A Bugatti residing at the bottom of Lake Maggiore? A woman buried in a Ferrari 330? It could be true – take our quiz to find out what's real and what isn't...


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Lady in the Lake

For decades, car enthusiasts reeled at the thought any pre-war rarity could be rusting underneath Italy’s Lake Maggiore; let alone a seldom seen 1925 Bugatti Type 22 Roadster. Yet – it was completely true.

Christened ‘the lady in the lake’, this particular Bugatti was won in a card game by a sporting playboy after a heavily-Champagne laden drinking session. Long before drink driving was so much as scowled at, the new owner then started his drive back to his home in Switzerland. Except, the car never made it.

When attempting to cross the border, due to strict governmental taxation he could go no further. Unable to pay the taxes on his winnings, the Bugatti was reportedly left in a private garage. The law stated that any property likely to create unjust enrichment was to be destroyed and – for reasons made unclear – the car was placed in the lake, rather than impounding it. The Bugatti was tethered to 35-foot long chains and suspended off shore in the fresh water source.

Should the owner have wished to pay his taxes, the Type 22 would have been returned to him. However, as time passed and the chains weakened, the vehicle broke free and sank to the bottom of Lake Maggiore. A mere urban legend from then on out, it wasn’t until the Bugatti was raised on July 12, 2009 that naysayers took stock of the tale. The 1925 beauty was then auctioned off to be preserved in its strangely captivating state at the Mullin Automotive Museum in California

True or False quiz: Automotive urban legends
True or False quiz: Automotive urban legends


A 1976 French short film directed by Claude Lelouch, showing a high-speed drive through Paris, C'était un rendez-vous gained notoriety as the ultimate car movie.

Screaming through the streets and terrifying local bystanders, ever since its release some 42 years ago the public has believed that the driving was undertaken by the director in a Ferrari. In fact, it was a Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9, with an over-dubbed Ferrari V12 soundtrack.

There is a further urban legend where the director was arrested upon the film’s first public showing. Whether this is true or not still creates debate to this day.


Chrysler’s Norseman

The Norseman was crafted together in Turin during the first half of 1956, assembled by Chrysler’s groundbreaking styling team before handing the designs over to respected coachbuilders, Ghia. It was designed to be many things; chic, sophisticated and awe-inspiring. Sadly, it wasn’t tailored for a life at sea.

Demonstrating new advancements in automotive design, the Norseman was set for the 1957 American car show circuit. Specially packed into a bespoke crate before being placed within the cargo hold of the SS Andrea Doria, the besotted designers and builders were adamant the Norseman would survive the 4000-mile sailing unharmed. Sadly, their hearts were broken. Chryler’s brainchild was never seen in public.

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In one of the world civilian maritime accidents of the last century, the popular SS Andria Doria collided with the SS Stockholm. Suffering a punctured hull, the Doria began taking on water before listing and disappearing under the waves; taking the Norseman with it. Over the next six decades, various interested parties made bids to bring the legendary concept car to the surface, but after all that time on the seabed scientists claimed there would be nothing left bar some ‘rusty sludge’.

A small mercy perhaps, as upon arrival on US soil after the 1957 show scene had ended, it was to be crash tested before being scrapped.

True or False quiz: Automotive urban legends

Isadora Duncan

This completely true urban legend has it all. A beautiful woman, a stylish car, a promising future – and one of the most brutal deaths in modern history.

Apparently insisting on wearing her red shawl, two yards long and 60 inches wide, getting into her partner’s sports car she shrugged off her lover’s offer of a leather jacket before declaring to her friends:

‘Goodbye, my friends, I go to glory!’

Although spectators screamed out as the shawl flailed along the ground, Duncan didn’t appear to notice until it wrapped around the wheel spokes and axle – killing her instantly. While the film based on her life, staring Vanessa Redgrave as Isadora, showcased a bloodless death, it was anything but.

Yanked half out the cockpit, her head was violently wedged between the bodywork and the tyre. Her larynx was crushed, her spine broken in two places, her jugular severed and face ground off by the rotating spokes. Sensationalised at the time by the press, inaccurate reports claimed a Bugatti as the killer, but it was in fact an Amilcar CGSS owned by Benoît Falchetto.


Ferrari’s 300bhp Coffin

Should you pay a visit to a Alamo Masonic Cemetery, you may find something amiss. Over a space where many graves should be, there is but only one.

‘Around the time you’re having your second cup of morning coffee, Sandra Ilene West is going to be buried in her expensive Ferrari sports car,’ stated San Antonio Express-News on May 19, 1977.

Passing away aged only 37, wealthy oil heiress and socialite Miss Sandra West stated in her will that she be buried in her Ferrari 330 America, otherwise her surviving family wouldn’t get a penny from her will. Naturally, they obliged – even if the unique request gave cause for concern. Grave robbers would no doubt try and get their hands on the rare and expensive Ferrari under their feet. The solution? Lots and lots of concrete.

Encased in a plywood structure and lowered into the ground via crane, cement was then poured around the container to deter thieves and curiosity-mongers. We can assure you, after all that time in the ground, the Ferrari won’t be worth having…

True or False quiz: Automotive urban legends
True or False quiz: Automotive urban legends
True or False quiz: Automotive urban legends


To set the scene in 1974 – the world didn’t seem to want fuel-guzzling muscle cars anymore. After a series of fuel shortages and increasing petrol prices, motorists were turning to smaller and more efficient vehicles. GM and Ford were shaking in their boots.

Liz Carmichael appeared a powerful woman, setting up the Twentieth Century Motor Car Company in Nevada. Based off an idea from Dale Clift and called ‘The Dale’, every motorist’s problem seemed to be solved.

It was too good to be true – extremely efficient fuel consumption, a sticker-price under $2000 ($10,700 today), 40bhp, a 15-month warranty and a maximum speed of 85mph. There was certainly suspicion, with doubt over the vehicle’s running gear upon journalistic scrutinisation. The truth finally emerged after one lie too many.

After the designer heard Carmichael claim she had crashed one at 30mph without being hurt, seeing as they didn’t even have a working prototype that could do 30mph at that point, things fell apart.

Following an investigation and lawsuit for fraud, where Carmichael represented herself, her identity as a man was revealed and a sentence passed down for substantial jail time. Escaping and evading the law for the best part of a decade, Carmichael died in prison, with her investors never seeing the amassed $6 million handed over to her.

True or False quiz: Automotive urban legends
True or False quiz: Automotive urban legends
True or False quiz: Automotive urban legends

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