Automotive trivia – always arcane, never mundane

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The image is of the 1904 Stevens-Duryea automobile. It is from the collection of public domain books. The scanned copy came from the Northeastern University, Snell Library.

A 1904 Stevens Duryea, a model of the first car produced in the U.S. (Photo Credit: Public Domain/New York: Sports of the Times/Wikipedia)

Since the earliest days of the automotive industry, there has been no shortage of stories, observations and strange car facts. Car culture is a breeding ground for the kind of oddities and factoids that keep auto trivia buffs up at night, researching. Here are just a few morsels of automotive trivia, a mere taste.

In the beginning, the production line cooled

Did you know that the first speeding tickets ever written in the U.S. were given out in 1902? At that time, the top speed attainable by most vehicles was 45 miles per hour. And to steer some of those early horseless carriages, the driver had to manipulate a pair of levers. Steering wheels wouldn’t appear for several years.

Most people think of the Model T when they think of the first automobile in the U.S. However, there were a few in existence before the mass produced marvel from Henry Ford hit the streets. The first popular American car was actually the Curved Dash Oldsmobile, which originally sold for $650. But even that was preceded by the Stevens Duryea, the very first car known to have been produced in the U.S. Currently, only one model is known to still exist.

Drivers, be aware

One of the first things that was needed to help regulate city roads once the automobile became popular was traffic lights. Cleveland, Ohio, was the first U.S. city to get a traffic light, in 1914.

Over the decades, traffic became an increasing concern. In 1972, the average speed of vehicles on Los Angeles freeways was 60 miles per hour. A mere 10 years later, L.A.’s automotive population had already begun to spiral out of control. By 1982, the average freeway speed had dropped to 17 mph.

Considering all the traffic on the roads today, it should come as no surprise that the average American spends a whole two weeks of their life stopped at a red light. If that isn’t enough of a deterrent from driving, consider what it would take to drive on all paved roads in the U.S. If you drove non-stop at 100 miles per hour, it would take more than four years.

With all that driving, the chance of an accident increases greatly. Insurers understood the need for automotive insurance all the way back to 1897. That’s when the first U.S. automotive insurance policy was issued, in Westfield, Mass.

Vehicles noteworthy and notorious

The Volkswagen Beetle has become one of the best-selling cars of all time. Yet in its first year in the U.S.,

Before becoming one of the best-selling cars of all time, the Volkswagen Beetle only sold about 300 models during its first year imported into the United States, 1949.

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Speaking of the most popular ultra-luxury vehicles, Rolls Royce definitely is on the charts. And of all places in the world, the greatest market penetration for the Rolls is in Hong Kong, which boasts the most per person.

More strange car facts than you can shake a gauge at

  • Before the 1920s, vehicles didn’t have gas gauges
  • Today’s average car contains more than 3,000 feet of electrical wire
  • Today’s average car contains about 44 pounds of glue
  • Most consumer vehicle car horns play an F note in perfect pitch
  • Motorolla started out making record players for cars
  • During the 1950s, Americans believed that by 2000, everyone would have a flying car that could exceed an air speed of 100 miles per hour
  • In 1959, the Chicago Tribune speculated that drive-in supermarkets were coming. Shoppers would use their cars instead of shopping carts





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