This week in automotive history: Some records, forgotten racetracks and the rise of the American automobile

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Just this last week, Triumph Motorcycle and Guy Martin attempted to break the motorcycle land speed record in the Triumph Infor Rocket Streamliner at the Bonneville Salt Flats. The salt pan has been witness to the most important records in automotive history. This week begins with some of these legendary feats. Scroll down to know more.

September 19, 1932: 24 Hours of Bonneville

Bonneville 24 hour record
Ab Jenkins set the 2,710 mile, 24-hour record on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah in a stock Pierce-Arrow V12. Image source:


Racecar driver Ab Jenkins sets a 24-hour record at the Salt Flats in Utah, by driving around a stock Pierce-Arrow V12 continuously, covering 2,710 miles (4361km). The average speed during these laps is clocked at 181.7km/h. Ab, a resident of Utah, will go on to become the 24th mayor of Salt Lake City.

September 20, 1960: A sweet-salty victory

Challenger I by Mickey Thompson
Mickey Thompson attempted to break the erstwhile land speed record in 1960 in the Challenger I, a car that he designed and built himself. Image source:


American off-roading champion and ‘hot-rodder’, Mickey Thompson attempts to break the 394mph (634km/h) land speed record in the Challenger I, a car he built himself. At the Bonneville Salt Flats, he did manage to clock a whopping 406.6mph (654km/h) a few weeks earlier. But he wasn’t able to make it official as his car broke down on the return pass, a requirement for cementing a place in the land-speed record books. On this day, he returns to the revered grounds for a follow-up attempt. He fails again. But his first attempt is enough to cement his place in motoring history.

September 21, 1947: A grand return

Grand Prix returns after World War
A schematic representation of the Lyon-Parilly circuit that hosted the first Grand Prix after WWII


Grand Prix racing resumes two years after the end of the Second World War. The 1947 season begins with the French GP at Lyon-Parilly. The race win is bagged by Monaco driver, Louis Chrion in a Talbot-Lago, a French make.

September 22, 1893: A pre-cursor to the Model T

America's first motor car
A motor car built by bicycle makers, Charles and Frank Duryea, arrived on the scene 15 years before the Ford Model T. Image source: Wikipedia


After one of the Duryea brothers spotted a gasoline engine at the 1886 Ohio state fair, both Charles and Frank Duryea rented a loft in Springfield, Massachusetts and put their bicycle making expertise into building a motor car. The fully functional automobile takes seven years to build, and is demonstrated on the streets of Springfield on this day.

September 23, 1972:  End of the crystal phase

Crystal Palace London hosted laps for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
45-year racing tradition ends with the closing of one of London’s oldest race circuits. Image source:


During its 45-year run, the Crystal Palace racetrack in London hosted a number of significant events – including the first London Grand Prix in 1937 and demo laps by the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang from the eponymous musical. With a length circling the Crystal Palace Park, the circuit was deemed dangerous by the time it was the 1970s, when speeds rose to 161 km/h and driver safety became a concern. On this day, the track is officially closed off for motorsport activities but club activities are still carried out here. Over the next few decades, the track will also be used as a key location for shooting iconic scenes from movies like the The Italian Job and Rush.

September 24, 1908: T-time with Tin Lizzie

Ford Model-T rolls off assembly line
The Model-T begins the ‘Ford revolution’ in America. Image source: 


The first production Ford Model T rolls off the assembly. Nicknamed the ‘Tin Lizzie’, the two-seater goes on sale at $850. Henry Ford optimises raw material procurement and mass production to keep prices affordable and make the motor car more widely accessible to the US market.

September 25, 2004: Shanghai eve

Chinese GP 2004
The Shanghai International Race Circuit is still alive and well


After 18 months of working round the clock, 3,000 engineers successfully transform a swampland into what’s now called the Shanghai International Circuit. On this day, Chinese officials gather a day before the circuit’s first Formula 1 race.