Government gives Chrysler $1.5 billion loan

Year
1980
Month Day
May 10

On May 10, 1980, United States Secretary of the Treasury G. William Miller announces the approval of nearly $1.5 billion dollars in federal loan guarantees for the nearly bankrupt Chrysler Corporation. At the time, it was the largest rescue package ever granted by the U.S. government to an American corporation.

Founded as the Maxwell Motor Company Inc. in 1913, Chrysler grew into the Chrysler Corporation after 1925, when Walter P. Chrysler took over control of the company. Its purchase of Dodge Brothers in 1928 announced Chrysler’s arrival as a major force in the U.S. automotive industry. After decades of expansion, the company’s success came to a screeching halt after the 1973 oil crisis led to skyrocketing gas costs and new government standards for emissions. The combination of these factors caused problems for the Big Three of American automakers–Ford, General Motors and Chrysler–as the trend towards so-called “muscle cars” in the 1960s had led them to produce vehicles with powerful, gas-guzzling engines. (Chrysler’s famous Hemi engine, used in cars like the Dodge Charger and Challenger and the Plymouth RoadRunner, was one of the most prominent examples.)

In an attempt to produce lighter, more efficient vehicles, Chrysler bought shares in the Japanese motor company Mitsubishi, which began producing subcompact cars in America under the Chrysler name in 1970. By the end of the decade, however, Chrysler was in dire financial straits. Lee Iacocca, the former Ford executive who became the company’s president and chairman of the board in 1978, appealed for a federal loan, banking on the fact that the government wouldn’t allow the country’s No. 3 automaker to declare bankruptcy in an already depressed economy. His gamble paid off: In explaining the decision to grant the loans to Chrysler, Treasury Secretary Miller stated that the government “recognizes that there is a public interest in sustaining [its] jobs and maintaining a strong and competitive national automotive industry.”

The terms of the $1.5 billion in loans required Chrysler to raise another $2 billion on its own, which Iacocca did by streamlining operations and persuading union leaders to accept some layoffs and wage cuts, among other measures. His high-profile personal leadership, combined with a focus on more fuel-efficient vehicles, steered Chrysler to one of the most famous corporate comebacks in recent history: In 1984, a year after paying off its government loans ahead of schedule, the company posted record profits of some $2.4 billion. Twenty-five years later, however, plummeting sales and a deepening global financial crisis landed Chrysler in trouble again, and in early 2009 the company received another $4 billion in federal funds. Soon after, under pressure from President Barack Obama’s administration, Chrysler filed for federal bankruptcy protection and entered into a partnership with the Italian automaker Fiat.

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John Z. DeLorean is arrested in $24 million cocaine deal

Year
1982
Month Day
October 19

On October 19, 1982, the automaker John Z. DeLorean is arrested and charged with conspiracy to obtain and distribute 55 pounds of cocaine. DeLorean was acquitted of the drug charges in August 1984, but his legal woes were only beginning. He soon went on trial for fraud and over the next two decades was forced to pay millions of dollars to creditors and lawyers. Nevertheless, DeLorean occupies an important place in automotive history: Thanks to its starring role in the 1985 film “Back to the Future,” his gull-wing sports car is one of the most famous cars in the world.

DeLorean grew up in Detroit and began to work for Chrysler while he was still in college. His career was a promising one: He worked his way up the corporate ladder at General Motors, where he is credited with designing the GTO and the Firebird, and became a vice-president in 1972, but he left the company just a year later to pursue his own business interests. In 1978, he started the DeLorean Motor Company in Northern Ireland—the British government, along with investors like Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis, Jr., paid the bulk of his start-up costs—to build his dream car: the DMC-12, a sports car that was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. Its stainless-steel body was unpainted; its doors opened up, not out; it had a 130-hp Renault engine and could go from zero to 60 mph in eight seconds.

But not many people actually bought a DeLorean car. They were much too expensive: Each one cost $25,000, compared with $10,000 for the average car and $18,000 for a souped-up Corvette. The company’s financial trouble, DeLorean’s attorneys argued, was the reason the FBI had been able to entrap him in the $24 million drug deal–the authorities knew he would do anything to save his business.

DeLorean was already mired in legal problems by the time director Robert Zemeckis chose a DMC–12 to serve as Marty McFly’s time machine in “Back to the Future.” Spielberg had originally planned to use an old refrigerator instead of a car, but had changed his mind at the last minute. (The director liked the DeLorean’s futuristic look, but more than that he was worried that young fans of the movie might accidentally get stuck in refrigerators and freezers while playing make-believe.) While the DeLorean’s instant celebrity did not do much to revive its creator’s fortunes, it granted him a permanent footnote in pop-culture history.

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Layne Hall is born; will become oldest licensed driver in United States


Updated:
Original:
Year
1880
Month Day
December 25

On December 25 1880, Layne Hall is born in Mississippi. Some records indicate that he was actually born in 1884; either way, when he died in November 1990, Hall was the oldest licensed driver in the United States.

In 1916, Hall moved north to Silvercreek, New York, just west of Buffalo. When he arrived, his nephew taught him to drive, and he got his first license that fall. In his nearly 75 years on the road, Hall never got a speeding ticket or citation of any kind. In January 1990, the New York State Commissioner of Motor Vehicles wrote Hall a letter commending him for his lifetime of safe driving.

Hall continued to drive his blue 1962 Cadillac Sedan de Ville sedan–to the grocery store, to the doctor’s office, to visit friends and even to go on dates–until he died on November 20, 1990. His accomplishment won him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. (He displaced Mrs. Maude Tull of Inglewood, California., who remained behind the wheel until she was 104. Tull died in 1976.)

Though Hall had an exemplary driving record, many older drivers are not so lucky. In 2004, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 28 million licensed drivers over the age of 65 in the United States, and many of them suffer from what the CDC called “age-related decreases in vision, cognitive functions, and physical impairments” that makes it difficult and even dangerous for them to get behind the wheel. As a result–though the CDC study did note that older people were more likely to wear safety belts and less likely to drink and drive than any other group–older drivers have what the agency called “higher crash death rates per mile driven” than every group except inexperienced teen drivers.

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The Troggs take their signature hit, “Wild Thing,” to #1

Year
1966
Month Day
July 30

If there is one song that has been played more times by more bands in more garages than any ever written, it is probably “Louie Louie,” The Kingsmen’s classic 1966 hit. But if any other song warrants a place in the conversation, it would be “Wild Thing,” the three-chord masterpiece that became a #1 hit for The Troggs on July 30, 1966 and instantly took its rightful place in the rock-and-roll canon.

“Wild Thing” was written in 1965 by a New York songwriter named Chip Taylor (born James Voight, brother of the actor Jon Voight and uncle of actress Angelina Jolie). After an unsuccessful version of the song was recorded and released by a group called The Wild Ones, Taylor’s demo made its way to England, where Reg Presley (born Reginald Ball), lead singer of The Troggs, fell in love with it. Like Taylor himself, who never took his biggest hit very seriously, Presley initially found “Wild Thing” to be a ridiculous trifle, but that didn’t stop him from having his then-hitless band take it into the studio. In a single take of “Wild Thing,” The Troggs captured a raw and thrilling sound that not only gave them a #1 hit, but also served as a formative influence on some of the key figures in the development of punk rock, including Iggy Pop, the Ramones and the Buzzcocks, all of whom credited The Troggs as forerunners.

There were other hits for The Troggs, including “With A Girl Like You” (1966) and “Love Is All Around” (1967)—but nothing to match “Wild Thing” in terms of success or influence. In fact, the most influential recording they made after 1968 was not of a song at all, but of an intra-band argument during a troubled 1972 recording session that was bootlegged out of the studio and passed around as “The Troggs Tapes.”  On it, various Troggs can be heard bickering and cursing (137 times in 10+ minutes) in accents and language that served as the direct inspiration for This Is Spinal Tap, Rob Reiner’s 1984 seminal “mockumentary.”

“Wild Thing” was memorably performed by Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, complete with burning guitar, and it was covered with some success by the L.A. punk band X in 1989, but it’s the Troggs’ version that has become a staple of movie and television soundtracks. With royalties earned from his band’s signature hit, Trogg frontman Reg Presley emerged as one of the world’s foremost experts on and largest sources of funding of research into the mysterious phenomenon of crop circles. He died in 2013. 

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The Temptations earn their final #1 hit with “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”

On December 2, 1972, the Temptations earn the last of their four chart-topping hits when “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” reaches #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Over the course of their storied career, the Temptations placed 38 hit records in the pop top 40. Beyond their quantitative achievements, the Temptations also embodied the original Motown ideal that the records mattered more than the people who made them—for good and for ill. Various intrigues, upsets and tragedies saw the Temptations’ lineup change almost annually during their heyday, but the turmoil went largely unnoticed by the record-buying public. Indeed, in an era when pop groups were coming to be known as much for the personalities of their individual members as for their music, the Temptations—a group in which all five members sometimes sang lead—remained essentially unknowable other than through their incredible records.  

Formed in Detroit, Michigan, in the early 1960s when members of two vocal groups called The Distants and The Primes came together as “The Elgins,” The Temptations took on the name under which they became famous shortly after signing with Berry Gordy’s fledgling Motown Records in 1961. Even as personnel shifted due to internal politics and the untimely death of one original member, Paul Williams, by suicide in 1973, the Temptations kept churning out hits well past the era when Motown first became famous for creating “The Sound of Young America.” Indeed, The Temptations were alone among the stars that emerged from “Hitsville U.S.A.” in successfully navigating the transition from the mid 1960s to the early 1970s, evolving from the glorious love poetry of producer-songwriter Smokey Robinson on early hits like “The Way You Do The Things You Do” (1964) and “My Girl” (1965), to the funk-fueled social commentary of producer Norman Whitfield and songwriting partner Barrett Strong on later hits like “Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)” (1970) and “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” which became their final chart-topper on this day in 1972.

The Temptations were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, but the deaths in quick succession of members David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks and Melvin Franklin in 1991, 1992 and 1995, respectively, leaves Otis Williams as the sole surviving member of the original Temptations lineup. 

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