101 Years Ago

On Aug. 3, 1900, the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., recently founded in Akron, OH, by Harvey Samuel Firestone, commenced operation with 12 employees. The 31-year-old Firestone, who began his career working in his uncle's carriage factory, had been president of Chicago-based Firestone Rubber Co., a retailer of rubber buggy tires, for four years. He then moved to Akron and launched his new company in an abandoned furnace plant selling carriage tires and using his patented method of attaching them to the channels of carriage wheels. Two years later, Firestone began manufacturing its own tires and in 1904, at the request of his friend Henry Ford, began manufacturing pneumatic automobile tires. An order for “several thousand” for Ford's Model T car in 1906 propelled Firestone to the top of the rubber industry and began a business link with Ford Motor Co. that lasted nearly 100 years and cemented a personal relationship between the two industrial giants. Among a long list of innovations, the company introduced the pneumatic tire for farm tractors in 1932, three years before Mr. Firestone stepped down as president. He died in 1938.

69 Years Ago

Perhaps one of the most significant events related to the use of the automobile occurred on Aug. 6, 1932, when Camden, NJ, resident Richard M. Hollingshead Jr., a salesman for Whiz Auto Products Co., filed for a patent on his idea for a drive-in movie theater using elevated rows to enable all cars to view the screen. A little over nine months later, on May 16, 1933, Mr. Hollingshead was granted his patent and three days later, along with three investors, formed a company and began construction of the world's first such theater in Camden. It opened under the name Drive-In Theater on June 6, 1933. Drive-in movie theaters peaked at an estimated 5,000 in the U.S. in the mid-1950s. That number had declined by over 90% by the end of the century. The popularity of drive-in movies also led to the establishment of numerous other drive-in conveniences from banks to fast food restaurants. One unique offshoot of the drive-in movie craze in the 1950s was the “fly-in” built to accommodate both cars and small airplanes.

28 Years Ago

Passenger restraint systems move to the forefront in August 1973 as automakers begin production of their '74 model cars that are required to have the controversial seatbelt interlock system designed to prevent a car from starting unless the front 3-point belts are fastened. Sensors in the seat detect when it is occupied while others in the belt buckles determine if the belt is in use. Public reaction to the system is so negative that the rule becomes the first and only safety measure to be repealed by an act of Congress less than a year later. In the meantime, various methods for defeating the system are devised. At one '74-model divisional press preview, a General Motors Corp. engineer shows off a bare seatbelt “tongue” he carries in his pocket to insert into the buckle to start the car without engaging the belt.

Also this month, GM announces plans to make front air bags a $255 option on '74 model Olds, Buick and Cadillac large cars along with the Olds Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado beginning in January 1974.

TRAVEL PLANNER

Aug. 20-21

• SAE Seminar “Shock & Vibration Measurement & Calibration,” Troy, MI.

Aug. 28-30

• AIAG'S AUTO-TECH 2001 Conference & Expo, Cobo Center, Detroit, MI.