The Pontiac that was 'allergic' to vanilla ice cream.
Not just any ice cream... only vanilla ice cream!
Cars often come with weird quirks - there's one that attracted spiders by its gas fume, and then there's one which could go 'too fast' in reverse. But did you know about the story of the one Pontiac which seemed to hate vanilla ice cream so much it even refused to start? And no, I'm not discussing alternative fuel vehicles that use ice cream as fuel (though that does sound cool).
The story goes back to the early 70s when Pontiac received a complaint from a customer. The customer, who goes out to buy ice cream for dessert after dinner as a family tradition, realized that his recently purchased Pontiac won't start whenever he buys vanilla ice cream from the store and return to his car. Bizarrely, when he gets other types of ice cream from the same store, the car starts just fine. The customer admitted that the complaint may sound absurd but he was serious about the issue.
As expected, the president of Pontiac was dubious about the letter but decided to send an engineer to check the car. The engineer met a fine man who was well-educated and affluent.
After dinner time, the two got into the same car and drove to the ice cream store. The man bought vanilla ice cream for the dessert that day, and the car - like the complaint said - didn't start.
The engineer stuck with the car for three more days. The man got chocolate ice cream for the first night - started fine. Strawberry ice cream for the second night - still started fine. Vanilla ice cream for the third night - the car failed to start.
Of course, the engineer refused to believe that this Pontiac was really allergic to vanilla ice cream. He continued to check the customer's car and gathered all kinds of data - the time of day, how much gas has been used for the travel, the time occupied on the travel, the type of gas used to fuel the car, etc.
In the end, the engineer figured out the mystery - it was related to how much time was being spent on buying the ice cream. The man spent less time buying vanilla ice cream than any other flavor because of the layout of the store. Vanilla ice cream was available for quick pickup due to its popularity compared to the other flavors.
Soon, the real reason why the Pontiac wouldn't start was identified: vapor lock. The car constantly experienced vapor lock whenever the man visited the store, but the time he took to buy any other ice cream than vanilla flavor gave the car enough time to cool down and be able to start again. For the vanilla ice cream, though, the time was insufficient.
While it's unclear whether the story is true or not, it does teach us a quite important lesson of 'no matter how unreal the problem may be, the problem can do exist and they are solvable.'
Have you ever had a car that 'had an allergy' to non-fuel materials?