Cars have come a long way in this country. So long, in fact, that there are plenty of interesting and funny things that happened along the way that have been lost to obscurity. Fortunately, eHow has compiled a list of some crazy things that you probably didn't know about automotive history:
The Early Days
- The first speeding tickets were given out in 1902, when the top speed of most cars was around 45 miles per hour.
- Some of the first cars ever made used a pair of levers to steer. Steering wheels weren't introduced for several years.
- Even before the Model T, the first popular American car was the Curved Dash Oldsmobile, which sold new for $650.
- The first car ever produced in America for sale was known as the Duryea. Only one model is known to still exist.
- Before the 1920s, cars didn't have gas gauges. Drivers had to estimate how much fuel was left, or risk running out.
- Cleveland was the first city in the United States to get a traffic light in 1914
- In 1972 the average speed of cars on Los Angeles freeways was 60 miles per hour. Ten years later, the growing traffic problem dropped that number to 17 miles per hour.
- The average American will spend two weeks of her life stopped at red lights.
- To drive on all of the paved roads in the United States, you would have to drive nonstop at 100 miles per hour for over four years.
- The first car insurance policy was issued in Westfield, Massachusetts, in 1897.
- Before becoming one of the best-selling cars of all time, the Volkswagen Beetle only sold about 300 models during its first year in the United States.
- Hong Kong has the most Rolls Royce cars per person.
- The 1948 Tucker Torpedo was designed with three headlights, including one in the center of the grill.
- The world's smallest car is the Peel P50, built in 1963. It seats one, does over 35 miles per hour and weighs only 130 lbs.
- The first car to be recognized as setting a land speed record used an electric motor. Today the fastest cars in the world use turbojets or rockets and drive 20 times as fast.
- Despite the harm some cars do to the environment, the automobile is actually the most recycled product in the world.
- The first Grand Prix race took place in 1901. Drivers averaged less than 50 miles per hour.
- One out of every seven cars sold in the United States is sold in Southern California.
- The average car contains over 3,000 feet of electrical wires.
- Most car horns have perfect pitch, playing in the note of F.
- Cell phone maker Motorola got its start producing record players for cars. The company's name comes from a combination of "motor" and "Victrola."
Driving into the Future
- Like those early cars that used levers to steer, some designs for future cars do away with the steering wheel, using a joystick instead.
- In 1939 the San Antonio Light wrote about future cars that could be folded into a neat and tidy suitcase-sized package.
- In the 1950s, most Americans believed that by the year 2000 people would drive flying cars that flew at more than 100 miles per hour.
- In 1959 the Chicago Tribune published an article about the coming of drive-in supermarkets where housewives used their cars instead of shopping carts.
- In the 1960s, rumors circulated that the government was working on something called the Magic Beam Highway: an electrified roadway that powered and controlled cars through a system of advanced computers.