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Posts Tagged ‘automobiles

“Our inventions mirror our secret wishes”*…


Try your hand at recognizing products from the diagrams, like the one above, submitted with their patent applications: from the collection in the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, “Can You Guess the Invention Based on These Patent Illustrations?

* Lawrence Durrell


As we turn up the tinkering, we might spare a thought for Freelan Oscar Stanley; he died on this date in 1940.  Working with his twin brother Francis, Stanley developed (in 1883) a dry plate photographic process, and started the very successful Stanley Dry Plate Company (sold to Eastman Kodak in 1905).

But Stanley and his brother are bettered remembered for their second enterprise, the Stanley Motor Company. The brothers began working on steam powered cars in 1897, and built thousands of them them until the 1920s.  At racing events, The Stanley Steamer often competed successfully against gasoline powered cars; indeed, in 1906, it set a world record for fastest mile (28.2 seconds, at a speed of 127 mph).

It’s worth observing that Freelan Stanley shares his passing date with Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot, who died on this date in 1804.  In 1769, Cugnot, a military engineer, invented the world’s first fuel-propelled vehicle–a gun tractor commissioned by the French government.  The following year he produced the first mechanically-driven “horseless carriage”; his steam tricycle, driven by a steam engine, carried four passengers and was the forerunner of the modern motor car– and more specifically, of the Stanley Brothers’ Steamers.

The Stanley Twins, Freelan back/right



Written by LW

October 2, 2015 at 1:01 am

From scratch…


The 1961 series II Aston Martin DB4 is a certified classic.  So it’s no surprise that Ivan Sentch would want to create a scratch-built replica… but what is surprising is that, while he’s building the car on the platform of a Nissan Skyline GTS25T, he’s creating the Aston Martin body entirely with a 3D printer.

Ivan’s progress to date…

Read the background at Autopia, and follow Ivan’s progress on his blog.

[DB4 photo, via Bonham’s; Ivan’s body, via his blog)


As we make room on the dashboard for the ejector button, we might send delighted birthday greetings to Peter Hodgson; he was born on this date in 1912.  An advertising and marketing consultant, Hodgson introduced Silly Putty to the world.  As The New York Times recounted in his obituary,

The stuff had been developed by General Electric scientists in the company’s New Haven laboratories several years earlier in a search for a viable synthetic rubber. It was obviously not satisfactory, and it found its way instead onto the local cocktail party circuit.

That’s where Mr. Hodgson, who was at the time writing a catalogue of toys for a local store, saw it, and an idea was born.

“Everybody kept saying there was no earthly use for the stuff” he later recalled. “But I watched them as they fooled with it. I couldn’t help noticing how people with busy schedules wasted as much as 15 minutes at a shot just fondling and stretching it”.

“I decided to take a chance and sell some. We put an ad in the catalogue on the adult page, along with such goodies as a spaghetti-making machine. We packaged the goop in a clear compact case and tagged it at $1.00”.

Having borrowed $147 for the venture, Mr. Hodgson ordered a batch from General Electric, hired a Yale student to separate the gob into one ounce dabs and began filling orders. At the same time he hurried to get some trademarks.

Silly Putty was an instant success, and Mr. Hodgson quickly geared up to take advantage of it…




Written by LW

August 15, 2013 at 1:01 am

Luck be a lady tonight…


Joan R. Ginther, pictured above, who has claimed four separate multi-million dollar jackpots from the Texas lottery, just may be the luckiest woman alive.  Or not.  The Daily Mail explains:

First, she won $5.4 million, then a decade later, she won $2million, then two years later $3million and in the summer of 2010, she hit a $10million jackpot.  The odds of this has been calculated at one in eighteen septillion and luck like this could only come once every quadrillion years.

Harper’s reporter Nathaniel Rich recently wrote an article [here] about Ms Ginther, which calls the the validity of her “luck” into question. First, he points out, Ms Ginther is a former math professor with a PhD from Stanford University specialising in statistics.

A professor at the Institute for the Study of Gambling & Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno, told Mr Rich: “When something this unlikely happens in a casino, you arrest ’em first and ask questions later.”

Although Ms Ginther now lives in Las Vegas, she won all four of her lotteries in Texas.  Three of her wins, all in two-year intervals, were by scratch-off tickets bought at the same mini mart in the town of Bishop.

Mr Rich details the myriad ways in which Ms Ginther could have gamed the system – including the fact that she may have figured out the algorithm that determines where a winner is placed in each run of scratch-off tickets. He believes that after Ms Ginther figured out the algorithm, it wouldn’t be difficult to determine where the tickets would be shipped, as the shipping schedule is apparently fixed, and there were a few sources she could have found it out from.

The residents of Bishop, Forbes reports, believe that God is behind Ginther’s good fortune.  As for the Texas Lottery Commission– which professes to suspect no foul play– they suggest that Ms. Ginther was “born under a lucky star.”  Indeed.


As we rethink the meaning of “scratching that itch,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1999, during celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the coup that brought him to power, that Mu`mmar Qadhdhafi unveiled the “State of the Masses Rocket,” (Sarukh al-Jamahiriy), a five-seater car in a metallic Libyan revolutionary green with tinted windows.  Dukhali al-Magharyal, chairman of the Libyan Arab Domestic Investment Company which produced the prototype, billed it as a first in automotive history, saying it was developed from safety ideas conceived by Qadhdhafi: “The leader really spent so many hours of his valuable time thinking to find a solution, an effective solution. It is the safest car produced anywhere, any place in the world.”  Ten years later, a revised prototype (in white) was shown at an African Union summit in Tripoli.  As far as anyone knows, they are the only two “rockets” on the road.

The Rocket Car (source)


Five sweet seconds…

From our friends at The Selvedge Yard:

One of the greatest rivalries in all of Drag Racing history has to be the classic Wildlife Racing matchup– Don “Snake” Prudhomme vs. Tom “Mongoose” McEwen.  Any red-blooded boy born of that era remembers their famous Funny Cars decked-out in bright Hot Wheels  badges screaming down the 1/4 mile in a furious blur that lasted all of 5 sweet seconds.  The two faced-off in match races that raged over a period of about 3 years.  Don Prudhomme, being the stronger competitor, usually came out on top. Their epic West Coast battles, fueled by huge sponsorship deals (Mattel, Coca-Cola, Plymouth, and Goodyear) were a major draw, and their loyal fans never tired of seeing them go head to head.

At the Dallas International Motor Speedway, 1971

Per the poster at the top of this post, see more at the Peterson Automotive Museum’s new exhibit, NHRA: Sixty Years of Thunder

As we rev our engines, we might recall that it was on this date in 1982 that John Z. DeLorean, the auto industry celebrity credited with designing the Firebird, the GTO, and of course the (Back to the Future-starring) DeLorean, was arrested and charged with conspiracy to obtain and distribute 55 pounds of cocaine.  DeLorean was ultimately acquitted of the drug charges, but was soon back in court charged with fraud; over the next two decades, he was forced to pay millions of dollars to creditors (and of course lawyers).

DeLorean and the DeLorean (source)


(Actually) Driven…

A flight of Isuzu commercials from the 1980s.  As our friends at Blogadilla (via which, this clip) observe, it’s the more amazing because it’s actual driving…

As we tap the accelerator, we might recall that it was on this date in 2008 that (then 26 year old)  Danica Patrick won the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Montegi in Montegi, Japan, making her the first female winner in IndyCar racing history.  Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year in 2005, Patrick had debuted at the Indy 500 that year; she led for 19 laps– the first Indy 500 lead ever held by a woman.


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