Auto Trivia: Lamborghini began by making tractors

Famed mogul was warned by his friends that switching to sports cars would bankrupt his successful farm equipment and heating/air-conditioning companies.

By Jil McIntosh Wheels.ca

Aug 10, 2012 4 min. read

Article was updated 11 years ago

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Founder Ferruccio Lamborghini had been born on a farm near Modena, Italy, but had a great interest in all things mechanical, and earned an engineering degree from a technical university.

He entered the Second World War as a ground crew member for the air force, but was captured and spent time as a prisoner of war. When the hostilities ended, Italy was in desperate need of farming equipment. In 1946, Lamborghini opened a workshop to make agricultural machinery, getting most of his supplies from surplus military vehicles.

He later added a heating and air conditioning company, and those two ventures made him very wealthy. He owned several sports cars but found fault with all of them, and he wanted to build his own. When his friends told him such a venture would bankrupt him, he decided to find out for himself by taking his cars apart.

What he discovered was that several of their components were similar to those in his tractors, but of course priced many times higher. Realizing from this that it could be profitable, he founded Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini in 1963.

Speedpass saves 30 seconds on average refueling time

Many drivers who regularly gas up at Esso stations (or at Exxon and Mobil in the U.S.) use Speedpass, a small plastic key tag that uses a radio frequency identification system to send payment information to the fuel pump, eliminating the need to swipe a credit card.

The Speedpass was first tested in 1996 at a Wallis Companies convenience store and gas station in Cuba, Missouri, where it shaved 30 seconds off the average fuelling time. Within five years, more than 5 million Americans were using the devices regularly.

Nash also made fridges, so AMCs got air conditioning

Air conditioning was standard equipment on the 1968 AMC Ambassador, which was very unusual considering it was still a pricey option on Cadillac and Lincoln models that cost twice as much.

But such a system was “a natural” for AMC, which had been formed in 1954 through the merger of Nash and Hudson. Nash also owned Kelvinator, an appliance company that made, among other things, refrigerators.

Packard had introduced the first automotive air conditioning on a 1940 model, but it was a huge system that took up much of the trunk, and didn’t do a very good job. Such systems remained bulky, expensive and rare until, the same year it merged with Hudson, Nash introduced the first compact, low-priced a/c system for mass production, paving the way for air conditioning’s eventual adoption by almost all manufacturers.

Sleek bus style and colour gave Greyhound its name

The Greyhound Lines bus company got its start in 1914 when Carl Eric Wickman, a Swedish immigrant, began transporting miners by bus in Minnesota for 15 cents a ride. The following year, he teamed up with Ralph Bogan, who was also running a transit service, and, together, they formed the Mesaba Transportation Company. Their first-year profits were $8,000. Three years later, they would own 18 buses and make $40,000.

They bought their first inter-city buses in 1921, which earned the nickname “greyhound” for their colour and sleek styling. Following a series of mergers and sales, the company officially adopted the Greyhound name and dog logo in 1929.

Canada’s first automobile lost in a barn for 73 years

The vehicle generally believed to be Canada’s first automobile was a steam-powered buggy built in 1867 by Henry Seth Taylor, a watchmaker in Stanstead, Que.

A mechanical tinkerer in his spare time, Taylor took about two years to build the buggy, engaging a local blacksmith to make some of the parts. It broke down on its first official outing, but even when it worked successfully, Taylor couldn’t really interest anyone in it.

He hadn’t put brakes on it, and he lost control on a hill. He took the crashed buggy home and stored it in his barn, where it stayed after his death in 1887.

The farm was sold in 1960 and the steam buggy was found in the loft. It was restored by a collector using the only known photograph ever taken of it and, in 1969, was displayed at the new Ontario Science Centre in Toronto. It now belongs to the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa.
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