The more nerdy among you who like to look for cars might be surprised to learn that a car’s most intriguing feature isn’t its horsepower or boot space.
Furthermore, it is not the top speed. Neither is it the cost nor the color.
After years of writing about cars for a living, I’ve come to the conclusion that none of those boring specifications are actually the most intriguing thing about cars. The drivers are them.
In 2006, the Ultimate Aero supercar achieved a new production car speed record of 256 mph (412 kph), but I was more thrilled that the driver was a 71-year-old retiree who had been recruited as a test pilot.
I’d like to learn about the first driver who was arrested for not paying a parking fine right after it was put, rather than when automotive historians meticulously document the date of the world’s first parking meter in Oklahoma in 1935. It was Rev. C. H. North, the local pastor.
What is the most intriguing information about BMW? The phrase “the ultimate driving machines” has no relation to this. For me, it’s the fact that every year, about 53,000 Britons look up what BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke) stands for on Google.
So, in addition to writing the typical roadtests, new car reports, and mechanical specifications for publications like Autocar and Top Gear, I’ve also amassed a vast private collection of the strange and fascinating human tales hidden beneath the automobiles.
This collection of incredible automobile experiences has inspired me to write books (see end of article), but I am having trouble keeping up with the demand. Am I the only one who believes that drivers tell better stories than their cars? With 6 of my Amazing Car Stories from my collection, here is your chance to form your own opinion:
The Quadricycle, the first automobile built by the brilliant inventor Henry Ford, was completed in a small shed behind his Detroit home in 1896. He would go on to become among the most prosperous businessman in the world, but this time, he made a serious error in judgment.
It was impossible to exit the workshop with the finished Quadricycle in tow. It had been constructed larger than the width of the door. In order to widen the entrance, Henry was forced to use an axe and brutal force to remove the bricks around the entryway and the doorframe of the workshop. Finally, he was able to unveil his ground-breaking invention.
Elwood Haynes, a bowler-hat wearing businessman and inventor, stunned one of his first clients by personally delivering a revolutionary horseless vehicle in 1898. Elwood traveled from his Indiana workshop to the affluent doctor’s residence in New York City in a sparsely equipped open-topped automobile.
It was the first 1,000-mile automobile trip ever finished in the US. It took more than a month, and the car he brought was called “The Pioneer.” Later, it was given to the Smithsonian Institution, and in 1995, it was shown on a US postage stamp.
It’s improbable that the Formula One record held by German racer Ernst Loof will ever be surpassed. He built a great career as a bike and automobile designer. However, his racing career was less successful. In just one F1 event, the 1953 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, Loof took part.
In a racing vehicle built by Veritas that he helped design, Loof took his place alongside the other competitors on the starting line. All of the vehicles accelerated as the race got underway, but Loof’s vehicle experienced a gasoline pump breakdown right away. After only six feet (two meters), the car stopped, gaining zero points, giving Loof the shortest and least successful F1 career in history.
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The Fiat 500 driven by Maria Mugno of Salerno, Italy, holds the record for having the world’s hairiest car, according to the Guinness Book of Records. The Italian hairstylist has spent hundreds of hours bringing packets of human hair from India into the country because she believes it is stronger there than in Europe.
The locks are then glued and sewn into every interior and exterior car surface, including the doors, dashboard, and steering wheel. However, she continues to drive her furry Fiat on public roads, and it is a well-known sight in Salerno.
Captain John Duff, a dashing gentleman racer, had not only lost the historic 100-mile two-car racing duel at Brooklands in 1924, but his brakes had also failed. His Blitzen Benz, which had a massive 21-litre engine, crossed the finish line at almost 100 mph, despite Duff’s valiant efforts to slow it down. He was able to keep steering while moving at full speed, but he careered straight off the track. The Benz sped across the nearby grassy embankments.
All but one of the 40 participants in the 1911 Indy 500 race had a driver and an observer, whose function it was to alert the driver to other vehicles approaching from behind. It was the typical setup for racing at the time.
However, Ray Harroun, who chose to drive alone at exorbitant danger, was in the 40th vehicle. Harroun experimented using an eight-by-three-inch mirror on a stand fixed to his dashboard in place of an observer while driving a bright yellow automobile he had made himself. It’s thought to be the first time a rear-view mirror was used. Harroun’s car easily won the race by more than half a mile since it was one person lighter and more aerodynamic.
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