This week in car history with Walker Cutting
Check another edition of our calendar of car history, charting the anniversaries of motoring milestones we’ll see this week.
17th October 1973
War in the Middle East changes the car industry forever.
In 1973 Egypt and Syria, with Soviet backing, launched a surprise attack on Israel. What followed became known as the Yom Kippur War. Caught unaware, outnumbered, and facing obliteration, the Israelis turned to their old ally, the USA. The Americans launched Operation Nickel Grass- a massive resupply of weapons and equipment to help the Israeli army shore up their defences. This US interference irked the Arab world, not least the Saudi Arabian government, and on 17th October 1973 OPEC oil producers responded by cutting off oil supplies to the West. The sudden shortage of oil crashed the economy, not to mention causing huge social problems as the fuel-dependent US ground to a halt. While the embargo was eventually lifted, the shock it had caused to the USA left a deep mark. The idea of the fuel the US depended on being finite and the increase in prices led to a huge transformation in the mindset of the US car industry: overnight the huge gas guzzlers with their heavy engines, cavernous interiors with sofa-like seats, and chunky, ornate radiators were gone, and a new era of fuel efficient, aerodynamically designed cars dawned. Cars got lighter, faster, cleaner and utilitarian in their appearance. Japanese & European imports boomed due to their practical, low cost designs, and while some luxury US makes recovered their sales, subsequent generations were built with fuel economy, not comfort & glamour, in mind.
18th October 1919
Rolls-Royce America established.
From Spitfires to the super rich, Rolls Royce engines have a long, storied history. And it was on this day in 1919 that the most famous name in high-cost, high-luxury cars hit the USA. The new wealthy elites were able to enjoy the booming 1920s in true style in their Rolls Royces. On 12th December the company announced plans to purchase a plant in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the first chassis were finished by February 1921. Now based in Reston Virginia, Rolls Royce today employs seven thousand people in the USA.
19th October 2003
Death of Nello Pagani
Italian motor racing legend Nello Pagani died aged 92 on this day in 2003. Pagani was a titan of the golden era of motor racing, with a career lasting from 1928 to 1955 that included first ever 125cc motorcycle grand prix world champion title, and the first non-British grand prix motorbike champion.
20th October 1965
The last Volvo PV544
38 years after its first car was completed, Volvo bit farewell to perhaps its first truly ground breaking car- the PV series. Manufacturered since 1947, first as the PV444 then the PV544, the series was a game changer in both safety and overall quality- and the first car to come fitted with seatbelts as standard. The black sports model PV544 was put straight in Gothenburg museum. Popular with rally drivers and consumers alike, almost half a million were built, of which more than half were exported. A truly successful and innovative car, the PV series placed Volvo firmly among the pantheon of superior car designers and paved the way for future greatness.
21th October 1929
The Ford Museum.
This day in 1929 saw Henry Ford dedicate his new museum to light bulb inventor Thomas Edison. The Thomas Edison Institute was a pair of building moved brick by brick by Ford from New Jersey to Michigan, and restored to their condition in 1879- the time of Edison’s invention. Yet after Ford’s death in 1947, the much-enlarged site was renamed The Ford Musuem, and grew to hold a bewildering array of exhibits- including an example of every model Ford ever produced, various other technologies, the first Mustang, the 15 millionth Model T and an entire village moved to the site from different locations around the US.
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