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Long and the short and the weight of it

2014-12-08 07:07


POSTMAN DAVE: The writer seen in a 1920s Chevy pick-up. No, I wasn’t the first owner. Image: Dave Fall

I delved long and deep into my car reference books [and he has quite a few, Ed.] for this week’s column to find out who manufactured the shortest, cheapest, costliest, longest, oldest, fastest, the heaviest and the lightest vehicles around.

Don’t you hate it when people tell you something and you know darn well they are wrong! It happened to me over the weekend at a year-end Christmas party so I took time to discover some weird and wacky facts for your delectation.

The most expensive car yet made is not the 2014 Bentley Mulsanne (R6 825 000) as you may have thought but Nasa’s Lunar Roving Vehicle. Four were built in 1971 at a total cost of R342-million.


The longest production passenger car ever made was the eight-door, 15-seater, Checker Aerobus at 6.85m. It was built in the 1960’s.

The longest bonnet belongs to the 1930 Bugatti Royale. I’m not sure of the length but it had to accommodate an in-line, eight-cylinder, 12 763cc engine!

The longest road-going two-seater sports car was a special-bodied Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud built for the 1957 British auto show. For some reason it was nicknamed the “Honeymoon Express”.


The shortest car yet made, meanwhile, is the Peel P50, an upright single-seater, three-wheeled bubble car just 1.35m long. It was built from 1962-66 in the UK.

By comparison the idea behind the original Mini was to create a compact car that would carry four people and their luggage. It turned out to be 3.05m long. It was designed by one Alec (later Sir Alec) Issigonis and legend has it that he then asked the mechanical bods to design an engine to fit his car!

They managed by turning it sideways - the engine, that is...

The shortest car made after 1966 was the simply dreadful 1982 Cadillac Cimarron. It was based on the Vauxhall Cavalier.

The fastest car category will most likely be the most interesting to readers. Yes, there is now the Bugatti Veyron – but for a number of years the McLaren F1 was the fastest road car at a phenomenal 384km/h. And that from a car that didn’t even possess ABS brakes!

Go Datsun, GO!

However Ferrari’s latest wonderful creation, the 458 Italia – along with Lamborghini’s Huracán LP610-4 – are claiming potentially ±340km/h performance figures.

In 1903 Britain still had a national speed limit of 20km/h. Times must have been tough at the start of the 20th century because the slowest car ever put into production was the Rytecraft Scootacar in the 1930’s. It crept along, flat-out, at 24km (that also happened to be the top speed of the infamous Sinclair C5 in 1985).

Meanwhile French car company Citroën can claim the slowest four-wheeler, four-stroke car ever. That would be the 2CV, then, with its top speed of 64km/h – and that from a 6.75kW motor.


Power-assisted steering was first seen on a car (Chrysler Imperial) in 1951 while the first anti-lock brakes recorded on a production car were fitted to a Jensen FF.

1940 saw air-conditioning fitted – again American – this time in the Packard Super Eight. Meanwhile, the first turbo was fitted to an Oldsmobile Jetfire. Across the Atlantic in the UK, it was 1976 before British motorists were able to benefit from turbo technology – and only if you could afford a TVR3000M.

Daimler was the first car company to offer a wireless (modern day sound system)  – that was back in 1922. Twelve years later Hillman offered them as standard in the Melody Minx.


The oldest marque question often turns up at “pub nights” so listen up: Daimler is the world’s oldest marque, having been in existence since 1896. AC can lay claim to being the oldest independent car firm.

AC was founded in 1901, although it has had spells during that time when production was suspended. Apart from the basic profile, today’s Land Rover 90 shares nothing with the first models of 1948.

We now come to the heaviest – and lightest. Until well into the 1930’s individual coach-built cars were popular. Larger examples would have included the eight-litre Maybach Zeppelin saloon and the Duesenberg Model J 6.9-litre sedan.

Interestingly, the powerful aluminium 3.5-litre Rover V8 engine in the 1973 MGB GT V8 weighed, astonishingly, 18kg less than the normal iron 1.8 four-cylinder with which the MGB was usually fitted.

Lawrie Bond, designer of the 1948 Bond Minicar, left the suspension out of his tiny 197cc three-wheeler. The seat pads and tyres provided all the cushioning your mother-in-law would ever need!

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