The ten greatest automotive urban legends

There comes a time in all our lives when we realize half the things people have been telling us about cars is complete bullshit. Jalopnik readers have come to share the ten greatest automotive urban legends, myths, and old wives' tales.


Welcome back to Answers of the Day — our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk

10.) "C'était un Rendezvous"

Suggested By: JonZeke

Why it's great: Claude Lelouche's 1976 film is just about everything you could want in a car film. There's a mysterious male protagonist who never even talks once (Take that Ryan Gosling!), gets the girl at the end, and spends the entire time in between scaring the shit out of Parisian pedestrians and commuter vans.

For years, though, the mysterious side of the film had the car world in a bit of a tizzy. People swore up and down that it was Lelouche's F1 driver friend who was behind the wheel, or that the camera car was a Ferrari 275. In the end, it was Lelouche himself driving a Mercedes 6.9. It may have been a been a busted myth a few years ago, but it was one of the greats.


9.) The $50 Porsche/Corvette

Suggested By: redbadge

Why it's great: This urban legend gets you because it sounds like it could have happened once in the past and is just a story being retold over and over again. There's a husband with a nice car (here in America it's always a Porsche or a Corvette) and he cheats on his wife and leaves her, so she gets her revenge by selling his car for the princely sum of $50. We all dream of finding that perfect deal on a used car, it's why we're on Craigslist for what feels like hours at a time, but this is just too much.


Photo Credit: Peter Orosz


8.) Rolls-Royce perfect clock / mystery mechanic

Suggested By: Kuang

Why it's great: Rolls-Royce may have been trying to hype its reputation as the World's Greatest Car Company when it spawned not one, but two implausible stories about its cars. These have stuck around for ages — even being repeated by people who should know better — in part because people with automotive love affairs really want something like this to be true.


Reader Kuang recounts the stories:

The guy who was so happy with his Rolls Royce that he wrote to them to tell them he was amazed that all he could hear was the clock, so RR sent someone out to replace it with a quieter one.

The Rolls Royce that breaks down on the continent and leaves the owner ringing around to try to find a garage. Nobody can help, but then a large transporter turns up out of nowhere with RR emblems on the doors. The car is covered and loaded and he's dropped at home. The next day the car is returned in perfect working order, so he calls the local dealership to find out who to thank and is told "Oh it can't have been us sir, Rolls Royce cars never break down."


Photo Credit: Alden Jewell


7.) The Chevy No-Go Marketing Fail

Suggested By: Eltigro

Why it's great: While this is less of an urban legend than a popular misconception, there is one great automotive untruth above all the others. Every e-mail-forwarding uncle will tell you about the time Chevrolet made the world's worst marketing goof when it sold the Nova in Spanish-speaking countries. "No va," they tell you, means "no go," so nobody in Latin America bought one. As Snopes explains, this is about as likely as people not buying a "notable" kitchen product because we would read it as "no table." Novas actually sold fine in Spanish-speaking countries, even if many did eventually break down.


Photo Credit: Alden Jewell


6.) The legend of the Black Volga

Suggested By: ShantJ

Why it's great: This one is supposedly comes to us from Poland, Russia, Mongolia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Popular in the 1960s and ‘70s, the story goes that a black Volga limousine drives around and abducts children. Then the driver (alternatively a priest, a nun, a Jew, a vampire, a Satanist, or just plain Satan) either drains the kid's blood to give to a rich Westerner / Arab who has leukemia or extracts the kid's organs for the same reason. I've heard many worn-out druggies tell stories of secret government black helicopters, but I think the former Soviet Bloc got the cooler ghost tales. Read the whole thing at wiki.


Photo Credit: Michał Sacharewicz


5.) Killer testes, bro!

Suggested By: BroCamole!

Why it's great: I'm just going to let BroCamole tell this story, because it is indeed that good. I mean, there's no way in hell it ever happened, but it's a great story, and has just the tiniest bit of technical know-how to convince casual or young car enthusiasts.

This is a really old one dude; bro, I no lie, it's been 'round the net frikin' long.

"(1996) Two local men were seriously injured when their pickup truck left the road and struck a tree near Cotton Patch on state Highway 38 early Monday morning. Woodruff County Deputy Dovey Snyder reported the accident shortly after midnight Monday.

Thurston Poole, 33, of Des Arc, and Billy Ray Wallis, 38, of Little Rock, are listed in serious condition at Baptist Medical Center. The accident occurred as the two men were returning to Des Arc after a frog-giggin' trip.

On an overcast Sunday night, Poole's pickup truck's headlights malfunctioned. The two men concluded that the headlight fuse on the older model truck had burned out. A replacement fuse was not available, but Wallis noticed that the .22 caliber bullet from his pistol fit perfectly into the fuse box next to the steering wheel column. Upon inserting the bullet, the headlights again began to operate properly and the two men proceeded on eastbound toward the White River Bridge.
After traveling approximately 20 miles, just before crossing the river, the bullet apparently overheated, discharged and struck Poole in the right testicle. The vehicle swerved sharply to the right, exiting the pavement and striking a tree. Poole suffered only minor cuts and abrasions from the accident but will require surgery to repair the other wound. Wallis sustained a broken clavicle and was treated and released.

"Thank God we weren't on that bridge when Thurston (shot his intimate parts off) or we might have been dead," stated Wallis. "I've been a trooper for 10 years in this part of the world, but this is a first for me. I can't believe that those two would admit how the accident happened," said Snyder.

Upon being notified of the wreck, Lavinia, Poole's wife, asked how many frogs the boys had caught.

Incorrectly attributed to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 25 July 1996. The Gazette issued a decisive statement denouncing this story as a hoax on October 17, 1997. "


Photo Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images


4.) Cruise Control Fail

Suggested By: finite_elephant

Why it's great: This is another perfect urban legend that depends on misunderstanding of new —or perhaps not-so-new, but misunderstood — technologies. Much as we associate urban legends with old wives tales and the like, it's the modern stories of new tech that are often the most believable and in retrospect, the most amusing. Reaer finite_elephant explains:

Guy buys himself a brand-new full-size conversion van, takes it out on the interstate. Sets the cruise control, goes into the back to get a drink/take a nap/watch TV, and is totally surprised by the resulting rollover.


Photo Credit: Evershed Mattingly


3.) Hi-beam gang killing

Suggested By: rawtoast

Why it's great: This is apparently a popular myth (though one I'd never heard before) that if you're driving along and you flash your high beams at another car with its high beams on THEY WILL TURN AROUND AND MURDER YOU. Yes, people actually believe this. The claim is that it's some kind of gang initiation, and it's usually retold by someone's friend's coworker's friend, or some other person just on the edge of believability. If you want the full story, here's the link to Snopes.


Photo Credit: Carsten Karl


2.) The 100 mpg Carburetor

Suggested By: ChiefPontiaxe

Why it's great: This urban legend certainly gets some props for being the oldest one on the list, as it got its start sometime around 1930, give or take a few years. The story goes that an unrecognized but brilliant engineer / mechanic discovers a new kind of carburetor that gives 100 mpg (or 200, or 300, depending on the eagerness of the storyteller) but the establishment, in the form of Detroit, holds the man and his brilliance down. It's a great story of common man genius getting beaten by "the Man" and it's one of my favorites. Here's the whole debunking at Snopes.


Photo Credit: Dennis Yang

1.) The JATO-powered car

Suggested By: CoffeeJedi

Why it's great: Another tale of down-home genius gets a Darwin Awards twist in this urban legend. The story goes that some enterprising man affiliated with the Air Force get his hands on a Jet Assisted Take-Off rocket or two and straps it to his hoopty to do a top-speed run out in the desert. Things go wrong (surprise!) in the form of the rocket being so much more powerful than expected that the car literally takes off into the air and flies into the side of a cliff, exploding with such force as to leave a crater in the rock. The physics might be completely wrong, as Mythbusters are happy to demonstrate, but it's the whole spirit of everyday ingenuity gone wrong that makes this urban legend so great. That, and it has explosions.

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