General Automotive Trivia 2


1. What significant automotive event in early automotive history involved the Steinway Piano Company?

A.: William Steinway, of the piano company, met Gottlieb Daimler at Daimler's home in Cannstatt, Germany (suburb of Stuttgart) in 1888. On this occasion, Herr Daimler took Mr. Steinway for a ride in his automobile, making Steinway the v. first American to ever ride in a gasoline-powered car. Steinway and Daimler collaborated further on, and in 1891 the Steinway Company, in its Hartford, CT plant built Daimler gasoline engines under license. By 1905, complete Daimler automobiles were being assembled in the USA by the successor to the Steinway/Daimler Company.

2. The first automobile to be given a model-name was the 1893 Benz "Viktoria". Why did Karl Benz choose this name?

A.: Herr Benz named the car so because of, in his words, "...the victory of a happy idea...".

3. Charles Duryea was the builder of the first gasoline-powered automobile in the United States; this is commonly known. His cars all were built with three wheels instead of four. Why did he choose three wheels over four?

A.: Mr. Duryea was a devout Trinitarian, a sect of Christianity, and his cars' design reflected his religious beliefs, with three wheels, and engines with three cylinders, etc.

4. Until the year 1904, when American carmakers manufactured 22,130 automobiles, which nation was not only the world's biggest maker of cars, but also the largest exporter of them?

A.: Mais oui, mes amis, but of course it was Frahhnce.

5. Everyone knows that the Chevrolet "bowtie" emblem came from a design seen on the wallpaper of a French hotel. But, where did the equally famous script that creates the "Ford" in the blue oval come from? Who created this immortal logo?

A.: C. Harold Wills. The font was taken from a home printing kit that Wills had used as a teenager to make pin-money printing greeting cards.

6. What carmaker offered the first rebate?

A.: Henry Ford made a public promise in 1914 that he would make a $50 rebate to every customer if his automobile's sales exceeded 300,000 from August 1914 to August 1915. He kept his promise; him being a Christian fundamentalist and all, and mailed out 308,213 special checks for $50 to every owner who answered the call. BTW, fifty bucks in 1915 was pretty heavy cash; being equal to ten-day's pay for his own employees, or ~10% of the purchase price of a new Ford automobile.

7. It is well-known that the Third Reich's plan for all Germans to own Volkswagens was to be implemented by the volk to pre-pay for their new Kafers by using a state-issued coupon book, which when emptied, could be redeemed for their shiny new People's Car. Equally well-known is how der Fuhrer's wunderbar plans got slightly sidetracked by a pesky little world war. So, where did Adolph get his idea for the coupons-for-a-new-wagen scheme?

A.: Up pops old Henry Ford again. In 1923, Ford operated a savings-coupon book plan at Ford dealers where customers were issued a savings book, and made minimum payments of $5 against the issue of stick-in coupons. When the book was filled, the bearer could present it in exchange for a brand-new Model T Ford. Over the next two years, something like 300,000 Fords were sold in this way. The Nah-zeez under der Fuhrer adopted this plan for the Kdf-wagen (VW). Hitler always listed Henry Ford as one of his admired-persons, and much of the Volkswagen scheme was inspired by Ford's success with his "people's car" the Model T.

Henry Ford instituted this "savings account" plan due to his personal hatred for the trend of buy-on-credit "payment plans" (aka "thrift plans" etc) that was sweeping the consumer market at the time. He disliked the idea of instant gratification and extended payment, and therefore did not offer any sort of credit on Ford automobiles. His alternative was the 1923 layaway or savings account plan.
While this idea did work, and sold many Fords, it did not work as well as credit. Ford's then-stale Model T paled in comparison to GM's new strategy of technologically advanced yearly makeovers, and the combination of an outdated model and no available credit meant that Ford's sales dropped off sharply in the mid-to-late 1920s - while GM's soared.
Edsel, Henry's son, had been suggesting a new model for years, and finally won out. Production of the Model A began as the Model T was discontinued in 1927. Edsel also eventually succeeded in convincing Henry of the benefits of consumer credit, and in the 1930s the Ford-owned Universal Credit Company became a major player in the world of auto finance.

The Model T's production run ended, abruptly and worldwide (Ford had assembly plants all over the world) in April of 1927. The all-new Model A would not be available in showrooms until its world debut in December of '27. The intevening months left Ford dealerships everywhere with NOTHING to peddle but parts and service. Many, in frustration, dropped their Ford franchises and went to others, most commonly the upstart Chevrolet, or Dodge, or one of several other popular low-priced cars of the day, just to remain in business. Ford provided a small stipend to the dealers to tide them over, but it was meager at best. Meanwhile, in Dearborn, at Ford's Greenfield Village laboratory and at the Rouge Plant, Henry Ford, Edsel, and their chief engineer named Eugene Farkas worked day and night to develop the new Model A. This "cold shutdown" of such a huge business plant worldwide was highly unusual, and many considered it a little bizarre even at the time, but Ford owned his company and could do as he wished, however eccentric and risky.

It's important to note that Edsel Ford, Henry's only child, was responsible for the aesthetics of the new Model A more than any other person. Henry oversaw EVERY detail of the technical and mechanical makeup of the car, as always, but he obligingly left his son to attend to the way the car looked, since even the old autocrat Ford recognized Edsel's innate design sense and good taste, which the man had in spades. The resulting Model A was one of the most handsome and stylish cars of its time at any price, and the design has weathered the decades to become a benchmark of popularly-priced good taste and even elegance in design, all to Edsel's everlasting credit.

But, Mr. Ford knew his customers better than many assumed, and despite the hardship set upon the dealer body, and the laid-off employees in his plants, when the Model A debuted, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York on December 2nd, 1927, it became the most rapturously received new automobile in history. Ford showrooms everywhere were packed with people who came to see the "new Ford", and within just 2 weeks of debut, a recorded 25 million people had visited Ford showrooms to see the new car, and 400,000 orders had been put on the books. Movie stars and public figures competed to be seen in the new Ford. By early 1929, just a little over a year after the car's debut, the one-millionth Model A Ford rolled off the assembly line, a record for "quickest one-million produced" that stood for 51 years, only to be broken by the "World Car" Ford Escort's wildly successful first-year run in 1980.

Henry Ford and a small group of his engineers worked in a small laboratory building at Dearborn's Greenfield Village while developing the powertrain of the upcoming Model A Ford of 1928. Ford was not an engineer by degree, but he was an intuitive genius when it came to machinery, and he called the shots when it came to this new car's specs. The engine of the new car was to have several new features to distinguish it especially from the preceding Model T's engine, most geared toward increased simplicity and reliability as well as a doubling of horsepower from the T's 20 to 40hp for the Model A. Part of the power increase involved a brand-new carburetor design. Holley and another competing carburetor manufacturer presented their proposed designs to Ford for inspection. Ford rejected both prototype carburetors as too complicated; they had too many bolts holding them together. Ford demanded of the carburetor engineers a reduction in the number of bolts in the new carb – to ONE. The engineers were aghast at his demand; deeming it at first impossible to do. But, the Zenith Carb had Henry’s ONE bolt.

8. What carmaker, from 1955 through 1966, converted its plants to fully automated body welding? Bonus question: Who coined the term "automation" in the first place?

A.: Volkswagen's Wolfsburg plant. A Ford Motor Company engineering vice-president named Delmar Harding is credited with coining the term "automation". BTW, Ford's Cleveland, Ohio engine plant was the first fully-automated automobile plant. In 1951, a 1500-foot-long production line for engine blocks used 42 machines linked by transfer devices which automatically moved the engine blocks from station to station.

9. What country was the home of the inventor and patent-holder of the first automotive seatbelt? Clue: They were described at the time as "protective suspenders for automobiles and other vehicles".

A.: This one is tough to call. It seems that the seatbelt has had about 10,000 "inventors", so you decide. The story I read credits the French inventor Gustave Lebeau as the first patent-holder, in 1903, for his "protective suspenders". I also have as the first automobile to be fitted with seatbelts a 1902 Baker Electric racing vehicle that was used in attempts at speed records on Staten Island. The car reached 100mph. On Staten Island?? Anyway, this Baker racer was also one of the first, if not THE first cars to have bodywork developed by formal aerodynamic testing (done hydrodynamically in a water tank, since the only wind-tunnel in the world at the time was at the Wright Brothers' bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio).

10. The term "jaywalking" first appeared in 1917, about the same time that automobiles were starting to outnumber horse-drawn vehicles. Also around that time, the word "jay" was a slang term used to describe a foolish or naïve person, or a "rube." (In his song "Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway," George M. Cohan mocked New Rochelle as a hick town by referring to the "jay atmosphere.") So a person who was foolish enough to disregard his personal safety and cross a busy street outside of the prescribed areas was branded a "jaywalker."


11. A gallon of diesel fuel weighs about a pound more than a gallon of gasoline, so in a typical 2.5 gallon jug, you’d be carrying 8.5 pounds of liquid instead of six pounds.