By on March 22, 2013

Is there something about cars and car companies that make people tend to believe that there are all sorts of conspiracies keeping us from driving the car of all our dreams? I ask the question because I can think of at least a half dozen urban legends, conspiratorial glosses put on actual events, and outright conspiracy fantasies that are or have been popular among car enthusiasts and the general public.

I suppose the grandaddy of them all is the 200 mile per gallon carburetor but there are many others. The EV equivalent to the Fish carb would be Nikola Tesla’s radio wave powered experimental Pierce Arrow. The theorists tell us that were it not for the car companies buying up patents to keep those technologies away from their competitors, we’d have access to those technologies. Somehow the idea that the owners of that intellectual property would exploit it for commercial and competitive purposes seems to be lost on those that believe these tall tales. In some versions, of course, it’s the nefarious oil companies that are suppressing technologies that would threaten their profits.

A related conspiracy theory has to do with John D. Rockefeller and Prohibition. Rockefeller was in the petroleum business, first making a fortune selling kerosene, which was used for lighting. When Edison, Westinghouse, Steinmetz and Tesla made it possible for electricity to be used for power and lighting, Rockefeller, looking for a use for a toxic and almost explosive refinery byproduct he’d been throwing out, started to encourage its use as a fuel, converting the stationary powerplants in his refineries from steam to gasoline and, according to some historical sources, subsidizing the sale of gasoline engines to farmers, who were a primary market for stationary engines, to run farm equipment.

Now the above paragraph is historically reliable, at least to my own satisfaction. However, it took me a while to get the information. You see, when I started to enter [Rockefeller, gasoline engines] into a search engine, the first two pages of results were almost all about how John D. Rockefeller was the head of a conspiracy that led to the United States adopting Prohibition. It seems, according to the conspiracy theories, that Rockefeller put his money behind prohibiting drinking alcohol because he wanted to suppress ethanol as a fuel, which could, theoretically, compete with gasoline.

Another quasi conspiracy theory also involves gasoline and alcohol. It’s related to General Motors’ and DuPont’s development of tetra-ethyl lead as a gasoline additive to prevent pre-ignition knocking and allow the use of more powerful higher compression engines. In the late teens and early 1920s, before the large oil deposits in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Mideast were discovered, there were concerns about running out of petroleum. “Peak oil” is not a new concept. Casting about for alternative fuels GM’s Charles Kettering started looking into gasoline/ethanol blends, which can have reduced octane due to phase separation and the ethanol absorbing water, so they started looking into ways of boosting octane. GM and the DuPont chemical company were joined at the hip for much of the 20th century and a joint research project ended up with the development of leaded gasoline. In the meantime, new petroleum deposits were discovered and tetra-ethyl lead ended up as an octane booster for gasoline. Where the conspiracy theories start is at just how much GM and DuPont suppressed information about the dangers of leaded gas.

So there is some basis in fact for some of the conspiracies, but then the Talmud teaches that no lie can be believable without some grain of fact. Failed EV entrepreneur Ed Ramirez has claimed for decades that his Amectran EXAR-1 was foiled by a conspiracy at the Environmental Protection Agency. I happen to think that Ramirez started believing his own PR, but the idea that a bureaucrat or government agency might kill a promising technology is not that far fetched. When the then young EPA started a program to encourage new clean air technologies, hybrid car pioneer Victor Wouk’s hybrid 1973 Oldsmobile Cutless showed great promise and met all the test criteria that the EPA demanded, but the project was indeed killed by EPA administrator Eric Stork.

Getting back to General Motors, not only did they supposedly conspire to give us all lead poisoning, but the big automaker also allegedly conspired to eliminate environmentally sensitive electric streetcars, so they could make money selling polluting city buses.

Sometimes the conspiracies just percolate in the public mind. Other times they get a boost from Hollywood. Lots of car companies have failed. You don’t need a conspiracy to have the cards stacked against a startup car company. Literally thousands of car companies have gone belly up, and Preston Tucker’s business plan had some big holes in it, so the Tucker company’s failure was no surprise. According to some Tucker faithful, and amplified by Francis Ford Copolla’s film, though, Tucker didn’t fail because he bit off way more than he could chew, with a car that had to be developed on the fly, he failed because the Big 3 got Washington to go after him for securities fraud.

So what automotive conspiracy theories have you heard, and which of them do you believe? Being a Learned Elder of Zion I’m a bit allergic to conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists in general, but you can try to convince me.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

 

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298 Comments on “Automotive Conspiracy Theories and Urban Legends...”


  • avatar
    gslippy

    I’d add Peak Oil to the list. Bring it.

    • 0 avatar
      lowsodium

      It is stunning how much oil has been pulled out of the ground. But were not near the peak yet. Were just getting out more expensive oil.

      There were peak oil people in the 20′s.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Yep. The incremental trends of price increases of oil aren’t really driven by low reserves or specific demand, but more by the devaluation of the petro-dollar.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          Care to provide something credible about your devaluation of the petro-dollar theory? If you do a search, all you get are conspiracy theory blogs and goldbugs who don’t know anything about economics.

          Some people have been talking about supposed hyperinflation for going on 6 years now. And it doesn’t seem to have happened for reasons that don’t seem overcomplicated — e.g. that destruction of credit is destruction of the money supply.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            So printing massive amounts of money and flooding the market with it DOESN’T devalue the currency? In case you haven’t noticed, some pretty serious price inflation has been happening.

            Go research it yourself if you’re geniunely interested.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            We haven’t had the hyperinflation predicted by all the conspiracy theorists. Full stop.

            Again, a lot of the money printing is simply replacing the money destroyed by the destruction of credit. In reality, the inflation already happened when the big banksters extended the credit — it’s not happening due to the money-printing.

            Furthermore, even after all this money-printing that allegedly devalued the petro-dollar started, the price of oil crashed for a bit because of the economy, but then it came back up to par. It wasn’t inflation that caused it to rise back up.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      Don’t need a conspiracy to make an exhaustible petrochemical resource… errh… exhaust itself. The only reason Peak Oil no longer seems so important is that it has intersected with Peak Demand and is approaching the point at which it will no longer be economical to use as a fuel.

      Yup. We ain’t ever running out of oil. We just won’t be able to afford to extract it.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      There absolutely will be a peak at some point, whether it is due to demand, infrastructure, extraction technology, or resource supply.

      The problem I have with the usual peak oil scenario is the rapid drop-off. Increased technology and increased price will stretch out supply by making it worthwhile to extract what previously wasn’t worth getting. Similarly, new technology helps us find & get what wasn’t even an option before. Personally, I believe in “plateau oil.” Global oil production has been basically flat for most of the last decade. I expect that trend will generally continue. It probably will go up somewhat when the global economy improves, but I don’t expect any rapid increase in the years to come. Conversely, when it does start to go down, I expect it will be a slow & gradual drop.

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        Well, the current surplus of “new” oil finds in the US is an excellent example of previously uneconomical finds that have become viable due to high prices… unfortunately, the drop-off in production for these new wells is very drastic compared to the big finds off-shore or in the Middle East.

    • 0 avatar
      Neb

      I’ll double down and say Peak Oil is a conspiracy theory created by commodities traders to encourage volatility in oil prices.

      (I don’t actually believe this, but sometimes I think it makes sense.)

      Actually now that I think of it, I’ve also heard the opposite: that oil is a substance that is generated naturally by the earth, and is replenished over time.

    • 0 avatar
      Adamatari

      If you think Peak Oil is a hoax or conspiracy, you don’t understand what it is. There MUST be a peak of production of oil at some point – it’s a finite resource, period. That’s all “peak oil (production)” means. It’s a basic observation, not an arguable statement.

      Now, different people have different arguments about WHEN it will peak (next year or 500 years from now), whether it will be a disaster or a minor bump in the road, what technologies will replace oil or won’t… But peak oil itself is not arguable. Oil takes millions of years to form. Even if you think it’s “abiotic”, then you still have to find formations and you still will hit peak production if you use it up faster than it forms.

      As for the current price of oil – two words: China, India.

      • 0 avatar
        Neb

        @ Adamatari: Don’t mistake my conspiracy theories with what I actually think! I’m totally with you on the peak oil/finite resource/increasing consumption/decreasing reserves thing. It just occurred to me that I heard other conspiracy theories (which are false and wrong) connected to peak oil.

        Actually, now that you got me thinking, I’m not really sure what gslippy meant when he said peak oil was a conspiracy theory. Because as you laid it out, Peak Oil makes perfect sense.

        • 0 avatar
          Adamatari

          Neb, I was trying to reply to gslippy but it didn’t look that way.

          Peak oil gets a bad name because it’s easy to forecast disaster too early or on shaky grounds, and many people have. When the price of oil shot up in 2007, there were people saying “this is it”. Since then, the price has remained high, but the economy has mostly adjusted. Lots of things are also getting thrown in, higher CAFE requirements and ethanol for one, and people are driving less. Not the end of the world, if not like it was before.

          I think the typical one is that Peak Oil is a conspiracy to take away our cars, perpetuated by the Club of Rome through the book “Limits to Growth”. The idea is that UN bureacrats are trying to take away our freedom, make us all drive Ford Ka and VW Polos while they go around in limos, and generally make things suck.

          While we’re putting up conspiracies, I’ll add another: “greenies” got CO2 classified as a pollutant so they can take away our cars and make us live like poor people. Might as well stir the pot.

          Funny thing is, people ARE conspiring and covering things up all the time (like the TEL thing or the EPA rejection of the hybrid car), so believing conspiracy theories is very easy to do. But it’s very easy to stretch it too far.

      • 0 avatar
        don1967

        Adamatari, how do India and China explain the price of oil falling 40% over the past five years?

        How can a resource be “finite” if it continues to form underground? I believe the word for that is “renewable”. That puts it squarely within the domain of human science to someday accelerate the process, not unlike high-yielding crops or laboratory-grown skin cells.

        Speaking of science, how does one argue from a scientific perspective and then wrap up in true flat-earth-society style by mocking the intelligence of dissenters and declaring the issue closed to debate? That is so 2008, and so unscientific.

        • 0 avatar
          niky

          The timeframes involved in oil formation are just too long compared to how quickly we use it up.

          Sure we can make it in the laboratory, but it’s a lot more expensive that way. From a simple EROEI perspective, synthetic oil is a complete non-starter.

          What we can produce economically and quickly is methane. There are some start-ups dedicated to this.

          —–

          If we continue to use oil at our current rate, we will run out of economically extractable oil in the future. Of course, we likely will not continue at the current rate until we run out of oil. We simply won’t be able to afford to use it.

          And if somehow oil prices miraculously drop, then oil companies won’t be able to afford to drill for it. That’s an issue threatening current oil production in the US (ROI for starting up new US oil rigs is only attainable at $85 per barrel) and around the world ($110 per barrel or so, for “traditional” oil). Sure, commodities speculation is still the cause of price spikes, but the general feeling among producers is that they can’t break even below that mark.

        • 0 avatar
          Adamatari

          Don, the price of oil only “fell” if you are considering the peak price during what can only be called a price spike. Notice that the entire world economy crashed right after that and prices dropped like crazy… Only to recover to a plateau around $100 a barrel, despite the developed world (USA, EU, Japan) still having continuing economic issues and lagging growth. China, India and other developing countries have rebounded and added literally millions of drivers. If you don’t understand what that means, you’re trying not to.

          As for “finite”, literally everything on the earth is finite because the earth is a sphere. And that sphere does not have a choclately oil center. Oil only exists in certain places that are favorable for forming it and trapping it. Too much heat and it turns into natural gas. The processes that create oil take place over literally millions of years, quite unlike the natural annual cycles of crops like wheat. We CAN create synthetic fuels, and algal biofuels would be roughly a sort of sped-up oil (as oil comes from algae and plankton), but they tend to be expensive and compete for land with food crops. Regardless, biofuels are alternative, they are not “oil”. If we can make synthetics economically and in large enough quantities to replace oil, then peak oil will come and go without notice.

          Peak oil is an observation. There will be “peak food (production)” at some point too – either population will stabilize and we won’t produce more, or we will keep growing until all arable land is used as optimally as possible. All things on earth are finite. Renewable resources are also finite, only so much solar energy hits the earth daily and eventually the sun will reach the end of its lifetime. There is no argument.

    • 0 avatar

      Tesla wrote in 1916 Patent #1266175 for a Lightning Protector “I produced artificial lightning, coupled up to many times that in nature with my Tower, Wardenclyffe” and send power wirelessly, at any levels, without loss to any point on the earth. (Tesla Patents 645576, 649621, 685012, 685957, 787412, 1119732)

      “If in a Thunderstorm, Earth (or my Tower, Wardenclyffe) was struck with Lightning, it creates concentric waves, that slowly circle the planet and come back where they started”. Nikola Tesla 1901

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMslL1KuUHI

      June 15, 1903 the “New York Sun” wrote:”people living near Tesla’s laboratory at Long Island were intrigued very much in his experiments with wireless energy transmission. Last night they were the witnesses of a very strange phenomena – multicolored lightning made by Tesla himself, the inflammation of the atmospheric layers at different altitudes and along the New York territory, Night suddenly turned to day. At times, the air was full of luminescence, concentrated along the edges of human body, and people radiated a mysterious shine or glow. They seemed to be (as) ghosts.”

      The townspeople of Colorado Springs, 22 miles away from Tesla’s Colorado Lab, they soon felt the effects of Tesla’s apparatus, sparks lept from the ground, singing their feet through their shoes, metal objects near fire hydrants would draw lighting bolts several inches away. These were the side effects of adjusting the Magnifying Transmitter in perfect resonance with Earth.

      Late one night in 1899, Tesla fired up his machine at full blast, in order to create his phenomenon called “Resonant Rise”, Tesla was sending out a series of pulses, resulting in a tramendous cumulative effect. At Ground Zero, the Resonant Rise manifested in man made 130′ foot long artificial Lighting. Thunder was heard 22 miles away. Tesla believed the potential was limitless.

      Colorado Springs, 22 miles from Tesla’s Lab people felt effects of his apparatus, sparks lept from the ground, metal objects near hydrants draw lighting bolts. The side effects of adjusting the Magnifying Transmitter in resonance with Earth.

      Tesla, in his 1891-1899 Colorado Experiments and Patents, explains ARTIFICIAL RAIN is created by 1) ionizing the air with his Tower 2) then Artificial Lighting 3) then Thunder 4) then RAIN

      Nikola Tesla was the first to scientifically document the artificial generation of fog by atmospheric ionization in his Colorado Springs lab, later reporting:

      “In Colorado I succeeded one day in precipitating a dense fog, so dense that when the hand was held only a few inches from the face it could not be seen.”

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1No0QP3rDRs

      The Earth, mechanically is hereby a huge “Helmholtz Resonator”, and electrically it is hereby a huge “Cavity Resonator”. Also, as explained by N. Tesla, the “Earth-Ionosphere Condenser” is far too thin to support any transverse wave-guide modes. Only electro-magnetic waves parallel, of magneto-dielectric waves normal, to the surface of the Earth are possible.

      “If you want to find the secrets of the Universe, think in terms of Energy, Frequency & Vibration” a Resonant Harmonic Frequency and Golden Ratio. “If you only knew the magnificence of 3, 6 & 9, then you would have a key to the Universe.” The 6 Solfeggio frequencies, using the Pythagorean method, base or root vibrational numbers are 3,6, & 9.” Supreme Court Case #369 decided June 21, 1943 to overturn Marconi giving Wireless Power to Tesla with his 1897 Patent #645576 “System of Transmission of Electrical Energy”

      “We are whirling through endless space, with an inconceivable speed, all around us everything is spinning, everything is moving, everywhere there is energy. There must be some way of availing ourselves of this energy more directly. Then, with the light obtained from the medium, with the power derived from it, with every form of energy obtained without effort, from the store forever inexhaustible, humanity will advance with giant strides. The mere contemplation of these magnificent possibilities expands our minds, strengthens our hopes and fills our hearts with supreme delight.” Nikola Tesla 1891

      Nikola Tesla adopted this vision in the context of modern science. He spoke of an “original medium” that fills space and compared it to Akashia, the light carrying ether. In his unpublished paper in 1907 “Man’s greatest achievement,” he wrote that this original medium, a kind of force field, becomes matter when Prana, cosmic energy, acts on it, and when the action ceases, matter returns to Akasha. Since this medium fills all of space, everything that takes place in space can be referred to it.

      http://anengineersaspect.blogspot.com/2011/07/nikola-tesla-mans-greatest-achievement.html

      “All of my investigations seem to point to the conclusion that they are small particles, each carrying so small a charge that we are justified in calling them neutrons. They move with great velocity, exceeding that of light.” – Nikola Tesla, July 10, 1932

      OPERA/CERN confirms Tesla’s faster-than-light “Neutrino”, “Transmutation” of elements & the source of “Cosmic Rays” he describes in Patents for Wardenclyffe (#645576, 649621, 685012, 685957, 787412, 1119732, 1266175). “The discovery bolsters the theory that the sneaky neutrinos oscillate from one type to another” “solar neutrinos, tiny, uncharged particles that reach Earth and pass undetected through ordinary matter”

      http://news.yahoo.com/elusive-superman-particle-­­found-changing-flavor-1132003­0­2.html

  • avatar
    imag

    My favorite:

    Rudolf Diesel invented the diesel motor to run on peanut oil. After a bit of success, he took a trip on a steamer which happened to have a few petroleum executives on it. He disappeared over the edge. After his death, the Diesel motor suddenly enjoyed enormous success – burning the petroleum product which bears Rudy’s name.

    Your truth may vary.

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    There is the popular belief that Ralph Nader killed the Corvair. The truth is, GM management had ordered an end to further Corvair development before Nader’s “Unsafe At Any Speed” was published. The reason was that Corvair sales had never met expecations. Rather than continue with the Corvair, GM was betting on the Chevy II and Camaro which would be more competetive with the Ford Falcon and Mustang.

    • 0 avatar
      Feds

      I’ve heard (I haven’t managed to bother to read Unsafe at Any Speed yet) that it is more focused on CO leaking into the cabin than it is on snap oversteer.

      • 0 avatar
        Joe McKinney

        I read this book when I was in high school, but that was over 30 years ago and I cannot recall specifically what Nader said about the Corvair. What I do recall is that the Covair was only discussed in a small part of the book and rest was a critique of car design in general. Nader’s premise was that almost every car made at the time was a death trap because manufacturers were more concerned with fashion and profit than with safety. In this regard he was correct.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          My father has a copy, he managed to find it in a Corvair rampside he sold not that long ago.

          I read the book and Nader did mention that Corvairs were more likely to roll and what not, but he went into more detail.

          According to that book, the Corvair was originally intended to have anti-sway bars, but despite the engineers insistence GM removed them to save money, thinking that the cars wide tires would be good enough, they quickly added them back a few years later.

          Nader also goes on about how chrome trim of the time, hood ornaments, and other late 50′s styling remnants are dangerous.

          • 0 avatar
            Joe McKinney

            Thanks, Ryoku75.

            The rear suspension was redesigned on the second-generation Corvairs. These went on sale in late 1964 as 1965 models. It turns out GM had recognized and corrected this problem before Nader’s book was released in November 1965.

            One thing I recall Nader mentioning about late 1950′s and early 1960′s cars was how the forward slanting grills would pull pedestrians under the car in a collision with a pedestrian. He also talks about dangers like drivers being impaled on steering columns.

          • 0 avatar
            raph

            GM’s fix for removing the sway bars was bizarre air pressure settings front to rear, IIRC the front tire pressure on a Corvair was less than 20 psi

        • 0 avatar

          I think it’s an urban legend that any car executive ever said “you can’t sell safety”. I’ve found allegations of that going back into the 1950s but I’ve never found an actual attributed quote. On the other hand, looking at advertising, other promotional materials, and the features on show cars, car companies have been selling safety since at least the 1930s.

          • 0 avatar
            jpolicke

            As I recall Lee Iaccoca said something like that in his biography, recalling how back in 1956 his idea for seat belts was shot down at Ford.

          • 0 avatar
            Joe McKinney

            The quote “Safety Doesn’t Sell” is commonly attributed to Iacocca, though I am not aware of any primary sources linking it to him. There a number of secondary sources where people say they heard him say this, or that he had a reputation at Ford for saying this.

            The incident Jpolicke refers to is on pages 38-39 of Iacocca’s autobiography. Iacocca tells a story about a regional sales meeting in 1956 where he attempted to demonstrate the safety of Ford cars by dropping eggs onto samples of dash padding. This demonstration went badly. In summary Iacocca says “I had plenty of egg on my face that day, and it turned out to be a prophetic symbol for our 1956 cars. The safety campaign was a bust. Our campaign was well conceived and promoted, but the customers failed to respond.”

          • 0 avatar
            Joe McKinney

            Here is another quote from page 295 of Iacocca’s autobiography. Perhaps this is the seat belt reference Jpolicke was thinking of.

            “In 1956 when Ford offered seat belts as an option for the first time, about 2% of customers ordered them. The indifference shown by the other 98% cost us a lot of money. And you should have heard some of the reasons people gave for not wanting them. Some people claimed that the belts clashed with the color of the interior. And I’ll never forget one letter that said: ‘They’re very bulky and uncomfortable to sit on!’”

          • 0 avatar
            wmba

            Jeepers, all youse young ‘uns didn’t live through the times!

            “For 1956 , Ford instituted safety measures for its car line. Among them, were padded vinyl dash covers , which made the instrument panel look vastly different from the ’55 model. The Lifeguard safety package, as it was called , consisted of seat belts, the padded dashboard as mentioned and a breakaway rearview mirror. The option was a slow-seller.” The next year brought the deep dish steering wheel, which shortened the steering shaft length. Ford kept that for years.

            Hands up, all those who drove an early Corvair back in the day? The 1960 I drove had about 5 turns lock to lock of recirculating ball precision and handled like a melted marshmallow. It was a dirty green color. Tire pressures were 15psi front, 26 rear for the 2 ply rayon bias ply tires if anyone bothered to read the manual. My college pal, handed the car by his parents, didn’t know that until he read Nader’s book in 1966. It was like reading forbidden material, wow, someone brave enough to tweak GM’s nose. Of course, the car mags, particularly Car Life, had been on GM’s back about the car years earlier than Nader. All he had to do was read and then plan his expose with a provocative title “Unsafe ……” “Unsafe” in the title and everyone freaked especially after it became public that GM put private dicks on Nader’s case and found out he lived the life of a monk. There was sump’n to HIDE, and the tongues wagged.

            With 5 large college students in it, about 55 real horsepower and ta da! Powerglide 2 speed automatic, the Corvair couldn’t keep up with a VW and wallowed like a pig in a mud bath. The VW at least had direct steering and felt better to drive, even if it wasn’t, but it did not wallow and had more normal tire pressures.

            Yeah, Chevy read the Road & Track ads just like us, and for the ’64 Corvair added a copy EMPI rear stabilizer bar (just $19.95 for your VDub). Oooh, better!

          • 0 avatar
            Joe McKinney

            Now GM’s attempt to discredit Nader is one automotive conspiricy story that is true. Nader won a nice settlement when he sued for invasion of privacy.

        • 0 avatar
          ClutchCarGo

          As I recall when I read it about 15 years after it first came out, Nader was a lot harder on the VW than he was on Corvairs, but GM didn’t mind the VW getting beaten up. Let’s face it, putting the engine in back and the gas tank up front is not a good idea when it comes to crash-worthiness.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          I’m just glad to shine a light on the subject, I’ve never driven a Corvair but I will say that the later ones could’ve really been something if GM did more work with them.

          I do remember Nader prominently mentioning how chrome on the dash could blind drivers, while exterior chrome could blind pedestrians.

          Frankly we need another book like his that covers todays love for huge blindspots.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    of course the most important one is the theory that oil companies are colluding with car companies to make sure that our cars did not get too good fuel economy. The automakers supposedly could make a Suburban-sized vehicles that gets 60mpg towing a huge boat up a hill today, if they wanted to, but those evil oil companies made sure that such a product never comes into market.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I’ve found that your average non-car person believes this is the absolute truth.

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        It seems like many people do believe it. When I disagree, I’ve been told, “You’re just swallowing the propaganda the car and parts companies have been saying for the last 70 years!”.

        Some of these people believe in “Fema Cars” too. Go to youtube and search for it. How can people be this dumb?

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      It seems the older and less educated the person is the more likely they believe in this particular conspiracy theory. They just cannot imagine that gasoline went from being cheap to not so cheap pretty quickly in 1973 without some kind of conspiracy, and somebody has to be blamed. Add in the fact that these people grew up with BIG cars which were suddenly downsized and these folks were even less happy.

      Rather than study history, economics, and geopolitics it is a lot easier to blame a conspiracy between big oil and big auto.

      Bonus points if the person telling you about the conspiracy claims to know of a friend of a friend or brother in law who actually invented or worked on the 200 mpg carburetor. That person always mysteriously died or moved overseas without a trace.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      Suburbans at 60mpg sounds like hyperbole, but a family friend who has worked at GM dealerships told me about going to GM conferences back in the late 80s and throughout the 90s and being told that GM thought they could make a 40 mpg mid-size, but it would raise the price of vehicles by 10-15%.

      My guess is that such a car wouldn’t have gone 0-60 as fast as some of the Camcord-type vehicles can go these days, but very few cars did back then.

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        Well, gas/electric hybrid technology isn’t exactly a new idea, and will obviously achieve well over 40+mpg even in today’s bloated midsize cars.

        I’d guess that a mild hybrid system of the sort that GM touts now could have been done for a 10-15% premium over the standard car if it were sold a la carte and not bundled with other mandatory option packages and was probably doable with 1990s technology.Could a belt assist Celebrity hit 40mpg? Probably, those things were featherweights compared to a modern Malibu.

    • 0 avatar

      Mr. Whopee, it was exactly that “theory” that sparked this post. Hemmings just published an article of mine on the 1916 Woods Dual Power gas/electric hybrid (a fascinating car, btw) and in one of the comments someone mentioned car companies and oil companies buying up the patents to prevent better fuel economy.

      blog.hemmings.com/index.php/2013/03/21/hybrid-from-a-time-of-transition-the-1916-woods-dual-power-model-44/

  • avatar
    Garak

    Compressed air cars are held back by The Man, electric cars are held back by The Man, regular cars are made deliberately ugly in order to make sports models look better. I think the last one might be true.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Don’t think so. The real competitor of a regular car model would be a regular car from another car maker. For instance, Accord competes with Camry, not S2000. Since the demise of S2000, Accord only got worse, not better.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      For the most part, mainstream electric cars seem to follow function over form. However great efforts are being made to make electrics more lust worthy, like the Model S, the Tesla Roadster and a number of other Lotus based electrics.

    • 0 avatar
      toplessFC3Sman

      who is this “Man”? It sounds like he’s saving us from ourselves!

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        the “man” is also called “they” although “they” tend to be more active – “they” said, “they” broke, et al.

        Which reminds me, I had a boss that really hated when you said they, and for god’s sake don’t pause for a second if you used the word they and had to come up with names, that just made the interrogation worse.

        • 0 avatar
          dolorean

          Raph, being a Field Grade in the Army, I’m that guy. I don’t apologize for it, need to know who ‘they’ be. Thereby I either outrank them or will find someone that outranks them or will find another way to get around the ‘they’ to get what the boss wants cause he/she sure as hell will have the same conversation with me.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      I can’t remember the name of the guy, and a search came up with nothing that sounds like a name I remember, but he claimed that cars could be “easily modified” to run on nothing but air, and get over 100MPG. He was totally out of his mind.

      I wonder if he was a “breatharian”, too?

      http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/edible-innovations/breatharian.htm

  • avatar
    wsn

    As of today, the majority of Chinese believe that Japanese cars use thinner sheet metal and are less safe than American cars.

    I was never tech savvy enough to find out the actual thickness of the sheet metals. So I can’t say with proof that this belief is 100% crap.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      My dad had to do a DIY replacement for a side mirror on a late 70s Corolla (or could have been early 80s) or whatever the equivalent model was at the time. He pushed the mirror into the wedge before assembling the screws and it dented the sheet metal.

      There was a time when “Made in Japan” was justifiably treated as “Made in China” is today.

    • 0 avatar
      Astor

      Thinner might be true in new cars, but that’s because it’s smart to use higher strength steel…thinner, so lighter to offset all the airbags and heavy stuff you cram into a vehicle these days while trying to meet your ever more stringent mileage requirements. Thinner doesn’t necessarily equal worse than thicker steel…depends on what kind of steel…but I can see how, lacking knowledge of modern metal manufacturing, it boils down to “this door feels light and cheap when I close it, doesn’t make that heavy ‘THUNK’ sound like in that old Buick”.

      • 0 avatar
        onyxtape

        And plus crumble zones absorb the impact shock, instead of transferring all that energy to the passengers’ bodies. You have to have bendable/pliable sheet metal to properly implement crumble zones.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        MPG AND safety requirements. Doing both together is far harder than doing one or the other.

        Engineering: not because it it easy, but because it is hard.

        (No apologies to JFK’s speechwriter here. It applies and I’m just stretching the scope a bit.)

        Having wrecked an early 1990s Honda Accord, I have to say the engineering in that car was top-notch and protected me wonderfully. And that car was designed before the modern era of supercomputing and the widespread use of finite element analysis to analyze structure deformations.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      A lot of old timers hold the belief that new cars are like tin cans that will simply crumple up like a paper box around you in an accident… so that’s hardly a Chinese-only thing.

      Of course, cheap Chinese cars use thicker sheet metal than Japanese cars for the same chassis rigidity, because they use cheaper steel and construction methods, so it is very likely that a Japanese model will have thinner body panels than a similar Chinese one.

      • 0 avatar
        toplessFC3Sman

        Well, the “Old Timer” belief isn’t all that untrue in many cases, new cars will crumple much more than most older cars because they’re designed to, in order to absorb the crash energy instead of passing it on to your teeth through the steering wheel

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Yeah, but old timers also think those heavy 50s vehicles were safer than the vehicles of today. They’re wrong about most of the “back in my day…” stuff.

        But it’s not just old timers. Many people have a poor understanding of technical aspects of materials and manufacturing (including some who post regularly on TTAC).

        • 0 avatar
          wmba

          @ controllio:

          Yup, like believing High Strength Steel is stiffer than regular steel, despite having the same modulus of elasticity. Ad men really push this canard.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            Mazda’s high-tensile strength boron steel in its new models is so much harder and less elastic than “softer” steels that they had to design their crash structures to account for this.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            You’ve just got to show them IIS 50 year anniversary crash test, where they crashed a 1956 Bel Air into its modern equivalent. The driver’s compartment on the Bel Air collapsed, and would have killed the occupants instantly. Those in the modern car would have walked away.

            It’s on YouTube. I’d paste in the URL, but I’m on my mobile.

            I’d like to correct one common misconception about the test: the cars are of comparable weight. The 1950s car is BOF with huge overhangs, so it looks bigger and heavier — but when I looked up the numbers, they were within 20% of each other in terms of weight. Both cars have weights within then range that is typical for modern vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      Garak

      Old Russian cars had often very thick sheet metal. They weren’t known for any kind of safety whatsoever.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Considering sheet metal isn’t what holds a car’s structure together in a crash, they’re worrying about the wrong thing.

    • 0 avatar
      packard

      The windshields on Japanese cars are thinner than on European cars. Fasteners are also 1 size smaller. For example: a 9mm bolt on a European will usually be 8mm on its Japanese competition.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    The water powered car! Specifically Stan Meyer’s water powered dune buggy with supposed on board electrolysis for generating hydrogen for ICE fuel. 100 miles to the gallon of water was the claim.

    Mysteriously in 1998 he died allegedly of poisoning. Theories suggest he was murdered as he had indicated when he was alive he was threatened for not selling out to the oil companies.

    An Ohio court found his claims to be fraudulent in 1996.

  • avatar
    lowsodium

    The EV1 was this amazing electric vehicle that GM killed.

    • 0 avatar
      Adamatari

      The life and death of the EV1 is really the story of California’s zero-emissions mandate (which led to the EV1 program). The automakers sued over the ZEV mandate and the rules were loosened to allow natural gas vehicles, hybrids, and low-emissions vehicles. The EV1 program was expensive so they killed it.

      If nobody at GM has kicked themselves for letting the EV1 die instead of keeping it in production and refining it, they are dumber than bricks. It was an expensive program but they made a viable vehicle that was a great start. They would be miles ahead of Nissan’s Leaf if they had kept going. Really, really shortsighted, bean counter thinking killed the EV1.

      It’s literally as though Toyota had put out one generation of the Prius, decided it was not making money, and killed the program. It’s that stupid.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “It’s literally as though Toyota had put out one generation of the Prius, decided it was not making money, and killed the program. It’s that stupid.”

        To be fair, didn’t Toyota take back a bunch of EVs in 2004 or so in the same manner? I thought I remember seeing the protest outside the Toyota dealer in Santa Monica. I believe some of the RAV4 EVs were actually purchased instead of leased, so some people kept theirs.

        The RAV4 EV is back now, of course. Incidentally, it’s a joint project with Tesla at NUMMI in Fremont.

        • 0 avatar
          Adamatari

          Corntrollio, you’re absolutely right. Toyota killed it just as soon as they could as well. So I guess I was being a bit unfair. On the other hand, at least Toyota offered the option of buying the cars, while GM actually did take almost all of them back and crush them. So yes, Toyota killed the RAV4 EV, but no, it didn’t take them back and crush them.

          I can’t entirely fault GM, they were swimming in money from the SUV craze and hindsight is 20/20. But I think many people in GM are against anything they percieve as “green”, notably Lutz who is a very public global warming denier. The EV1 was no super wonder and it was an expensive project, but killing it was still really stupid. I think that part can’t be denied.

          Funny thing, part of the reason Toyota stopped building them was that the patent for the batteries was owned by Chevron, which sued to have their manufacture ended. Why they did this (they wanted more royalties, they wanted to kill the EV) is up in the air, but it is true:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_encumbrance_of_large_automotive_NiMH_batteries

          Oh, and GM owned the battery company before it was bought by Texaco (which was taken over by Chevron). So they should feel really, really stupid. Really, really, really stupid. They could literally be at the forefront of battery technology if they had held on to it.

          Like, how stupid are you to shoot yourself in the foot like that? If it was a conspiracy to kill the EV, the motive behind it was stupidity and thickheadedness.

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            Toyota only offered up the option to buy the electric RAV4s after dozens had already gone to the crusher and there was growing public backlash. They did not do it out of the kindness from the bottom of their hearts. Just like GM, they wanted the cars gone as quickly as possible.

            The EV1 would never work – and shoot one can only look to the Nissan Leaf as proof. You can’t change the law of physics. You can wail, scream, call it a conspiracy all you want. Hot and cold conditions are terrible on batteries. The lack of a battery conditioning system on the Lithium-Ion batteries in the Leaf are raising Hell on the cars in hot and cold climates alike. In hot climates the Leaf is losing 1% of its maximum range every 1,000 miles – documented/proven. In cold climates range is reduced – documented/proven.

            The EV1 used an even older, more sensitive to climate battery system. In the cold of say a Michigan winter you would be lucky to go 10 to 15 miles in an EV1 before it was dead.

            You can’t change the laws of physics, and in reality, a lot of the good lessons learned in the EV1 – found its way to the Volt.

            The only two car companies having a shred of luck/success with electric cars is Tesla (if you got $60K and up) and GM with the Volt, which is really a series hybrid.

  • avatar
    BigOldChryslers

    > Another quasi conspiracy theory also involves gasoline and alcohol. It’s related to General Motors’ and DuPont’s development of tetra-ethyl lead as a gasoline additive to prevent pre-ignition knocking and allow the use of more powerful higher compression engines.

    To my knowledge, the original reason for adding TEL to gasoline wasn’t to increase octane rating, but to increase engine life. The lead coated the exhaust valve seats to prevent them from burning. Most engines in new cars didn’t get hardened valve seats installed until the 1970s when leaded gas was being phased out.

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    “Yellow bottle” Pennzoil will sludge up and kill your engine.

  • avatar
    niky

    One of my favorites. Put old tires on the back of the car, because you need the front tires to steer.

    :D

    • 0 avatar
      west-coaster

      Or, another bit of old tire wisdom:

      “Rotate all five tires to get maximum mileage.” (Back when every car had a full-size spare.)

      The other side of that coin was that you’d eventually have to buy five tires instead of four.

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        Actually, you’re technically supposed to replace the spare, anyway, as the rubber on older tires tended to get very hard and brittle with age.

        Not a big problem, anymore, since most cars now come with safety spares… which you can’t really include in your regular rotation.

        • 0 avatar
          mikey

          Really..I got a top of the line Camaro,it comes with compressor, no spare.

          • 0 avatar
            Shipwright

            I’ve got the same issue with my GT500. My spare tire consists of a can of “Fix-A-Flat” and a compressor. The issue, I’m told, is that no-one makes a compact spare that can fit over the large front brake package.

          • 0 avatar
            raph

            @ shipwright – you might be right since the Brembo brake GT’s don’t come with a spare nor do the Boss cars.

            One thing I carry in my car along with the factory inflation kit is a plug kit.

            Its not the best solution but if your stuck someplace and cannot get ahold of a tow truck or the truck is father away or cannot arrive in a timely manner that plug kit can be a life saver.

            A spare would somewhat be a pain in the arse anyway as I’ve always been told that installing a different size tire on the rear could damage the limited slip differential.

      • 0 avatar
        Southern Perspective

        This old-timer remembers when new car owner’s manuals came with instructions and a diagram to rotate all five tires. The purpose of this was to promote even tread wear on the then-standard bias-ply tires.

        It is my understanding that present-day radial tires take a “set” according the direction that they are normally rotating, and thus should not be “Xed” as bias-ply tires used to be. However, some manufactures might recommend “Xing” tires while rotating them.

        http://www.jk-forum.com/jk-show-tell-33/jeep-5-tire-rotation-198461/

        Likewise, some present-day tires are made to rotate only in a pre-specified direction, and therefore should never be “Xed” either.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          Well, in order to X some of these directional tires, you’d have to take them off the wheel and remount them on another wheel. This is a huge pain in the ass, so no one does it.

          Also, it wasn’t always an X. The rotation diagram for one of my old cars I think moved the rear tires up on the same side of the vehicle, and crossed the front tires to the back.

          And then you also have cars with directional tires and staggered, so you don’t rotate anything.

          • 0 avatar
            raph

            Indeed, depending on the drive configuration the rotation pattern can change.

            Typically its;

            RWD – cross the front to the rear and move the rears straight up

            FWD – cross the rears to the front and move the fronts straight back

            AWD – depends on how the tires are mostly driven

            4WD – as they tend to be RWD follow the RWD pattern

            Dual Wheel vehicles (IIRC) are rotate the outer rears to the inside, rotate the inner rears straight up and the fronts straight back to the outside (effectively flipping them). – Dualies with a combination of aluminum outers and steel inners make this a particular pain in the ass.

            The last and best option in my opinion is to rotate the tires based on wear – as most modern tires have decoupled tread elements, I find its best to “X” them since the tread block tend to have the leading edge pushed up (feels rough against the direction of travel and smooth with the direction of travel), left unattended they eventually make a helluva racket and in some really bad cases render the tire unserviceable.

            Speaking of tire wear, with most vehicles fitted with a strut front end and an independent rear suspension you a lot of vehicle service guys incorrectly diagnose an alignment problem as coming from the front when it really begins in the rear.

            People will typically ask for a front end alignment either because they don’t know or scoff at a four wheel alignment only to have a continuing problem with two of the four tires wearing out – FWD vehicles can wear the tires 3x faster in the front compared to RWD vehicles which can exasperate the “it must be a front end alignment problem”

            Also tires can be fairly tolerant of camber issues and the real culprit in sudden and increased tire wear is the toe alignment.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Well, the reason may be wrong, but given that front tires on most cars wear faster, it does make sense that if you replace only two, they should go in front.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Not sure if you were speaking hypothetically, but you always put the new tires on the back, whether your car is FWD or RWD. You don’t want lower traction in the back compared to the front or you can get into unexpected oversteer situations.

        Maybe for a track-car, this would make sense, and I believe Mr. Baruth suggested driving a Neon with this type of setup.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Wouldn’t high mileage tires give you better traction than new? Assuming they’re worn evenly, but similar to ‘shaved tires’.

          New tires disperse water best, but other than that, don’t slicks give you the best grip vs. grooved?

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            Tires that are shaved benefit from having the rubber in good condition. Tires that are worn down have been subjected to countless heat cycles and weathering and degradation. There are cracks and pits in the tread surface, and there is often damage to the carcass.

            Partly worn tires often benefit from the rubber still being in good condition matched to the tread blocks being firmer because they’re shorter. But once the tires are worn down near the legal limit, most street tires start losing grip or potency… even in the dry.

            Some racing tires or sports tires are made with the sticky rubber going all the way to the cords. Regular passenger car tires aren’t.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Good point, but if we’re talking old, abused and damaged carcass tires, are you sure you prefer them on the front? It’s obviously better not to have a blowout at all, but wouldn’t it be better to not lose your steering? Front tire that blowout are no picnic. I’ve had a front blowout at 80 MPH and the steering wheel spun in my hands like it was “The Wheel of [not so] Fortune”.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            Worn (but not corded) tires in front will not steer. Instead, when your car hits a puddle, it will go in a straight line.

            Worn (but not corded) tires in the back won’t go in a straight line over the same puddle. Instead, your car will go sideways.

            The latter is definitely more dangerous than the former.

            Driving on corded or severely worn tires, whatever axle they’re on, is extremely dangerous, either way. A front blow-out does carry the risk of a roll-over if your vehicle is tall. A rear blow-out carries the risk of a spin, whatever height your vehicle is, which can lead to a roll-over. Neither is ideal.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Hopefully, you or I are never forced to drive on 2 or 4 tires that jackt’d up or even good, quality tires past the wear bars, but are you saying bald tires in the front are less likely to hydroplane than on the rear? What do you mean by “corded”? Is that when the steel belts showing at the edges? Hopefully the tires are replaced long before that.

            I’ll replace the front tires up to 2X before replacing all 4. Yes I’ll leave the rear tires where they are the whole time. I’ve never owned a FWD long term, but I would do the same on them. It’s true, I’ve never ‘rotated’ tires and see it as a waste of time. On my duallies with chrome or aluminum wheels, it would be a PITA.

            Factory camber does cause my front tires to wear much faster on the outer sides and although flipping/rotating their direction (on their own wheel) would seem to make sense, mid life. This would take a tire that is worn to match the road surface camber/angle exactly, to one that has the opposite effect with minimal contact patch. Sure I’d get more miles out of my fronts tires, but I’d rather have better grip despite a shorter life.

            The thing to remember if you do have a blowout is stay off the brakes. I can’t stress this enough AND is what causes a spin, not the initial blowout. A blown tire has greatly increased resistance to rotating and just touching the brakes will cause it to lock up. You want to coast to a stop or even stay on the gas until it’s safe to stop. Believe me, all that added resistance is like pulling a parachute anyways.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            Rear tires tend to hydroplane sideways. If just one rear tire hits that puddle, the shock of hitting it is enough to cause the rear end to step out. I’ve experienced this, driving a drift-car demonstrator in the rain after a session… twice… and yes, I knew enough to stay off the brakes and not lift off drastically.

            Front tires with little tread left will definitely hydroplane. Thankfully, they tend to hydroplane straight. (Which is what I meant when I said they won’t steer) I’ve also experienced this, and while hydroplaning on the highway with worn fronts is no fun, they tend to hydroplane in a straight line and get knocked off course to a much lesser degree over single-wheel puddles.

            This is echoed in numerous safety videos released by various agencies and tire companies illustrating the differences in wet handling depending on where you put the worn tires. And surprisingly, a car with worn front tires can actually be steered around a turn in the wet. Whereas a car with worn rear tires will slip sideways in wet cornering without any provocation.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            If bald tires are more controlled through puddles on the front than the rear axle, what’s the difference? The extra weight over the front axle? Are FWDs more likely to hydroplane?

            From what I understand, the fronts should disperse a path for the rears, but is it that drivers will let off the gas or hit the brakes when hitting a puddle, causing even more weight to lift off the rears? Once the rears are essentially off the pavement and riding on water, isn’t the effect similar to hitting black ice?

            Either way, I’d rather keep control up front and try to manage over steer and weight transfer with the throttle.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            Hydroplaning at the front axle is easily dealt with by keeping your steering straight and easing off. Hydroplaning at the rear axle is often not obvious until the rear end has stepped out, and can mean either chasing the fish’s tail for a few hundred feet or simply going along for the ride if it happens in a curve.

            Again: I’ve experienced both variants of hydroplaning (simply because I’ve had the displeasure of driving track cars on racing tires with nearly zero tread depth on the road) and I can tell you firsthand which situation is more dangerous for either novice or experienced drivers.

            Doesn’t matter if you actually believe you’re a superhero behind the wheel. No grip is no grip. When the rear end goes in a zero grip situation at speed, you are merely a passenger. When the front end goes… it doesn’t really go anywhere… you’re forced to slow down a bit and back off.

            As here:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSz7cm6MwH0

            Or here:

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Even though mounting the two new tires on the rear sounds counter intuitive, you’re right when it comes to hydroplaning. There doesn’t seem to be any other reason for mounting the old tires up front though.

            This doesn’t get into whether the (older) front tires are staying put or are coming up from the rear since drivers may be running their good tires on the rear and obviously keeping the best two from the old set. Are they worn into the rear’s camber and is the camber on the front the opposite?

            Controlling over steer, regardless of cause, is a bizarre concept for most drivers, I’ll agree. But it’s acerbated from lack of experience if not panic. Those videos seem to exaggerate the effects to prove a point and do nothing to contain the over steer if not compounding it by lifting on the gas.

            There’s no doubt all drivers should be better trained to deal with over steer rather than praying it never happens. Drive enough miles, and it will.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            It seems moot to discuss tires that are essentially no longer road-worthy. If they are so bad that they don’t do their job, they shouldn’t be on the car, front or rear.

            Rather, the way I see it is that if you aren’t replacing two tires, it’s because they are just fine to keep using. In that case, fretting over which end has slightly more/less traction is a nonstarter for nearly every car & driver on the road. On the race track, it’s a totally different question.

            Here’s another way to think of it: We rotate tires to keep wear even. Let’s suppose that a driver hasn’t rotated his tires in a couple years, and the fronts have worn more than the rears. What should he do? Should he rotate the tires to even out the wear, or should he screw it and run the fronts into the ground long before the rears? That is the same situation as replacing two tires. If he should rotate, then put them on the front. If not, put them on the rear.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      You would not believe how ingrained that is. In the not so distant past I used to have to deal with that on a weekly basis as our company has a strict tire placement policy when the tires are of the same size and speed rating.

      Less’see stand outs include;

      a) “Its a FWD vehicle, I need them on the front, the rear tires just keep the gas tank from dragging on the ground”.

      b) “My dad is a mechanic” – that one is particularly galling as there seems to be a hierarchy of automotive knowledge with mechanics occupying the top, alignment specialists next and tire specialists at the bottom, ergo if a mechanic says the tires go on the front they go on the front because a tire specialist lacks the broad automotive knowledge of a mechanic.

      Now I’m not saying tire guys have an undeserved reputation as the industry doesn’t exactly pay for top notch talent nor do they take advantage of the information out there instead relying on the sage advice of mechanics. Another popular bit of mechanic advice – “its a broken belt” which is code for “I have no damn idea what it is so get out of my face and take it back where you bought it”.

      c) “You can’t tell me where to put my tires” – which is usually followed by “How about I sue you if I get into an accident”

      d) ” I’m an expert driver, its okay to put them on the front”

      e) “Why did you let the guy in the Corvette – Porsche – et al (or whatever staggered fitment or dual wheel vehicle owner was ahead in line) put his new tires up front”?

      At Michelin’s Laurens Proving Grounds they have a pretty neat circular patch of concrete where they can demonstrate the effects of placing a pair of new tires on a car – The instructor at the time claimed that with the exception people who drive dirt track cars and people who drift cars just about everybody else had trouble with the vehicle when new tires were fitted to the front. His particular favorite was a driving school instructor that didn’t realize that Toyota had a RWD Camry.

      Anyways, the difference in control was stark when compared back to back. Its also where I learned the best bit of advice for the average driver with a car equipped with all the currently mandated electronic nannies – just hit the brakes, let the car slow down to the point where the tires start to work and when the car is under control again proceed on your way.

      This also reminds me of “I don’t go 150 miles per hour, why do I need speed rated tires on my vehicle currently fitted with H+ tires now.

      Used V8 Camaro and Mustang guys are particularly notable for that as they tend to be younger with a lower income and say with a straight face that they never ever go over the speed limit. Fortunately the very low speed limits in the US for the most part render it a moot point, well that is until somebody with those down graded sweet 80k passenger tires is tail-gating and texting or driving on an unfamiliar road with a helluva kink in it or deer runs out in front of them while they simultaneously try to steer out of the way and hit the brakes.

  • avatar
    carbureted

    I heard that, following the Great Depression, since General Motors’ auto production had slowed, they decided to ramp up bus production. They, along with their buddies in the tire and petroleum businesses, “invested” in a great deal of the nation’s street car companies. Tracks were dismantled and streetcars were piled up in junkyards as shiny new busses sporting fresh tires and spewing crisp black plumes into the air rolled out into the streets.

    Oh wait, that happened.

    All hail mass transit…

    • 0 avatar
      west-coaster

      My father grew up in Los Angeles in the ’40s and ’50s and vividly remembered riding the Red Cars (light rail line).

      The problem was that they didn’t go everywhere, only on certain major roads, and you had to connect on a bus anyway to finish your trip.

      • 0 avatar
        carbureted

        I think the whole point, from a rail point of view, is that although you may have to finish your trip on a bus, traveling on the rail at peak times saves quite a bit of time over sitting in traffic on a bus. In the 40s and 50s, I can totally see the justification, but the way it was handled was a bit screwy though.

        The difference is in the decades. Sure, the lines didn’t reach that far THEN, but what if they were allowed to grow? These days, I bet many of those cities wish they still had their rail. I live in Seoul, and during rush hour, a 20 minute subway ride would be almost an hour and a half via bus (I’ve done both). Granted, Seoul is much bigger than some of those cities, but still.

        • 0 avatar
          geeber

          The entire “GM conspired to kill the street cars” conspiracy theory has been effectively debunked.

          What killed street car lines were several factors.

          One, customers desired greater route flexibility than could be provided by street cars.

          Two, municipalitites wanted to remove street tracks to ease repaving the roads.

          Three, the Public Utility Holding Company Act of the 1930s barred a business from simultaneously providing electricity to third parties and public transport.

          Utilities had used street car lines as “loss leaders.” Faced with a choice of selling the utility side of the business, or the street car business, utilities easily chose the latter.

          The street car lines hadn’t been making money in the first place, and now, thanks to this law, they had to buy their electricity at full cost. The lines in some California cities, for example, had been set up by land developers to lure prospective buyers to new, undeveloped land outside the current city area.

          GM was convicted of conspiring to have mass transit lines buy GM BUSES instead of buses made by its competitors. The mass transit systems wanted to get out of the street car business before GM showed up on the scene. Ridership had been declining since the 1920s (with a blip upward during World War II, when travel was restricted thanks to strict gas rationing).

          The ultimate choice wasn’t going to be, “GM bus or a street car.”

          It was ultimately going to be, “GM bus or a bus made by someone else.”

          • 0 avatar
            carbureted

            Thanks geeber,

            You schooled me on the Public Utility Holding Company Act. That’s new to me.

            I also know you’re right about the customers desiring greater route flexibility. I touched on that earlier. I just wish people would have some forethought at times.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            The Public Utility Holding Company Act is the poster child for the Law of Unintended Consequences. Street car lines could have survived much longer, if we hadn’t barred utilities from owning them.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Enlightened post as always, Geeber.

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            No, no, no, it was the central plot of Who Framed Rodger Rabbit, so that makes it true.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          Streetcars didn’t enjoy the time advantage or subways, as they were on the surface streets with all the traffic.

      • 0 avatar
        nikita

        The real problem was that the Pacific Electric never made a profit carrying passengers, a problem shared by many railroads and even airlines. Freight cars ran on the system overnight in order to pay the bills. Once larger delivery trucks were available, that business crumbled as well. Of course it was all due to GM, Texaco and Firestone conspiring to put PE out of business.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        You can still see vestiges of the street cars in certain street car-neighborhoods. Because some of them were hilly, you have steps in certain areas that were a direct route down to the rail line. In addition, some of the wide medians were a result of having street cars on those roads previously.

        There was a someone doing a steps tour in LA a few years ago — not sure if they still do it.

      • 0 avatar
        WildcatMatt

        “I bought the Red Car so I could DISMANTLE IT.”

    • 0 avatar
      toplessFC3Sman

      Also tangentially appearing in the plot of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” – hysterical movie

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    How about: GMC Pickups use thicker sheet metal than the Chevrolets?

    btw-Tetraethyl lead was developed specifically for its octane boosting quality to enable the higher compression ratios that are a direct factor in the thermodynamic efficiency of an Otto cycle engine.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @doctor olds…Once during a snow storm I got hijacked from my cushy desk job. [its called a “direct order”} During an emergency management can move workers as they see fit. For all you union bashers that believe that UAW/CAW guys arn’t flexible,get that one into ya.
      Anyway I had to take truck inner doors from a transfer press,running at ten strokes a minute. Two of us had to stack them in the racks for shipping to the U.S.

      I can assure all that a GMC door is every bit as heavy as a Chev.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @mikey- I know that!! Aren’t the skins common between ‘em? A good friend came up through the Chevy Sales staff, ran truck motorsports (FUN JOB!!!). He gives me a hard time for my GMC Sierra so I always say the GMC versions have heavier gauge steel, knowing full well they are just style variations. GMC, in the built system, can be an option on a Chevy. It is more a matter of style.I like the looks and the dealer better.

        • 0 avatar
          mikey

          Doc…Right, trim is the only difference. I remember shipping a different hood outer in late 2007 for some GMC model?
          With all the cost cutting going on. I still don’t understand why they run both.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            @mikey- They run both because it is good business! They can sell GMC’s for $2,000-$3,000 more profit each than the Chevies, attracting a different buyer for plus volume and supporting another dealer channel.

            They sell more of the stale Sierras than Tundra and Titan combined.

          • 0 avatar

            Mikey, because they can’t sell Chevy trucks at Buick and Cadillac dealers. Since those are upscale brands, GMCs have generally been a bit fancier. Ultimately it’s an artifact of Billy Durant buying up a lot of car and truck makers a century ago. For their commercial line of trucks it doesn’t make sense to have two brands, but for light trucks it does.

    • 0 avatar
      Lt.BrunoStachel

      Q:What’s the difference between a GMC and a Chevrolet?

      A:GMC’s use lock washers!

      That’s an old parts man joke from the 70′s. Well that’s when I first heard it, anyway.

  • avatar
    Maintainer

    Victor Wouk’s car was a 72 Buick Skylark.
    This is actually from your own site!?
    http://www.rokemneedlearts.com/carsindepth/wordpressblog/

    Crackpot Car Theories are a part of the culture. Funny thing is that as time goes on, just like a rumor filtered through multiple people, some of them get wilder with age.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Okay.. Here goes.
    Don’t buy a car made on a Monday or a Friday. Really? The modern plant needs 26 to 30 hours to build a car. So this so called lemon, wouuld have maybe 37 maybe 38 hours in a week,where it wouldn’t run into a Friday or Monday shift. How would you know?

    My brother in laws, friends cousin,had an iratating rattle in his {insert high end domestic model, preferbly GM here}. Anyway it took the car to 5 different dealers 8 times.” Could not replicate the problem” Well it seems a crusty old independent mechanic,who had hands on expreience with Model T’s removed the door panel. Well Lo, and Behold, a disgruntled UAW guy had hung a coke bottle in the door. Inside was a note it resd “finally found the rattle, {if it was Canadian made it would have read Eh!} you rich… insert profanity of your choice here.
    How would an auto worker do this? Find a Coke bottle.I havn’t seen one in years,but okay we will move on. Write a note,this in itself might be a challenge. {There I took away your chance for that line eh!} Now insert the note, find some string and hang the bottle inside the door,before the door panel goes on. Ever have a look inside a door built after about 1965? I have no idea how your going to get this coke bottle and string in there. Okay move on. What happens when the window goes down? Assuming this P.O.ed autoworker got past all that,what about the next ,….oh say? 40 or 50,or more management, QA people, assemblers,inspectors,repairmen,groupleaders,foreman,final car conditioning,and dealer personall, on possibly three different shifts, are they all in on the joke?
    Another myth shattered. I may come up with more.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I found a wire coat hanger inside the door of my beater Hyundai, but I think the previous owner put it there when she lost her keys or something.

      • 0 avatar
        CobraJet

        My dad had a brand new 75 Ford Maverick. The dealer disassembled the heater blower box due to a scraping sound. A styrofoam coffee cup was inside the box rubbing on the fan wheel. Could only have gotten there on the assembly line.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      Both of those tales have been told since Arthur Hailey “revealed” them in Wheels back in 1971. Allegedly his ‘insider’ novels (Wheels, Airport, Hotel, etc) were thoroughly researched. There probably is that Talmudic grain of truth here in that these things probably happened – sort of – once.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        Even as far back as the early seventies QA kept a pretty good track of end of the line defects. They did it at all by hand. The QA people drew graphs. Any trend, as in shift one to shift two would show up.

        Oh yeah, absentism was a problem. However anybody assigned as spare/U.R man had better be able to do al the jobs,or they found themselves back on a steady job.

        I personally detested, with a pasion, doing absentee replacement. However, it opened the door to bigger and better things.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      When we started restoring my dad’s ’71 Superbee (Hamtramk plant), we found a floormat jammed in the right quarder panel. Never caused a rattle, but it was there.

      I’ve also heard variations of the legend you described. Except it was a coke can carelessly tossed into a panel, which seems much more plausible than what you described.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Did Ben Harper’s “Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line,” play a role in spreading the story of the ’56 Buick with the bottle in the quarter panel?

        • 0 avatar
          mikey

          Rivethead…Was well written,and I would have to say, fairly indicitive of the times. Yes an accurate depiction of plant life. However I believe that that he wasn’t afraid of using little “poetic licence”Stories that were passed down through generations,on the plant floor,never lose anything in thier telling

          I don’t think Ben Harper was in the plant in 1956. Having said that, you could could fit a case of beer into the quarter of a 56 Buick.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @danio3834..The floor mat in the 1/4 That one I believe. Two ways it happened. The guy with excess to floor mats,stashes it for his buddy who dosn’t have excess to floor mats. The buddy could be a half mile down the line. He takes note of the sequence/item number. Now you got a set of floor mats nobody is the wiser.

        Or somebody knew where that car was going. Could be his own car,or maybe a buddy at the dealer? Anyway somebody missed it.
        Your Dad scored an original equipment floor mat.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Floor mats are really worth stealing for your friends down the line?

          • 0 avatar
            early

            I once heard of an assembly employee that would take one part off the line everyday until he had enough to build a whole car. He did it one piece at a time, and it didn’t cost him a dime.

          • 0 avatar
            Jellodyne

            Sorry, it’s no good if you have to explain it, but its worth posting the whole thing.

            Johnny Cash – One Piece at a Time

            Well, I left Kentucky back in ’49
            An’ went to Detroit workin’ on a ‘sembly line
            The first year they had me puttin’ wheels on Cadillacs
            Every day I’d watch them beauties roll by
            And sometimes I’d hang my head and cry
            ‘Cause I always wanted me one that was long and black

            One day I devised myself a plan
            That should be the envy of most any man
            I’d sneak it out of there in a lunchbox in my hand
            Now gettin’ caught meant gettin’ fired
            But I figured I’d have it all by the time I retired
            I’d have me a car worth at least a hundred grand
            I’d get it one piece at a time and it wouldn’t cost me a dime

            You’ll know it’s me when I come through your town
            I’m gonna ride around in style, I’m gonna drive everybody wild
            ‘Cause I’ll have the only one there is a round

            So the very next day when I punched in
            With my big lunchbox and with help from my friends
            I left that day with a lunch box full of gears
            I’ve never considered myself a thief
            But GM wouldn’t miss just one little piece
            Especially if I strung it out over several years

            The first day I got me a fuel pump
            And the next day I got me an engine and a trunk
            Then I got me a transmission and all of the chrome
            The little things I could get in my big lunchbox
            Like nuts, an’ bolts, and all four shocks
            But the big stuff we snuck out in my buddy’s mobile home

            Now, up to now my plan went all right
            ‘Til we tried to put it all together one night
            And that’s when we noticed that something was definitely wrong
            The transmission was a ’53 and the motor turned out to be a ’73
            And when we tried to put in the bolts all the holes were gone

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            it was a ’49, ’50, ’51, ’52, ’53, ’54, ’55, ’56
            ’57, ’58′ 59′ automobile. It was a a ’60, ’61, ’62, ’63, ’64, ’65, ’66, ’67
            ’68, ’69, ’70 automobile.

    • 0 avatar

      A more malevolent version of that particular urban legend has to do with a very bad odor in the car and fecal material stashed inside a panel.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    “Wearing seat belts can kill you in a crash, because I was once thrown clear of a crash in 1973 in which the car was totally crushed”.

    A friend of mine who had this experience believes this one.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      I heard a variation of this one in college in the early 1980s. A fellow student said he never wore safety belts, because his car was once broadsided, and he was thrown completely out of the car, and that saved his life!

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      From personal experience, I was in a crash and wasn’t wearing my belt. I hit the air bag and suffered no injury. The other passengers all suffered bruising and neck injuries from their seat belts.

      So in some cases, you can make out better unstrapped.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I would be dead right now if not for a safety belt… passenger in a black ’96 Escort coupe (no pass air bag) in 1998, was t-boned on passenger side at around 40 by a gold ’89 Accord sedan, drunk teacher at local hs ran the stop sign and was speeding in a 25… IIRC he wasn’t wearing his belt and lacked an airbag, he hit the windshield but survived. I was miraculously unscathed save a belt mark on my chest I s**t you not, my driver got minor bruises by the airbag, and somehow broke her foot in the melee, but was otherwise ok. Maybe it was different experience for your friends in heavy 70s iron vs 90s compacts.

      I seriously just got chills re-imagining the experience without the belt.

      YMMV.

    • 0 avatar
      Neb

      Gah, I hate this one. Like a lot of conspiracy theories today, it’s caused by people who don’t have the first clue about statistics.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      A friend of mine really did survive because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. He was hurrying to get to a house his dad was building and some jerk ran the red. He went into a tree that’s been hit so many times it has almost a target on it from all the bark torn off. I think 4 people have been killed hitting it over the years. If he had been wearing the seat belt, he would have been crushed by the engine, which wound up in the front seat. He was ejected, and was a paraplegic for the next 42 years until he died last fall. That was a bummer of a day, I had to put m nearly 14 year old dog down that morning.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      I despise that one, I lost the dearest of people because she refused to wear a seat belt.

      Bitter medicine indeed when you have to admit the woman you loved more than any other was a complete and total dumbass for not wearing a seatbelt.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        Ejection from the vehicle is one of the largest causes of death in vehicle incidents. Seat belts save very many lives. It is a shame that everyone does not get the habit of always putting the belts on.

        My dad was responsible for Olds Safety standard compliance and brought home film strips (this was the 60′s!) of crash tests. Still kind of disturbing remembering unbelted crash dummies going through the windshield chin first. You are certainly better off to wear a belt.

        • 0 avatar

          If you want to see what happens to unbelted people in a car accident, go you YouTube and search for Saudi drifting accidents.

          • 0 avatar
            50merc

            Wow,those are some videos. Looks like the Saudis’ attitude toward safety is like the Catholics’ policy on birth control. The Church says nothing should impede the possibility of conception resulting from sex, and Allah says nothing should minimize the consequences of Newton’s laws of motion in the event of a high speed collision.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            @Raph- Sorry for you loss and my insensitivity for not expressing it in my reply.
            Thanks Ronnie, though I find it disturbing to see people hurt or killed!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        @Raph

        Sorry to hear.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve often heard cops say something to the effect of “I’ve never unbelted a dead person”, but absolute terms like “never” make me wonder just how many accidents are not survivable even with a seat belt and shoulder harness.

      FWIW, when I drive I always put on my belt. I do like the idea that my adult kids drive cars with air bags, though.

      • 0 avatar
        Joe McKinney

        Ronnie, several years ago a church I pastored was hit by a semi truck that collided with a pickup on the highway, then ran off the road into the church. Because of how the vehicles collided, the pickup went off the road alongside the semi trailer. When the truck came to rest against the side of the church the trailer rolled over on the pickup and crushed the driver’s side roof all the way down to the top of the seat cushion. The pickup driver survived because he was not belted and the force of the collision threw him over to the passenger side of the cab. He walked away from the accident with just a few minor scrapes and bruises. Had he been wearing a seatbelt he would have been crushed to death by the semi trailer.

        The way this accident happened was very unsual and should not be taken as evidence against wearing seat belts. Yes, there are freak accidents where you will be better off without a set belt, but statistically, you will come out better in most accidents if you are wearing a seat belt.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          The trick is to predict what kind of a crash you’re going to have beforehand. Of you could do that, then you could take off your seatbelt for those.

          In the absence of that kind of crystal ball, you have to gamble. And the statistics say you can stack the deck in your favor by a) driving sober and not texting b) wearing a seat belt and c) having airbags in the car d) having a better engineered car. But sometimes your best isn’t good enough, or you’re unlucky, and I accept that the world is like this.

          P.S. I arranged the above list in terms of cost of implementation, nothing else. Not drinking and not-texting are both free!

  • avatar
    Pinzgauer

    While not a conspiracy about automotive technolgy – a story I heard many time in High School was about a black Lamborghini piloted up the Taconic Parkway in the middle of the night with no lights on at 140MPH. The driver was said to be carrying large amounts of drugs and wearing night vision goggles so he could see.

    Cant tell you how many tools I knew actually believed this, despite the glaring stupidity of the story.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I heard the *exact* same story in HS, except this time it was a black Vette on I-79, which runs from Erie to south of Pittsburgh.

      This guy must be like Santa Claus.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      How about the Corvette,or Benz or any super expensive set of wheels that wifey is selling for peanuts. I guy I worked with,knew the buyers cousin really well.

      It seems hubby got B.J from the check out girl,and wifey is getting revenge.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      This Lamborghini tale may be inspried by “The Cannonball Run”. In this movie there are two Japanese drivers in a Subaru who use night vision goggles and no headlights when racing at night.

    • 0 avatar
      beefmalone

      I heard the exact same story except it was the Natchez Trace Parkway.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Having driven in NVG’s on numerous occasions, I am going to throw the BS flag on doing 140 with them.

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      Wow. Heard the same story here in the south about drug runners on 1-40 between Memphis and Nashville using night goggles.

    • 0 avatar

      A variation on the pretty girl street racer with “if you can beat me, you can eat me” painted on her Corvette. In some versions it’s a bumper sticker on a GTO. Widely circulated in the metropolitan Detroit region and well enough known that Robert Genet’s book on cruising Woodward has a sidebar about it. Your town probably has its own version.

  • avatar
    nikita

    From Canada, it was the Pogue carburetor, another 200mpg device surrounded by many myths.

    I also remember all the junk that used to be sold in the J. C. Whitney catalog, such as a plate with little “propellers” to bolt between the carb and manifold. It also just happened to have a metered hole in it, creating a vacuum leak. Since most cars were jetted too rich before the 1970′s it did increase mileage slightly.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Follwoing nikita’s post, yes snake oil gadgets are some of my favorites.

    The intake “tornado” (restrictor).
    Fuel line magnets that somehow improve the molecular structure of the fuel.
    Hydrogen generating electolysis kits.
    Cathodic rust protection devices on cars.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      Cold air intakes. How can air drawn from the hot engine compartment be more dense than air drawn from ahead of the radiator?

      • 0 avatar
        azmtbkr81

        Most cold air intakes draw air from the bottom of the engine compartment where air is generally cooler. The downside is that these designs are loud and have the potential to suck up water.

        Removing the stock airbox and slapping a cone filter on in its place may allow may allow the engine to ingest more air but you are correct, the air is less dense which usually results in little or no power gained.

        • 0 avatar
          niky

          Technically, a cone and tube inside the engine bay is called a “warm air intake”. And yes, they tend to heatsoak sooner than the more complicated stock tracts that have snorkels coming out behind the grille or bumper. But at speed, with more air flowing through the grille, they do make more power. Properly designed ones place the cone as far forward as possible or have a heatshield to protect them. My car has this set-up, and we got 10 ponies out of it on the dyno (after tuning) compared to 5 horses from an intake that had the cone on a short tube beside the engine.

  • avatar
    Garak

    I just remembered one.. pouring acetone in the gas tank. It turns the gas magic: gives more power, better economy and removes all nail polish in the fuel lines.

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      That one probably comes from the fact that Toluene – a common paint thinner – is also an excellent octane booster. It was the basis for the fuel used in 1980′s F1 cars.

      Being a solvent, it does clean the crap out of one’s fuel system.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      meythlhydrate can be used to help pass an emission test with a tailpipe probe. Helps to reduce HC. But watch out if it’s an non-EGR car, NoX will go through the roof.

    • 0 avatar

      I once ran out of gas in my ’72 VW Bus just as I pulled into the parking space at work. I did’t want to have to get a ride or walk to the nearest gas station with a gas can. I worked in a DuPont paint lab with all sorts of nifty solvents in the solvent & resin room. I asked the chemist that I worked for what combination was closest to gasoline, and he said that a couple of the napthas would work, but to add some methanol to boost the octane. I think I used VM&P naptha with about 10% methanol.

      It fired and ran. Well, in a manner of speaking. It ran like a pig, sputtering all the way to the gas station, but it got me there. My guess is that in a modern flex-fuel vehicle, it would have run better.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      This was the one I was going to post. I’ve read on several forums where guys swear that just adding “some” (like 1-10%) acetone during a fill up with gasoline caused their mileage to jump 20%. Mileage/octane boosters have been around for years, if they worked so great why not just pour them in instead of gas? Higher octane is not necessary “better” in fact you might get worst mileage using it.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    Regarding the TEL-ethanol anecdote could that origin be possibly debunked by the fact that ethanol has a higher anti-knock index (AKI or octane rating) than modern gasoline? The fact that ethanol is hygroscopic would further reduce knocking tendency as the benefit of water induction to reduce knock tendency was known by WWII.

    I second the development of TEL as an anti-wear additive that maybe had secondary benefits of AKI enhancement.

    • 0 avatar

      Okay, I munged things up a bit. I went back and did a little more research. According to a paper presented to the SAE in 1999 by Radord University professor Bill Kovarik, high compression gasoline engines using antiknock additives were seen as a transition fuel to eventual use of alcohol.

      www4.hmc.edu:8001/Chemistry/Pb/resources/Kovarik.pdf

      (sorry for the formatting)

      “This paper discusses the technological and public health context of the 1921 discovery
      and subsequent development of the anti-knock gasoline additive tetraethyl lead. The
      discovery has long been seen as a milestone of systematic research and a vital turning
      point in the development of modern high compression engines. This paper will show that
      the choice of tetraethyl lead over other viable alternatives took place within the context of
      a complex controversy.
      One important aspect of the controversy was public. After leaded gasoline entered the
      market in 1923 – 24, a fatal refinery accident drew news media attention to the poisonous
      nature of the full strength additive and the potential public health risk from fuel
      containing the dilute additive. Public health scientists insisted that alternatives existed,
      but industry in general and GM in particular vehemently insisted that tetraethyl lead was
      the only additive that could be used.
      The controversy was never resolved because until 1991 virtually no primary documentary
      material was available in public archives. That year, General Motors Corp. released about
      80 linear feet (40 file cabinet drawers) of materials from the office of Kettering’s research
      assistant Thomas Midgley. The files date between 1917 and the late 1920s. They are
      “unclassified,” meaning that they have not been fully catalogued, and were released to
      what was then the General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) in Flynt, Mich.
      They contain research reports, correspondence and internal memos from the Dayton,
      Ohio research labs headed by Charles F. Kettering which became the main research arm
      of the General Motors Corp. in 1919.
      The documents reveal a second aspect of the controversy involving the auto industry’s
      long term fuel strategy. At the time, around 1921, Kettering wanted to protect GM
      against oil shortages (then expected by the 1940s or 1950s). His strategy was to raise
      engine compression ratios with TEL specifically to facilitate a transition to well known
      alternative fuels (particularly ethyl alcohol from cellulose). However, Kettering lost an
      internal power struggle with GM and Standard Oil Co. directors of the Ethyl Corp.
      Kettering’s strategy was discarded when oil supplies proved to be plentiful and TEL
      turned out to be profitable in the mid-1920s. But Kettering and others in GM clearly did
      not believe that TEL was the only fuel option.”

  • avatar
    gator marco

    I always loved the one were some guy bought a new car, generally something really basic like a 4 door Chevy. Guy gets 100 mpg and is thrilled. Makes mistake of telling someone at the dealership, local gas station, local bar, how he loves his mileage.
    That night, local cops, FBI, GM execs, Santa Claus, show up to take the car back. It’s an experimental car, only one of it’s kind, that accidentally got shipped from the factory to the dealer. When the owner objects, they hand him the keys to a new Cadillac, Corvette, etc, but only if he promises to tell no one.
    Story occasionally has details like Men in Black, UFO technology, etc. Always a hoot!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I heard a variation where the driver takes the car back for service and is raving about great mileage in the waiting room to random strangers. This is overheard by dealership employees who re-adjust the carb and the mileage suddenly drops to normal 15mpg

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    From the Illuminati: New World Order trading card game.

    Conspiracy Theorists: This powerless and much-mocked group is prized by the Illuminati, because their wild ravings often contain useful ideas!

  • avatar
    George B

    I periodically hear that car-centric suburbs are subsidized by cities. However, when I try to track down the revenue streams for suburban infrastructure like road, water, and sewer systems, the money mostly appears to come from fuel excise taxes, local property taxes, and water bills paid by the same suburban residents. There may also be some federal income tax revenue involved, but that too tends to come disproportionally from the suburban ring, not the urban core. New York city may be different, but it isn’t a typical American city.

    • 0 avatar
      jsixpack

      I think the real point of subsidization is the interstate system. Particularly in the larger states (even in MA where I live), the distant suburbs and exurbs wouldn’t work nearly as well without expensive, federally and state funded, interstate-grade highways. Since the entire country pays taxes and more then 50% of the population (I can’t find an exact number) lives in urban areas, by default the federal highway dollars are being redistributed out from cities to suburbs, exurbs and rural areas.

      I don’t think this is necessarily a problem, more a function of geography. It can become a problem, particularly if the highway is built to benefit private development, but that’s more the exception then the rule.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    One of the big automotive myths of my childhood was the $50 Surplus Army Jeep. It was perpetrated by scamsters that sold pamphlets out of the back of Popular Mechanics which were otherwise available free from the government and which merely explained the procedures for bidding on government surplus. There has been no $50 Jeeps for over 30 years, had they existed at all.

  • avatar
    Gottleib

    In the 1950′s it was said that if you owned a Rolls Royce and it should break down the factory sent a moving van to pick up the car and return it to the service area so that no one could see a Rolls Royce being towed. I think there was something else about the motor being sealed at the factory since it was so well made it never needed to be serviced. I never owned a Rolls Royce but have learned from others that have owned one that neither of these myths are true.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      “the motor being sealed at the factory since it was so well made it never needed to be serviced”

      The only car company to do this from what I recall is Nissan in the late 60′s, they were so proud to make an engine that could last a while without service they sealed it up,

      I say that they were ahead of their time if you think about it.

  • avatar
    Ted Grant

    My father had a story of a new VW Beetle owner that bored his neighbors with high MPG claims. A neighbor got revenge by adding a gallon of gas each night to the Beetle and the absurd 80 MPG claims soon fell on deaf ears…

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    What about the GM EV-1? Theres 2 documentaries that revolve around it that try to point a finger at those evil mustache-twirling oil companies.

    I honestly don’t buy into conspiracies much, while they can make a decent read they’re typically just exaggerated tales.

    • 0 avatar
      Neb

      Yeah. I mean, the decision to ashcan the EV-1 was pretty stupid, especially since the people protesting it were perfectly willing to take on the legal and parts problems GM was worried about.

      So a really dumb mistake on the part of GM’s management gets turned into a spook story about GM blowing off one of its own feet because OIL

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        While I understand the business climate of the time (cheapest oil in decades) and the decision to destroy them, its a shame those that could afford them could not buy them and they didn’t become the great cars they could have been (given the huge investment).

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      I can tell you the real truth about EV1, having served on GM’s committee to define how the corporation would comply with California ZEV Mandate and other emissions requirements. EV-1 was created primarily for the purpose of complying with the mandate that 2% of a manufacturers sales had to be Zero Emission Vehicles.GM was by far the biggest seller and that meant a lot of EV’s would have to be sold.

      We built them in the Reatta Craft Centre, formerly the Olds forge plant. GM pulled out all the stops in full faith effort to develop the best possible EV to meet the mandate. The car had no chance of commercial viability at that stage of technology.

      No other maker put much effort into meeting the mandate, but they ALL lobbied to defer it, successfully so, in the end. GM invested many $millions to meet a regulatin that has still not been implemented decades later! When the regulation died, so did EV-1.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Thank you for sharing that info, I honestly think that the GM shouldn’t have hyped up the EV-1 until they had an actual product ready to sell.

        What I find amusing is that the EV-1 sorta lived on with Hondas first generation insight, same basic aerodynamics and lightweight formula, its just a shame that no one brought it until it got a goofy grin, tons of weight, sporty pretensions, and “CRZ” pasted onto it.

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          At the time, we were going for it! Battery technology, as they say, “is what it is”.

          I drove an EV1. A friend was the facility planner at the Craft Centre (part of Cadillac at the time, btw) and brought one by my house. Better than expected performance, and handling with the narrow tires, cramped for two with no luggage cqapacity iirc. A toy, in other words. A very, very, very expensive toy, considering how few were built.
          Insight is only slightly more commercially acceptable, cool as it is, for the some of the same reasons.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            I’ll take your word for it, the neither the early Insight nor the EV-1 look that roomy.

            Heres another conspiracy I’d be grateful if you can elaborate on, the conspiracy of planned obsolescence with American cars.

            Plenty of people having taken a term that once described yearly styling changes and assumed that it meant more mechanical faults, in the case of obsolescence I honestly don’t know what to believe.

            I do know that Henry Ford never bothered with mechanical obsolescence, and if I’m honest I respected his insistence on not changing his cars visually every year.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            There has never been planned obsolescence, more a continual effort to get the next hot thing that everyone’s gotta have. Longer lower, wider, more powerful back in the day.
            A likely basis for the idea is the continual drive to cut costs while still meeting durability testing requirements or bogies. Unfortunately, not enough effort was put into making sure the performance bogies in validation testing were applicable and descriptive of the real world use and performance of the product.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            That was pretty much my conclusion to mechanical planned obsolescence after much research, poorly done cost cutting.

            Thank you for your time and answers, I hope to clarify things with other conspiracy theorists with them.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            @Ryoku75- “That was pretty much my conclusion to mechanical planned obsolescence after much research, poorly done cost cutting.”

            That is a factor, but it is really very much more complicated than that. I would like to add that product changes made for many reasons other than cost cutting also present risk. I often point a finger at CAFE as hugely damaging to the Americans uniquely. It drove radical, revolutionary design changes to comply with regulations forcing release of many new technologies.

            For example: The Olds 98 went from a large BOF RWD carbureted V8 to a small transverse fuel injected V6 with a “clean sheet” brand new transmission design. We found many problems, and just as a glimpse of one, we were spending $19,000/hour for fuel injector replacement on just that one carline! The problem was poor fuel in America causing valve deposits. BMW actually had the same problem a little earlier. We used their rating methodologay to evaluate valve deposits and had to work with fuel suppliers to develop detergents to address the problem. That was just one of the problems presented by the radical new technology.
            What made these external issues more difficult is that GM had reorganized so completely that many of the systems and processes that had served Oldsmobile division so well were lost. We spent many years developing the new methods which have paid off with GM second only to Toyota in JD Power quality surveys today.

            btw- my knowledge of these issues is one of the reasons I feel compelled to respond to those who use the expression “GM culture” as if it is an unchanging monolithic thing. It is not and has been in a state of flux for a long time now. The macro organizational structure that exists today was just being put in place when I retired in ’08.

          • 0 avatar
            Truckducken

            Doctor Olds, what about the well documented goal of GM to have their cars wear out at 75000 miles or so back in the 70′s thru 90′s, if not even later? A plan which even a cursory look at junkyards of the era would confirm was successful? If that’s not exactly planned obsolescence, it’s pretty darned close. A plan to milk as much cash as possible from the remaining patriotic buyers, long run be damned. I mean, GM didn’t lose 2/3 of its market share and go bankrupt for no reason at all. Every maker faced the same challenges, GM’s plan for dealing with them just happened to cause a spectacular, decades-long train wreck.

            Cue the “This site is anti-GM” chorus. Not sticking around to listen, I gotta go fire up the Pontiac and pick up the kids. Hope to see the General continue to get it together.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            @Truckducken- Your notion of such a plan is simply absurd. I wrote the truth about some issues and how they played out. As a matter of fact, our expectation was that vehicles should last over 100,000 with minimal problems. Today’s bogie is 150,000 and it is supported by emissions warranty reporting requirements.

            If you rationally look at data you will see a decline of all three US makers’ share because of increasingly capable competitive entries. The slices of the pie were a lot bigger when it was cut into three slices instead of 16, or whatever the number of capable competitors are today. Still, criticism of quality is fair and certainly a part of GM’s decline. I don’t deny mistakes, there is plenty of blame to go around.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      At Doc: I’ll believe ya with the CAFE stuff.

      As for planned obsolescence and scrapyards, I see far more Fords than GMs taking up space, mostly Crown Vics and Taurus’s (and they’re clones), sometimes I’ll see a Probe. Most of the GMs are battered CamarosFirebirds.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @Ryoku75- I’d like to jump onboard and point out that GM has had much better quality numbers than Ford through the years, but I am afraid what you see in any given yard can’t really be extrapolated to the whole population out there. Salvage yards typically sell what they can and then crush the hulks for recycling. What you see is usually just a snapshot in time. We scrap millions of cars every year in America.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          I’m not exactly the biggest Ford guy, at least GMs don’t blow up in accidents.

          The amount of cars that we scrap on average simply shocks me, but its a given with so many on the road and sitting in the fields.

          If we’re going to talk any planned obsolescence my fingers are pointed at Germany.

  • avatar
    Lordbeezel

    Regarding the “I got great mileage until I took it in to the shop” myth,the following actually happened to me:

    In the 70′s, living my hand to mouth existence, I favored used luxury cars under the premise that they would be better maintained (bull) and less beat on (true), as well as be made from superior materials (true of GM engines before they crammed the low nickel content Chevy engines into everything, bull on just about everything else). Anyway, current ride was a 75 powder blue Eldorado (can ya dig it!) which got the average mileage for such a beast with a smog strangled 500 cube boat anchor of about 8 or 9 mpg mixed. One day, engine started running horribly,cough sputter, barely move. Cleaned carb, changed filters, plugs, etc, no help. Played with the timing, noticed it ran best, though not good, at full advance. After brainstorming with my fellow gear-heads, came to the conclusion the timing chain had jumped. I was about to scrap her and move on to a new Broughamtastic acquisition, when in a fit of inspiration, I removed all the plug wires from the distributor and advanced them one spot. MAGIC! Smooth as silk, more power than ever, but the really weird thing I still don’t understand to this day, I started getting 21mpg mixed, mostly city. In a 500 cube 5000 pound smog yacht. I was sure it was fluke, but it was repeated and verified for the next 6 months. I drove everyday expecting the timing chain to give up the ghost, but in the end the pimporado was actually done in by the rust around the rear window spreading so much it started to rain on the back deck, and finally called it a day. Had I actually had repairs done, and changed the timing chain, I would probably be telling the “They screwed up the mileage” story now, but this one is more mysterious anyway. Just wish I knew why it happened.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      Is there a chance the plug wires were installed wrong by you or someone else?

      On CarTalk a few weeks ago, a guy who was repairing his snow plow connected the wires wrong, so he was getting misfires and other issues. Click and Clack told him to find a guy who knew the wiring diagram for his Ford Super Duty to fix it. The damn thing was shooting fireballs out the tailpipe, apparently.

      21 mixed sounds quite high for a ’75 Eldo with the 500. There are some people on forums who claim to have gotten 20+ on the highway, but those are edge cases — it seems like 16-18 is more common.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Funny you mention that – in a world filled with Chevy guys and GM sponsored teachers. Installing the plug wires wrong on pre COP engines was easy to do as Ford and GM differed in the way they numbered the cylinders.

        On my first Mustang I did a tune up and was scratching my head as to why it mis-fired having been taught all my life to that point that the cylinders on a V8 were numbered 1-3-5-7 and 2-4-6-8 and not 1-2-3-4 and 5-6-7-8

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    You’d be amazed how many otherwise intelligent people will believe the craziest conspiracies about oil and cars. For some reason, those two topics just seem to be in the blind spot of rational minds. I also think part of the problem is there’s political “pay dirt” in perpetuating these myths by people who know better.

    One urban legend I’ve heard from ad nauseam was that Chevron bought some incredible patent for battery technology in order to never let it see the light of day. My guess is all the major oil companies do actually invest in alternative energy technology in order to qualify for ridiculous subsidies and tax credits, so it wouldn’t surprise me if you there was a grain of truth in that they did indeed own such a patent.

    At the end of the day though, I’ve never seen a company successfully keep any game-changing technology from advancing. All of these patents eventually expire and are public record.

  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    I like the one of how RED sports cars are more likely to get speeding tickets.

    Maybe it was the fact that you were SPEEDING.

    http://www.snopes.com/autos/law/redcars.asp

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    How about the conspiracy theory by uninformed people that presidents have a significant affect on oil prices? This is really one of the dumbest of all, but it does affect how people will vote.

    It doesn’t really matter which party is in office — you get equally misguided theories. For example, People thought because Bush II was an oil man that we’d have cheap gas, but it didn’t really turn out that way.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr Imperial

      And on the flip side-Gas prices got up to $4.15 at its highest under Bush, and recently I saw up to $3.93 here in Southwest Michigan.

      When Bush was in power, the high prices were ALL his fault.

      Now, under Obama, prices are just about as high, but no one is harping on him for it….

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        “Now, under Obama, prices are just about as high, but no one is harping on him for it….”

        Republicans are.

        That’s the beauty of the divide and conquer two-party system. If you’re a Democrat, blame everything on Republicans. If you’re a Republican, blame everything on Democrats. It really simplifies the thinking process for the average person.

        • 0 avatar
          Mr Imperial

          Agreed to your overall point about the parties-

          Just surprised with the change-of-tone that ABC/CBS/NBC/CNN has gone through-if one was so inclined, conduct a search for news footage from back during Bush’s term.

          I’d have less frustration with said agencies if they would own up to a bias-instead of reporting under the guise of neutrality.

          Come to think of it, it’s hard to find a truly neutral agency out there.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Mainstream media has been bought and paid for decades, the changes of tone depending on the situations and players involved makes it obvious. I don’t even think they try to hide it anymore.

            Anymore, the only newspaper I read is the London Telegraph, and blogs for analysis. Breaking news I check Drudge or just watch the local puke channels.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “prices are just about as high, but no one is harping on him for it….”

        There were plenty of idiots complaining that gas prices doubled after Obama took office, when in reality they crashed in 2008 because of the world-wide recession and then only came back up when there were signs of growth coming back.

        The point is — a president has very little power over these things. In fact, presidents have very little power over several things they get blamed for.

        also, wow, big typo — effect, not affect — I forgot to fix it when I revised the sentence

    • 0 avatar
      jacob_coulter

      I disagree, public policy does have a real affect on gas prices.

      What I found amusing are Presidents like Obama and Clinton that say more domestic oil supplies won’t lower the price of gas at the pump, yet both always had a hair trigger on releasing supplies from the Stretgic Oil Reserve as soon as prices got too high.

      Apparently, they don’t believe in that theory enough to gamble their reelection on it.

      Want to know why natural gas prices are so low? We have too much of it. We could have the same “problem” with oil, but apparently it’s better for the environment and our economy to give trillions to the Middle East and Russia.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        You hit that one clear into the cheap seats!

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Public policy has *an* effect, because everything has some effect. However, it is a miniscule effect in the world oil market. Anything in the SPR is a brief drop in the bucket and is inconsequential to long-run prices.

        If we “drill baby drill”, the companies who obtain the oil by drilling will still sell those barrels on the world oil market. So if the world oil market is saying a barrel costs $100, Exxon will sell that barrel to somebody, domestic or foreign, for $100. Furthermore, any small effect would not be seen for many years.

        What, you say? You thought the benevolent US-based oil company would sell all that nice US-based oil to US-based consumers for a reduced US price? Yeah right. Ironically, that’s what happens in the Middle East and other OPEC countries like Venezuela (and even non-OPEC countries like India) — local governments subsidize oil for their residents. We do subsidize oil prices a bit in the US, but not like that.

        We already have record *exports* of oil from the US and are now a net exporter of oil:

        www dot bloomberg dot com/news/2012-02-29/u-s-was-net-oil-product-exporter-in-2011 dot html

        (edit: yes, to be clear it’s oil products, obviously, because obviously we still import lots of oil — the URL was clear on this, and I mistyped it when I wrote it, apologies)

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          Increasing the supply of oil lowers the price. Are you going to debate that? Other issues central to this discussion that you don’t seem to understand? We’re a net exporter of oil products, not of oil. We imported 8.4 million barrels of crude oil a day in 2011, while domestic production was less than 5.7 million barrels of crude a day. Net exporter of oil? No.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            Sure, oil products — I was typing fast. My post wasn’t clear on that, but the URL is — I wasn’t hiding anything.

            I’m making a more nuanced argument here — increasing supply lowers the price to a point. However, it depends on amount and timing as to how big that effect is and when it occurs.

            The relatively small amount of oil we’re talking about is so far in the future that it wouldn’t have any effect on the price in the near future. Furthermore, the potential production under current estimates isn’t likely to have a big effect even when the production is at full bore.

            In any case, it’s not like there haven’t been drilling permits issued lately. In fact, IIRC, there were more issued in 2012 than in the previous 4 years.

            But the reality is the oil is sold on the world market. And even if we’re “energy-independent”, we will still be paying the same price as the rest of the unsubsidized world.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Oil prices are influenced by the futures market. It is very forward looking. In addition to ANWAR, three of the biggest oil discoveries in history have taken place in the last three years, and they’re in US waters in the Gulf of Mexico. We’re not talking about a small potential increase in production, or a small impact on price had we a less treasonous administration. Do a search for biggest oil discoveries in history. See what you get. Even if oil prices stayed the same, we’re talking about tens of thousands of high paying jobs and several hundred billion dollars a year not leaving the country. It isn’t to be thought of by the people trying to implode the economy, but it should matter to everyone else.

            If you’re considering an argument in defense of the regime, why do you suppose they don’t want the tax revenue from an oil boom but would instead continue to waste billions on energy scams while running trillion dollar deficits? Why not grow revenue through growth but instead seek to grow revenue in a way that is known to shrink the economy, and revenue? Curbing CO2 through elimination of the middle class may appeal to elite misanthropes, but it shouldn’t happen in a democratic republic.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          You’re analysis is persuasive and you strike me as well informed on the topic, well done.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    All patents being available to the public for inspection, the ‘Detroit buried the patent’ theories tell a lot about the believer.

    I have to say I really enjoyed this thread. Looks like most of the classics have been covered!

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      Most people don’t understand how the PTO works. It’s not a surprise, really.

      This did cover a lot of classics — like the Lambo drug runners with the night googles. I heard that in regions of the country that weren’t even mentioned above.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        I find it amusing that we’ve reached a point where “google” is now a misspelling of “goggle.”

        I’m not picking on you- I’ve seen it before. :)

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          That’s a funny typo.

          In reality, google should be losing their trademark to “googling” things because it has becoming a generic term, sort of like “I rollerblade to school” or “will you pass me a kleenex?”

          “I googled it on Bing.”

  • avatar
    Adamatari

    As you say, on the tetraethyl lead (TEL) issue, there WAS a conspiracy. TEL was one of several additives that were fighting it out at the time. The dangers of lead were well known even at that time. There were deaths at the plant and Midgley himself became sick from lead poisoning. Despite this, Midgley did press conferences where he would wipe TEL all over his hands and sniff it. These led to him getting lead poisoning again.

    The conspiracy was not “TEL doesn’t work as a cheap and easy to produce octane booster” it’s “TEL was known to be very poisonous and they worked to cover it up”. Concerns over TEL were serious but the Midgley and the company worked hard to cover up the toxicity issue. That Standard Oil would pollute, and would cover up pollution, is not a strech – this company is one of the major foulers of the Cuyahoga from back in the 19th century, after all. TEL may have had some advantages over ethanol as an anti-knock agent, but it was far more toxic.

    So yes, GM and Standard Oil did in fact conspire to give us all lead poisoning.

    On the infamous “streetcar conspiracy”, it looks like economics had more to do with it than GM, even though GM did sometimes work with other companies to buy out streetcar lines. Gasoline was relatively cheap and buses required less infrastructure the company had to pay for directly (rail lines, wires, etc. – roads were paid for and built through taxes), as well as being more flexible for route changes (you can’t exactly move a streetcar route!). Streetcar lines had thin margins as it was, and laws were put in place which forced electric companies to sell of the lines – one of the reasons they could afford to run was they were recieving below-market rates for electricity. The country was also becoming more prosperous and more people could afford cars.

    So the “streetcar conspiracy” is more a case of social and economic tides working against one technology and in favor of another. In places where they made a lot of sense and were better supported, they survived, for example in Boston. In places where the economics where thin, they died out.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      The streetcars here were terrible for the last 20 or so years they were around. A friend of mine’s dad was one of those guys that took pics of everything around him constantly, as was his dad and grandfather. A hassle back then for his girlfriend/wife/kids, but now those pics are a gold mine. There are a lot of interurban pics showing the rotten track, the cars all rotted out, and probably unsafe, too. I was kind of shocked how bad they looked when almost all the “traffic” was horse and buggies, with a few Model T’s mixed in. When people started buying cars in large numbers, they would have been doomed here, even if they were in nice shape, as hardly anyone was riding them. The only real drawback to them going away was that the right of way wasn’t saved, parts of it would have been a great basis for a trail around the area. Some of those pics were a real shock. About 200 yards from my house was a 24 hour railroad hotel/restaurant for the train crews that was gone long before I was born. I always wondered what that parking lot was for. I’ve tried to find out more about it, but the name is unclear in the pic and nobody seems to remember it, even a person who ate there just before then end can’t remember it. I can’t say much, places I’ve seen my whole life are torn down, and six months later, I can’t remember what used to be there.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Big oil and vehicle manufacturers killed off railed public transport in the early 20th century in the US.

    The vehicle manufacturers wanted buses to be used instead of trams (trolleys) and light rail. Big oil backed this up.

    This is a vert important reason why the US is a motor vehicle society.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      American desire for personal freedom and mobility is biggest reason for our being a “motor society”. Don’t believe everything they’ve told you.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      Actually, rail is not a very flexible form of transportation. When government subsidy and investment in rail infrastructure falls behind needs, the money goes to more roads, instead.

      Want to blame something, blame cheap gas, a good economy and the natural desire for personal transportation.

      This desire also hurts buses, too… buses which don’t have as big a profit margin on them, by the way, as simply selling cars to the public.

      That’s something that’s echoed around the world, where otherwise very efficient means of transport start taking a backseat to personal car ownership once the population becomes rich enough. And if fewer people use the trains, there’s less impetus for government money to flow that way. The only way around that is to tax the heck out of cars and pump fuel and subsidize public transport to incentivize the use of the train system.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @Niky, DocOlds and whoever is interested
        This article is about conspiracy which seems to infer scandal.

        DocOlds you must be aware at the dog eat dog environment of industrialist. This goes on today, wanting to protect what you have.

        The story seems very plausible. Have a read.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_American_Streetcar_Scandal

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          I’ve seen this before and this line in the wiki article pretty much sums up my take:
          “one writer going so far as to accuse Snell and others of falling into simplistic conspiracy theory thinking, bordering on paranoid delusions.”

  • avatar
    Adamatari

    Ronnie, I never knew it but the story behind the EPA’s rejection of the hybrid car is really interesting – the “it will never work anyway” line of thought combined with politics led to the EPA’s out of hand rejection:

    http://www.hybridcars.com/the-great-hybrid-car-cover-up-of-74/

    That said, GM worked on the technology for years but never moved to commercialization until Toyota beat them to the punch. Gas was just too cheap. I still remember getting gas for less than a dollar a gallon just 14 years ago.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Then there’s the old, “CAFE killed the mid-size truck in the US”. CAFE killed them in Canada too, apparently.

    I also love, “The US protects its full-size trucks from global pickups”. This obviously includes the wildly popular Titan and Tundra, no?

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      “The US protects its full-size trucks from global pickups” – often in reference to or combined with the “chicken tax”.

      I know the tax is a real deal but were it repelled with much fanfare I wonder how many people in domestic trucks would jump wholesale to an import full size?

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        “I know the tax is a real deal but were it repelled with much fanfare I wonder how many people in domestic trucks would jump wholesale to an import full size?”

        An import full size truck? Now that’a and interesting concept, but if it failed, folks would be quick to blame the chicken tax, but when cars fail to take hold in the US, no one blames the 2.5% tariff. And this tariff costs OEMs about the same as performing chicken tax loopholes.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I’ve always wondered why we never developed steam cars a bit more, anyone that I’d ask would usually tell me “because oil” and stuff like that.

    • 0 avatar

      Gasoline and electric cars could start right away, not need 15 minutes to get up a head of steam. Also, keeping the water from freezing in winter is an issue. Finally, external combustion engines are not as efficient, fuel mileage doesn’t really compete with ICEs. In the late 1960s and early ’70s Bill Lear spent a ton of money trying to develop a modern steam engine, resulting in some experimental buses and possibly a small test fleet of California Highway Patrol cars but otherwise it was a dead end. General Motors also made a couple of experimental steam driven cars in the late 1960s. One with an engine of their own design and another one working with an existing steam engine supplier.

      Weight and size becomes an issue with steam engines. In addition to an engine with just about the same parts as an ICE, you have to add a boiler to make the steam and condensers to recover water and energy from spent steam. In those GM experimentals, the engine weighed about twice what a conventional ICE weighed at the time.

      I’ve written here at TTAC about Cyclone Technologies’ modern steam engine, and a few years ago BMW showed a test bed concept called the TurboSteamer that has a two-stage Rankine cycle engine that assists the ICE, driven by waste heat in the exhaust and ICE cooling system. BMW was claiming 10-15% improvements in HP and fuel economy.

  • avatar
    50merc

    I know there’s at least one conspiracy: TTAC and the B&B conspire to make me spend half my time on this website!

  • avatar
    Loser

    A big urban legend back in the 80′s was about a car for sale in the paper. The ad said simply “1963 Chevy for sale, $50″. The guy calls about the car and an old woman answers the phone, she has no idea what kind of Chevy it is but it belonged to her deceased husband. The guy figures it must be a heap but goes to check it out anyway. The car turns out to be a mint 1963 split window Corvette and he buys it for the $50 asking price.
    Another version is about a 1969 Dodge for $50, turns out to be a 426 Hemi Daytona Charger that was ordered by a son that was killed in Vietnam.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    “Women are better drivers…” BLAHAHAHAHA!!!

    • 0 avatar
      AJ

      I hear you… I just saw an male bashing ad on YouTube by All State, where a guy boasts that men are better drivers, yet a woman sitting with him says, “But I just got a refund from my insurance co. for safe driving.” (And he didn’t.)

      Well IMHO, guys do have more experience then women with driving, but tend to take more risks. So besides the risk factor, men are better drivers. For example with my wife, she had limited experience, no interest in driving other then to get from point A to point B, and she had three accidents before we were married. I’ve never (knock on wood) had an accident, yet I have taken more risk then she has (I’ll admit).

      Plus, back to the ad, if the young woman is over paying insurance to get a refund for safe driving, that’s stupid thinking there. I’d rather not over pay in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Women are safer risks because they drive far less miles. Men are forced to take risks because they’re male. Actually men take most if the driving/service jobs that also put driver/operators in harms way. Rain, snow, high winds, NYC, drowsy, tight deadlines, downed power lines…

        • 0 avatar
          niky

          Women are safer simply because they take less risks.

          Women get into slightly more accidents at low speeds because physiologically, women have worse spatial skills and perception than men. But men get into more high speed accidents, more reckless driving incidents and more fatal accidents (up to 50% more, depending on the study) than women.

          This is normalized per million miles driven, as cited in various studies.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            That’s interesting, but do they account for total miles driven, male vs female? Culturally, women just drive down the street to for work, errands and shuttling kids. Aside from street racing or stunts, men are expected to drive far if not fast, to get to work or get the products (or services) there on time. I’ve driven a million+ miles myself and lucky to be alive (the stories I could tell…), not just from stunts in cars, but the everyday grind in up to 50K lbs combinations on steep and sometimes snow covered mountain roadways and mixing it up with 80K lbs long haul rigs that do 80 MPH. Do the studies include motorcyclists?

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            That’s private drivers, in cars. Accidents per million miles are stated as 5.7 for women and 5.1 for men in the most widely circulated study. One that really should be updated, since it’s fifteen years old now.

            But most studies point to men being involved in more fatal accidents than women. Typically twice the number per million miles.

            The “per million mile” part is how statisticians take the extra miles men drive into account.

            As for where each drive… I’d contest that. Working mothers and older women tend to drive in exactly the same sorts of situations as men. Women nowadays drive dozens of miles to work, out to the beach or mountains, or on interstate road trips.

            Not every woman driver out there is a suburban mom. Just as not every male driver out there is doing hundred mile commutes to work.

            The statistics instead reflect the fundamental differences between men and women.

            Women have less developed spatial awareness skills. More women get T-Boned than men. But a factor in this is also that women tend to be shorter and have a harder time seeing past the sills and B-pillar. More women get into low speed accidents due to misjudging the corners of the car.

            Men are better equipped to pilot cars, but are more reckless. They tend to get into more high speed accidents and into more fatal crashes. They tend (by statistics) to get ticketed more for reckless driving.

            Insurance rates reflect this. While a woman is more likely to make claims for small incidents with light damage, a male driver (particularly a young male) is more likely to be involved in the type of accident that would write-off the car.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @niky – A million miles of running errands and shuttling kids around town just doesn’t compare long commutes at 70+ MPH from the ‘burbs’ into the city and or having a driving job that puts you in harm way when you get there.

            I do see more women everyday driving everything from taxis to tow trucks, but usually they’re ‘stay at home’ or work a desk, counter, cashier or food server position a few miles from home. Long haul truckers? Yeah there’s a few women. Telephone, electric, cable linewomen? Sure why, not? Pizza delivery? For sure.

            Work a service, propane or utility job when the roads are icy or snow covered and you must get there regardless. There are no ‘snow days’. Is it too windy for your high profile simi? Does the downhill dirt road look too muddy and steep for your service truck? You do walk (drive?) a ‘fine line’, but there’s only one way to find out…

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            gain. Private motorists. Not truckers or delivery drivers.

            These statistics have been backed up by controlled tests. Men are more aggressive. Period. Women have a harder time estimating the edges of the car, period. That’s the long and short of the physiological differences that cause accidents.

            Anecdotal experience doesn’t really say anything. I could relate that not a single female I know has gotten into anything more serious than a parking lot scratch, despite us living out where you have to take the tollways to get anywhere, and that most every male in my age group has gotten into some sort of accident requiring major repair work, one way or the other. But that doesn’t mean anything… because a single person’s experience does not a statistical trend make.

            If you think the only women driving cars are soccer moms who live in the suburbs, you’re about thirty years behind the times.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @niky – I’d like to see a link because these studies have an agenda from the start. You cannot separate “private drivers in private cars” for an isolated study and call it realistic. Even then, it wouldn’t account for miles driven per person, per day and at freeway speeds vs curbside crawling between Starbucks, the cleaners, the mall, schools, sitters, ballet class, soccer practice and the nail salon. When couples drive together, it’s almost always the man driving and the woman distracting him.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            There are several.

            But, for goodness’s sake… you’re basing your entire argument on preconceptions and prejudices built up over… what? You’re basically stereotyping all women drivers as to behaviour and lifestyle, while ignoring a whole lot of other women drivers.

            Yes… as women drive more and at a younger age, their accident rates are going up, but the most accidents per million miles still goes to young males.

            http://editorial.autos.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=788126

            For older drivers, controlled studies have shown little difference between male and female drivers with lots of experience behind the wheel in terms of behaviour (men drive slightly faster), but this says nothing about risk taking or how accident prone they are.

            http://web.mit.edu/course/11/11.951/oldstuff/albacete/Other_Documents/Europe%20Transport%20Conference/traffic_and_transport_/female_and_male_dr1588.pdf

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @niky- The studies conclude that men drive faster and crash with greater force. That doesn’t make women better drivers, just better risks. You’re just proving my point for me…

            In the end women crash just as many times as men while driving roughly half the miles. Easy, around town miles too. Verses across counties, state lines or cross country trucking. And in all types of adverse conditions if not sleep deprived and or behind schedule, 24hrs a night. While women are sound asleep.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            I’ve posted numerous studies while you have yet to prove a valid survey backing up your opinion that lower female fatalities per million miles are solely because they drive less on the highway. As such, that’s merely your opinion, with no backing.

            http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/TSF2007FE.PDF

            Trucks and buses represent a mere fraction of road fatalities in statistics, and long-haul trucking cannot be used as an excuse for higher male incidences. If you believe the differences are mostly due to where people drive, property damage only incidents should be higher for women, who, according to you, only drive in-town… and it isn’t. It’s higher for males all across the range.

            How do we define “good driving” other than as an ability to not crash? Though the word “better” can have many different meanings, lower crash risk can be used as a definition of “better”. All my links have shown is that experienced male and female drivers drive similarly, but that younger male drivers are more aggressive and prove a much larger crash and fatality risk.

            It’s given that if you use “better” to determine skills such as reflexes, spatial awareness and navigation, men have an advantage, but in terms of road safety, this is counterbalanced by women’s greater aversion to risk. This is because women have less testosterone. The overabundance of which led to Pistorious shooting his girlfriend.

            Don’t know whether you want me to admit something that’s true… isn’t… but it isn’t. Women are safer drivers. Men are not, but as they grow older, they become safer.

            Of course, older men have less testosterone…

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @niky – You provided better links than I ever could have to prove my point.

            “Women are safer simply because they take less risks.”

            Yes, and again, thank you. Women take less risks, but still some how manage to crash approx 2X more than men per miles traveled.
            Exactly how does any of this make women “better drivers”?

            My original statement was “Women are safer risks because they drive far less miles”.

            My statement stands and all you’ve done is prove it for me.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            Wishful thinking much? There’s nothing in all that morass of links that states that women crash two times more than men. At most, back in the 90′s, they were involved in less than 20% more non-serious crashes, but then, as now, they were involved in far less crashes resulting in injuries or death.

            And that’s accounted PER miles driven. If you refuse to pay attention to the statistics, and go so far as to make up your own, then you can’t declare that they’ve proven your argument at all.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @niky – “Women Drivers Crash More Than Men”

            http://www.scienceagogo.com/news/19980516133725data_trunc_sys.shtml

            “As reported in the June issue of Epidemiology, American women were involved in 5.7 crashes per million miles driven. Men, on the other hand, clocked up just 5.1 crashes per million miles. Given the fact that men drive an estimated 74 per cent more miles per year than women, the figure is surprising indeed.”

            Your links clearly state women crash just as much per miles driven and leaves you to draw your own conclusions after the fact.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            I already explained that to you, and if you didn’t pay attention the first time, it’s probably not worth typing again, so I’ll just copy paste:

            *The “per million mile” part is how statisticians take the extra miles men drive into account.*

            The writer of the article has no idea how to read statistics, as shown by the follow up statement.

            And it still doesn’t say “twice as likely to crash”, but it does not that young males are 20% more likely to crash than young females.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @niky – You’ve got one link that give you the crash per million miles, but leaves ONE crucial statistic to set up a completely bias opinion. It’s an article with an agenda from the start. Like I said from the start.

            I don’t know if logic is a hard thing for you to grasp so I’ll explain it like this: It takes 74% LESS MALES to drive a 100 million miles vs females in the study. So once you show that each male had 5.1 accidents and each female had 5.7… (drum roll please)… you then multiply the women’s accidents by 0.740… add… you get 9.92 accidents for each female in the study to get a REAL WORLD account. Not quite 2X male’s, but it was off the top of my head.

            It’s a given that young male crash 20% more than young females even though this stat is NOT based on total miles driven (per year) *but* also fails to mention females 35+ years old crash 20% MORE than males 35 and over… Again, that’s per million miles each, so get out your calculator to get a real world account.

            I thought it was quite hilarious if not cute, that your article left out any kind of logic to attack men, but it proved my point by the raw stats, none the less.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            Your math is backwards.

            You’re stating that it takes fewer males to make those million miles than females.

            If fewer males are required to make those million miles, then the incidence PER DRIVER is higher for males than for females, as it takes MORE females to make 5.7 crashes than it takes males to make 5.1 crashes. Your 74% difference would double the statistics in the other direction.

            And still it would no longer be per million miles, but it would be per driver.

            And there is nowhere in the link that they state a 20% difference between women and men over 35.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @niky – Say it takes 1000 men to drive 100 million miles in a study. The men get into 5.1 accidents each. OK, it takes 74% more women to drive the same 100 million miles. Alright, each of the 1,740 females in the study drove 74% less miles to get into 5.7 accident each. By the time those 1,740 females drive 100 million miles, they’ve accumulated 9.92 accidents each. I don’t know if it can be broken down any simpler than that.

            The article doesn’t state females over 35 are 20% more likely to crash, but mentions they are “significantly” more likely to crash than their male counterparts. See that’s a way more alarming statistic absolutely never mentioned while bashing male drivers. Bad female drivers, 35 to around 80 years of age vs bad male drivers 16 to 24? You do the math on that one!

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            Are you actually reading what’s in the article?

            5.1 accidents per MILLION MILES. Not per MILLION MALES. It doesn’t matter how many men are driving.

            It then says men drive 74% more, which gives us a ratio of 1.35 women to each man to reach those million miles.

            IN OTHER WORDS, that’s 5.1 accidents, 1 million miles, X (undefined) male drivers.

            5.7 accidents, 1 million miles, X*1.35 women.

            Or, eliminating the 1.35, 4.22 accidents per X-women. That’s the math.

            -

            “Significant” in this case does not even begin to suggest 20%. The research considers a difference of 5.1 to 5.7 significant. That’s around 11%.

            In statistics and research (I work at a school, and proofread theses to make money on the side), even 1% can be considered significant, depending on what you’re looking at… To go from “significant” to “20%” is seriously overreaching.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    -I just had an argument with my boss because he believes that he can’t buy a red car because insurance will be higher.

    -Several people have told me that Rolls Royce/Bentley/Bugatti have a LIFETIME bumper to bumper warranty. A variation of this is that the warranty is transferable.

    • 0 avatar
      namesakeone

      Unless you have a claim, how would an insurance company know the color of your car? It doesn’t appear on a typical VIN, and I doubt they have the resources (or the time) to go over manuufacturer records for every car they might insure.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    @niky – Males drive 74% more mile per year, so that’s approx 3/4 of a mile more (or 1.74 miles) for every mile females drive with 74% more exposure to potential accidents than females in the study. Still females crash 11% more while covering the same distance or exposure. Once females have completed the same miles as men, their accidents totals go up dramatically. Jaw dropping. Almost 2X as many accidents given the same exact commute for any extended period of time.

    Your study didn’t separate drivers into age groups, except to conveniently mention how bad young males drive. My article mentioned 20 to 35 years old, male and female, have near identical crash statistics, but females over 35 driving have “significantly” more accidents than their male counterparts for the next 45 years (or so), of driving. THAT far out weighs bad male driving for their 1st 4 years behind the wheel. If my math is off, let me know.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      I am basing this off your article. And yes, your math is completely off.

      Again:

      Men: 5.1 accidents per million miles.

      Women: 5.7 accidents per million miles.

      You assume 1000 men per million miles.

      If men drive 74% more, then it takes 1350 women (1000 / 0.74) to drive one million miles. If you say it takes LESS women to drive one million miles, then you’ve got it backwards and women drive 74% more.

      Since women don’t drive 74% more, you now have 5.1 accidents per 1000 (theoretical) men, and 4.22 accidents per 1000 (theoretical) women.

      Adjust for the fact that men drove more in the period studied, and you’re back at 5.1 and 5.7.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        @niky – You have it completely wrong, again. How can it take MORE men to complete 100 million miles when men drive 74% MORE? No, it takes MORE WOMEN, actually. Obviously.

        0.740 more women (74%) times (X) 1000 (men) is 740 women, last I checked. 74% (percent) is “per” one hundred (100) or “cent”. 1740 women to 1000 men. Compredo? Do I have to teach you basic math skills too?

        Or you can look at this way: 74% more miles is times (X) 0.740. Or one hundred million miles (100,000,000) times 0.740 is 74,000,000 additional miles women need to make up before we have an equal, side by side, commute to compare.

        74,000,000 additional miles per 1000 women at 5.7 per one hundred million miles is 4.218 additional accidents in for those females ON TOP of the 5.7. That’s 9.92 accidents to every 5.1 accident male have on the same commute. 9.92 is almost 2X more than or greater than 5.1

        If you say it takes 1,740 females to drive the same 100 million miles males would drive AND have 5.7 accidents for each female driver. Then it takes 740 additional females crashing 5.7 times per 100 hundred million miles to complete the same task or commute as males. 5.7 times (X) 0.740 (74%)… That’s 4.218 ADDITIONAL accidents per female while making up the distance for an equal commute as men.

        The math is easy, but will you admit it’s absurd to not mention or include that men drive 74% more in any comprehensive, non biased and REAL WORLD study? Or that women crash SIGNIFICANTLY more than men for MOST of their driving years???

        • 0 avatar
          niky

          *sigh*

          If each woman drives 1 mile and each man drives 1.74 miles (74% more), how many men does it take to drive one million miles? How many women? You’re making this more complicated than it needs to be.

          And the study says 5.7 accidents per million miles… NOT PER DRIVER.

          How many times do we have to repeat this? Until the WordPress server runs out of room?

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @niky – Thank you. It’s the “NOT PER DRIVER” that makes it a silly, irrelevant if not worthless study.

            The group of “FEMALE” studied was 74% larger than the group marked “MALE” because obviously they’re not going to study 100,000,000 females driving one mile apiece or 100,000,000 males driving 100,000,000 miles each. No where does the study claim to test and equal number of males and females.

            To simplify it, based on what we know, there was 74% more women studied to reach the 100,000,000 miles in the study for each group.

            Remember EACH of the men had 5.1 accident while covering 74% more miles A PIECE with that much more exposure to potential accident.

            Equalize the exposure and women, that are already are 11% worse drivers, and they will have close to 100% more accidents for and equal commute. say these words: EQUAL COMMUTE…

            This is plain as Black & White if were to ONLY look at the fact that women are “SIGNIFICANTLY” worse drivers and have “SIGNIFICANTLY” more accidents than men for UP TO FORTY FIVE years!!!

            The propaganda pushes the fact that men drive worse for 4 years. But let’s get real here.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            Since you still don’t understand statistics, I’m just going to keep cut-and-pasting this till you understand it:

            *sigh*

            If each woman drives 1 mile and each man drives 1.74 miles (74% more), how many men does it take to drive one million miles? How many women? You’re making this more complicated than it needs to be.

            ***AND THE STUDY SAYS 5.7 ACCIDENTS PER MILLION MILES… NOT PER DRIVER.***

            How many times do we have to repeat this? Until the WordPress server runs out of room?

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @niky – It’s “NOT PER DRIVER” is my point exactly. It’s “PER MILLION MILES” and leaves YOU to decide how many miles are driven, male vs female or “MILES PER PERSON”… I’ll repeat I unless you didn’t hear me the first time… “MILES PER PERSON”!!!???

            We know males are driving an estimated 74% more of the miles in the study unless you have a better estimate.

            If driver “A” has 1.3 accidents every 10,000 miles and driver “B” has 1.5 accidents every 100,000 miles, which is the better driver? Miles driven “PER PERSON” is absolutely necessary to draw any kind of realistic conclusion.

            You make it sound like there’s 1000 males and 1000 females, each driving an equal amount of miles. THAT is unequivocally, 100% required for any kind of scientific or real world study. This is a cute study at best. It’s meant to draw an interesting headline or clicks.

            If it’s the simple logic that escapes you, please explain how females can be “SIGNIFICANTLY” worse drivers with “SIGNIFICANTLY” more accidents for about FORTY FIVE YEARS of horrible driving vs just FOUR YEARS of males driving worse, AND STILL BE BETTER DRIVERS???

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            So you declare accidents per million miles is bollocks, then?

            You want to know accidents per person, then?

            In which case, the equation is still 5.1 accidents per X men and 5.7 / 1.74 (because men drive 74% more) = 3.2 (okay, so I was wrong… it’s even lower) accidents per X women.

            But then… women drive 74% less! Let’s account for that! So 3.2 x 1.74 = 5.7.

            “Significant” in the sense that it’s a difference of less than a single incident per million miles? (Dunno where you’re getting 100 million from…)

            And, whichever way you spin it, every single study shows higher fatality rates for males drivers. “Significant” in the fact that it’s typically 50% greater, at least.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @niky – Why would you divide the Female’s 5.7 stat by 1.74? No, you multiply it by 1.74 to INCREASE the female’s mileage to males *already* INCREASED yearly mileage… for an equal, scientific and comparable “commute”. That’s 5.7 X 1.74 = 9.92 accidents.

            Just the simple fact that by your math, females are crashing way, way LESS. We know THAT ‘only’ happens between the ages of 16 and 20, right?

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            Let’s put this into simple terms, again.

            There are two men. They drive 50 miles each. Put together, they have driven 100 miles. If you have 4 accidents per 100 miles, then how many accidents per man? 4 divided by 2 is 2.

            2 accidents per man.

            There are four women. They drive 50% less.

            Thus each woman drives 25 miles. Put together, they have driven 100 miles. They have 4 accidents per 100 miles.

            How many accidents per woman? 4 divided by 4 is 1.

            1 accident per woman.

            So that’s 2 accidents per man per 50 miles.

            And 1 accident per woman per 25 miles.

            If you want to make it apples to apples, adjust the number of miles.

            2/50 * 2 = 4 per man per 100 miles.

            1/25 * 4 = 4 per woman per 100 miles.

            Right back where we started.

            -

            Now apply that to the real world statistics. I strongly suggest you consult at your local graduate school for help with the statistics, if you don’t want to believe me.

            Your mistake is that you’re trying to apply derivations to statistics that have already been normalized to provide an even comparison.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @niky – Here’s where you’re wrong:

            The men and women in your scenario all had the same percentage of accidents per mile. 2/50 for men which is equal to 1/25 for women. OK good. Given the same miles, men and women would have the same accidents so… The EXACT SAME COMMUTE would result in the exact same number of accidents, male vs female. THAT right there WOULD BE a perfectly sound, scientific and real world study. This would be perfectly normalized for an even comparison.

            That’s the complete opposite of what we have in your article’s unscientific nonsense. In its study, the groups of men and group women each have 5.1 and 5.7 accidents (respectively) per each member in their particular group. OK, fine. BUT we have absolutely no way of knowing how many (average) miles each participant drove themselves as an individual.

            The women could each be be having 5.7 accidents while driving just 10,000 miles each, while the men are having 5.1 accidents while driving as many as 20,000 miles each.

            They’re not telling us the miles driven ratio, men vs women participants. We’re left guessing and the best we’ve seen is men driving 74% more. Or 10,000 miles vs 17,400 for example.

            They’re NOT tracking “miles driven per participant” like in your scenario. Nor the number of participant in each of the two groups, like in your scenario. They should do EXACTLY like you did for ANY kind of scientific and real world study.

            Anything else is bullocks.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            I’ve read the abstract on several sites. You’re making too many assumptions about what they did and didn’t do in the study. The final numbers are the results of statistical analysis of the study. In other words, they took the number of accidents for both men and women, accounted for how many male and female drivers are on the road, accounted for how many miles are driven, on average, by all male and female drivers, separated that into age ranges, then generated the data.

            You’ve been reading things into the results that support your view, and when they turn out not to support your view, you’ve started picking nits in a study whose mechanics you don’t fully understand.

            Statistics are not that difficult to interpret if you have no agenda or preconceptions to filter the results through. Read into it what you want, but the results, in the end, speak for themselves.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            What “assumptions”, “reading things into” or “nit picking” are you talking about?

            Here’s another site that reinforces the basic logic your fairy tale study lacks, simply put:

            “These results are even more telling when you consider the fact that men drive 74% more miles than women do.”

            cheapcarinsurance.net/10-reasons-why-men-are-better-drivers-than-women/

            I can find many others that refute your silly, biased study, using simple logic.

            And no comprehensive study would purposely leave out the most crucial factor in a real world study unless it had a targeted outcome. Your study did just that. Fact. It’s well known that men drive much more than women and any study that ignores this simple nugget, is flawed from the start.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            Which only demonstrates the writer knows about as much about statistics as you do, since he’s making the same mistake you’re making, and backs up his argument with a whole lot of unsupported nonsense, linking statistics together without causative or direct links… trumpeting the rise of female fatalities and lowering of male fatalities without acknowledging that male fatalities are still nearly double female fatalities. And then the PMS thing? I almost fell out of my chair laughing. They should at least cite a study, such as the British one that showed that depression causes women to take risks. Perhaps they were too busy being clever to be factual.

            And the observation that 99% of NASCAR winners are male? Seriously?

            I’d like you to relax, sit down, and take the time to understand what the statistics mean. If you really refuse to believe me on how accidents per driver and accidents per million miles are related, look here:

            http://www.motorists.org/other/crash-data

            North Dakota and New Jersey are, in many respects, two very different states. These differences include population density, congestion, road conditions and topography. In 1995, the fatality rate (per 100 million vehicle miles traveled) was 1.3 in New Jersey, while it was 1.1 in North Dakota. Clearly, on a per-mile basis, it is more dangerous to drive in New Jersey because of factors such as congestion, poorer roads, topography and roadside obstacles.

            However, when the fatality rate is based on the number of licensed drivers, it appears that North Dakota is a more dangerous place to drive (14.06 fatalities per 100,000 licensed drivers in New Jersey, versus 16.07 in North Dakota). The reason for this apparent inconsistency is because a typical licensed driver in North Dakota is not identical to a typical licensed driver in New Jersey. An average New Jersey driver logs fewer miles than an average North Dakota driver because everything in New Jersey is in much closer proximity. In North Dakota, a trip to the grocery store or post office may involve driving 20 miles, whereas in New Jersey it might be 20 blocks. Simply put, New Jersey drivers face less of an exposure to being in an accident. Because the per-licensed-driver rate does not account for this exposure, it is a meaningless statistic, especially when used to compare different geographic regions or states.

            —–

            Are you having fun yet?

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @niky – I know statistics and know they’re easily twisted or pertinent stats omitted to back up a bias agenda not based on reality. You yourself proved the article you provided doesn’t hold water while your fictitious study clearly would.

            If you’re link/study was to have participants log miles driven per participant an or had the same number of men vs females, which isn’t hard to do (as in your fictitious study), the results would have been totally different AND totally *undesired*.

            My last link was “politically incorrect”, but was absolutely correct like the many other out there if you’re interested in a fact based study or interpretation of stats that doesn’t spin the stats to push an agenda. It sounds like you’re not interested in reality. If a study leaves out vital information or facts, then it’s what we call biased and FLAWED. It’s not the first (or the last) to do this.

            So show me why a study would be wrong to puts all its participants through the same exact variables. Participants should run the same exact course without giving one side a clear advantage or handicap. Otherwise the study is irrelevant and cancels itself out.

            It’s common knowledge men drive way more and to ignore this fact and enter into a study that doesn’t account for this AND doesn’t even mention it, is a joke plain and simple.

            Your fictitious scenario was an excellent example of a perfect and real world study. It’s not hard to do if you’re searching for the truth and not pushing an agenda You proved my entire point for me…

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            I am having fun. I also can’t think of 2 bigger nerds at the moment.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            The study isn’t flawed. Your reading of it is.

            The study takes into account all the drivers on the road, all the miles driven and all the accidents that were recorded within the time frame cited. It then applied statistical analysis to come up with the hard numbers.

            -

            That article on “Cheap Insurance” isn’t the truth. It’s half-baked balderdash that mixes up figures to come up with half-assed assertions.

            -

            Honestly: You really should study statistics. Or at least read a primer text. I feel like I’m trying to teach calculus to a fifth grader.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @niky – The study is a snapshot of who’s on the road and reflects what happens there. I don’t have problem with the stats it collected and it doesn’t tell us anything that we didn’t already know. Women crash slightly more while driving much, much less miles. Tell me what I’m missing here so far?

            The problem any reasonable person would have is with it oversimplifying while overlooking the obvious facts AND for some unknown reason that they never explain, call women better drivers. How can any reasonable person look at their incomplete stats and known facts and come to the same conclusion?

            What’s more telling than them not even coming close to mentioning men in the study *ALSO* drove 74% more miles just to crash a bit less IN THEIR STUDY, *BUT* that it also fails to mention women drive horribly for their last 45 years behind the wheel. If you’re going to mention the driving bad habits of young males, why would a reasonable and balanced study NOT mention the bad driving habits of 35+ women???

            My links examine ALL facets, and don’t arrive at a fairy tale conclusion. What part did my links leave OUT? As politically incorrect as they may be, they LEAVE NOTHING OUT. Good, bad and ugly…

            What you do to one side of the equation, you do to the other side of the equation. Isn’t that called the ‘commutative property’ of algebra?

            On one side of the equation, you have males on a having 5.1 accidents over 1740 miles and females having 5.7 over 1000 miles…

            …..5.1……………. 5.7…………………9.9
            ________ X ________ = __________

            ….1740…………….1000…………….1740

            It’s totally biased when you don’t treat both sides equally. Do women want equality or no?

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            The scienceagogo link made exactly one mistake. By stating that the fact was “surprising”, given men drive 74% more. Duh. The million mile statistic already takes that into account.

            Yes. Women, up to 1998, tended to crash slightly more per miles driven than men.

            BUT:

            http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1999-04-18/travel/9904180242_1_fatal-crashes-pedestrians-drivers

            Per 100 million miles, male drivers tend to have 3.11 fatal crashes compared to 1.88 for women. This is also cited in the study cited by scienceagogo.

            I suggest you look up the NHTSA database if you want raw figures. And that still shows that in raw numbers, men have fatal accidents twice as often as women.

            Apply whatever statistical data you want. There’s still the assumption that 75% of all miles driven are male, but that doesn’t balance out the figures.

            -

            The “Cheap Insurance” link is cheap in more ways than one. Just read the comments, because a lot of the refutations I’ve made are echoed there. It’s a load of hooey, designed to proliferate the “Insurance companies are greedy buggers” meme to sell cheap insurance. They also have an article on the EXACT SAME SITE explaining why women are better drivers. Surprised you didn’t link that one.

            http://www.cheapcarinsurance.net/13-reasons-why-women-are-better-drivers-than-men/

            So… same source. Which one is rubbish?

            -

            More reading:

            http://www.sirc.org/publik/driving.pdf

            Which explains why, despite men being more suited to driving and navigating tasks, men are bigger accident risks.

            Insurance is not “voodoo”, as many aggrieved men paying for higher insurance rates would like to believe.

            Of course companies cheat you out of money with exaggerated rates and difficult claims, but at the base of it all, insurance is gambling on the part of the insurance company. And gambling requires a thorough understanding of the risks. Men are bigger risks and have bigger (monetarily) insurance claims, and young males are through the roof in terms of insurance liability.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Urban legends also have a tendency to be started on these internet websites from time to time.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    @niky – You’re getting yourself all confused again. Nowhere does the study TAKE INTO ACCOUNT that men drive 74% more. Or show me where it does. And that’s exactly where it’s flawed. Men do drive 74% more within the study, but no adjustment is made for it. I mean to equalize the per person miles or for an equal commute comparison. The TOTAL miles driven is EQUAL FOR BOTH GROUPS in the study, but here’s the clincher… You ready? Here goes… Miles driven are NOT EQUAL PER PERSON in the study. See the subtle difference there? Every female in the study crashed an average of 5.7 times, BUT there just happens to be more women in the study to make up the more miles driven per male in smaller group of men.

    You’re right about men dying at a much higher rate and I’ve never disputed that. Men take more chances which is true. However, there is zero data on the speeds at time of impact. Obviously, speed kills. The chances of dying increase exponentially with higher speeds.

    So it’s clear women crash slower speed, but accidents are accidents. Mortality rates increase as speeds increase, and this points back to the 74% great distance covered by men. I know all of it can’t be blamed on the more miles traveled, but if you have 2 miles to cover, you may stay on a surface street, but at 3.5 miles to cover, a you’re more likely to jump on the freeway. Men may be less likely to wear a seat belt and many states don’t require helmets of motorcyclists which are mostly male.

    Again, I’m not disputing men are a bigger risk to themselves and insurance companies, but that was my original statement: “Women are safer risks because they drive far less miles”.

    “13 Reasons Why Women Are Better Drivers”

    I don’t know how scientific this study was, but it’s definitely pandering.

    #1 “Men Feel Like They Own The Road” Yes we already knew men are more aggressive, but mostly young males. Young males throw off the curve for the rest of the male age groups it seems.

    #2 “Women Have Fewer Accidents” I don’t know who “Quality Planning” is, but I know I’d find the same type of study that’s doesn’t account for women driving far less miles. Irrelevant.

    #3 “Scantily Clad Women” They’re a distraction for me too, but these under dressed women are running interference for the study, it seems.

    The article goes downhill quick after this so I won’t embarrass you further. It goes from ‘no duh’ to ‘pointless’ to ‘what does THAT have to do with anything?’

    #10 “Danica Patrick”???

    It’s just another biased article that’s headlines grabbing and draws clicks. Of course it doesn’t mention that men drive that much more miles or that women drive much worse than men and crash at much higher rate than men from 35 years of age and older.

    Not surprisingly, the article did make sure to mention the bad driving of young males.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      If you only count incidents without taking into account total miles driven, men get into many more accidents than women.

      Normalizing statistics to incidents per million miles and deaths per 100 million miles is how the researchers account for men driving 74% more. As I’ve explained a dozen times, already.

      Rinse. Repeat.

      -

      Then again, what do I know? I mean, it’s not like my jobs proofing research studies for our graduate school or doing data analysis for the Car of The Year program actually require me to use statistics at all… (/sarcasm)

      -

      So you trust one biased headline grabbing article off a bunk website over another biased headline grabbing article off of the same website? Do tell.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        You’re on the right track, but you still have it backwards. How does women driving much less miles (and still having a bit more accidents) make them suddenly have much LESS accidents once you normalize and therefor INCREASE the number of miles they drive to match men’s annual miles driven?

        If a women has 5.7 accidents per 100,000 miles, having them drive 174,000 miles somehow DECEASES their average accidents to 3.2 (or something to that effect) vs increasing their total accidents to 9.9???

        • 0 avatar
          niky

          Because, again, you’re confusing the results with the raw data.

          The 5.7 number is the RESULT of multiplying by 1.74. NOT the raw figure from which they got the number.

          Which I’ve explained, again, a dozen times already.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            No, this is the 1st time you went there. And wrong. Where does the 1.74 appear anywhere but this tread? The study is really simple and actually too simple. It gathers groups of men and women to complete the mileage, which is equal mileage, men and women, adds up the accidents and divides by the miles. Of course the miles vary greatly between men and women.

            You finally agree that I’m right, but now you’re reading things into the study that just aren’t there. Please show where you found this.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            I don’t agree with you at all.

            All the statistics show is that women have a slightly greater chance of being involved in an accident that leads to property damage. But all other statistics show that men have a much greater chance of being in an accident that leads to death.

            -

            Where did we start with the 1.74?

            http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/automotive-conspiracy-theories-and-urban-legends/#comment-2028613

            This is the moment where you started to try and apply math without understanding how.

            -

            You’re the one reading things into the study that aren’t there. The study simply states that women, from the time frame given, have a statistical chance of being involved in a crash 5.7 times every million miles. Men have a statistical chance of being involved in a crash 5.1 times every million miles.

            You keep insisting that because men drive 74% more, the statistics for women should be even higher than given. You’re wrong.

            I’ve already explained why.

            -

            Again, I suggest seeking professional help. In the form of a researcher. Because you clearly don’t understand statistics.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Where exactly am I “reading things into the study”? I’m saying it needs one more thing. Reality.

            Here it is again, but from “CrashStuff.com”:

            crashstuff.com/women-vs-men-accident-statistics-who-are-better-drivers-men-or-women/

            “American women drivers were involved in 5.7 crashes per million miles driven. Men’s driver, on the other hand, clocked up just 5.1 crashes per million miles. Given the fact that men drive an expected 74 per cent more miles per year than women, the figure is shocking indeed”

            If you don’t agree with CrashStuff, what about “ScienceDaily.com”:

            sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/06/980618032130.htm

            “When the total numbers of crashes are considered, female drivers are involved in slightly more crashes than men. Overall, men were involved in 5.1 crashes per million miles driven compared to 5.7 crashes for women, despite the fact that on average they drove 74 percent more miles per year than did women.”

            So again you have it totally backwards and misread the study. And then are reading things into it that have never been there.

            No, they took the female’s 1990 crash statistic and divided by the miles they drove in 1990. For every million miles females drove, they had 5.7 accidents. Then they did the same for males.

            At no time did they adjust for the disparity between miles driven by men and women in the study. Just like you’re somehow reading into the study because you want it to be true. That was never part of the program. Just actual accident vs actual miles driven. period.

            Now here’s your statement:

            “women, from the time frame given, have a statistical chance of being involved in a crash 5.7 times every million miles. Men have a statistical chance of being involved in a crash 5.1 times every million miles.

            Do you still not see where you went wrong? OK, you’re normalizing the raw data by comparing the female’s crashes per million female miles driven directly to the male’s without realizing males actually drove 74% more miles in the study.

            You know statistics, but without logic, they’re meaningless.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            So you claim to have logic on your side?

            Both studies point out men are three times as likely to have fatal accidents. In which case, you’ve made the point that women are, in terms of, you know, avoiding death, better drivers.

            But the point still seems lost on you.

            -

            It’s only “shocking” in the sense that with more miles, men SHOULD have more exposure to accidents on a per person basis, but once you normalize that to miles driven, they have less accidents. Slightly. And three times as many fatal accidents.

            -

            It bears mentioning the hackneyed old statistic that most accidents happen within one mile of home. Which would mean that those who make more frequent, shorter, trips, should have more accidents per million miles than those who have longer trips.

            -

            Less driving (women) suggests shorter and more frequent trips to make up those million miles. Which means more exposure to low speed, non fatal accidents. The statistics seem to bear that out.

            More driving (men) suggests longer trips. Longer trips means more exposure to high speed accidents. Yet the research goes on to say the 74% more that men drive only goes partway to explaining the higher fatality rate.

            -

            Of course, I’ve already provided links to more up-to-date materials, but you continue to use the exact same study posted on different websites. None of these articles are analytical and merely parrot the study findings verbatim.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            You’re reading all sorts of crazy stuff into the study that were never studied and definitely never mentioned. The participant didn’t even know they were going to be studied years later. Researchers broke it down to gender, age group and of course, total miles driven for each group. Absolutely no consideration was given to who is the better driver and definitely did not adjusted or alter any stats. If they did that, it wouldn’t paint a true picture about who’s going to crash in a given time frame.

            They just want to know which groups crash how many times and at what mileage interval during a given time frame. If they did adjust for miles driven in real life, men vs women, and thereby increase the the miles of the women in the study, they would crash almost 2X more and throw off the whole study.

            No it’s for the rest of us to look at the data and then consider the much, much less miles women drive to arrive at the fun fact that women would get into almost 2X more accidents than men if they happen to drive the same commute or the same yearly miles.

            The million miles stat doesn’t ever imply that they are in anyway comparable, men vs women, buy just to simplify the raw stats. They would otherwise look something like this:

            9385/402,098,509,805 vs 8928/286,098,509,898

            All the links that agree with me, prove that I’m at least not pulling stuff out from thin air, like you’re doing. I can link you a bunch more if you’d like, but they don’t pull any punches though and call it like it is. Definitely not politically correct, but 100% correct, none the less.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @Niky
            Here are some tactics to use when debating DenverMike.

            1. If he can’t answer a question he will ask you a question related to what the debate is about. He will try and “morph” a debate from its orignal intent.

            2. Don’t respond to his question when he is can’t answer. Always force him to provide proof for any ambiguous comment he makes as he generally can’t substaniate them. He will still try and “tackle” you with questioning to take the debate off course.

            3. Stand your ground with him as he will try and “belittle” you when you don’t respond to his secondary deflective questions. Again ask him for a proof a link etc.

            4. Ignore him.

            Remember when he is “stumped” he will always respond with a question to deflect or morph a debate. Always ask for a link, then read the link as he has provide links to nothing or incorrect info/data.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            I think we know pretty much who won this one, Al. Considering that every time he’s shown that a link he’s cited doesn’t support his claim, he’s torn it apart as being incorrect.

            That he still doesn’t understand what per million miles means simply seals the deal.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    @Niky
    Go to Pickuptrucks.com under News and look at the past 6 weeks and you will see what lengths he goes during debates. Look at my name and you will notice something funny.

    I post under one name. You will be surprised. As not all of the posts are mine.

    He states information as facts, then states it an opinion.

    He’s a weirdo.


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