10 Strange But True Facts About Cars

Behold, friends of trivia! Strange, but true facts about automobiles (with bonus links to learn even more).

We love trivia. Some members of the Sherwood Auto Repair team can spout sports trivia, others know a little too much about 80s music, we even work with someone who can recite the presidents in order. This month we decided to share our appreciation of obscure tidbits of knowledge. We hope you enjoy these weird and wonderful facts as much as we enjoyed putting them together.

  1. Volkswagen owns Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Audi, Ducati and Porsche
    Crazy, right? The Volkswagen group actually has 12 brands worldwide. Click here if you’d like to learn about other interesting car brand mergers and partnerships.
  2. What was the first car with an automatic transmission?
    It was first offered as an option on the 1940 Oldsmobile (produced by General Motors). The new automatic transmission was called the Hydra-Matic. There’s some controversy about its origination but credit is generally given to two brilliant Brazilians who figured out its two central features: a hydraulic coupling and a planetary gearset. Would you believe their innovations are still used in most modern auto transmissions? Talk about ahead of their time! Do yourself a favor and spend a minute viewing this keen movie ad about the Motoring’s Hydra-Matic Magic Carpet
  3. The first car produced with factory-installed air conditioning was the 1940 Packard.
    1940 was a big year for cars!
  4. 75% of cars that Rolls-Royce has ever produced are still on the road today
    Henry Royce and Charles Rolls began selling cars in the early 1900s. In 1907 their Silver Ghost set the world record for running non-stop for 15,000 miles.
  5. The average American spends about 38 hours a year stuck in traffic
    There’s a silver lining here -- that’s more than enough time to listen to 7 or so audiobooks. Yay, traffic?
  6. The inventor of the cruise control was blind
    Ralph Teetor went completely blind by age 6 as the result of an injury. But that didn’t keep him from becoming an engineer who gifted the world with speed control technology. During World War II speeds on American roadways led to a growing number of accidents. Teetor’s ingenuity and concern for road safety led to the Speedostat. What started as a safety feature evolved into a gas-conserving tool that was viewed as more of a necessity than a convenience. The 1958 Chrysler was the first car that offered an optional Speedostat.
  7. It is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while operating a vehicle in Alabama
    Thanks to DumbLaws.com, we can all keep this important law in mind next time we find ourselves in Alabama. Behind the wheel. With a blindfold.
  8. In Washington: It is mandatory for a motorist with criminal intentions to stop at the city limits and telephone the chief of police as he is entering the town.
    Way to reduce crime, Washington! I’m sure all criminals abide.
  9. In 1895, the winner of the world’s first automobile race sped into first place at the record-breaking speed of 15 mph.
  10. Why we drive on the right hand side of the road
    Historians believe the American colonists’ determination to cut all ties to English rule played a part in the early practice of driving on the right. Another factor in the late 1700s--ditches! Drivers preferred to drive (and sit) on the right side of their buggy or wagon to avoid falling into a dreaded roadside ditch. No formal rule existed until 1792 when Pennsylvania adopted the first legislation regarding right-side travel. New York made right-hand travel statewide in 1804, and by the Civil War, all states followed suit. The 1908 Ford Model-T was first to put the steering wheel on the left side, intended for driving on the right. The growing popularity of the Model-T set the trend for all other car makers.

When you come in to see us next, tell us which factoid was your favorite. Or see if you can stump us with one of your own!

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