According to the rules of the All-American Soap Box Derby, the racing cars had to run by gravity alone. But in 1973, suspicion fell on the winner of the Derby, 14-year-old Jimmy Gronen, when officials noticed that his car mysteriously "surged forward" at the start. Inspection uncovered a powerful electromagnet installed in the nose of his car. A switch behind the headrest activated the electromagnet, attracting it to the metal rod used to hold back the car at the starting line, giving it an initial boost of speed. The cheating scandal shocked the nation. An Ohio prosecutor said, "It's like seeing apple pie, motherhood and the American flag grinding to a halt." [via dailycamera.com]
Where to begin with this long ad? The surrealism of a Corvette on the Bonanza set? The notion that a sexy spy like Napolean Solo would drive a Corvair? The mashup of Bewitched with Bonanza characters, including the ultra-campy Agnes Moorehead? It's a commercial that just keeps on giving in the weirdness department.
License plates may not seem like a product that requires improvement, but Compliance Innovations begs to differ. They've come up with "e-plates" that use an electronic ink display. They cost a lot more than traditional plates — over $100 versus less than $5. However, they allow the DMV or police to remotely change what the license plate displays. So if you're late with your registration payment, "Expired" appears in bright red letters. No state has yet decided to adopt these e-plates, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time. [epoch times]
Occasionally I find myself trying to get into the wrong car in parking lots, because I don't bother to look that closely at the car. If it's the same color and shape as mine, and parked in the same general location, I assume it's mine. But that's not always true. I realize my mistake when the key doesn't fit.
Back in 1985, a case like this occurred. A couple tried to get into a car in a shopping mall parking lot that was the same make, model, and color as their own. But it turned out that the cars had identical keys as well. So they got into the car and drove away. They only realized the mix-up when they noticed that the stuff inside the car wasn't theirs. When they drove back to recover their own car, they found out that the owner of the other car also had the same last name as them. And finally, this all happened on April Fool's Day, but I'm trusting that it happened as reported, since the news report appeared after April 1st. [Bangor Daily News - Apr 3, 1985]
Shortly after production began, however, design flaws became apparent. Although the car was big and heavy, it used a relatively small Austin A55 1.5 litre engine, which limited performance. The A55 also provided the transmission and suspension. Another problem was that the rear wheels were shrouded by body panels and a rear wheel could not be removed (for puncture repair for example) without dropping its axle..... Production of up to 10,000 cars a year was talked about but as few as ten complete cars were produced during the six months before production ceased. After the factory closed, the unused parts were dumped into the local lake, Lough Muckno.
Fritz von Opel was one of those early-20th-century rocket-besotted guys who pioneered this exotic means of propulsion. Just look at his rocket car go in the film clip above! (Narration in German, but not necessary to comprehension.)
But von Opel's innocent excitement had its darker side. I give you the 1929 newspaper article below. Specifically, the enlarged sentence.