Love cars and the stories behind them? Join us on the drive to automotive enlightenment in the first edition of Friday Fast Facts!
1. Cars Were Originally Considered “Environmentally-Friendly”
In the early 1900s city streets in America were packed with horse-drawn carriages that left a trail of waste behind them. Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s 2009 best-seller SuperFreakonomics paints a vivid picture. According to the authors there were roughly 200,000 horses in New York City at the time, each leaving over 30 pounds of manure per day. Enter the automobile that did not defecate or cause ‘pollution’. At the time, American cities considered the automobile an environmental savior!
2. Three out of Every Four of All Rolls-Royces Produced Are Still on the Road Today
Words like luxury and quality are the first that come to mind regarding Rolls-Royce. Durability should follow soon after. According to a piece by Scott Burgess of Motor Trend, “nearly 75 percent of all Rolls-Royces ever built are still on the road today.” The price tag on a Rolls-Royce is hefty, frequently exceeding half a million dollars, but it’s a little easier to stomach knowing that they are built to last.
3. The Insult That Jump-started an Icon
Ferruccio Lamborghini had amassed his fortune long before the cars bearing his name existed. Lamborghini’s success in both the HVAC and tractor businesses allowed him to buy several high-end sports cars, including Ferraris. After fixing the worn-out clutch in his Ferrari 250GT he realized it was no different than the ones used in his tractors. According to a Car and Driver interview with long-time test driver Valentino Balboni, his boss went to confront Enzo Ferrari: “you build your beautiful cars with my tractor parts.” Ferrari rebuked him: “You are a tractor driver, you are a farmer, you shouldn’t complain driving my cars because they’re the best cars in the world.” Lamborghini left angry but inspired, and the rest, as they say, is history.
4. White is the World’s Most Popular Car Color
According to the Axalta’s Global Automotive 2018 Color Popularity Report, 38% of cars were white that year. Rounding out the top four are black (18%), gray (12%) and silver (12%). A 2012 Forbes article suggests that the electronics industry has influenced the popularity of these colors in recent years. After silver became the popular color for new technology products in the mid-2000s, “it also became a prominent car color,” according to the article. “It was a color that said, ‘Look, I have a modern piece of technology.’”
5. Electric Vehicles Are Old News
Contrary to popular belief, electric vehicles are not a modern invention. Electricity was used to power cars in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In fact, the 1900 American Census listed 28% of the 4,192 cars manufactured in the country that year as electric. The electric car was easier to start than the crank-start internal combustion engine and had a greater range than the steam-powered cars of the era. The gasoline-powered cars eventually reigned supreme, however, after they gained electric starters and other modifications that made them easier to operate.
6. A Car is Made Every Few Seconds
Before mass production and the assembly line were common, it took manufacturers a week or more to assemble a vehicle. Due to hefty industrialization and modern production methods, vehicle production has since skyrocketed. Today, a car can be built every few seconds, and there were over 91 million produced in 2018. In Britain during March of 2016, a car was made every 16 seconds!
7. Vehicles Are the Most Recycled Product in The World
Just because an automobile is off the road doesn’t mean it’s useless. Automotive remarketing companies like Copart serve as an integral piece of the car recycling process by providing recyclers and dismantlers access to clean and salvage title vehicles in online auctions. These buyers extract every ounce of value left in the vehicles by selling the reusable parts or recycling the chassis and metal. According to the Steel Recycling Institute, “nearly 100 percent of the cars leaving the road are recycled for their iron and steel content.” Other components such as the tires, fuel and batteries are also reused making retired vehicles nearly 100 percent recyclable. There’s a good chance the car you retired may be back on the road in some way, shape or form!
8. An Average Car Has 30,000 Parts
Just like the human body, an automobile is an intricate machine comprised of a large number of parts that work in perfect synergy. According to Toyota, “a single car has about 30,000 parts, counting every part down to the smallest screws.” Finally, a perfect time to apply the phrase: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”!
9. The First Car Wreck Was In 1891
The first car accident took place more than 100 years ago. The incident took place in Cleveland, Ohio where a man named James William Lambert ran over a tree root, causing him to lose control of his car. The vehicle smacked into a post causing minor injuries to Lambert. Although the crash was not fatal or too damaging, it earned its place in the history books.
10. Self-Driving Cars Are Soon to Be Reality
Self-driving cars being “a thing of the future” is a thing of the past. There are already a handful of companies such as Uber, Ford and Lyft testing the new technology. Last year a joint venture between Lyft and Aptiv that “uses a handful of autonomous vehicles to ferry riders around Las Vegas” provided its 25,000th driverless trip, according to an article by Aarian Marshall for Wired.com. Experts do admit that “it will take decades to build a car that can drive anywhere it pleases, like humans do today,” due to hurdles such as unkempt roadways and the unpredictability of human drivers.
11. Volkswagen is the World’s Largest Auto Manufacturer
For the third straight year, Volkswagen and its stable of thoroughbred brands (including Audi, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Bentley, Porsche) sit atop the rankings for production volume. The industry titan narrowly edged out fellow conglomerates Renault-Nissan (parent of Mitsubishi, Dacia, Infiniti, Samsung) and Toyota (parent of Lexus, Scion, Daihatsu).
12. The Inventor of Cruise Control Was Blind
At the age of five, Ralph Teetor was blinded in one eye after an accident with a knife. Less than a year later, he lost sight in his other eye through a condition known as sympathetic opthalmia where the damage to one eye is so severe that the other suffers as well. Teetor’s lack of sight did not compromise his vision. According to an article by David Sears for Smithsonian.com, Teetor studied mechanical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania before going on to help design steam turbines for U.S. Navy warships and serve as president and lead engineer of the Perfect Circle piston ring company. According to Sears, inspiration for cruise control struck during World War II when the U.S. had imposed a national speed limit of 35 mph to conserve fuel and rubber. Many believe that Teetor’s patent lawyer, who sometimes served as his driver, was so erratic behind the wheel that his driving spurred the invention.