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August In Automotive History


The Packard makes the first cross-country trek

The first cross-country auto trip, from New York City to San Francisco, was completed on this day in 1903. The trail was blazed by a Packard, which finished in a mere 52 days. Since then, countless Americans have embarked on the cross-country trek, driving from coast to coast.


Ford creates defense division due to Korean War

The Ford Motor Company created the Defense Products Division in order to handle the large number of government contracts related to the Korean War. The conversion from automobile manufacture to weapons production had already been made several times in history, including during World War II, when civilian automobile production in the U.S. virtually ceased as manufacturers began turning out tanks instead.


Firestone is founded

The Firestone Tire & Rubber Company was established in Akron, Ohio, on this day in 1900. Thirty-one-year-old inventor and entrepreneur Harvey S. Firestone seized on a new way of making carriage tires and began production with only 12 employees. Eight years later, Firestone tires were chosen by Henry Ford for the Model T, and Firestone eventually became a household name.


William D. Packard goes for a test drive in the Winston

On a visit to the Winton plant with his brother James, William D. Packard was taken for a test drive in one of the company´s vehicles, accompanied by George L. Weiss, a Winton executive. Packard ended up purchasing the Winton, to his later regret. The Packard´s disappointing experience with the Winton prompted them to build their own car and establish the Ohio Automobile Company in 1900, which would later become the Packard Motor Company.


Standard Oil Company is born a Rockefeller empire

The Standard Oil Company of New Jersey was established on this day as part of the giant Standard Oil Trust. The trust had been organized earlier in the year, bringing together John D. Rockefeller´s oil empire under one central management, run by Rockefeller and an "inner circle." The Standard Oil Trust became the first great monopoly in American history, eventually acquiring 90 percent of the world´s oil refining capacity before it was ordered to dissolve in 1892. Rockefeller was infamous for his ruthless business tactics, and it was rumored that he often threatened to put local merchants out of business unless they bought Standard Oil.


Hyundai Motors founder Chung Se Yung is born

Chung Se Yung, a cofounder of the Hyundai Motor Company, was born on this day in Kangwon Province, Korea. Hyundai, which was founded in 1967, is one of the largest auto manufacturers in the world, actively exporting to 160 countries. Its international network consists of 145 independent importers and distributors, as well as several subsidiaries, such as Hyundai Motor America.


Rolls Royce Silver Ghost passes 15,000 mile trial

The Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost passed its 15,000-mile official trial with flying colors, showing off its seven-liter engine and four-speed overdrive gearbox. It was this trial that made "the Ghost´s" reputation and gave the Rolls-Royce the name "The Best Car in the World." A total of 6,173 Silver Ghosts were produced.


Ireland holds its first rally race

The first rally race in Ireland, sponsored by the Irish Automobile Club, was held on this day as 12 automobiles attempted an organized journey from Dublin to Waterford. A rally takes place over a specified public route with a driver and navigator straining to maintain a breakneck pace from checkpoint to checkpoint. The course is generally kept secret until the race begins. Rally racing became extremely popular after World War II, and weekend rallies became common worldwide. The longest rally took place in 1977, spreading over 19,239 miles from London to Sydney.


Prince Borghese wins Peking-to-Paris race

Stretching 8,000 miles, this Peking-to-Paris race lasted for 62 days, and was won on this day by Prince Borghese of Italy. Driving like a madman across Asia and Europe, the prince encountered brush fire, got stuck in a swamp, and was pulled over by a policeman in Belgium. The policeman refused to believe that the prince was racing, rather than merely speeding.


Pike´s Peak is taken by car for the first time

Charles A. Yont and W.B. Felker completed the first automobile trip to the summit of Pikes Peak, Colorado, on this day, driving an 1899 locomobile steamer. Climbing 14,110 feet to the top was quite a feat for the little steamer. Pikes Peak is well known because of its commanding location and easy accessibility, and the view from the summit is said to have inspired the song "America the Beautiful." Today, an ascent to the top is made easy by a graded toll road.


The first taxi cab takes to the streets of NYC

The first taxicab took to the streets of New York City on this day, marking the beginning of the love-hate relationship between New Yorkers and their cabbies. Motorized taxicabs had actually begun appearing on the streets of Europe in the late 1890s, and their development closely mirrors that of the automobile. The taxi is named after the taximeter, a device that automatically records the distance traveled or time consumed and used to calculate the fare. The term cab originated from the cabriolet, a one-horse carriage let out for hire.


World´s first license plates were issued in Paris, France

On this day, the world´s first automobile license plates were issued in Paris, France. However, plates were not issued in the United States for a few more years, when they were finally instituted as a safety measure. The city of Boston was the first to require its motorists to hold a license and register their vehicle--the owner would make his own plate with the corresponding registration numbers. The rest of Massachusetts soon followed the trend and began issuing registration plates made of iron and covered with a porcelain enamel.


Henry Ford resigns as chief engineer for Edison

Henry Ford resigned as chief engineer at the main Detroit Edison Company plant in order to concentrate on automobile production. On call at all times, Ford had no regular hours and could experiment in his free time. His tinkering was fruitful, for he completed his first horseless carriage by 1896. After turning to automobiles full time, he would revolutionize the automotive industry with the Model T, also known as the "Tin Lizzie.";


Ralph Teetor inventor of the cruise control is born

Ralph R. Teetor, inventor of the cruise control, was born in Hagerstown, Indiana, on this day in 1890. A mechanical engineer with a degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Teetor began working at the Light Inspection Car Company. This family business eventually evolved into the Perfect Circle Company, of which Teetor became president. Teetor had a knack for invention and continued to work on new ideas after his retirement. His accomplishments are even more remarkable because he was blinded at the age of six, but never let his handicap keep him from his dream of becoming an inventor.


Toyota Motor Company is established

The Toyota Motor Company, Ltd., began as a division of the Toyota Automatic Loom Works, was established on this day. The company underwent huge expansion in the 1960s and 1970s, exporting its smaller, more fuel-efficient cars to countless foreign markets. During this period, Toyota also acquired Hino Motors, Ltd., Nippondenso Company, Ltd., and Daihitsu Motor Company Ltd. Toyota has been Japan´s largest automobile manufacturer for several decades.


Production of the Model T ends

Henry and Edsel Ford drove the 15,000,000 Model T off the assembly line at the Highland Park plant in Michigan, officially ending Model T production. Production in England ended on 08- 19; in Ireland on December 31. After revolutionizing the automobile market, sales of the Model T had started to falter due to its failure to keep up with the competition. Total world Model T production: 15,458,781.


Mazda announces its entrance into the luxury market

The Mazda Motor Corporation of Japan announced on this day that it planned to enter the luxury car market in 1994 with the Amati. Several other high-end brands from Japan had already been introduced: Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura.


America´s first transcontinental auto race is completed

America´s first transcontinental auto race, stretching from New York City to San Francisco, was completed on this day. The race was finished by Tom Fetch and M.C. Karrup in two Model F Packards, travelling an average of 80 miles per day for 51 days. They arrived covered in mud and exhausted. Along the way, the two travelers and their motorcars generated quite a bit of interest as they drove through many rural areas where automobiles were a rare sight. In one instance, a couple of Nebraska farmers, suspicious of the vehicles, threatened Fetch and Karrup with shotguns.


Denis Papin Inventor of the piston steam engine is born

Denis Papin, inventor of the piston steam engine, was born in Blois, France. This British physicist, who also invented the pressure cooker, got the first seedlings of an idea when he noticed the enclosed steam in the cooker raising the lid. Why couldn´t one use steam to drive a piston? Though he never actually constructed an engine, nor had a practical design, his sketches were improved on by others and led to the development of the steam engine.


Autos are allowed to enter Yosemite National Park

Automobiles were legally allowed to enter Yosemite National Park, California, for the first time on this day, marking a huge change in the national park system. Prior to 1913, most park visitors traveled by train to the park and then took scheduled stagecoach tours. The advent of motor tourism changed the face of Yosemite forever, for it demanded modern, high-quality park roads. The National Park Service´s landscape architects, along with the Bureau of Public Roads, developed a systematic approach to the design and construction of park roads. From the mid-1920s through World War II, a "Golden Age" of park road development flourished as desigenrs attempted to create roads that would "lie lightly on the land".


Nicolas Carnot combustion engine pioneer dies at 36

Nicolas Carnot, a pioneer in the development of the internal combustion engine, died in Paris at age 36. The import of advanced British engines dismayed Carnot, for he saw how far behind French design had fallen. However, his own work would change that. He would go on to develop the Carnot cycle and Carnot efficiency, improving the efficiency of all types of engines.


The Yellow Cab Company is born

Walden W. Shaw and John D. Hertz formed the Walden W. Shaw Livery Company, which later became the Yellow Cab Company. In 1907, the Shaw Livery Company purchased a number of small taxicabs equipped with meters. The first yellow cab (the Model J) hit the streets in 1915, and its distinctive color became the company´s trademark. The company was also the first to use automatic windshield wipers, ultrahigh frequency two-way radios, and passenger seat belts.


Cadillac discontinues its LaSalle after 14 years

The LaSalle, manufactured by Cadillac, was discontinued after 14 years of production. Intended to boost profits during a lag in luxury car sales, the LaSalle was a moderately priced alternative to the opulence of the Cadillac. The company chose to market the car under a new name so as not to lessen the value of the Cadillac name.


Edwin Drake strikes oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania

Edwin Drake struck oil at 69 feet near Titusville, Pennsylvania--the world´s first successful oil well. This source of crude oil, or petroleum, opened up a new inexpensive source of power and quickly replaced whale oil in lamps. Within a few decades of Drake´s discovery, oil drilling was widespread in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and the East Indies. However, it was the development of the automobile that catapulted petroleum into a position of paramount importance, for petroleum is the primary source of gasoline. Asphalt, also derived from petroleum, is used to surface roads and highways.


Paragon Motor Company factory breaks ground

Construction of the Paragon Motor Company factory began in Cumberland, Maryland. The company´s production was limited to only four prototypes, and the factory was never completed.


Charles Kettering inventor of the electric starter is born

Charles F. Kettering, inventor of the electric starter, was born on this day in Detroit. Kettering, along with Edward A. Deeds, founded Delco (Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company). He and his company invented countless improvements for the automobile, including lighting and ignition systems, lacquer finishes, antilock fuels, and leaded gasoline. The Cadillac was the first car to use the electric starter, and Delco would later become a subsidiary of General Motors. Incidentally, Kettering also invented the first electric cash register before he started working on cars.


Studebaker announces the Heaslet Special

Studebaker announced the release of the Heaslet Special, a semi-custom touring car. The car was named in honor of Studebaker´s vice president of engineering, James G. Heaslet.


Stanley Steamer reaches Mt. Washington summit first

A Stanley Steamer, driven by F.O. Stanley, became the first car to reach the summit of Mount Washington, New Hampshire. F.O. Stanley was one of the Stanley twins, founders of the Stanley Motor Company, which specialized in steam-driven automobiles. The steamers not only climbed mountains, but often beat larger, gasoline-powered cars in races. In 1906, a Stanley Steamer would break the world record for the fastest mile when it reached 127mph.

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