Where Did Cupholders Come From? | WheelHouse | Donut Media
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Where Did Cupholders Come From? | WheelHouse | Donut Media

– Cup holders, Americans love ’em. We put them in everything
from people carriers, to street legal race cars. My co-worker’s Ford
Explorer has 10 cup holders. But that’s nothing. The new Volkswagen Atlas has 17 of them. That’s two and a half per passenger. Surprisingly, cup holders are
a relatively new innovation. So where did they come from? Who was the first person to
put cup holders in a car? What’s the future hold
for the humble cup holder? I’m Nolan Sykes and this is Wheelhouse. The first cars didn’t have cup holders. – [Bart] No (bleep)! – People might be surprised
to hear that, Bart. I don’t know. They didn’t have much of anything, really. But I’m not sure you’d
want to drink anything driving around back then. The roads were much rougher, usually paved with gravel or just dirt. Early suspensions didn’t
provide a smooth ride. Driving a Model T was
pretty labor intensive. You didn’t have time to
focus on anything else. Driving was its own activity, separate from the rest of your life. This was the attitude most drivers had in both America and Europe. That was until a culinary sensation swept the U.S.in the early 1950’s. The drive-in diner. It was a novel idea. You drive up to the restaurant, a nice gal rolls up to your
car and takes your order, and you eat your entire meal without ever leaving your vehicle. People loved it. Drive-ins became community hubs
especially for young people. And if American Graffiti is accurate, they’d hang out, talk
trash and race their cars. Sounds like a pretty good Saturday night. Must be nice hanging
out with other people. The drive-in gave way
to the drive through, which made fast food even faster. But that presented a problem. Where do you put your drink? A few inventions tried
to solve this problem. Drive-ins served food on carhop trays which hung on your door. But you couldn’t take that with you. Several patents were filed
for in-car snack trays that held on to your food and drink. But those were still modifications
you had to do yourself. Automakers still hadn’t
thought of cup holders. One of the first examples of
OEM beverage stabilization technology was in 1957 in the
Cadillac Brougham limousine. It had a little metal tray
attached to the glove box that held onto the
included cocktail glasses. It wasn’t the same as the
cup holder we know today, but it was a step in the right direction. So, who’s responsible for
the cup holder as we know it? We don’t really know. Ford says that people used
the floor tray as a cup holder in the Econoline van
as early as the 1960’s. Is that really a cup holder? I don’t really know. What I do know is that
the Dodge Caravan had real cup holders in 1984. It was the first car with
cup holders as we know ’em. The debate between Ford and Chrysler over who came up with cup holders first kinda comes down to semantics. Like, what makes a cup
holder a cup holder? Whatever side you take,
it’s a fact that cup holders became more and more popular
from the mid-80’s onward. But some people were hesitant
to embrace the growing trend. By some people, I mean Europeans. – Why would you want to drink anything while you are driving? You want to drink or eat? Stop your car. Enjoy the meal. We get something.
(laughs) – This had become the prevailing attitude of most European car
companies from the 80’s through the mid-90’s, and it makes sense. Because on opposite sides of the Atlantic, driving had become very different. For example, every year
the average American drives nearly twice as
far as the average Brit. Why is this? A couple reasons. One, Britain has way
better public transit. And two, America’s just big. Take a look at this. The state of California is bigger than all of the United Kingdom. And driving from L.A. to San Fran is nearly the same distance as driving from London to Glasgow. In Europe, a hundred miles is a long way. And in America, a hundred
years is a long time. The average American also drives
16 miles to work both ways. Depending on where you live, that could either take 15 minutes, or in my case, an hour and a half. I really need to move. By comparison, the average
Britain commutes about 10 miles. And most of ’em do it by bus or train. My point is, Americans spend
more time in their car. We also have less to do in ’em. In Europe, most cars have
a manual transmission. But in the U.S., they’re
mostly automatics. We don’t worry about
spilling coffee on ourselves when we’re shifting gears,
’cause we’re not shifting gears. Since we’re not completely
focused on operating the car, we’re free to find other
things to fill our time. And that’s what European
automakers were worried about. The National Highway
Traffic Safety Commission doesn’t track how many
accidents are caused by eating and drinking. I’m talking coffee and soda, not booze. So it’s hard to say if their
concerns were warranted. However, in 1992, one
case convinced car makers to make cup holders standard. You’ve probably heard of this case. A woman named Stella
Liebeck got a cup of coffee from a fast food place
and spilled it on herself, and she got third degree burns. I mean, she ended up getting skin grafts. I only bring this up because, maybe, this whole thing could’ve been avoided if the car she was in, a 1992
Ford Probe, had cup holders. This is when most U.S. automakers
adopted the cup holder. No automaker was involved in the lawsuit, but what if it happens
again and they did get sued? It was better to play it safe. But the Europeans still
didn’t quite get it. It was only when U.S. dealers
for Porsche and Mercedes started losing sales because
they didn’t have cup holders. They’re like, guys, we need
cup holders in our cars. Like, how luxurious is a car
if it can’t hold my drink? So, they gave it a chance. But the Europeans weren’t quite aware of how much holder we Americans
needed for our cups. You know, I wore a medium
sized cup in high school. (quiet mumbled voices) (phone rings) (quiet mumbled voices) (phone rings) One Porsche engineer said that Porsche team members in the U.S. were sending cups of all shapes
and sizes back to Germany. – So many cups! – To make sure that cup
holders in the Cayenne could handle anything we threw at them. (banging) So what’s next? Well, the world of cup
holders is still growing. We’ve got cup holder
expanders for giant cups. We’ve got cup holders
for your French fries. We’ve even got cup holders
that hold onto your phone. Automakers even make cup holders that heat your drink up or keep it cold. We’re living in the future. So next time you’re in
a car, take some time to appreciate the unsung hero
of automotive innovation. Thank you, cup holders. For everything. Thanks for watching Wheelhouse. I’ll be here every Monday. This episode was suggested
by one of you guys. So what else do you want to learn about? We got merch at shop.donut.media. Get yourself a shirt. If you like this show, subscribe to Donut. We’ve got all kinds of shows. Monday it’s Wheelhouse with me. Tuesday is field prep with Matt Fields. He’s building a formula drift Corvette. Thursday it’s up to speed
with James Pumphrey, he teaches everything you need to know about all your favorite cars. Friday, that’s the bestest with Tony. He’s giving you the top
10 of everything cool in the automotive world, check it out. It’s Donut, thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “Where Did Cupholders Come From? | WheelHouse | Donut Media

  1. We also have cupholders that are in terrible locations and would be better off just not putting them in the car.

  2. Wow, Vague European Impression guy nailed my sentiments exactly. I hate cupholders. I don't want them in my car.

  3. My 1994 toyota celica has two cupholders you can pull out from under the armrest, but then they block both the ashtray and the storage under the armrest

  4. As a proud former 1992 Ford Probe Turbo owner; I can tell you the Probe pictured is from the 1993 model year….RIP to my Red Ford Probe who was put out to pasture after being rear ended by a drunk driver that was wearing a Nelly style bandaid on his face….just to be clear, it was not actually the rapper Nelly.

    I do enjoy the vids Donut Crew! Thanks for making them.

  5. I'm highly dubious of the claim that most people in Britain use public transport to commute to work. Seems everyone drives.

  6. My 1995 Mercedes-Benz 300 series (E-Class, W124) diesel has NO cup holders! But it has a "car phone" in the armrest.

  7. My like is almost purely because of that bardo drop-in, but you’re still the best. Eat your heart out James; love you too. But I love the goofy attitude of your cross series drop-ins, please keep it up.

  8. My 94 ranger extneded cab has 0 cup holders although it is automatic the seats are bench and it has a manual transfer case so i just bought some plastic thing that goes in the crevice between the bench and the passenger seat for 6 bucks also holds 2-3 drinks and a phone pretty well

  9. the craziest thing about this whole spiel is that my 1979 Volvo 244DL has stock 'map pocket' on both front doors that has a cupholder at the front. so, there's a European car with cupholders that's definitely before the Chrysler claim and more integrated and effective than the Ford claim.

  10. Nolan, giving car answers to questions no one thought to ask.

    Next up: "Where did lug nuts come from?"

  11. This might sound trivial, but my 1999 Honda Civic has cup holders and the closing lid opens super slow and smooth when you tap it just right. I've never seen cup holders like that in another car (yet)..

  12. Although I have an 2006 Ford 150 supercab and I have 8 cupholders, this is too many as there are 6 seats 1 being usable center console and the back seat is only ment to be used occasionally meaning 2 people are usually in the vehicle with 8 cupholders

  13. My Ford Ka+ (Sold by Ford Europe, made in India and designed by Ford Brazil) has 6-8 cup holders, depending on the definition of a cup holder.
    It's stil just seats 5 people (or more realisticly 4)

  14. I think the European attitude is spot on. When I drive i stop when i have to smoke or eat, think I have ever only used the cuphold as a cupholder once or twice in the last 25 years, otherwise i use it for my phone and parking permits that are not in use.

  15. I feel left out, my Nissan slyline R32 and my toyota corolla 1985 hatchback AE86 both dont have cup holders 🙁

  16. I only use my cupholder to hold a cup of water to gauge how safe I'm driving. If it doesn't spill, then I'm doing a good job and won't get yelled at later for all the wet floormats.

  17. For anyone in Europe that is wondering, the country of Germany is smaller in square miles than the state of Michigan.

    I live in Wisconsin, and I can drive 5 hours in pretty much a straight line and not leave the state.

    That should give you a better understanding of the size difference between Europe and America.

  18. At 3:34 he said something form London to Glasgow and Glasgow is there that Edinburgh Glasgow toto the left

  19. Stereotypical european :
    Wears tracksuit like a russian
    Speak English with some accent (maybe french or german)
    Complains with the habits of US citizens

  20. Ever driven a 96 or earlier Cherokee? Most useless fucking cup holders I’ve ever seen. Most cups or bottles are too big to fit in them, and the ones that do fit tip over because the holders are so shallow.

  21. I used to daily an 85 Lincoln continental. You’d think a luxury car would have everything, heck it had its own trash can, but no cup holders.

  22. My grandmas 1993 Cadillac Eldorado had the worst cupholders ever, they were so shallow and they didn't even hold on to the drinks so every time you went around a corner, if you weren't holding it, the drink would spill all over your lap

  23. The custom or converted vans of the mid to late 1970s had cup holders. I know these were not factory installed items but these conversion vans were sold right off the dealer showroom floors. I remember my parents 1977 Chevy van had cup holders on the engine cover, and one on each the mid mounted seats ( in the arm rest ) as well as four built into the table in the back of the van. Oddly no seat belts for those mid mounted seats though. How did I ever survive my childhood?

  24. Fuck u read my mind I’m from Europe and yea this is the way how I think stop enjoy your food and they drive but while I say drive it’s around 70-80 not your 55 in some states

  25. I just upgraded from a 98 starlet with 0 cupholders to an 18 Yaris and I think it has about 8 cupholders, 6 for sure. But no fucken ash tray to put coins in. Just give me 2 cupholders and an ash tray, and I'll decide what the ash tray is used for. So many useless holes

  26. Good video. I honestly can't remember the first car I had with a cup holder. I do remember buying a cup holder in my pickup that was called The Octopus. It worked so well, that when I started driving a truck, I took it with me.

    I have a suggestion for a video.


    When did waxing become a thing, and why does it seem that you no longer have to wax your cars anymore. Or do we really still need to wax and polish them, but nobody does.

    Are we putting Turtle Wax out if business?


  27. 84 Corvette cup holders are awful. Your drink just falls on your shift boot or gets knocked over whenever you try to shift.

  28. My first car/truck was an 1987 (the year was 1997). It had no cup holders. So I bought a tray with cup holders at dollar tree. Fit perfect and worked great. It was a manual transmission. I can drink and drive stick shifts.

  29. Some cup holders are adjustable. I remember I had an Oldsmobile Alero. It had an astray that was a cup that fit in the cup holder. Some mini vans have cube/rectangular cup holders for juice boxes.

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