If you were to look back at the world, as a whole, you would see a lot of crazy history. If you could zoom in on automotive history only, you would certainly see a lot of crazy stuff. In fact, there’s a lot of crazy automotive facts out there that range from cars manufactured by soybeans all the way down to electric cars being more popular than gasoline-powered models. You’ll find history littered with weird little factoids about how often your car sits parked or how many people can fit in a tiny car. In fact, there’s even a crazy story about how a Honda Prelude managed to best Porsche, Ferrari, and Chevy in slalom testing. Yes, a Honda Prelude. There are amazing, iconic cars that borrowed parts from the cheapest of the cheap and the fact that a woman was probably responsible for the automotive industry being what it is today.
I know, all of this sounds a little crazy, but when you consider the fact that motorized vehicles were only invented some 100 years ago (give or take a decade,), we’ve come a very long way. So far that we’re now venturing into the world of all-electric self-driving cars. Those are some big steps that had to be taken, so it should come as no surprise that there’s a lot of crazy things that have happened along the way. And, that’s why we’re here – to talk about 26 crazy automotive facts that you probably never knew about. Grab a cup of coffee and relax, we’re going to be here for a bit.
26 Elon Musk Isn't The Founder Of Tesla Motors
Despite the fact that Elon Musk is the face of Tesla Motors, and basically the Brain Child that kept the company rolling (let’s be honest, investors treat his word like gold) he didn’t actually found Tesla Motors. According to Investopedia, he didn’t join the company until 2004, about a year after it was actually founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. For what it’s worth, Elon is mentioned as a founder in the corporate governance, but he was actually sued by Eberhard in 2009 over his “attempt to change history.”
25 19 Girls Will Fit in a Smart Car
It’s probably best to assume that they are all pretty fit, but the current world record of girls that can fit in a smart car is actually 19. And, according to The Express Tribune, that includes shutting the doors. We can’t imagine that it’s very comfortable and let’s hope that nobody was having tummy troubles that day, but at least you know it can be done. Now, if only we could see them actually drive it.
24 The First Speeding Ticket Ever Issued was for Doing 8 mph
Way back when cars were motor carriages and the speed limit was just 2 mph, a man named Walter Arnold decided to push his 1896 motor carriage to the limit. He broke a record that day. Whether it was for speed or not, we’re not sure, but he did go down in the history books as the very first person to get a speeding ticket. And, it was for doing four times the legal limit. According to Mirror, this could actually be considered a high-speed pursuit as a cop on a bicycle had to chase him down. Talk about some crazy history, huh?
23 The Bentley Mulsanne Has an Interior Composed of 18 Cowhides
Bentley produces some of the finest cars to ever grace this pretty blue marble that we call Earth, and that luxury sometimes comes at a cost. In this case, I’m talking about the cost of 18 or 19 lives. Cow lives. To be more specific, I’m talking about the Bentley Mulsanne and the leather interior that requires 18 or 19 cowhides. According to Motor Authority, the hides are soft, so the cows are at least treated well. According to Jalopnik, that’s some 36,000 burgers worth of cow.
22 The First Car to Have Four-Wheel Steering Was a Honda Prelude
Folks, you read that right – the Honda Prelude was the first mass-produced production car to have four-wheel steering. It was so good at the time that it allowed the prelude to beat out some of the finest cars in the world. Kick-A** Facts claims that it was able to beat Porsche and Ferrari in the Slalom test while Hemmings claims that it was able to beat out the Chevy Corvette. Yup – the Honda Prelude was a pretty awesome car.
21 Horses Caused So Much Pollution that Cars Were Seen as Green Alternatives
These days world governments and climate change activists are pushing electric cars so hard that it feels like the internal combustion engine is on its last leg. And, it may very well be in the grand scheme of things, but there was a time when the dirty, emission-producing car was a welcomed thing and was even seen as a green alternative. According to The New York Times, there were between 100,000 and 200,000 horses living in the City of New York and they produced so much excrement that the city literally stunk. So, when the non-stinky car came along, it was seen as a wonderful green alternative. Funny how the tables turn, huh?
20 The 2011 Ford Crown Victoria Was the Last Vehicle to Offer a Cassette Player
I’m sure that if you dig hard enough in your parent’s basement, you’ll find one of your old cassette tapes, but what will you play it on? Do you remember the last time you saw a cassette player at all? Well, the last car to ever feature one was the 2011 Ford Crown Victoria, and even then it was only offered as an option, and that model was only sold as a fleet car. According to Autoguide, the Crown Victoria was also killed off in 2011, so the two fell into the automotive history books together.
19 25% of the Cars on U.K. Roads Were Made in China
There’s no denying that China has it going on as far as automotive production goes. Big brands like SAIC, Dongfeng, FAW, and Geely are big players, so it should come as no surprise that some of these automakers have an international following. That following is so big that, according to Holts Auto, one out of four cars on the road in the U.K. come from China. Some sources claim that China is actually responsible for one-third of cars made. In 2015, China produced more than 24 million out of the 75 million vehicles made globally in 2015.
18 The 1967 Shelby GT500 has Mercury Cougar Taillights
It’s no secret that automakers tend to dip into the parts bins of other manufacturers. The Lamborghini Diablo featured Nissan headlights (from the 300ZX), and the Maserati Quattroporte had taillights from the Daewoo Nubira of all things. The 1967 Shelby GT500 isn’t as bad as that but, according to Shnack.com, it featured the ducktail spoiler and taillights from the Mercury Cougar. This was changed the following year when Ford borrowed parts from the 1966 Ford Thunderbird.
17 Thank Racing for Those Lovely Rear View Mirrors
The rear view mirror has a clear purpose, but its history, according to eBay Motors, goes all the way back to 1911 when Indianapolis Racer, Ray Harroun, installed one on his car to replace the mechanic that rode shotgun. Sure, it was supposed to help him see what was behind him, but that was just a side effect – the important part was that it made his racecar that much lighter. Of course, it’s been said that it was useless at the time since the road was paved by brick and way to bumpy for it to actually be effective.
16 The Ford Model T Was The First Global Car
The Ford Model T was a special car in a number of ways, but one of the most important is the fact that it was the world’s very first global car. According to Jalopnik, the Model T was, by 1929, produced on six continents and, to add icing to the cake, the Model T was also the car that standardized the left-hand steering wheel – earlier cars often featured a center- or right-mounted steering wheel.
15 About 80-Percent of Your Car is Recyclable
If the world is producing nearly 75 million cars per year, it really makes you wonder where they all end up, doesn’t it? After all, that is a lot of cars. Well, believe it or not, a lot of that car sitting in your driveway is actually recyclable. According to The Balance, about 80-percent f your car is actually recyclable by weight, and more than 25 million tons of materials from old vehicles are recycled every year. Of that 25 million, the United States is responsible for about 12 million.
14 Porsche’s First Sedan Was Really a Studebaker Type 542
Porsche has always been known for its engineering, so it should come as no surprise that companies have occasionally decided to reach out and ask Porsche’s amazing engineers to work their magic on something that isn’t a Porsche. And, that’s what led to the first Porsche sedan, which was actually a Studebaker Type 542. According to My Car Quest, the Type 542 was also known as the Z-87 by Studebaker, but it never went into production – something that some attribute to none other than John Z. Delorean.
13 Continental Produced the First Grooved Tires in 1904
Continental may just be another tire brand to most of us, but the company actually played a major role in the automotive world. It was founded back in 1871, and by 1898, it was producing pneumatic tires with plain tread. Something better was needed, though, and in 1904 the company came out with grooved tires – the first the world had ever seen. Just a few years later the very same company invented the detachable wheel – something that allows you to enjoy your aftermarket rollers and the convenience of changing a flat on the side of the road.
12 At One Time, BMW and Volkswagen Owned Rolls-Royce
A lot of people don’t realize it but, at one time, Volkswagen actually owned a big chunk of BMW’s prized brand, Rolls-Royce. In fact for a short period before BMW achieved sole ownership, Volkswagen owned all of Rolls-Royce’s factories and produced Rolls-Royce vehicles despite the fact that BMW owned the Rolls-Royce trademark and branding. Of course, BMW eventually took full control and the world settled into what it is today but just imagine what would have happened if Volkswagen managed to own two of the world’s most luxurious marques.
11 Karl Benz's Wife
Believe it or not, Bertha Benz, the wife of Karl Benz (Yes, that Karl Benz, as in Mercedes-Benz) wanted to prove to her husband that his automobile – a three-wheeler) was an invention that would bring good to the world. So, she set off on a trip with her two teenaged sons in the Benz Model III. According to a video released by Mercedes-Benz, Bertha ran into a bunch of mechanical problems on her trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim, but she persevered anyway. In the end, it’s said that she developed leather brake pads (to replace the failed wooden brakes) and determined that the car not only needed a third gear but a better cooling system and a fuel tank. Some argue that had she not taken this test drive, the automotive world may never have developed as it did.
10 A Group of British Marines Can Swap Out a Ford Escort Engine in Less Than a Minute
These days, swapping out a car engine is a daunting task. There are miles of wire, computerized parts everywhere, and let’s not even get started with the tools you actually need. Back in the day, though, it was super easy. So easy, in fact, that five British Marines can swap the engine of a Ford Escort in less than a minute. Heart of Cars has a video of the feat that was actually complete, including driving 10 full meters, in a total of 42 seconds. Try doing that with your 2019 Audi A6.
9 Motorola Made the First Dashboard Radio
Believe it or not, Motorola was the brand responsible for the first dashboard radio and boy was it expensive. It hit the market in 1930 and would set you back $110 – that’s about $3,000 in today’s money. And, that was at a time when a new car would only set you back $650. What’s even crazier, however, is a report from Laurenfix that claims it took several days and two men to actually install a car radio – something most car guys can do in less than an hour or two today.
8 Out of All the Cars Built by Rolls-Royce, 75% Are Still Being Used
With so many cars produced in the world each year, and some 25 million of them being recycled, it’s hard to believe that any manufacturer can claim that a majority of the cars it has made over the course of history still exist. It might be hard to believe, but Rolls-Royce – one of the finest automakers in the world – can lay claim to just that. According to The Economist, some 75-percent of Rolls-Royce cars built in the brand’s long history are still being used to this day. Now that’s pretty amazing.
7 A Blind Person Invented Cruise Control
Here we are on the verge of having truly self-driving cars, and yet everyone forgets that cruise control is actually a very basic form of autonomy. Be it vacuum or electronically controlled; the car is actually controlling itself and, therefore, is autonomous in that regard. What’s really crazy though, is that this basic technology was created by Ralph Teetor back in the 1950s. Ralph had been blind most of his life and, according to Smithsonian Magazine, he got his inspiration from his patent attorney and personal chauffeur who had a jerky accelerator foot.
6 You Can Drive to the Moon in Six Months at 60 MPH
According to Science Focus, you could drive from ground level to the edge of space in about an hour at 60 mph. That was first pointed out by astronomer Fred Hoyle. To take things a bit further, you could drive straight to the moon, assuming you had enough air for breathing and combustion, of course, in about six months. You would have to cover a total distance of about 250,000 if you took a straight shot and you might want to bring some extra fuel because gas stations are far and few between.
5 At One Time the Ford Model T Accounted for 55- to 57 Percent of All Cars on Earth
Going along with the fact that the Model T was also the first true, global car, Jalopnik also reports that the Model T, at one time, actually accounted for 57-percent of all cars on earth. That’s a staggering number when you consider there were some 73.5 cars produced in 2017, but we’re talking about the early 1920s here, so there were only a handful of cars produced in comparison. It’s still impressive nonetheless, and you won’t hear Chevy boasting such a claim back then, either.
4 Bugatti Owners Splurge on More than Supercars
According to Bloomberg, Bugatti owners generally own more than just a Buggati. In fact, they probably own more than a Bugatti Veyron and a Bugatti Chiron. Word has it that Bugatti customers are land, air, and sea-friendly, with the average customer owning about 84 cars, one yacht, and three jets. And you thought they were spending too much money to own the latest Bugatti. Silly you.
3 In 1900, More Cars Were Powered by Steam and Electricity than Gasoline
Gasoline (or diesel, for that matter) hasn’t always been the go-to for car propulsion needs. According to Duke Energy, some 40 percent of the world’s cars were powered by steam in 1900. At the same time, 38 percent of cars in the world were powered by electricity. Gasoline powered cars? Well, they accounted for just 22 percent. That number will eventually return as we slowly venture into long-range electric cars but don’t count on steam power coming back anytime soon.
2 At One Time, Gas-Powered Cars Replaced Electric Cars
Oddly enough, electric cars have been along almost as long as fuel-powered vehicles. According to Autowise, they were manufactured way back in 1905 with one company – Rauch & Lang – producing them all the way until 1920 when gas-powered vehicles became increasingly cheaper to run because fuel prices were so low. Fast forward to today, and we’re looking to replace fuel driven cars with electric cars once again. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
1 Your $50,000 Car is Parked and Unused Most of the Time
This seems like a crazy little piece of fact, doesn’t it? Is it really true that your car spends most of its life parked? Well, believe it or not, most cars are parked 95-percent of the time on average. That’s the word from Reinventing Parking, anyway. Obviously, that’s an average as some of us spend a lot of time drive, but it really makes us want to question spending so much money on our next car. After all, if you don’t spend that much time in your car is it really worth it to have something so luxurious?
Sources: Motor Authority, Jalopnik, Science Focus, The Economist