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Showing posts from January, 2013

Singer or Ringer?

"Runs like a sewing machine" is a phrase you don't come across often now, but once was common in the car world. It's a compliment, meaning that an engine is smooth and reliable ... though maybe a bit buzzy.
   Owners of Singer cars no doubt heard it regularly, although when directed at their vehicles, it was probably intended more as a gentle jibe. And they, no doubt, responded that Singer Motors Ltd., founded by George Singer as a bicycle manufacturer in Coventry, England, in 1874, had nothing to do with the sewing machine company Isaac Merritt Singer and partner Edward Clark launched in New York in 1851.
   Singer – George, that is – first built motorized three-wheelers in 1901. A four-wheeler followed in 1905, and in 1912, the company achieved significant success with its Singer Ten, a sturdy two-seat roadster that was good on gas.
   Singer Motors was quick to adopt mechanical innovations, from steel frames to fluid-coupling transmissions, but while its cars were…

When terror took wing, II

When did the airplane first become the tool of terrorists? Some put the date as early as Feb. 21, 1931, when armed Peruvian revolutionaries attempted to force the pilot of a Ford Tri-Motor to carry them aloft to drop leaflets. But the pilot refused and the flight never took place, so it's hard to assign great significance to this event.
   Others could point out that warring nations have long employed aircraft to instill fear in civilian populations. Certainly the airborne destruction of Rotterdam ordered by Hermann Göring in 1940, to cite a single example, could be nothing but terrorism.
   Jangir Arasly, in a paper for the Partnership for Peace Consortium, suggests the era of "modern aviation terrorism" began as late as 1968 with the hijacking of an El Al jet by gunmen seeking to spotlight the Palestinian cause.
   But to Cuban-born historian Manuel Márquez-Sterling, it was the seizure of the Cubana de Aviación Viscount bearing tail number CU-T603 on Nov. 1, 1958, that…

When terror took wing, I

 FULGENCIO BATISTA seemed relaxed, even carefree, as he posed in his son's sports car for the August 1957 photograph that appears in the previous entry here.
   But the watchful presence of his bodyguards – you can see their sunglasses glinting from the cars arrayed behind the Batista Corvette – tells a different story.
Batista knew that threats could come from any direction, at any time. Across Cuba and across the political spectrum were opponents dedicated to his removal – some by any means.
   Just five months before, the dictator had barely escaped a student-led attack on the presidential palace in Havana. Gunfire echoed in the streets for two hours, and when it ended 42 people were dead.
   In the Sierra Maestra Mountains to the east, Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement was gaining power by the day.
   And looming behind Batista in that photograph was an aircraft that would become an instrument of his enemies and open a new and sorry era in aviation.


   CU-T603, shown above in…