These Are Your Favorite Automotive Urban Legends

These Are Your Favorite Automotive Urban Legends

You all know a lot about Chrysler history, don't you?

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Photo: Greg Gjerdingen from Willmar, USA, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Who doesn’t love a good urban legend? The proximity to truth, even if never proven, makes them tantalizing — you know something, something other people don’t, and something that someone may not want you to know. It’s exhilarating. Yesterday, we asked you for your favorite automotive urban legends, and you had a lot of stories to tell. Here are some of the best.

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2 / 17

Embarrassment Over the ME Four Twelve

Embarrassment Over the ME Four Twelve

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Photo: pingping from San Francisco, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

TLDR: Mercedes-Benz killed the Chrysler ME 4-12 concept car off just before it reached production because their executives were pissy that simple American engineers could use Mercedes parts to build a better supercar than Mercedes themselves could.

When Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz merged at the turn of this century, the Germans wanted to see what the Americans were made of so they gave them open access to Mercedes’ resources and a more-or-less blank cheque to develop a supercar in a very limited window of time.

Over the span of less than a year, a team of just 11 people, who mostly comprised of the then-new SRT team, came up with the Chrysler ME Four-Twelve: a mid engine supercar made of aluminum and carbon fiber utilizing a heavily modified Mercedes V12 with 4 turbochargers. The thing made 850 horsepower, weighed under 2900 pounds, used a 7 speed DCT, would run the 1/4 mile in 10.6 seconds at 136mph and had a top speed of 248mph. *In 2004.* At the time it would have been the fastest and most powerful production car ever, eclipsed by the Veyron shortly after.

“But, Cody,” I can hear you saying, “it was just a concept car, they could make whatever claims they wanted, they weren’t going to build it!” Ah, my little personal strawman, that isn’t entirely correct. This is where the urban legend part starts. See, Mercedes actually intended for the ME 4-12 to go into production. They thought it would be amusing to see the Americans struggle through building a proper European style supercar, and weren’t expecting great things. They allegedly told the SRT skunkworks team to have a production ready car by mid 2004, it was to be symbolic of their merging and, as far as everyone on the project was aware at the time, they were working on something that they believed would be going into production.

The legend is that when Chrysler delivered the final, production-ready prototype, it was so good that it offended the Mercedes execs. From their perspective, they were a master artisan giving a toddler a set of lego blocks, leaving them alone for the afternoon then returning to find a perfect 1:1 recreation of Michelangelo’s David made entirely of lego sitting in their foyer. Not only was the ME 4-12 objectively better than any car Mercedes themselves could push into production, it was very possibly setting out to be one of the greatest supercars of all time. They didn’t want the Americans showing them up, especially using Mercedes parts, so they ended up cancelling the project. The official reasons given were more like “it was too expensive” but the urban legend is that Mercedes killed one of the greatest cars of all time while it was still in the womb because their execs were insecure about how good it was.

This sounds like the kind of story that Chrysler engineers really want to be true, moreso than the kind of story that is true. If anyone knows where to pick up that Lego Statue of David kit, though, let me know.

Submitted by: Cody Stewart

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3 / 17

Water in the Block (For Good Reason)

Water in the Block (For Good Reason)

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Photo: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=294315

Engine working on water. They killed the last guy who made that happened...

Whether or not the United States government assassinated Stanley Meyer on March 21, 1998 at the behest of fossil fuel executives who feared for their continued profits in the face of new technology that made them obsolete is still a topic of debate to this day. What do you think?

Submitted by: minardi

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4 / 17

To -Er Is Human

To -Er Is Human

Image for article titled These Are Your Favorite Automotive Urban Legends
Photo: Greg Gjerdingen from Willmar, USA, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Carmakers sometimes use patterns in how they name their vehicles—Ford with names beginning with “F” designating most of its cars (when they built cars) and “E” for their SUVs.

So here’s the ChryslER family of products where names ending with “-er” happen a lot more frequently than coincidence would surely dictate:

Viper

Challenger

Charger

Avenger

Prowler

PT Cruiser

Road Runner

New Yorker

Voyager

Laser

Lancer

Adventurer

Raider

Crusader

I’ve never found any proof that the suits at Chrysler set out to follow the “-er” pattern, but all those names sure lead me to believe there was a de facto edict there.

There are of course a wealth of Chrysler names that don’t include the -er suffix, so this may not be a mandate. Whether or not the suits err on the side of -er names when given the choice, however, is more up for debate.

Submitted by: the 1969 Dodge Charger Guy

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No Go

Image for article titled These Are Your Favorite Automotive Urban Legends
Photo: Raul Gonzalez from Chile;cropped and lightly adjusted by uploader Mr.choppers, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

That the Chevy Nova didn’t sell in Mexico because the name means “no go” in Spanish. This myth comes up in business school textbooks as a cautionary tale about not doing enough research when moving into a new market. It’s a stretch to say that Spanish-speakers would read “nova” as “no va”, which is an awkward phrasing for a car that won’t run. And the Nova sold fine in Mexico, and out-performed GM projections in Venezuela.

I remember hearing this anecdote in Business College as a reason you should always hire localization experts when entering new markets. Sure, the lecturer also mentioned that the Nova sold totally fine, but it was the thought that counted.

Submitted by: Lark Hawk

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6 / 17

That’s the End of the Fifth Generation, Mind You

That’s the End of the Fifth Generation, Mind You

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Photo: Raymond Wambsgans from Akron Ohio, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

My favorite rumor was back when Dodge said they were going to discontinue the Viper back in 2017, and to this day, everyone still says, even FCA apparently, it was because of low sales.

1992-2017 is 25 years and with 25,000 units sold, that’s like 1,000 units a year. Some years had less than 1,000..... and that included the first gen, the 2008's-2010's, and the whole 5th generation (which still outsold the 4th generations every year of production).

The actual reason? 2018 had side curtain airbag regulations the Viper was never built for. The redesign was gonna be pricey. Too pricey, in fact, since SRT would’ve redone the whole chassis to just make the Viper feel the exact same. Even if they sold 2,000 units, it was still going to be quite expensive.

Adding an airbag may not sound like a big deal, but it could’ve meant major alterations to the interior of the Viper’s roof — and possible relocating of other interior components to make room. You don’t really want your head inside an airbag when it goes off

Submitted by: T2400

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7 / 17

It’s Got a Cop Engine

It’s Got a Cop Engine

Cop cars may not be faster than their civilian counterparts, but they do get to park in a lane of traffic facing the wrong way, messing up the roads for blocks in every direction, without fear of penalty
Cop cars may not be faster than their civilian counterparts, but they do get to park in a lane of traffic facing the wrong way, messing up the roads for blocks in every direction, without fear of penalty
Photo: Steve DaSilva

Still to this day, there are far too many people who think that cop cars are faster than their stock counterparts. Including actual cops.

“It’s chipped, it can do like 200 mph”

“So you’re telling me a vehicle that starts at 2 tons dry, with 1,000 extra pounds of gear, ballistic protection, and heavy-duty upgrades, driven by a fat deputy, can outrun a GT500 making 760hp?”

“It has a special diff. Like better gearing.”

This is another point towards Tokyo Drift superiority. “Police cars here are only factory tuned, if you can do better than 180k they can’t catch you.

Submitted by: dbeach84

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8 / 17

Those Dang Gangs

Those Dang Gangs

Image for article titled These Are Your Favorite Automotive Urban Legends
Photo: AMISOM Public Information, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Don’t flash your headlights at oncoming cars with their lights off at night ‘cause they’ll turn around and kill you.

This one is also my mom’s favorite myth: New gang members, aiming to become Made Men or something, drive around with their headlights turned off at night to lure unsuspecting good samaritans to their death. Even in some kind of murder-mandating gang, why go through all those hoops?

Submitted by: 900turbo

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9 / 17

The Turbinator

The Turbinator

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Photo: CZmarlin — Christopher Ziemnowicz, releases all rights but a photo credit would be appreciated if this image is used anywhere other than Wikipedia. Please leave a note at Wikipedia here. Thank you!, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Years ago, my wife and I went on a day trip and ended up at a place that sold super expensive rugs. I chatted with the dad of the owners, who was a retired Chrysler Engineer. He had started with the non-selected Chrysler Saturn V version and moved on to work on the Superbird program. Then he got moved into the Turbine Car program.

He claimed that in 1975, they had a car ready for production in 1980 and had started planning to adapt factories to mass produce the turbine powered car. He said that the prototype full sized car was getting 30-40 mpg and was going 1 million+ miles without any failures in testing.

But when the bailout happened in 1979, the US sent people to Chrysler to determine which programs to keep and which to kill. These people saw the massive amount of money Chrysler had spent on the Turbine car development since the 60s and said “this thing will never sell” and kill it, even though the car was fully developed and many of the machines needed to mass produce it had already been ordered and partially built.

No idea if the mass production was as close as he said it was, or if it was going to stay “5 more years” away like it had been for so long.

I’m inclined to believe this one, simply because it sounds precisely like how executives think. Always cost cutting, never seeing potential revenue.

Submitted by: hoser68

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10 / 17

One Has to Wonder if They Can Be Replicated

One Has to Wonder if They Can Be Replicated

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Photo: Jonrev at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Located at the intersection of “Fiero” and “legend” is Smokey Yunick’s “hot vapor” engine.

50 mpg and 250hp (100hp/L) would be good today, let alone in 1984.

The Fiero (and other implementations of his “hot vapor” engines) purportedly still exist, but no modern test results have been published.

Smokey Yunick was an absolute genius. Most of his exploits are well-documented. The hot vapor engine is no exception. What makes one question the veracity of the engine’s performance is Smokey’s penchant for cheating. Smokey Yunick would totally have created VW’s dieselgate software if he was around for it.

No one has replicated his results in the 38 years since, despite the expired patents being readily accessible.

When a known cheater claims to have completely legitimately designed an engine that’s forty years ahead of its time, you have to start asking some questions. Questions like “Is this an outright lie?” might be a good place to start.

Submitted by: smalleyxb122

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11 / 17

Edstolen

Edstolen

Image for article titled These Are Your Favorite Automotive Urban Legends
Photo: GPS 56 from New Zealand, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

I heard this one from an older gentleman at a Ford Thunderbird club meeting back in the late ‘80s:

Packard was in dire straits in the mid 1950s and at one point approached The Ford Motor Company to inquire about sourcing chassis and engines for their upcoming 1957 models in an attempt to replace their outdated models.

The deal with Ford fell through, Packard merged with Studebaker and the rest is, unfortunately, history.

However... Packard had shown Ford some styling proposals for the ‘57 models, and since Packard would no longer be building large cars, Ford tweeked the styling of the Packard proposals and VOILA!! 1958 Edsel.

Back in the day, all the cool kids were stealing car designs from each other. Toyotas were abandoned Nissan prototypes, a Hyundai became the DeLorean. Who’s to say Ford didn’t steal from Packard?

Submitted by: Earthbound Misfit I

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12 / 17

It’s Not That Complicated

It’s Not That Complicated

Image for article titled These Are Your Favorite Automotive Urban Legends
Photo: Calreyn88, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Probably all the incorrect mythos as to why the Skyline GT-R was never sold in the US. Whether it be because it was too fast for American police cars to keep up or wouldn’t pass emissions because of it’s big, beefy turbocharged motor (partially true), it was actually to do with Japan never intending to comply with US regulations on emissions and safety. Less dramatic of a reason everyone makes it out to be which I have always found to be amusing.

It’s rare that there’s some elaborate ploy not to bring a car to the U.S., and much more common that manufacturers just don’t want to deal with our differing safety and emissions regulations. Sometimes the truth is less strange than fiction.

Submitted by: Doug

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13 / 17

The Progenitor and the Reef

The Progenitor and the Reef

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Photo: Tokumeigakarinoaoshima, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

My favorite one that has never been proven (and likely never will be) is the Subaru 360. They were an abysmal failure and were literally given away at dealerships if you came in and bought a different car, but the rumor is that several of them were dumped in the ocean after years of being unable to give them away. Seems ridiculous, but the ET video game landfill turned out to be true, so it’s plausible.

I don’t see any reason why you can’t make an artificial reef out of cars. Subaru was just getting on its environmental commitment really, really early. By accident. Still counts, though.

Submitted by: BigRed91

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14 / 17

Hauls Plywood And Ass

Hauls Plywood And Ass

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Photo: dave_7 from Lethbridge, Canada, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Killed off because it was too good and was faster then a corvette you say?

Ok, guess it is one of those days. I tried 8 different pictures and none would upload... Anyway, the GMC Syclone/Typhoon.

Urban legends....Urban legends....Oh, I had an Acura Legend.

The Sycolne/Typhoon may not have been faster than the contemporary Vette, but it wasn’t really slower either. It was the original Escalade-V, if you think about it.

Submitted by: 2nd Gear Start

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15 / 17

No Shoes No Service

No Shoes No Service

I will not consider myself to have made it until search results start showing up here
I will not consider myself to have made it until search results start showing up here
Screenshot: WikiFeet

That it’s illegal to drive barefoot.

Driving barefoot isn’t illegal, but it’s certainly uncomfortable. Pedals just do not feel right against the bare sole of your foot, there’s something skeevy about them.

Submitted by: COMTNDRVR

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16 / 17

Killed Off For Real

Killed Off For Real

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Photo: Mr.choppers, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

I think there is some partial truth to the legend about the Fiero—but not the standard or GT variants, but the V-6 Turbo Fiero, which never made it to market.

I’m glad GM never made a turbo V6 Fiero. The temptation to buy a GT is bad enough as it is, I don’t know if I’d be able to hold out against one that made whoosh noises.

Submitted by: pFfft

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