How fast does Santa need to travel?

You Auto Know is a regular feature that examines auto-related facts and fiction, busts some common car myths and checks out weird and wonderful tidbits such as little-known trivia about the automotive industry.

Did you know …

• Santa has 31 hours to do his job on Christmas, thanks to different time zones around the world? To travel around the world’s 122 million kilometres in that time, that means Santa’s sleigh has to move at a mind-blowing 1,047 km persecond– 3,000 times the speed of sound!

• Santa has to travel with a lot of cargo: Assuming each child gets two pounds worth of gifts, Santa’s payload amounts to an astonishing 321,300 tons.

• Santa has to make 822.6 visits a second, so, for each house, that means the fat man has less than 1/1,000th of a second to park the reindeer, shimmy down the chimney, fill the stockings, put gifts under the tree, eat whatever snacks were left for him and get back up the chimney and back to his sleigh before doing it all again.

• In 1896, German engineer and inventor Karl Benz (of Mercedes-Benz) built and patented the world’s first boxer engine, also known as the horizontally opposedor flat pistonengine. Benz is also credited with inventing the gasoline-powered automobile, receiving the first patent in 1886 for an internal-combusion three-wheeled car.

• Bertha Benz, Karl Benz’s wife, was the first person to drive an automobile more than 106 kilometres. She received worldwide attention in August 1888 when she took one of her husband’s prototype Motorwagen vehicles, without his knowledge, and drove their two sons from Mannheim to Pforzheim, Germany.

• Although the Dodge Challenger was the last entrant in the pony car ranks of Detroit’s Big Three, it arrived with something its competitors didn’t have: the greatest range of powertrain choices in the industry, from the small but durable 225-cubic-inch Slant Six to the fearsome “Elephant Motor” — the 426 Hemi. There were nine engine choices in total.

• The world’s first automobile insurance policy was sold in Wesfield, Mass., in 1897. A mechanic by the name of Gilbert J. Loomis purchased a liability insurance policy from the Travelers Insurance Company that covered him for $1,000 in liability, which was a lot of money back then. The policy would protect Loomis if his car killed or injured someone or damaged their property.

• Modern cruise control was invented by a blind inventor and mechanical engineer named Ralph Teetor in 1945. Teetor was apparently frustrated after a jerky car ride with his lawyer, who kept slowing down then speeding up. He thought of calling his invention Controlmatic, Touchomatic, Pressomatic and Speedostat before settling on Cruise Control. The first car to be sold with cruise control was the 1958 Chrysler Imperial.

Teetor, blind since he was five years old, also built a one-cylinder steam-powered car when he was 12. Teetor was posthumously inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Detroit in 1988 for his contributions to the industry.

• The diesel engine was invented by Rudolf Diesel in 1898. Diesel was a successful thermal engineer and his engine proved that fuel could be ignited without the use of a spark.

• In June 2001, Queen Elizabeth bought a brand new Jaguar, but she got more than she paid for. When her mechanics were taking it apart to be bombproofed, they found pornographic magazines stuffed into an interior cavity and a swastika painted underneath a seat panel. The goodies were stashed there during its assembly by an autoworker who had no idea where the car would end up.

“It’s one of those old traditions where people used to write things behind the seat panels of cars and they were never discovered unless there was an accident,” a factory worker from Jaguar’s Coventry plant told a British newspaper at the time. “But on this occasion, it wasn’t very funny.” The worker who hid the factory extras lost his job over the incident.

• The 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California featured in the 1986 pop culture classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off wasn’t actually a real Ferrari. A real one was too expensive to rent, so three fake ones were made using MG frames, 5.0-litre Mustang engines and fibreglass bodies. Legend has it the production company got a lot of angry letters from Ferrari aficionados who thought a real classic Ferrari was crashed for the film.

• At full throttle, the quadruple-turbocharged W16-powered Bugatti Veyron can empty its 100-litre fuel tank in just 12 minutes.

• The first hybrid car came out in 1900. Ferdinand Porsche, working under Ludwig Lohner, introduced the Mixte, which had an internalconbustion engine fitted to a generator that powered electric hub motors (affixed to the wheels) and a battery pack.

Photograph by: Bob Strong / Reuters