Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Trivial matters

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For the past few years, I have been the announcer at the awards ceremony of the Greenwich Concours d'Elegance in Greenwich, Conn.

Usually, as a car rolls in front of the reviewing stand and the driver gets an award, I mention a few facts supplied to me on a small card.

Sometimes, however, the award hand-off takes longer than expected, and I have to ad lib. This is where my vast store of knowledge comes in handy.

Thankfully, or maybe not, my head is filled with such odd bits of trivia.

For example, did you know the term Sunday driver was first coined in the New Yorker? In July 1925, an uncredited article stated "The Sunday painter is to the art-artist what the Sunday driver is to the owner of the Hispano or Rolls-Royce."

Or consider this: The Aston Martin DB is the oldest line of sports cars in the world still produced today. The first DB, the DB1, was introduced in 1948. The second-oldest is -- surprise -- the Chevrolet Corvette, introduced in 1953.

Sometimes, I think such knowledge is more a Mount Trashmore of motorized insignificance than truly important.

I mean, who really cares that Buick was the first car to offer turn signals or that Henry Ford invented the charcoal briquette? Does anyone care, aside from salad lovers, that before it built cars, Peugeot, in 1842, created the pepper mill?

Surely you don't care that John Daniel Hertz and Warren Edward Avis started their rental car empires by offering Fords as rental vehicles, or that Hertz founded Yellow Cab.

Few people know the four rings on the front of an Audi stand for Audi, Horsch, DKW and Wanderer, the four car companies that merged to form Auto Union, the brand's predecessor.

But being an auto writer, I do find such small matters do come in handy -- and not just when ad libbing.

The first time I wrote about the history of the Hampton Roads Auto Show, I discovered that two makes that were at the first show in 1912 survive to this day. They are Ford and Cadillac. If you think that's trivial, consider this: Ford Motor Co., founded in 1903, was Henry Ford's third automobile company. The first, The Detroit Automobile Company, never produced a car. The second one, the Henry Ford Company, was reorganized after Ford's financial backers became frustrated with his work and pushed him out.

The company was renamed Cadillac.

-- The Virginian-Pilot

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 22, 2013 F9

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