WTF Fun Fact 13507 – Fifth Wheel for Parallel Parking

Did you know cars almost had a fifth wheel for parallel parking? Why would something so useful fail to evolve into an everyday feature? Have you seen people parallel park?! They need all the help they can get.

The Story of the Fifth Wheel for Parallel Parking

Now, for anyone who’s ever lived in a bustling city or tried to find a parking spot along a crowded street, the challenges of parallel parking are all too familiar. The maneuver requires precise calculation, impeccable timing, and a well-practiced technique, especially when the available space is barely larger than the car itself.

In the early 20th century, as automobiles increasingly filled the streets, the need for an efficient parking solution became evident. The “fifth wheel” seemed poised to transform parallel parking forever.

Patented in the 1930s, the idea was surprisingly simple: it was a perpendicular wheel could be deployed from the rear of the car, lifting the back tires slightly off the ground.

This fifth wheel, positioned at a right angle to the car’s other wheels, would then allow the vehicle to move laterally, making the parallel parking process straightforward and stress-free. With this invention, drivers wouldn’t need to anxiously navigate their vehicle back and forth to fit into tight spaces; the fifth wheel would do the work for them.

So, Why Didn’t the Fifth Wheel Take Off?

With all these apparent advantages, it’s perplexing that the fifth wheel didn’t become a standard feature in automobiles. But there were several reasons that contributed to its decline (though none of them seem good enough).

  1. Integrating a fifth wheel system into vehicles would complicate the car’s design, leading to higher production costs. Consumers might have been hesitant to pay extra for this feature.
  2. An additional wheel means more parts that could malfunction or require upkeep, potentially deterring consumers and manufacturers alike.
  3. As cities grew, multi-story parking garages and lots started to become more commonplace, reducing the emphasis on street parking.
  4. Over the decades, other innovations like power steering, parking sensors, and rearview cameras emerged, making the parallel parking process more manageable.

A Symbol of Automotive Curiosity

The “fifth wheel” is a reminder that even the most creative solutions sometimes don’t find their place in the mainstream. Even when they might lead to less road rage.

Future self-parking cars and advancements in AI-driven vehicle technologies may make the challenges of parallel parking seem almost quaint. But that’s the future, and this is now. And we still see people struggling to parallel park and holding up traffic in the meantime! So maybe someone should see if that patent has expired and make another run at it!

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The ingenious “fifth wheel” parallel parking tool that never hit it big” — Hagerty Media

WTF Fun Fact 12416 – The Dodge La Femme

In the 1950s, more and more women were driving, and car companies decided to manufacture cars that they thought would somehow meet more “feminine needs.”

Among the cars were:

  • Dodge La Femme
  • Chrysler La Comtesse
  • Pontiac Parisienne
  • Chevrolet Impala Martinique
  • Cadillac Eldorado Seville Baroness

They could all be purchased in pink (and some in lavender).

The La Femme, a car marketed for “the discriminating, modern woman,” even came with its own matching pink handbag, lighter, compact, lipstick, boots, and cape, along with places to hang or store them within the car.

Most of the cars were simply regular models with feminine trim options and floral interiors, but they were often marketed as easier to drive.

Car literature was careful to point out that nothing under the hood was pink (you know, just in case it might make a husband or mechanic feel less manly to work on it).

The cars were not a success, but that didn’t stop automakers from sending literature to dealers telling them to market the pink vehicles as wildly popular. Dodge tweaked the La Femme a bit to include gold interior elements, thinking that would make it sell better. It did not.

None of the cars were made for very long, and some think that the failures of the pink “lady” models led to more gender-neutral marketing for ubiquitous-but-pricey products such as automobiles. – WTF Fun Facts

Source: “Dodge’s LaFemme is the First Automobile with A Gender – It’s Female” — Popular Mechanics