On This Day 117 years ago

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The Third Annual automobile show held under the joint auspices of the Chicago Automobile Club and the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers at the Coliseum building opened at 2 pm. On the cover of The Automobile magazine from 1903, is an illustration of a husband and wife braving the chilly winds off of Lake Michigan as they drive to the Chicago Auto Show. This was the Third annual show held at the Coliseum, once located at 15th Street and Wabash Ave. A total of 325 machines from 80 manufacturers (four foreign) were exhibited with either gas or electric powerplants. An ad for the Seachmont Touring Car that ran during the 3rd annual Chicago Auto Show, promoted being in business for four years. Available in two models, the Seachmont had retail prices of $2,000 and $2,500. The Githens Brothers Co. were the Western agents for the Seachmont, with a dealership located on Michigan Ave. near the Coliseum.

On This Day 67 years ago

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The Willys-Overland Company, which brought America the Jeep, celebrated its golden anniversary. The original design for an all-terrain troop transport vehicle–featuring four-wheel drive, masked fender-mount headlights, and a rifle rack under the dash, was submitted to the U.S. Armed Forces by the American Bantam Car Company in 1939. The Army loved Bantam’s design, but the production contract was ultimately given to Willys-Overland on the basis of its similar design and superior production capabilities. Mass production of the Willys Jeep began after the U.S. declaration of war in 1941. By 1945, 600,000 Jeeps had rolled off the assembly lines and onto battlefields in Asia, Africa, and Europe. The name “Jeep” is supposedly derived from the Army’s request to car manufacturers to develop a “General Purpose” vehicle. “Gee Pee” turned to “Jeep” somewhere along the battle lines.

On This Day 87 years ago

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Ford in a press release to the Detroit News announced they were building a new model, with a revolutionary new 8 cylinder V-shaped engine. The V8 went on display the following month in 14 body types at prices ranging from $460-$650. In the 65 hp engine, two banks of four cylinders each were cast in a single piece with the crankcase, and the cylinders were set at an angle of 90°.

On This Day

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Tuesday 10th February 1885

134 years ago

The first US patent for seat belts was issued to Edward J. Claghorn of New York. Claghorn was granted United States Patent #312,085 for a Safety-Belt for tourists, described in the patent as “designed to be applied to the person, and provided with hooks and other attachments for securing the person to a fixed object.”

On This Day 111 years ago

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9th February 1909

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation was incorporated with Carl G. Fisher as president. The speedway was Fisher’s brainchild and he would see his project through its inauspicious beginnings to its ultimate glorious end. The first race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway took place on August 19, 1909, only a few months after the formation of the corporation. Fisher and his partners had scrambled to get their track together before the race, and their lack of preparation showed. Not only were lives lost on account of the track, but the surface itself was left in shambles. Instead of cutting losses on his investment in the Speedway, Fisher dug in and upped the stakes. He built a brand new track of brick, which was the cheapest and most durable appropriate surface available to him. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway would later be affectionately called “the Brickyard.” Fisher’s track filled a void in the international racing world, as there were almost no private closed courses in Europe capable of handling the speeds of the cars that were being developed there. Open course racing had lost momentum in Europe due to the growing number of fatal accidents. Recognizing the supremacy of European car technology, but preserving the American tradition of oval track racing, Fisher melded the two hemispheres of car racing into one extravagant event, a five-hundred mile race to be held annually. To guarantee the attendance of the European racers, Fisher arranged to offer the largest single prize in the sport. By 1912, the total prize money available at the grueling Indy 500 was $50,000, making the race the highest paying sporting event in the world. However, the Brickyard almost became a scrap yard after World War II, as it was in deplorable condition after four years of disuse. The track’s owner, Eddie Rickenbacher, even considered tearing it down and selling the land. Fortunately, in 1945, Tony Hulman purchased the track for $750,000. Hulman and Wilbur Shaw hastily renovated the track for racing in the next year, and launched a long-term campaign to replace the wooden grandstand with structures of steel and concrete. In May of 1946, the American Automobile Association ran its first postwar Indy 500, preserving an American tradition. Today, the Indy 500 is the largest single day sporting event in the world.