youthful passion for motor car racing. In 1936, Honda won his first racing trophy at the All-Japan Speed Rally, but nearly died when his car crashed shortly after setting a speed record. After a prolonged recovery, Honda left racing, and during World War II constructed airplane propellers for his country. When the war was over, Japan´s industry was in shambles, and Honda saw an opportunity to beat swords into plowshares by starting an automotive company of his own. He bought a surplus of small generator engines from the military at a bargain price and began attaching them to bicycle frames. Honda´s fuel-efficient vehicles were popular in a time when fuel was scarce, and in September of 1948, with only $1,500, Honda formed the Honda Motor Company in Hamamatsu. The company began building a full line of powerful and well-made motorcycles that by 1955 led motorcycle production in Japan. Honda proved as effective a company manager as he was a talented engineer, and by the early 1960s, Honda was the world´s largest manufacturer of motorcycles. From this immense success, Honda was inspired to begin automobile production in 1962. Honda´s first vehicle, the pint-size S-360, failed to make a dent in the American market, and it was not until 1972, and the introduction of the Civic 1200, that Honda became a serious contender in the industry. The fuel crisis of 1973 was the catalyst that thrust Honda and other Japanese auto manufacturers into the forefront of the international market. Cars like the Honda Civic proved far more durable and fuel efficient than anything being produced in Detroit at the time, and American consumers embraced Japanese-made automobiles. In 1973, Soichiro Honda retired from the top position at Honda, but the company he founded went on to become an industry leader, establishing such successful marques as the Accord, which by 1989 was the best-selling car in America.


Ferrari 250 GTO hardtop sets an auction record

On this day, a special edition 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO hardtop was sold for $1,600,000 at an automobile auction in Italy, setting a new public auction record. Enzo Ferrari first introduced the GTO in 1954, and public demand for the series was so great that Ferrari was motivated to build its first assembly line. The 250 series, the most popular of which were the Testa Rossa and the GT Spyder, made Ferrari a legend. The 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO was a limited edition variant on the 1962 GTO. The engine featured a 12-cylinder engine with a maximum power output of 290bhp at 7,400rpm. The 1963 GTO variant featured larger tires and the hardtop design, and was significant because of its release during the 250 GTO´s last major year of production.


The first ever toll machine goes into service

The first automatic toll collection machine was placed in service at the Union Toll Plaza on New Jersey´s Garden State Parkway on this day. In order to pass through the toll area, motorists dropped 25¢ into a wire mesh hopper and then a green light would flash permitting passage through the toll. The automatic toll collection machine was an important innovation for America´s modern toll highway, which first appeared in 1940 with the opening of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. For a three-hour reduction of travel time between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, the turnpike asked travelers to pay tolls, creating revenues that helped cover the roadway´s high construction and maintenance costs. The Pennsylvania Turnpike was a tremendous success, leading to the construction of toll highways across the country, including the Garden State Parkway, which opened its first toll section in early 1954, and was completed in 1955. However, a non-automotive toll road first appeared in the United States in 1795, when people traveling through the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Little River Turnpike found their way blocked by toll gates at Snicker´s Gap, where they were asked to pay a toll.


The first British Ford gets marketed to Americans

In 1911, the Ford Motor Company, which had been importing Ford Model Ts for several years, opened its first overseas plant at Trafford Park in Manchester, England. In 1920, after a decade of brisk sales in Britain and all over Europe, Ford was faced with a crisis--a new British law established higher tax penalties for larger-engine cars, and Ford´s market share was suffering. Ford of England responded by developing several prototypes for a Ford automobile small enough to avoid British tax penalties. Designers also predicted that the citizens of dense European cities would prefer a car smaller than the standard American Ford. The resulting Model Y Ford "8" went into production in 1932, and after a strong first year Ford´s British market share began to rapidly expand. In 1938, the Ford E93A Prefect was introduced, the first marque in the United States--the first British Ford to be marketed to Americans on a large scale. Internally, the compact 105E Anglia had a brand new overhead-valve engine and a four-speed gearbox, and externally, it was like nothing else on the road with it distinctive rear-sloping back window, frog-like headlights, and stylish colors: light green and primrose yellow. Despite appreciation for the well-designed car by a few automobile enthusiasts in America, the Anglia, which was a best-seller on the world´s markets, failed to make a noticeable impact in the general U.S. market.


Hudson founder dies in a gun accident

On this day, Howard E. Coffin, who founded the Hudson Motor Company along with Joseph L. Hudson in 1909, died from an accidental gunshot wound at Sea Island Beach in Georgia at the age of 64. Coffin served as vice president and chief engineer of Hudson from 1909 to 1930, and was responsible for a number of Hudson´s important automotive innovations, including the placement of the steering wheel on the left side, the self-starter, and dual brakes. Under Coffin´s influence the Hudson Essex was introduced in 1919, a sturdy automobile built on an all-steel body that sold for pennies more than Ford´s Model T. Coffin´s last production year with Hudson was also the company´s most prosperous--Hudson production peaked in 1929 with over 300,000 units.


CEO of Chrysler leads immigration ceremony

On this day, Lee Iacocca, the chief executive officer of the Chrysler Corporation, presided over the largest swearing-in ceremony for new U.S. citizens in American history. At the end of six days of rallies around the country, Iacocca, the son of Italian immigrants himself, lead 38,648 people in a swearing of allegiance to the United States. Iacocca served as president of the Ford Motor Company during the 1970s, and was largely responsible for the extremely profitable Mustang marque. After a falling out with Henry Ford II in 1978, Iacocca moved to the struggling Chrysler Corporation, and steered the company back to profitability as president and later as CEO. Iacocca was also one of the most charismatic and influential men Detroit had ever known. After making massive but necessary cuts to Chrysler´s workforce, Iacocca elected to pay himself only $1 for his first year as CEO, explaining that everyone had to make sacrifices in order for Chrysler to survive. He also appeared in Chrysler´s commercials as himself, wrote a best-selling autobiography, and entertained the possibility of running for president of the United States. A self-made son of immigrants, America´s immigration and ethnic heritage was always important to Iacocca. Three years before presiding over the record-breaking swearing-in ceremony, Iacocca helped form the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in 1982 to raise funds for the restoration and preservation of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Iacocca later became chairman emeritus of this organization.


Olds issued patent for "motor carriage"

On this day, Ransom Eli Olds of Lansing, Michigan, is issued a U.S. patent for his "motor carriage," a gasoline-powered vehicle that he constructed the year before. In 1887, when he was only 18, Olds built his first automobile, a steam-propelled three-wheeled vehicle. However, Olds soon recognized the advantages of an engine powered by gasoline, an abundant fuel source that was safer and more reliable than steam. Two months before receiving his patent, Olds had formed the Olds Motor Vehicle Company, a company that grew into the Olds Motors Works, in 1899, with the assistance of private investor Samuel L. Smith. After designing a number of prototypes, Olds and his company finally settled on the Olds Runabout in 1901. The Runabout was a small, motorized buggy with a curved dashboard and lightweight wheels, and was powered by a one-cylinder engine capable of reaching 20mph. Perhaps out of financial necessity, Olds contracted with other companies to construct various parts for the Runabout, a production technique that differed from the current industry practice of individually handcrafting each vehicle. Olds´ new production method, a prototype of assembly line production, proved a great success, and Olds Motor Works sold 425 Oldsmobile Runabouts in the first year of business, 2,500 in the next, and peaked in 1904 with sales in excess of 5,000 vehicles.


First gasoline-powered Pierce automobile

On this day, the first gasoline-powered Pierce automobile was taken on a test drive through the streets of Buffalo, New York. George N. Pierce first founded the Pierce Company in 1878 as a manufacturer of household items, but in the late nineteenth century shifted to bicycle production. Pierce bicycles became known for their high quality, and after achieving a substantial capital base, Pierce and his company decided to try their hand in automobile production. The first few Pierce prototypes involved steam power, but in 1900 the designers shifted to gasoline engines. The first production Pierce, test driven on this day, featured a modified one-cylinder deDion engine capable of producing nearly three horsepower. The automobile would be christened the Pierce Motorette, and between 1901 and 1903 roughly 170 Pierce Motorettes were made. In 1903, Pierce began manufacturing its own engines, and later in the year, the Pierce Arrow was introduced, followed by the Pierce Great Arrow in 1904. By 1905, the George N. Pierce Company was producing some of the biggest and most expensive automobiles in America, with prices in excess of $5,000. In 1908, the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company was officially launched, and in 1909 U.S. president William Howard Taft ordered two of the prestigious automobiles, a Brougham and a Landaulette, for use by the White House.


Gaston brother of racer Louis Chevrolet dies in race

Gaston Chevrolet, the younger brother of famous automobile designer and racer Louis Chevrolet, was killed during a race in Beverly Hills, California, on this day. Gaston, born in La-Chauz-de-Fonds, Switzerland, came to America in the early nineteenth century to join his brothers Louis and Andre in the establishment of a racing car design company: the Frontenac Motor Corporation. Frontenac replaced Louis´ earlier racing car design company, the Chevrolet Motor Company, which he sold to William C. Durant in 1915. After some initial success, the Chevrolet brothers were faced with obsolete vehicles after World War I, and not enough financial resources to make them competitive again. However, in 1920, the new management at the Monroe Motors Company asked Louis to run his racing team. The Chevrolets moved their operations to Indianapolis, and rapidly made the Monroe racers ready for the 1920 Indy 500, the first to be held since 1914. During the 1920s, the Indy 500 was the most important racing event in America, and Gaston Chevrolet, driving a Chevrolet-adapted Monroe, won the first post-war competition with an average race speed of 86.63mph. The Chevrolet brothers did not have long to enjoy their success, however, because just a few months later Gaston was killed along with his riding mechanic Lyall Jolls during the Beverly Hills race.


Ford announces Model A

On this day, the Ford Motor Company announced the introduction of the Model A, the first new Ford to enter the market since the Model T was first introduced in 1908. The hugely successful Model T revolutionized the automobile industry, and over 15,000,000 million copies of the "Tin Lizzie" were sold in its 19 years of production. By 1927, the popularity of the outdated Model T was rapidly waning. Improved, but basically unchanged for its two-decade reign, it was losing ground to the more stylish and powerful motor cars offered by Ford´s competitors. In May of 1927, Ford plants across the country closed, as the company began an intensive development of the more refined and modern Model A. The vastly improved Model A had elegant Lincoln-like styling on a smaller scale, and used a capable 200.5-cubic-inch four-cylinder engine that produced 40hp. With prices starting at $460, nearly 5,000,000 Model As, in several body styles and a variety of colors, rolled onto America´s highways until production ended in early 1932.


First Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade is held

On this day, New York City´s Macy´s department store held its first Thanksgiving Day parade down a two-mile stretch of Broadway from Central Park West to Herald Square. The parade featured large performing platforms that, because they were attached to specially outfitted automobiles concealed beneath them, seemed to float down Broadway. Each "float" had a separate theme: some featured Macy´s employees dressed as clowns, cowboys, sheiks, and knights, while others displayed live animals on loan from the Central Park Zoo. The event was created to boost holiday sales and to bring customers to Macy´s new flagship store at Herald Square. With an audience of over a quarter of a million people, the parade was a great success, and subsequently declared an annual event. In 1927, a new Macy´s tradition began with the introduction of large balloons in the shape of animal or cartoon characters. Felix the Cat was Macy´s first parade balloon. Although these literal "floats" tended to command the center of attention, automobile-propelled floats continue until this day--perennial favorites being the Santa Claus float and the traditional Turkey float. Since 1950, the Macy´s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been nationally televised, and millions of Americans tune in to the spectacle every year.


The first gasoline-powered race is held

America´s first race featuring gasoline-powered automobiles was held on this day in Chicago, Illinois, with six vehicles competing: two electric cars, three German Benz automobiles, and one American-made Duryea automobile. Charles and Frank Duryea of Peoria, Illinois, had completed America´s first working gasoline-powered automobile in 1893, and to the Great Chicago Race, as it would come to be known, the brothers brought a vastly improved two-cylinder model. The race was organized by Chicago Times-Herald Publisher Herman H. Kohlstaat, who had announced in early 1895 that his newspaper would sponsor a major race between horseless carriages. Kohlstaat, who was offering $5,000 in prizes, including a first-place prize of $2,000, received telegrams from automobile enthusiasts across America and Europe. At the request of entrants still working on their automobile prototypes, Kohlstaat agreed to delay the race, originally scheduled for the summer, until November 28, Thanksgiving Day. When the fateful day finally came, the streets of Chicago were covered with several inches of snow, but six of the 80 original entrants had managed to show up. Because of weather conditions, the course was shortened to a 52-mile round-trip out of Chicago and back. The flag dropped and Frank Duryea and his five competitors drove into automotive history. A few miles into the race, both electric cars broke down, leaving the Duryea brothers to contend with the three Benz vehicles. The German-built Benz cars, driven by two Americans and a German, were no match for Frank and the powerful two-cylinder Duryea automobile. After 10 1/2 hours, despite an accidental two-mile detour, Frank crossed the finish line with no other car in sight, having achieved an average speed of 7.5mph during the race. The only other vehicle to finish, a Benz driven by German Oscar Mueller, completed the race an hour and a half later.


The first all-Australian automobile is unveiled

On this day, Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley and 1,200 hundred other people attended the unveiling of the first car to be manufactured entirely in Australia--an ivory-colored motor car officially designated the 48-215, but fondly known as the Holden FX. In 1945, the Australian government had invited Australia´s auto-part manufacturers to create an all-Australian car. General Motors-Holden´s Automotive, a car body manufacturer, obliged, producing the 48-215, a six-cylinder, four-door sedan. The 48-215 was an instant success in Australia, and 100,000 Holden FXs were sold in the first five years of production. During the next few decades, General Motors-Holden´s Automotive went on to introduce a number of other successful marques, including the Torana and the Commodore. Four million Holdens, with their trademark "Lion-and-Stone" emblem, were sold in Australia and exported around the world by the 1980s. In 1994, General Motors-Holden´s Automotive finally adopted Holden as its official company name, and today Holden continues its mission of meeting Australia´s unique motoring needs.


The first underwater highway tunnel in the U.S.

Work on the first underwater highway tunnel in the United States began on this day in Chicago, Illinois. Over a three-year period, workers and engineers tunneled underneath the Chicago River, finally completing the 1,500-foot tunnel at a cost of over $500,000. The tunnel had two roadways, each 11-feet tall and 13-feet wide, and a separate footway 10-feet wide and 10-feet tall. In 1907, the tunnel was lowered to provide better air circulation, and for the first time it began to allow regular automobile traffic.

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