CLOSE
Original image

5 Cars That Became Metaphors (deserved or not)

Original image

1. Edsel= Failure

The Ford Edsel has become a metaphor for commercial marketing failure. It was manufactured from 1958 til 1960. The failure of the Edsel brand is attributed to a combination of factors: an overhyped premiere, the perceived high price, an economic recession in 1957, ambiguous consumer targeting, the consumer shift toward smaller, fuel-efficient cars, and the perception of the car and its name as "ugly." Future Secretary of Defense Robert McNamera, a Ford executive at the time, changed the Edsel design and slashed its advertising budget, eventually burying the program. Due to its commercial failure, the Edsel was perceived for a time as a "lemon", but the car was as well-built as its contemporaries at Ford. The brand lost money, the equivalent of $2 billion in today's dollars, but the Edsel didn't damage Ford's overall profits.

2. Corvair=Unsafe
435_1960 Corvair.jpg

The Chevrolet Corvair was produced from 1960 to 1969, in response to the public's demand for smaller cars (the demand that helped derail the Edsel). The car (avialable in several models) was a sales success, selling over 200,000 units its first few years. In 1965, a little-known consumer advocate named Ralph Nader published a book entitled Unsafe at Any Speed. The book charged the American automobile industry with active resistance to the incorporation of safety features in cars, such as seat belts. The Corvair was only mentioned in one chapter of the book, but its reputation and sales slumped as a result. GM improved its design after the book was published, but also investigated and harassed Nader, who later sued. Only 6.000 Corvairs were produced for 1969, the last model year.

In what may be the automotive industry's greatest irony, NHTSA, the federal agency created from Nader's "consumer advocacy," investigated the Corvair and issued a report in 1971 clearing the car's design, two years after the car went out of production.

3. Pinto=Volatile
435_1971 Ford Pinto_jpg.jpg

The Ford Pinto had a tendency to explode. Forbes Magazine included it in their list of the Worst Cars of All Time. Two million Pintos were sold between 1971 and 1980, and 27 people died when the gas tanks ignited in rear-end collisions. The magazine Mother Jones wrote an expose on the Pinto in 1977. The real scandal stemmed from the Pinto Memo, which calculated the cost of fixing the known design problems in the fuel tank area at $121 million, versus the cost of projected lawsuits, estimated at $50 million. The Pinto's reputation became so bad that it is used in pop culture as a reference for something ready to explode. In the movie Speed, Sandra Bullock's character was asked if she could drive a bus filled with explosives. She replied, "Oh sure, it's just like driving a really big Pinto."

4. DeLorean=Overhyped
435_DeLorean.jpg

The DeLorean has such a wild story that it became more than one metaphor. Built from 1981 to 1983, it was the dream project of John Z. DeLorean. A Detroit native and engineer and executive at GM, DeLorean founded the DeLorean Motor Company with the help of high-profile investors and huge financial incentives to build his factory in Northern Ireland. Only 3,000 of the strange-looking and expensive cars sold the first year, nowhere near DeLorean's projections. Trying to pull the company out of British government receivership, DeLorean became involved in a cocaine-smuggling scheme and was arrested in 1982. He was eventually found not guilty due to entrapment, but the damage to his reputation, and to his car, was already done.

260delorean.jpgThe car starred in the Back to the Future movies as a time machine. The DeLorean was chosen because it looks like a UFO. In the first film, Doc said he used it because it was stylish, but Marty was puzzled at the choice because the car was a commercial flop. Around 6,000 DeLorean models survive today, and you can get one for less than its 1981 selling price of $26,000. Parts are hard to find.

Update: Two sources of DeLorean parts (from the comments) are DeLorean Motor Company (Texas) and DeLorean Car Show.

5. Yugo=Shoddy
435_yugo.jpg

The Yugo was sold in the United States from 1984 to 1992. Priced under $4,000 at its US debut, the car sold very well until UN sanctions against Yugoslavia forced the end of the import program. The Yugos manufactured for export to the US had higher standards than those for domestic use, but the Yugo still gained a reputation for shoddy construction and unreliability, earning Car Talk's Worst Car of the Millenium survey. The Yugo is still sold today in the former Yugoslavia under its European name, Zastava Koral.

Could you suggest other cars that could be metaphors?

Original image
IMAGE CREDIT: David Prasad, Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0
arrow
Space
Space Fanatics Are Paying Top Dollar to Fly Through the Eclipse
Original image
IMAGE CREDIT: David Prasad, Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

A spectacular solar eclipse is coming soon. While the rest of us suckers will be gazing, awestruck, from the ground (except for the winner of this contest), a small group of space enthusiasts will take a more proactive approach, chartering jets to fly directly into the path of the moon’s shadow.

Barring bad weather, the August 21 eclipse should be visible from everywhere in the continental United States. But for some people, "visible" is just not good enough. Teams of astronomers are sending balloon cams up to livestream the spectacle from the sky. Others will use plane-mounted telescopes to get an extremely rare glimpse of the happenings on the surface of the Sun and Mercury. Elsewhere, diehard eclipse lovers will board specially chartered flights for the sole purpose of spending a little more time in the all-consuming darkness.

"A total solar eclipse is one of nature's most awesome events," Sky & Telescope editor Kelly Beatty told Business Insider. "Anyone who's seen one knows that.” But from the air, Beatty said, “The sky is that much clearer and that much blacker. And that makes the corona that much brighter and more electric. It's really an electric-looking phenomenon."

The jets are small and the demand is high, which means a single seat can easily cost $10,000 or more. At most, the flight will buy passengers a few extra minutes in the dark.

Those who’ve done it before say the trip is worth every penny.

“I have no intention of ever missing an eclipse for the rest of my life. I don't care where it is, even in the remotest area of the Earth," said passenger Craig Small. "I have to be there, I will be there."

Co-passenger Joel Moskowitz agreed.

"When you see one, you want to see more,” he said. “You get hooked. Seeing the corona during totality is better than sex."

[h/t Business Insider]

Original image
iStock
arrow
Lists
10 Fascinating Facts About Airplane Bathrooms
Original image
iStock

Even if you only fly first class, there’s no getting around the fact that moving your bowels at 36,000 feet is a bit of an ordeal. Airplane lavatories are cramped, turbulence can unseat you, and the line of people waiting just outside the flimsy door can make it difficult to relax.

Despite these drawbacks, airplane lavatories used to be much, much worse. Take a look at 10 facts we’ve uncovered about the past, present, and future of turds on the tarmac.

1. PASSENGERS USED TO CRAP IN BOXES.

 An open cardboard box sits empty
iStock

No matter how boorish your seatmate might be or how loud the wail of the child behind you, be thankful you weren’t one of the earliest pilots or passengers during the aviation explosion of the 1930s and 1940s. Without tanks or separate bathroom compartments, anyone in flight would have make do with pooping in buckets or boxes that would sometimes overflow due to turbulence, splattering poop on the interior; some pilots peed into their shoes or through a hole in the cockpit floor. The first removable bowls were seen at the end of the 1930s, with crew members having to come and empty them out after landing. Removable tanks followed in the 1940s. 

2. THE BRITISH POOPED RIGHT INTO THE SKY.

In 1937, a “flying boat” dubbed the Supermarine Stranraer was put into service by Britain’s Royal Air Force. It didn’t take long for the craft to earn a nickname, the “whistling sh-t House,” owing to one curious design choice: The toilet onboard had no tank or reservoir and opened up to the sky below. If the lid remained open, the passing air would prompt the plane to make a whistling noise.

3. CHARLES LINDBERGH PEED ON FRANCE.

A photo of aviator Charles Lindbergh
Central Press/Getty Images

Famous aviator Charles Lindbergh completed his transatlantic flight from New York to Paris in 1927 and met with King George V shortly after touching down. The 33-hour flight led him to ask Lindbergh how he had managed his bodily demands during that time; Lindbergh replied that he had peed into an aluminum container and then dropped it while flying over France.

4. FALLING FROZEN POOP WAS A BIG PROBLEM IN THE ‘80S.

As aviation become more sophisticated, toilets went from merely trying to contain poop to actively trying to fight germs with Anotec, the brand name for the “blue liquid” found in freestanding bowls. Unfortunately, the tanks housing the liquid and the waste were sometimes prone to leakage in the air, prompting giant biohazards to freeze on the hull of planes and then break away as the aircraft began its descent. The apocalyptic poop balls reportedly smashed cars and roofs before Boeing and other manufacturers adopted the vacuum system still in use today.

5. THERE'S BEEN ONE CASE OF CATASTROPHIC GENITAL INJURY.

A look at the interior of a cramped airplane bathroom
iStock

The current pneumatic vacuum system toilets use pressure to siphon waste from the bowl without using much liquid, which keeps the plane from having to carry the additional weight of waste water in the sky. The noise of the violent suction can be unsettling, but it’s rare you’d actually be in any danger. Rare, but not impossible.

An article in the Journal of Travel Medicine in July 2006 [PDF] reported one case of misadventure due to an airplane toilet. A 37-year-old woman flushed while still seated and created a seal, trapping her on the commode. After being freed by flight attendants, she was examined by doctors and was found to have a labial laceration that resulted in “substantial” blood loss. She was treated and recovered fully.

6. THERE’S A TRICK TO AVOID STINKING UP THE PLANE.

No one wants to be the person who exits a lavatory having polluted the pressurized cabin with a foul odor. According to an ex-flight attendant named Erika Roth, asking an employee for a bag of coffee grounds and then hanging them in the bathroom can help absorb any odors produced by your activities.

7. AIRBUS TOILETS CAN REACH POOP SPEEDS OF 130 MPH.

Dubbed the “Formula 1” of airplane toilets, certain Airbus models circa 2007 could produce unbelievable suctioning power. In a demonstration for a journalist (above), their A380 model could move sewage at speeds of 130 miles per hour. The speeds are necessary when bathroom waste needs to travel the length of the passenger cabin to the sewage tanks in the back.

8. THEY’RE GETTING SMALLER.

Already short on space, airplane lavatories might become even more cramped in the future. A 2017 report by Condé Nast Traveler indicated that as older planes are taken out of service, newer-model passenger planes are coming in with modified bathrooms that are up to two inches smaller in width and depth. Industry observers believe the shrinking bathrooms could pose problems for people with disabilities, pregnant women, and those who need to accompany their child into the bathroom.

9. BOEING MIGHT HAVE PERFECTED THE AIRPLANE POOP EXPERIENCE.

A glimpse at Boeing's new UV-equipped sanitized bathroom
Boeing

In 2016, the aeronautics company announced a possible solution to the germ-infested poop closets found on planes. Their self-cleaning lavatory uses ultraviolet light to kill 99.9 percent of all surface bacteria. The light would be activated between occupancies to sanitize the space for travelers. Boeing also envisions this lavatory of the future to be touchless, with a self-activating seat and sink.

10. THERE’S A REASON THEY STILL HAVE ASHTRAYS.

Ever wonder why airplane bathrooms have ashtrays built into the wall or door even though smoking is banned on virtually all flights? Because federal regulations still require them. The thinking is that someone sneaking a smoke will still need a place to put it out, and the risk of fire is reduced if they have a proper receptacle.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios