Ten Surprising Car Facts

Here are nine fascinating factoids we hadn't heard about cars, and one that's not.

10.) Buick made a LeSabre Grand National

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You probably didn't know that because it's one of the rarest Buicks ever made. Either 112 or 117 were made, but it's pretty damn rare for any manufacturer.

All were made in December 1985 to qualifiy the LeSabre coupe for NASCAR, and sadly none have the turbo from the Regal Grand National.

9.) Cadillac & Lincoln were started by the same guy.

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Henry Leland. He started Cadillac company with two partners as a reorganization of the failed Henry Ford Company in 1902.

After resigning from Cadillac in 1917 he started Lincoln in 1920 which was bought by Ford in 1922.

I can't really do Leland's story justice here so do yourself a favor and read the excellent history over at Ate Up With Motor

8.) Bricklin had Gullwing Doorsthat don't work in the heat

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The Bricklin SV-1 had electrically powered doors. Malcolm Bricklin donated a handful of SV-1s to the Scottsdale, Arizona police department. This didn't work very well:

The Bricklin SV1 had electrically activated doors. This meant if the battery died, you couldn't get in the car.

Malcolm Bricklin was a native of Scottsdale, Arizona. He donated several to the Scottsdale PD. Batteries and Arizona heat don't mix well.

The SV1 ended up being used for publicity duties more than the intended pursuit role, because getting in and out of the car was hard since the car was low to the ground. This meant that the car was sitting outside of schools all day while the police officers went through their dog and pony shows.

This meant a lot of dead batteries. Which meant a lot of Scottsdale cops calling in backup to deal with being locked out of their cars. Which led to a lot of laughing high school students who watched in amusement.

7.) Modern VW TDI's may hydrolock all by themselves

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What was that about superior German engineering? Reader jnecr can tell you why you might not want a fancy new TDi:

VW Common Rail TDIs (with DPF) are so poorly engineered that it is possible for them to hydrolock themselves without any outside interference (like rain, or puddles, etc).

You see the intercooler is more efficient than previous years which means it runs much cooler. Because it runs cooler there can be a significant amount of condensation on the intercooler itself.

Exacerbating this condensation is EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation), everybody knows that a by-product of combustion is water. Typically that's not a bad thing, but run that exhaust back through the cold intercooler and you get condensation, lots of it.

On any normal day this is nothing to be concerned about. The condensation doesn't build up enough to cause any issues because it slowly gets ingested in the engine with no issues. But, on certain days, extra cold days, the condensation will freeze in the intercooler before it can get ingested. On a long trip the intercooler would warm up just enough to melt this condensation and you'd be OK. But, on short trips it just keeps building up. Until you shut it off, go to work, come back out and, since it's now above freezing, all the ice has melted into a nice pool at the bottom of your intercooler. Start the engine and the engine immediately ingests a couple cups of intercooler condensation and it hydrolocks.

It makes for a wonderful day.

VW appears to have issued at least one technical service bulletin about the issue, as this VW Vortex thread explains.

6.) 1967 Cadillac Eldorado almost had a V12

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Yep, the first FWD Cadillac nearly had a V12. As Hemmings notes, the project was shelved due to concerns that it wouldn't meet emissions regulations and poor performance.

I think the world is a bit darker without a post-war GM V12.

5.) McLaren F1 Doors were inspired by a Toyota Sera

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When designing the F1 Gordon Murray drove past a Toyota Sera every day on his commute and he liked the doors so much he modeled the F1's doors after them.

The dihedral design was necessary for access to the center mounted driver's seat.

4.) Lancia sold a FWD Sedan with a Ferrari V8

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In an idea that could have only been conceived by Italians, Lancia shoehorned a 3.0 L V8 transversely into their FWD Thema sedan.

The motor was based on the one in the 308 and Mondial and built by Ducati.

Oddly, it used a cross plane crankshaft instead of the trademark Ferrari flat-plane.

3.) $25 Million Chanook Rotors are held to the body with Two Jesus Nuts

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In a helicopter rotors held to the mast using a single nut called a Jesus nut, for obvious reasons.

That means that a $25 Million MH-47G Chinook is held in the air with two nuts that cost less than $500 each.

2.) Ford GT40 had Corvair Taillights

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The story goes that a shop assistant working on the GT40 got sent to a local auto parts store with a scale to find the lightest taillights he could get and came back with the ones from the 1960 Corvair.

1.) BMW Roundel represents Bavarian Flag, not a propellor

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There was some debate on this, even within BMW, but a New York Times blog cleared up the confusion.

The famous BMW roundel represented the flag of the free state of Bavaria which seems to make sense when you see the colors of the flag.

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