Love cars and the stories behind them? Join us on the drive to automotive enlightenment in this week’s edition of Friday Fast Facts! For our tenth edition, we’re going to cruise in reverse and give you our ten favorite facts so far!
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 degenerates 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.
Thanks to Volvo, a Life is Saved Every Six Seconds
The stat is thoroughly impressive and highlights the necessity for the device that transformed automobile safety. What’s more impressive is that in 1959 in one of the most sterling cases of corporate social responsibility, Volvo elected not to patent its revolutionary invention. Instead of cashing in on a potential goldmine of intellectual property, the Swedish carmaker elected to leave the patent open for other manufacturers to implement. According to an article by Patrick George for Jalopnik, “They decided the invention was so significant, it had more value as a life-saving tool than something to profit from.”
The Founder of Chevrolet Died Bankrupt, Working as a Mechanic for His Own Company
Louis Chevrolet was an exceptional racecar driver, a masterful mechanic and a virtuoso when it came to designing automobiles. Business acumen however, was not a skill the Frenchman possessed. Chevrolet won his first race in 1905 and his eponymous car manufacturing outfit sold its first unit seven years later. Problems for Chevrolet and his company began when he and the head of parent company General Motors started splitting hairs over the direction of the subsidiary. The disagreement ultimately led to Chevrolet’s departure from his company and a series of poor choices and bad business breaks. According to an Automotive News article by Ralph Kramer, “the ailing and destitute auto pioneer was hired as a mechanic at Chevrolet’s Detroit Gear and Axle plant in 1934.” Chevrolet suffered multiple strokes before dying from complications after his leg was amputated in 1941.
The Average Bugatti Owner has Three Jets, One Yacht and 84 Cars
It’s imperative for a business to know its clientele. According to Wolfgang Dürheimer, head of both Bugatti and Bentley, “The Bentley customer on average owns eight cars. The average Bugatti customer has about 84 cars, three jets and one yacht.” The report Bloomberg report doesn’t specify whether the cars are Fords or Ferraris but we lean more towards the latter. Try and come up with a list of 84 dream cars. We didn’t make it past 30.
The Co-founder of Domino’s Pizza Traded His Shares for a Used Volkswagen
In 1960, brothers Tom and James Monaghan purchased a pizza restaurant near the Eastern Michigan Campus for $500. About a year later, James traded his 50% stake in the business to his brother for a used Volkswagen Beetle. Nearly 40 years later, Tom decided to hang up his apron and sell the majority of his stock in the company. His patience bought him more than a fleet of Beetles as his 93% stake sold for $1 billion.
A Car Spends Nearly 95% of its Lifetime Parked
According to a report by transportation adviser Paul Barter on reinvintingparking.org, “the average car is parked 95 percent of the time.” Even with those long commutes and road trips, your car may still be less active than many of your household appliances. At any rate, we hope that your car is parked as you’re reading this.
The Honda Accord is the Most Stolen Vehicle in the U.S.
The Honda Accord has topped the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s annual Hot Wheels Report as the most stolen car for nine out of the last ten years. There are roughly 50,000 Accords reported stolen each of these years. You may be asking yourself, “What is it about the Accord?” In an interview with ABC News, Patrick Clancy of car tracking and recovery system LoJack cites the sheer popularity of the Accord as a factor: “year after year, the Honda Accord continues to be a top seller at car dealerships.” Clancy says that more Accords on the road means more Accords needing parts for repair, and more Accords to be stolen and parted out. Something to consider is the preferred year models amongst thieves. A PRNewswire article notes, “Honda Accords and Civics produced prior to the introduction of anti-theft technology continue to dominate this report.” For example, 1996, 1997 and 1998 where the most stolen model years according to the past four NICB reports.
A Bugatti Chiron can Empty its Gas Tank in Nine Minutes
The Bugatti Chiron is the successor to the already-ridiculous Veyron. Both cars house an 8-liter, quad-turbocharged W16 cylinder engine sending power to all four wheels. The Veyron Super Sport produces a wicked 1184 horsepower and tops out at 253 mph. The Chiron somehow exceeds those marks with 1,479 horsepower and a blistering 261 mph top speed. All of that speed and power comes at a cost, though. According to an article by TopGear, the Veyron can empty its 100-liter fuel tank at top speed in 12 minutes. The Chiron can do the same in just nine. While it is worth noting, you’re probably not worried about pinching pennies for gas if you’re driving one of these.
An Insult Jump-started an Icon
Ferruccio Lamborghini had amassed his fortune long before the were 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.
In 2017, Rolls-Royce Unveiled the Most Expensive Production Car Ever
Rolls-Royce doesn’t make many two-seaters, but the ones they do make come at a premium. The 2017 Sweptail was built for a high-profile client for just under $13 million. The buyer wanted Rolls to produce a reiteration of the “cars of the ‘golden era’”, according to a Road and Track article by Máté Petrány. The car is even outfitted with luggage rails and a hat rack which makes this a steal for anyone looking for the Great Gatsby experience.