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This Day In History | Automotive

August 21

1903 Coast-To-Coast Drive

America's first transcontinental auto race, stretching from New York City to San Francisco, was completed on this day. The race was finished by Tom Fetch and M.C. Karrup in two Model F Packards, travelling an average of 80 miles per day for 51 days. They arrived covered in mud and exhausted. Along the way, the two travelers and their motorcars generated quite a bit of interest as they drove through many rural areas where automobiles were a rare sight. In one instance, a couple of Nebraska farmers, suspicious of the vehicles, threatened Fetch and Karrup with shotguns.

1909 Agony And Ecstasy In Indianapolis

Barney Oldfield broke five world records on this day, pushing his Benz to new speeds on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. However, the record-breaking feat was marred by tragedy. Three other drivers died on the same track as 20,000 spectators watched in disbelief, and the three-day meet was ended early.

1947 Death Of Bugatti

Ettore Bugatti, the French car manufacturer, died on this day. Bugatti specialized in racing and luxury automobiles, and his factory in Alsace turned out some of the most expensive cars ever produced. The best-known Bugatti car was Type 41, known as the "Golden Bugatti" or "La Royale." It was produced in the 1920s, meticulously constructed and inordinately expensive--only a few were ever built. After Bugatti's death, the firm failed to survive, at least in part because Ettore's eldest son and chosen successor died before Bugatti himself.

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