From the archive: on this day in 1954

F1 argentina

The 1954 season was the first outside Europe and plagued by wet weather

A stormy start to the Formula 1 season, a legal battle for the Beetle and the six-metre-long USSR coupe

Sorry, Formula 1 in January?

Yes, from 1954 to 1958, the season began in Argentina, four months before the European tour started.

The nation’s first championship grand prix was historic because it was the first outside Europe, the first under the 2.5-litre formula (after two years of F2 cars having to be used) and fantastic to watch.

Ferrari man Giuseppe Farina took pole and then shot into the lead, chased by Maserati’s local lads Onofre Marimón and Juan Manuel Fangio, while the Gordini drivers lagged badly at the back.

After a poor start, Ferrari’s own Argentine, José Froilán González, “cleaved violently” through the field, then passed Farina for first. After 45 minutes, the heavens opened and drivers dived into the pits, the lead bouncing between González, Farina and young Mike Hawthorn, before he spun out.

After losing a minute stopping for tyres, Fangio took Farina to task, “driving at the outside limit of sanity, in pouring rain with the track inches deep in water”.

Another storm then broke as Ferrari’s team boss said he’d seen five mechanics push Fangio away and, therefore feeling confident of a black flag, told Farina to slow.

Fangio “kept on with unabated zeal” to triumph “amid scenes of frenzy”, and Ferrari faces were left as red as their cars when their appeal was rejected by the FIA. Fangio went on to win the title, swapping into Mercedes-Benz’s super-fast new car after race two.

Customers battle Volkswagen for their Beetles

In 1938, the Nazis set up a scheme by which ordinary Germans could buy a KdF-Wagen in weekly instalments of five marks or more (£25 in today’s money). As many as 700,000 signed up, yet none ever got a car, as the factory switched to war work in 1939. People didn’t forget, though, and in 1954 we relayed the latest in a legal battle that some had, since 1950, been fighting against Volkswagen, its Beetle being the old KdF-Wagen. VW offered discounts, but the claimants felt this insufficient. They at last won in 1961, the Supreme Court’s ruling costing VW 34 million marks (£49m now) to honour 120,000-plus savers.

The bold USA-inspired coupé from the USSR

We were stupefied by the latest thing to emerge from the murky depths of the USSR: a boldy styled, six-metre-long coupé from Moscow’s Zavod Imeni Stalina (ZIS, or Factory Made for Stalin). It was seemingly inspired by recent American concepts, most strongly General Motors’ LeSabre of 1951. Named the 112, it featured the 140bhp 6.0-litre straight eight from the 110 limo – itself a copy of US firm Packard’s Super Eight. An updated 112 emerged in 1955 and ranked third in a Soviet race series. ZIS – later named ZIL – made cars until 2012.

Source: Autocar

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