25 Little Known Facts about Classic Cars

By: Steven Symes
Image: Saabkyle04

About This Quiz

Everyone knows a thing or two about classic cars, especially if you've been alive very long. After all, the car you learned to drive with might today be remembered as a true classic, even though at the time you didn't think too much about it. 

What exactly is a classic car? There's no definitive definition, but most people would agree it's something from well into the past that is special, even when compared to other vehicles from the era. Of course, "special" is a term that will mean different things to different people. In other words, what one person considers a classic, others might think is a jalopy. 

The fact is that vehicles shape society and are shaped by society. The cars we drive have impacted how we live in innumerable ways. They also reflect the values we had as a society at a certain time. By studying classic cars from the past, you gain greater insight into what people were like in say, the 1950s in the United States, 1970s Italy, or 1920s Britain. 

Just how much do you know about the classics? See how many of these little-known facts you know by taking the quiz right now! 

What was the BMW 2002 the predecessor to?

Before the 3 Series, BMW made a huge splash with the 2002, which provided drivers with a comfortable, yet sporting experience, and was practical as a family vehicle.

What was different about the BMW 2002 tii?

Thanks to the use of fuel injection, power for the BMW 2002 rose from 100 horsepower for the base version to 130 horsepower for the tii. Even more potent was the Turbo model, which pushed a mighty 170 horsepower.

When did Ford start developing the Thunderbird?

Ford decided to move forward with creating the Thunderbird in direct response to the Chevy Corvette hitting the automotive scene at the GM Motorama held in New York.

What car did Ford use as a template for the layout of the Thunderbird?

Just like what Chevy did with the Corvette, Ford mimicked the XK120's 102-inch wheelbase, as well as the long nose and short tail of the British car, which was considered highly luxurious and stylish.

What was the alternate name for the first Corvette concept?

While EX-122 was how the car was referred to by some within GM, fortunately top brass realized the Corvette name was more appealing to military veterans, who were the target market for the car.

What special thing did a line worker do with the last Studebaker Avanti to be made by the company?

W.H. Benett Sr. included a hand-written note to let the future owner of the car know it was indeed the last Avanti made by Studebaker, and to wish the owner a Happy New Year since the note was written on New Year's Eve 1963.

Who made a small number of Avantis after Studebaker officially ceased production?

Nate Altman and Leo Newman bought the plant and tooling, as well as the Avanti name from Studebaker. The were the first in a line of people who kept making replica cars and even new designs using the Avanti name into the 21st century.

What did Ford ultimately do about the Pinto gas tanks?

Ford knew about the gas tank vulnerability on the Pinto, but most people today think it never fixed the issue. Of course, the shielding for the fuel tank and reinforcements around the filler neck wasn't an expensive or difficult fix, so you could safely drive a Pinto with the upgrades that were deployed in 1978.

What would it have cost Ford to fix each individual Pinto before they were shipped to dealers?

For a mere $11 per vehicle, Ford could have fixed a problem it knew about with the Pinto before any were shipped to dealers, but decided the risk was worth getting the cars on the market that much earlier. It was an epic mistake.

Who claimed the Chevy Corvair was "unsafe at any speed"?

Back in 1965, Ralph Nader published the book, "Unsafe At Any Speed," which claimed GM tried to cover up the fact that the Corvair was fundamentally a dangerous car because of inferior design. Production of the vehicle stopped after the 1969 model year.

What was supposedly so dangerous about the Corvair?

As a rear-engine and rear-wheel-drive car, the Corvair's rear suspension was especially important. It had a semi-independent, swing-axle design Nader and others claimed made the vehicle difficult to control, mirroring designs used by Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, and others at the time.

The Mustang was the first car that Ford marketed to what important demographic?

Before the Mustang, Ford didn't really try to sell cars to women. After World War II, more women were working professional jobs, and Ford realized it could sell a practical yet fun car to them as well as men.

Where did Pontiac get the name for the GTO?

While it would be inconceivable today, back in day GM employee John DeLorean thought nothing of lifting the name for its new car from the Ferrari 250 GTO, which stood for Grand Turismo Omologato. The Pontiac was hardly a homologated grand tourer.

From where did the Nissan Fairlady Z get its name?

Katsuji Kawamata, who was president of Nissan, was in the U.S. when he saw "My Fair Lady" on Broadway and was smitten. deciding the name could bring popularity to the company's new sports car.

What factor spurned the creation of the first Mini?

Sir Leonard Lord of the Morris Company wanted to build a fuel-efficient car that could fit four adults comfortably but was affordable for the average Brit. His top engineer realized that by pushing the wheels to the corners and turning the engine sideways, he could accomplish those goals. The rest is history.

What was Hitler's involvement with the design of the Volkswagen Beetle?

Hitler was an egomaniac, and unfortunately, people have believed he designed the Beetle. He did throw his support behind making the car, and even drew a sketch of what he thought it should look like, but it more closely resembled a Fiat 500. Ferdinand Porsche and others actually designed the car, which was patterned after other rear-engine models of the time.

What was the name of the 1959 Chevy Impala's trunk lid?

When Chevy made the Impala it's own line, the car got a complete makeover. The bat wing lid was distinct, along with eye teardrop taillights, front eyebrow air intakes, and an even longer body.

What established automaker was directly tied to the development of the DeLorean?

Lotus engineers helped create the DeLorean, using the Esprit chassis as the basis for the new car. They also designed the car's iconic design, which also featured an overall wedge shape.

What company made the first Skyline model?

The Prince Motor Company Skyline was nothing like what we know today because it was a luxury sedan. It wasn't until three years after Nissan acquired the other Japanese automaker that it turned the sedan into a performance vehicle.

Where was the gas tank located on the Willys MB and Ford GPW Jeeps?

Putting the gas tank under the driver gave enemy snipers fewer chances to stop a Jeep because they couldn't choose to hit either the fuel tank or the driver, which turned out to be a genius design.

Where did the Ferrari Dino names come from?

The Dino name came from Enzo Ferrari's son, while the three-number designations for each model were the number of liters the engine displaced, plus the number of cylinders. For example, the Dino 246 had a 2.4-liter 6-cylinder engine.

What did the "SL" stand for on the first Mercedes-Benz SL-Class?

Not only was the SL the first sport lightweight model from the brand, those gullwing doors and the use of electronic fuel injection made it quite the exciting car.

What important automotive innovation was introduced in the Duesenberg Model A?

Stopping old cars was dicey business, but we can thank the Duesenberg brothers for introducing the concept of four-wheel hydraulic brakes, a technology they never patented, but one that likely would have saved the brand from collapse.

What car was the Toyota 2000GT originally supposed to be?

Yamaha had been working with Nissan on updating the Fairlady Z in the early 1960s, but Nissan didn't like the design. Yamaha was able to successfully pitch the design to Toyota, which used it to create the company's first supercar.

What was the inspiration for the Series 1 Land Rover Defender?

During World War II, England saw more than its fair share of the original Willys and Ford Jeeps. Inspired by their design, Maurice Wilks decided to build a similar truck for the European market.

Why were Hudson Hornets known as "Step-Down Line" cars?

With the lower design and lower center of gravity, the Hudson Hornet boasted better handling than rivals, which made it quite the proficient racer back in the day.

What did Ferruccio Lamborghini think of the Countach?

Even though engineers and others in the company loved it, Mr. Lamborghini only agreed to build the Countach because he lost a bet. He sincerely didn't think the car would be a success.

From where did Mazda get the alternate name for the RX-2?

It was known as the Capella in some markets, which was the name of an African Antelope,

What "first" does the AMC Eagle rightfully have claim to?

Even though Subaru has tried to lay claim to this first, the Eagle featured early all-wheel drive and could be had as a raised wagon, making it popular with people who lived where snow was common.

What prestigious art museum has a Jaguar E-Type in its collection?

Many people point to this unique honor, which only a handful of cars have ever enjoyed, as evidence of the aesthetic beauty of the E-Type.

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