7 Automotive Quotes You Have To Know

Car Culture / Comments

Enzo didn't want mid-engined Ferrari's and Henry Ford only wanted black Model Ts.

We do love a pithy automotive quote like this one from Sir Stirling Moss: "There are two things no man will admit he cannot do well - drive and make love." Here, however, we're going to take a look at some famous and not so famous longer quotes from the automotive industry and give them some well-deserved perspective. For example, we all know Henry Ford once said of the Model T that his customers could buy his cars in "any color that he wants, so long as it is black," so why did so many Model Ts come off the line painted a different color? That's where we'll start.

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1. Henry Ford: Ford Motor Company

Henry Ford's most famous comment is quoted above. However, it is rarely presented with real context. Henry Ford was sharp as a tack and incredibly insightful and had noticed salesman thought they would sell more models of cars if they had lots of different colors. Ford also wrote of car salesman in his book My Life and Work, "They listened to the 5%, the special customers who could say what they wanted and forgot all about the 95%, who just bought without making any fuss. No business can improve unless it pays the closest possible attention to complaints and suggestions."

In reality, Ford Motor Company says he made that statement in 1909, a year after the Model T went on sale, and didn't get his wish of only building black cars to simplify production until 1915 through to 1925. Before and after that, the Model T came in a broad selection of colors, and the fifteen millionth Model T came off the line painted dark green.

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Mecum
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2. Enzo Ferrari: Ferrari S.p.A.

When it comes to interesting quotes, Enzo Ferrari is a goldmine. He's often cited as saying, "I don't care if the door gaps are straight. When he steps on the gas, I want him to shit his pants." More revealing about how obstinate and short-sighted Enzo Ferrari could be, he definitely said, "Aerodynamics are for people that can't build engines." He was also not a fan of mid-engined road cars, once saying: "The horses pull the carriage, not push them." However, it's worth pointing out that he wouldn't have been able to build Ferrari as a race and road car company without changing his mind when presented with new or well-informed information. One of the most important cars in Ferrari's history is the Dino Berlinetta Speciale - Ferrari's first mid-engined concept car. It was first shown in 1965 and made it onto the road in 1968.

Ferrari
Ferrari
Ferrari

3. Colin Chapman: Lotus Cars

Colin Chapman didn't believe that power was the key to a great car, whether for the road or track. That was summed up in his quote: "Adding power makes you faster on the straights. Subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere." It highlights the Lotus mantra of "Simplify, then add lightness," which has led to Lotus building of the most well-loved enthusiast cars in automotive history. The Grand Tour's Jeremy Clarkson later summed up the Lotus approach to building cars by saying: "Most car companies start building their new model by making a list of features people want. Lotus start[s] by making a list of things people can do without."

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4. Lee Iacocca: Ford Motor Company

Lee Iacocca is a legend in the automotive industry with a monstrous list of achievements, including introducing the Ford Mustang to the world and saving Chrysler. However, he was fallible. One of his more short-sighted moments came when his friend Carroll Shelby was offered a Toyota dealership in Houston, Texas, in 1971. Not recognizing the threat of Japanese cars to American automaker's profit margins, he told Shelby not to take the offer. Shelby, of course, asked why not. "Because we're going to kick their asses back into the Pacific Ocean," Iacocca told him.

At the time Shelby was considering the Toyota dealership, the American big three owned 80% of the automotive industry. Later, Shelby reflected that Iacocca's advice had likely cost him around $10 million.

Ford
Ford
Ford

5. Carroll Shelby: Shelby American

Carroll Shelby rarely minced his words, and it made him a quotable man. There's the pithy, "Horsepower sells cars, torque wins races," attributed to him as well as, "There is never enough horsepower - just not enough traction." However, Shelby really boiled down the horsepower issue in a longer and less well-known quote. "Is 1,000 horsepower too much? Sure," Shelby told Road & Track. "But you'll put that on the cover of the magazine, where 300 horsepower doesn't have much chance anymore. It's a matter of marketing. We will sell a few of them. Probably won't make a profit, but we'll improve the image of the Mustang, and that will sell a lot of V6 Mustangs."

Shelby also confessed to Road & Track: "The Cobra is my personal favorite car. The original 289 Cobra is the car I respect the most. I like to drive the 289 better than the 427."

Shelby
Shelby
Shelby
Shelby

6. Soichiro Honda: Honda

Soichiro Honda was a wonderfully eccentric genius, and most of the popular quotes you'll find from him are philosophical rather than incisive or humorous. However, one quote often attributed to him comes up a lot, and we love it. According to lore, in an interview, he said, "In the future, there will be half a dozen car companies," then paused before adding, "And Morgan." We love the idea that six massive companies could take over the industry globally, but Morgan would still be making cars out of wood.

Soichiro Honda is also credited with saying, "The value of life can be measured by how many times your soul has been deeply stirred," before telling his designers and engineers to build those soul-stirring machines or leave the company. He also spoke of failure as a necessary route to success a lot. "Success is 99% failure," Honda once said. "Many people dream of success. To me, success can only be achieved through repeated failure and introspection."

Honda

7. Bill Gates: Microsoft

Bill Gates is not from the automotive industry, but he is an enthusiast that's credited with pushing the "Show and Display Law" into being after he tried to import a Porsche 959 into the US despite it not being road legal here. When he compared the computer industry to the automotive industry, Gates said: "If General Motors had kept up with the technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon." However, technology commentator Robert X Cringley pointed out that if the automobile had followed the same development as the computer/software, a Rolls-Royce would today "cost $100, get a million miles per gallon, and explode once in a while killing everyone inside."

Rolls-Royce
Rolls-Royce
Rolls-Royce
Rolls-Royce
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