Little Known Facts from the History of Automobiles
Automobiles have been around since 1769 when the first steam-engine-powered automobiles were produced. Many more automotive inventions follow, like in 1807, when Francois Isaac de Rivaz designed the first car that was powered by an internal combustion engine that ran on gas, a mixture hydrogen and oxygen. More than 80 years later, German inventor, Karl Benz created the Benz Patent Motorwagen that featured wire wheels with a four-stroke engine, fitted between the rear wheels; it was the first automobile that generated its own power, hence Karl’s title as the inventor of modern automobiles.
Here are more interesting historical “autobytes” that you might not have known before this:
Before Henry Ford became a carmaker, he used to repair watches for his friends and family, improvising tools like he was some olden day MacGyver – a corset stay as tweezers and a filed shingle nail as screwdriver. In 1916, when he was already a bona fide carmaker, 55% of the cars produced were Model T Ford’s, which is still a record unbroken until today.
The British luxury car marque, Aston Martin, got its name from founder, Lionel Martin, who used to race at Aston Hill near Aston Clinton. The company was owned by Ford Motor Company from 1994 till 2007, and Ford still has a small stake in it.
Jamaican reggae singer songwriter and guitarist, Bob Marley owned a BMW, because it is the acronym of Bob Marley and the Wailers. Prestige was the last thing on his mind.
The Maruti 800 is the ‘people’s car’ in India but a Beetle almost took that role. In 1971, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s cabinet wanted a car that was to India what the Volkswagen Beetle was to Germany – a small, affordable car for everybody. The contract fell on Sanjay Gadhi’s lap and he began talks with VW about the joint venture, that would involve technology transfer and joint production of an Indian version of the people’s car. However, Suzuki was quicker in coming up with a feasible design, the Suzuki Model 796 and predecessor to the Maruti 800. You snooze, you lose.
Rolls-Royce Ltd was a car manufacturer that branched into airplane-engine making, established in 1906 by Charles Stewart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce. That same same year, Rolls-Royce’s first car, the Silver Ghost, rolled off the production line. The next year, at the Scottish reliability trials, the car set a record for travelling 24,000 kilometres. Not bad for the first car it ever made.
More on the Beetle. Adolf Hitler ordered Ferdinand Porsche to manufacture a “Volkswagen”, which translates literally to “people’s car” in German. This was the start of the Beetle, of course. A surviving sketch from the 1930s, allegedly made by Hitler himself, is remarkably similar to the first production Beetle. It is said that the drawing was given to Daimler-Benz before it was passed to Porsche in Nuremberg.
The most expensive car ever sold at a public auction was a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sold at Bonham’s Quail Auction in 2014 for US$34.7 million, breaking the record of a 1954 Mercedes Benz W196R Formula 1 race car, which went for a staggering US$30 million at Bonhams just the year before.
Several of Volkswagen’s cars take their names after wind. Passat is a German word for trade wind; Golf is the Gulf stream; Polo means polar winds, and Jetta is jet stream.