Automobile history is rich and complex and as a result there are some pretty interesting, and also some pretty weird facts and statistics accrued over the years.
If you’re a trivia hound or a pub quiz whiz, take a look at our quick list of some of the wackiest facts your friends may have trouble believing!
1) US President Lyndon B. Johnson owned an amphibious car and used to drive guests into the lake to scare them, screaming about brake failure.
The car was a German-produced Amphicar that was mass-produced for public sale in 1961. One of the president’s former aides would later recall: “We reached a steep incline at the edge of the lake and the car started rolling rapidly toward the water.
“The president shouted, ‘The brakes don’t work! The brakes won’t hold! We’re going in! We’re going under!’”
2) There have been more Ford Fiestas sold in the UK than people in Lebanon
To date, a total of 4,115,000 Ford Fiesta models have been sold in the UK, making the model the best-selling car in the UK in history. Knocking the Ford Escort off its pedestal as former champion, the Fiesta outsells its closest competitor by more than two to one.
By comparison, the entire country of Lebanon has a total population of only 4,104,000 citizens.
3) In 2005, a man pioneered a car engine powered by the remains of dead cats
German scientist/nutty professor Christian Koch came up with the special engine, which uses the remains of deceased cats as fuel. Spooky.
According to Koch, fuel is produced via a combination of landfill rubbish and mashed-up moggies, with around 20 cats needed to produce enough fuel for a 50-litre tank. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t catch on.
4) Koenigsegg’s founder beat Steve Jobs to the iPod
Swedish hypercar mentalists Koenigsegg were formed in 1994 by inventor Christian von Koenigsegg.
However, before going on to design some of the most insane cars on the face of planet earth, Koenigsegg was potentially the first person to invent the concept of the MP3 player, years before Apple’s iPod surfaced.
Not only that, but he also pioneered the click-in system for assembling laminate flooring. According to the man himself, he didn’t go through with the MP3 idea because he didn’t think anybody would be interested in it. Whoops.
5) There was a monk in the 1200s who predicted the existence of cars
Franciscan friar Roger Bacon was born in 1214, and predicted the future about 800 years or so before the combustion engine entered the public consciousness.
In one of his works, he dreamed of a day when carriages would no longer be pulled by horses and would be able to travel at tremendous speeds. He wrote: “Cars can be made so that without animals they will move with unbelievable rapidity.”
Not content with just cars, he also predicted the creation of aeroplanes, steam-powered engines, submarines and even scuba equipment.
6) The world’s lowest street-legal car is only 19 inches tall
Constructed from the framework of an old Hillman Imp, the aptly-named Flat-Mobile was designed by Buckinghamshire native Perry Watkins and his son, who previously have built models including an engine-powered Dalek.
A vertically-challenged replica of the 1960s Adam West-era Batmobile, the Flat-Mobile features a steering wheel just six inches in diameter and is powered by a home-built jet engine.
7) Certain cars in South Africa could be specced with flamethrowers to avoid carjackings
In 1998, a South African inventor designed a novel (and pretty gruesome) way of avoiding having your car stolen, which is a considerable problem in the country.
Named the “Blaster”, the invention was a response to increasingly violent carjackings which plagued the country and left many people dead.
Operated via a foot pedal, drivers confronted by armed robbers could simply slam on the pedal and douse would-be assailants in plumes of flame several feet long.
Doctors stated that the flamethrower attachment was lethal, and rightly so, but police declared that the Blaster was a perfectly legal thing to have on your car. As a result, for several years in South Africa, new car buyers could specify their motors complete with built-in flamethrower.
8) You can extend the range of your car key by pointing it at the base of your chin
The inside of your head can act as a makeshift satellite dish, broadcasting the key’s signal over a greater distance.
Fluids and the oral cavity inside your skull amplify the key’s remote signal when you’re holding the fob against your chin via the same mechanism that gave you better reception when you touched those old metal TV antennas.
9) In Turkmenistan, car drivers are entitled to 120 litres of free petrol every month
If you’re a Turkmenistan citizen, you’ll rarely have to worry about gas-guzzling cars. Government legislation states that every single citizen is entitled to 120 litres of free fuel each and every month.
Pretty good news if you own something with a massive engine, then. Unfortunately, however, the future doesn’t look bright as the government is to discontinue the free fuel scheme.
Though the country has the fifth largest reserve of natural gas and oil in the world, the government says that they’ve been unable to fully exploit them due to a lack of export routes.
Still, that should make the rest of us feel a little better at least.
10) One horse doesn’t have one horsepower
Although it’s fun to imagine 100 or so tiny horses running around inside your engine and driving the wheels, your average horse doesn’t actually produce one horsepower.
Despite being named “horsepower”, the unit is actually a measurement of mechanical power and can be translated into various other measurements. One horsepower equals 745 watts, which means that according to this, a real horse will produce only about 0.7 horsepower.
11) The Ford GT is so strong that it broke its testing machines
As standard, every production car has to have its roof crushed as part of a test to assess its strength, but the Ford GT wasn’t going down without a fight.
Constructed of a superplastic frame with aluminium body panels, the Ford supercar proved so strong that it actually broke the machine that was designed specifically to obliterate cars.
Godly looks, godly performance and godly strength: is there any boxes that the Ford GT doesn’t tick?
12) Peugeot started out making coffee mills and bicycles
…And it still does. Founded in 1810, the French manufacturer started off in 1842 by manufacturing coffee grinders, plus salt and pepper mills among other things.
Forty years later, Peugeot extended its production to include bicycles, starting with a version of the Penny Farthing, before finally starting to produce cars in 1892 with the manufacture of a steam-powered three wheeler.
Even today, you can still buy coffee grinders and other apparel from Peugeot’s Design Lab.
13) The longest duration anyone has owned and driven a car is 82 years
American voice actor Allen Swift, famous for voicing several characters on the original Tom and Jerry cartoons, holds the world record for owning and driving a car for the longest duration.
In 1928, Allen received a Rolls-Royce Piccadilly-P1 Roadster from his father as a graduation gift, and drove it right up until his death at 102 years old in 2010. His folks must have been pretty wealthy, as it cost £6,815 at the time, or £88,598 in today’s money.
14) The Kia Soul EV is bio-degradable
Most cars, when they’re abandoned turn to rusty husks with whatever non-biodegradable parts inside them (that’s most of them, then) left where they stand. Not the Kia Soul EV.
The most eco-friendly model ever produced by the Korean marque, the Soul EV is actually dio-degradable. Parts of it, at least.
Manufactured from green-friendly materials including bio-degradable plastic, bio-foam and bio-fabric, around 10 per cent of the all-electric Kia can be broken down by the environment.