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March In Automotive History

03-01-2005

Honda unveils new Civic

Honda debuts the Civic Concept, a five-door hatchback. The Japan-based automaker launched the first Civic in the early 1970s, later this affordably priced car went on to become a best-seller in the U.S. auto market. By 1989 Honda would begin making Civics in East Liberty, Ohio. Honda had become the first Japanese automaker to build cars in America.

03-02-1966

Ford celebrates 1 millionth Mustang

On this day in 1966, in Dearborn, Michigan, the Ford Motor Company celebrates the production of its 1 millionth Mustang, a white convertible. The sporty, affordable vehicle was officially launched two years earlier, on April 17, 1964, at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. That same day, the new car debuted in Ford showrooms across America; almost immediately, buyers snapped up nearly 22,000 of them. More than 400,000 Mustangs were sold within that first year, exceeding sales expectations.

03-03-2009

Super-luxurious Maybach Zeppelin goes on sale

The Suber-luxurious Maybach Zeppelin sedan became available with a starting price of $523,870. Daimler-Benz, owner of the Maybach brand, announced that only 100 Zeppelins would be built, with each vehicle hand-crafted to its individual buyer´s specifications. Among the Zeppelin´s many optional amenities was the world´s first perfume-atomizing system, for which customers could even have their own personal fragrance designed. The 2009 Maybach Zeppelin was a reincarnation of the Zeppelin auto built in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The original Zeppelin was made by a company founded by German auto industry pioneer Wilhelm Maybach the Maybach Type W3.

03-04-1936

Scottish racing legend Jim Clark born

On this day in 1936, Jim Clark, who dominated Formula One (F1) racing in the mid-1960s and win two F1 world championships, was born in Scotland.Clark grew up on a farm and as a teenager began competing in local car races. In 1960, the Scotsman began his F1 racing career, competing for the British-based Team Lotus. (The team, which was established in the early 1950s, was dominant on the F1 circuit in the 1960s and 1970s, collecting seven F1 constructors´ championships and six drivers´ titles before it was disbanded in the mid-1990s.) While competing in just his second Grand Prix, at Spa in Belgium, he narrowly missed hitting the body of a fellow competitor, who had been killed in a crash, on the track. Several laps later, Clark´s teammate and friend Alan Stacey lost control of his car after being smacked in the face by a bird and died.

03-05-1929

David Dunbar Buick dies

On this day in 1929, David Dunbar Buick, the founder of the Buick Motor Company, dies in relative obscurity and meager circumstances at the age of 74. In 1908, Buick´s company became the foundation for the General Motors Corporation; however, by that time David Buick had sold his interest in the company.Buick was born in Arbroath, Scotland, on September 17, 1854, and moved with his family to Detroit, Michigan, as a child. After selling his interest in his company, David Buick became involved in a series of unsuccessful oil, real-estate and automotive ventures.

03-06-1900

Auto pioneer Gottlieb Daimler dies

Gottlieb Daimler, the German engineer who invented an early version of the internal combustion engine and founded an auto company bearing his name, dies at the age of 65 on this day in 1900.Daimler, who was born on March 17, 1834, in Schorndorf, Germany, apprenticed as a gunsmith before he moved into mechanical engineering. Believing that steam engines were on the way out, Daimler began developing gasoline engines. In 1885, he met fellow German Wilhelm Maybach (1846-1929) and the two collaborated on a new, efficient four-stroke internal combustion engine. (Nikolaus Otto is credited with inventing the first functioning four-stroke engine.) The two men fitted their engine to a bicycle, creating what people have called the world´s first motorcycle. In 1886, they attached their engine to a carriage and produced a motorized vehicle.

03-07-1938

Janet Guthrie, first female to compete in the 500, born

On this day in 1938, Janet Guthrie, the first woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500 races, is born in Iowa City, Iowa. Guthrie was raised in Florida and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1960 with a degree in physics. After college, she worked as an aerospace engineer; however, by the early 1970s, her interest in sports car racing led her to devote herself full-time to the sport. In 1976, she was the first woman to compete in a National Association of Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) Winston Cup superspeedway race. The following year, she broke the gender barrier again, becoming the first female driver in the Daytona 500, where she finished in 12th place and earned Top Rookie honors. Known today as the "Super Bowl of stock car racing," the 200-lap, 500-race first was held in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1959. Also in 1977, Guthrie became the first female driver ever to qualify for and compete in the famed Indianapolis 500.

03-08-1950

VW bus goes into production

Volkswagen, maker of the Beetle automobile, expands its product offerings to include a microbus, which goes into production on this day in 1950. The VW bus was reportedly the brainchild of Dutch businessman Ben Pon, an importer of Beetles to the Netherlands, who saw a market for a small bus and in 1947 sketched out his concept. Volkswagen engineers further developed the idea and in March 1950, the vehicle, with its boxy, utilitarian shape and rear engine, went into production.

03-09-1985

First Adopt-a-Highway sign goes up

On March 9, 1985, the first-ever Adopt-a-Highway sign is erected on Texas’s Highway 69. The highway was adopted by the Tyler Civitan Club, which committed to picking up trash along a designated two-mile stretch of the road.

03-10-1927

Inventor who won suits against auto giants is born

Robert Kearns, who patented a design for a type of windshield wiper and later won multi-million dollar judgments against Chrysler and Ford for using his concept without permission, is born on March 10, 1927, in Gary, Indiana. Kearns´ invention, the intermittent windshield wiper, enabled wipers to move at timed intervals, rather than constantly swiping back and forth.Kearns´ real-life David versus Goliath story about taking on the auto giants was made into a movie titled "Flash of Genius" that opened in 2008 and starred Greg Kinnear.Kearns died at the age of 77 from cancer on February 9, 2005, in Maryland.

03-11-2009

Toyota sells 1 millionth hybrid in U.S.

The Toyota Motor Company announces on this day in 2009 that it has sold over 1 million gas-electric hybrid vehicles in the U.S. under its six Toyota and Lexus brands. The sales were led by the Prius, the world´s first mass-market hybrid car, which was launched in Japan in October 1997 and introduced in America in July 2000.

03-12-1921

Italian auto titan Gianni Agnelli born

On this day in 1921, Giovanni "Gianni" Agnelli, the glamorous, powerful Italian business tycoon who turned Fiat, his family´s car company, into an international conglomerate, is born in Turin, Italy.As a young man Agnelli, who had a privileged upbringing, received a law degree and fought in World War II. Agnelli resigned as head of Fiat in 1996, although he remained honorary chairman until his death on January 25, 2003, at the age of 81 from prostate cancer.

03-13-1969

"The Love Bug" opens in theaters

On this day in 1969, "The Love Bug," a Walt Disney movie about the adventures of a Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie, opens in theaters across the United States. The film, which was based on a 1961 book called "Car, Boy, Girl" by Gordon Buford, centered around down-on-his-luck auto racer Jim (played by Dean Jones) who goes on a winning streak after teaming up with Herbie. "The Love Bug" was released just as VW Beetles, whose history dates back to 1930s Germany, were gaining widespread popularity in the United States.

03-14-1922

Mack Truck founder killed in car crash

John "Jack" Mack, who co-founded what would become one of North America´s largest makers of heavy-duty trucks, is killed when his car collides with a trolley in Pennsylvania on March 14, 1922. In 1890, Jack Mack went to work for Fallesen & Berry, a carriage and wagon company in Brooklyn, New York. Three years later, Mack and his brother Augustus bought the business. In 1900, the siblings founded the Mack Brothers Company and began making motorized vehicles. In 1905, they began producing trucks in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where the company continues to be headquartered today.

03-15-1968

Construction on America´s highest vehicle tunnel

Construction starts on the north tunnel of the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnel on Interstate 70 in Colorado, some 60 miles west of Denver. Located at an altitude of more than 11,000 feet, the project was an engineering marvel and became the world´s highest vehicular tunnel when it was completed in 1979. Four months after opening, one million vehicles had passed through the tunnel; today, some 10 million vehicles drive through it each year.

03-16-2003

NASCAR´s closest finish involves Craven and Busch

In 2003, race car driver Ricky Craven wins the Darlington 500, crossing the finish line .002 seconds ahead of Kurt Busch for the closest recorded finish in National Association for Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) history. Voted by more than 5,000 racing fans made Craven´s victory the most memorable moment in the history of South Carolina´s challenging Darlington Raceway, nicknamed "The Track Too Tough to Tame."

03-17-1834

Auto pioneer Gottlieb Daimler born

Gottlieb Daimler, who in 1890 founded an engine and car company bearing his name, is born in Schorndorf, Germany, on this day in 1834.

03-18-1933

Studebaker goes bankrupt

American automaker Studebaker, heavily in debt, goes into receivership. The company´s president, Albert Erskine, resigned and later that year committed suicide. Studebaker eventually rebounded from its financial troubles, only to close its doors for the final time in 1966.

03-19-2005

Maverick auto exec John DeLorean dies

On this day in 2005, John DeLorean, an innovative auto industry executive and founder of the DeLorean Motor Company, dies at the age of 80 in New Jersey DeLorean grew up in Detroit where he worked as an engineer for the Packard Motor Company. Later he would move to General Motors, where he was credited with developing the Pontiac GTO, the first "muscle car," which launched in 1964.

03-20-1928

Pioneer James Packard dies

James Packard, co-founder of the Packard Motor Company, a pioneering American automaker, dies at the age of 64 on this day in 1928. During Packard´s heyday in the 1930s, its vehicles were driven by movie stars and business titans.Packard was born in Warren, Ohio, on November 5, 1863, and graduated from Lehigh University in 1884 with a mechanical engineering degree.

03-21-1960

Formula One champ Ayrton Senna born

Ayrton Senna da Silva, the three-time Formula One (F1) world champion, is born on this day in 1960, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Senna´s celebrated career was cut short in 1994 when he died at the age of 34 following a crash at a Grand Prix race in Italy. At the time of his death, he was considered by many to be the world´s best F1 driver.

03-22-1983

The origins of the Hummer

The Pentagon awards a production contract worth more than $1 billion to AM General Corporation to develop 55,000 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV). The Humvee was designed to transport troops and cargo, the wide, rugged vehicles entered the spotlight when they were used by the American military during the 1989 invasion of Panama and the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s. In 1992, a civilian version of the Humvee, known as the Hummer, went on sale. The hulking, attention-grabbing road warrior tipped the scales at some 10,000 pounds and got less than 10 miles per gallon. It was an early hit with Hollywood celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, who went on to own a fleet of Hummers. General Motors purchased the rights from AM General to market and distribute the Hummer. In 2002, the Hummer H2, a smaller (some 8,600 pounds), less expensive version of the original model, debuted. The Hummer H3, an even smaller (5,800 pounds), more fuel-efficient (16 to 20 miles per gallon) vehicle, was released. The following year, GM ended production of the original Hummer, due to low sales. GM later announced that as part of a reorganization plan it would sell the Hummer brand to a Chinese machinery company.

03-23-1937

Craig Breedlove, land-speed record holder, born

Craig Breedlove, the first person to reach land speeds of 400mph, 500 mph and 600 mph in a jet-powered vehicle, is born. Breedlove was raised in Southern California, where as a teenager he built cars and was a drag racer. As a young man, he designed a three-wheeled, rocket-shaped vehicle powered by a surplus military J-47 plane engine and dubbed it the Spirit of America.

03-24-2007

Ferrari´s around-the-world relay stops in L.A.

On this day in 2007, an around-the-world relay celebrating Italian sports car maker Ferrari´s 60th anniversary passes through Los Angeles, California. The relay began earlier that year, on January 28, in Abu Dhabi and continued on through 50 countries including Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, Australia, Mexico, America, Canada and Russia, before ending on June 23, 2007 at Ferrari headquarters in Maranello, Italy. Thousands of Ferrari owners and their cars participated at various points of the relay, serving as symbolic bearers of a relay baton featuring 60 badges representing key innovations in the luxury automaker´s history.

03-25-1982

Star driver Danica Patrick born

In 1982, Danica Patrick, the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race, America´s top level of open-wheel racing, is born in Beloit, Wisconsin. On May 29, 2005, Patrick made her Indy 500 debut, becoming just the fourth female driver ever to compete in the celebrated 500-mile race, which was first held in 1911 and today is considered one of auto racing´s premier events. During Patrick´s inaugural Indy 500, she led the race for 19 laps, marking the first time a woman ever lead a lap in the competition.

03-26-2008

Ford sells Jaguar and Land Rover to India´s Tata

The Ford Motor Company announces the sale of its Jaguar and Land Rover divisions to the Tata Group, one of India´s oldest and largest business conglomerates, for some $2.3 billion--less than half of what Ford originally paid for the brands. The sale came at a time when Ford, along with much of the rest of the auto industry, was experiencing a sales slump as a result of the global economic crisis.

03-27-1952

Toyota founder dies

Kiichiro Toyoda, founder of the Toyota Motor Corporation, which in 2008 surpassed America´s General Motors as the world´s largest automaker, dies at the age of 57 in Japan on this day 1952.Toyoda was born in Japan on June 11, 1894. Kiichiro Toyoda died in 1952, but his company continued to grow. In 1966, Toyota introduced its compact Corolla model, which in 1997 became the world´s best-selling car, with more than 35 million sold at the time.

03-28-1941

Land cleared for Ford´s Willow Run plant

On this day in 1941, workers start clearing trees from hundreds of acres of land near Ypsilanti, Michigan, some 30 miles west of Detroit, in preparation for the construction of the Ford Motor Company´s Willow Run plant, which will use Henry Ford´s mass-production technology to build B-24 bomber planes for World War II. During the war, Detroit was dubbed the "Arsenal of Democracy," as American automakers reconfigured their factories to produce a variety of military vehicles and ammunition for the Allies.

03-29-2009

White House ousts GM chief

On March 29, 2009, Rick Wagoner, the chairman and chief executive of troubled auto giant General Motors (GM), resigns at the request of the Obama administration. During Wagoner´s more than 8 years in the top job at GM, the company lost billions of dollars and in 2008 was surpassed by Japan-based Toyota as the world´s top-selling maker of cars and trucks, a title the American automaker had held since the early 1930s.

03-30-2009

President Obama announces auto industry shakeup

On this day in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama issues an ultimatum to struggling American automakers General Motors (GM) and Chrysler: In order to receive additional bailout loans from the government, he says, the companies need to make dramatic changes in the way they run their businesses. The president also announced a set of initiatives intended to assist the struggling U.S. auto industry and boost consumer confidence, including government backing of GM and Chrysler warranties, even if both automakers went out of business.

03-31-1931

Knute Rockne, Studebaker namesake, dies

On this day in 1931, Knute Rockne, the legendary Notre Dame football coach and namesake of the Studebaker Rockne line of autos, is killed in a plane crash near Bazaar, Kansas, at the age of 43. The roots of the Studebaker Corporation date back to 1852, when siblings Henry and Clement Studebaker opened a blacksmith shop in South Bend, Indiana. Studebaker eventually became a leading manufacturer of horse-drawn wagons and supplied the U.S. Army with wagons during the Civil War.

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