Getaway, by Ronald George Eriksen 2 (is the '2' an alternative form of Jr.?), offers instruction on evasive driving techniques. Or, as he says, how to handle a car in the event that someone tries to kill or kidnap you while you're in the car. It was published by Loompanics in 1983, but you can read it for free at archive.org.
In it, you'll find tips such as how to make a smoke screen blow out of your exhaust:
A cheap but effective smoke screen can be made as follows: First drill a hole into the exhaust manifold of your car, and weld the nozzle of a small plant sprayer over it. A gas line is then run from the nozzle to a pump and container containing castor oil inside the vehicle. Clouds of smoke are produced by pumping the castor oil onto the hot exhaust manifold.
Also, how to do a bootlegger's turn:
(1) Speed at around 25-30 mph.
(2) Get off the gas and crank the steering wheel to the left ¼ to ½ of a full turn. At the exact same time, hit the emergency brake hard. Those of you with manual transmissions will have to depress the clutch, also.
(3) When your vehicle is at approximately 90 degrees, release the emergency brake, step on the gas, and straighten out the steering wheel. If you have a manual transmission, you will have to let the clutch back out as you are hitting the gas.
In 1960, the Automobile Legal Association proposed that all drivers should learn a code that would allow them to communicate with each other on the road via honks.
One short honk would mean, 'Left blinker going'. Three short honks would mean, 'A light burned out'. One long honk would mean, 'Get over in the right lane.' And so on.
The Terre Haute Star - Sep 17, 1960
Although the honking code never caught on, the idea of allowing drivers to communicate with each other has persisted. The 21st-century spin on it are the various phone apps (such as bump.com, Driver Talk, or PL8chat) that allow you to send messages to other cars by entering their license plate number. Of course, both drivers have to be signed up with the app for this to work. Which means these apps have, for now, very limited practical use.
Accelerators have inspired a number of weird inventions. For example, a few years ago we posted about the "Deaccelerator" which was a device that aimed to prevent speeding by making it harder to depress the pedal in your car once you reached a pre-set speed (usually 50 mph).
And yet another odd accelerator invention is the whistling accelerator. The idea is that if the accelerator is depressed too rapidly it will produce an annoying whistle. This will remind the driver not to accelerate too quickly, thereby saving gas.
Another whistling accelerator was patented in 2012. Its design was more sophisticated, but it was overall the same idea — accelerate too quickly and the thing starts whistling. The patentees described it as a "vehicle fuel efficiency monitor and signalling device".
Personally, I'm content to drive without any bells or whistles attached to the accelerator.
Firestone came out with radioactive spark plugs in 1940. The idea was that radioactive material (polonium) would improve the electrical conductivity of the spark plugs, resulting in better fuel combustion. More details from the Health Physics Historical Instrumentation Museum:
Other than the slightly improved performance when the plugs were first installed, their benefits were questionable. The short half-life of polonium-210 (138 days) meant that the enhanced performance was only temporary. It also put dealers in the uncomfortable position of having to decide what to do after unsold plugs sat on the shelf for extended periods. Furthermore, the inevitable accumulation of deposits on the surface of the plugs’ electrodes as the vehicle burned fuel would attenuate the alpha particles and prevent them from ionizing the gas.
Second Honeymoon (20th Century Fox, 1937). Spare Tire Cover. Throughout the thirties the studios would offer in their pressbooks what were spare tire covers that would advertise their upcoming feature. This silkscreen cover for the Tyrone Power and Loretta Young romance has elastic bands in back which allow it slip right over the tire that was always visible on the back of the automobiles of that time. Probably the theater owner, ushers, or cab companies would be paid to use these. Very interesting novelty that are often seen in pressbooks but few have survived.
Bohland managed to open a few auto wash bowls. The problem, however, was that his technique only really cleaned the underside of the cars. This was useful back in the days when many roads were still unpaved and their undersides constantly got filthy. But as road conditions improved, the auto wash bowl became less useful. By the 1930s, the last one had closed.
Dickens 44 Bascom is a "glue artist" or "gluer" who rose to prominence in the 1960s. One of his most famous pieces was a 1961 Ford Falcon to which he glued just about everything you could imagine: a typewriter, toilet seat, toys, Donald Duck, and other "relics of our civilization". It was one of the first cars ever decorated in this fashion (perhaps the first). He used to earn money by parking it on a busy street and collecting donations from passersby.
Later he hatched a dream of building an entire castle from glued-together stuff. But, as far as I know, his castle project never came to fruition.
Pittsburgh Press - Mar 3, 1974
According to the Marin Independent Journal, Bascomb left the US in 1981 and lived abroad for almost four decades, in a kind of self-imposed exile, before returning a few years ago. As of 2018, he was living in a motel in San Rafael.
His middle name, "44", was given to him by his father because he was born 44 minutes after 4 am on the 44th day of 1944. (I'm sensing a recurring theme of artists with numbers for middle names, since we recently posted about Nancy 3. Hoffman who operates the Umbrella Cover Museum in Maine).
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.