When Ford Performance wanted a more relatable way to convey the scorching performance of the Mach-E 1400, the automaker disappeared into the pantry and came back with a bottle of hot sauce. Ford wouldn’t sell its brew, though. The closest the general public could get to the “notes of smoke, charred earth, [and] plenty of insanely hot peppers” was watching an episode of the YouTube show “Hot Ones” with host Sean Evans and Ford Performance driver Vaughn Gittin, Jr.
That sauce got us thinking about other instances of the automotive world parking up in the food aisle. Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Hyundai have industrial food and agriculture divisions. Volkswagen started making its beechwood-smoked currywurst in 1973 and sells the mildly spicy pork sausage in factory canteens, European grocery stores, and soccer stadiums.
A few more more examples of cars crossing over into the culinary world, all available somewhere in the world.
Carroll Shelby’s Chili Kit
A couple of years after debuting the first Shelby Mustang GT350 and a few months after winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans a second time with the Ford GT40, Carroll Shelby had more spare time to fill. In 1967, on a 200,000-acre patch of ground in Terlingua, west Texas that he used as an open-air man cave, Shelby helped host the first Terlingua Chili Cook-Off.
Shelby not only loved a good bowl of chili, he whipped up his own four-ingredient chili-making kit and began giving it away in brown paper bags. By 1973, Shelby’s chili kit was on store shelves.
The instructions on the box say it takes 35 minutes to make, leading an online reviewer called the Mad Meat Genius to say of it, “the fastest chili I have ever made.” Considering the kit’s inventor, that’s fitting.
Olivio Premium Products
Lee Iacocca has at least two connections to food. The first is through his uncle, Theodore Iacocca, who founded the Yocco’s chain of hot dog joints in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania in 1922. The name comes courtesy of the area’s Pennsylvania Dutch who couldn’t pronounce Iacocca, so Theodore changed the spelling to what the locals could pronounce.
Lee Iacocca’s more personal venture is Olivio, which makes olive-oil based spreads and a spray. The ex-Ford and Chrysler honcho owned a villa in Italy with 408 olive trees and 25 acres of vineyards, annually gathering local help to turn out olive oil and wine. Eventually, Iacocca and his son-in-law, Ned Hentz, asked a question you rarely hear nowadays: “Could we possibly make olive oil into a buttery spread?”
They answered the question in 1993 by founding Olivio. Hentz runs the company as its president and CEO, with a portion of revenues continuing to support the Iacocca Foundation.
Tonino Lamborghini Drinks
Feruccio Lamborghini had one son, Tonino. While Audi shepherds Lamborghini’s automotive brand, the heir has found his niche licensing the Lamborghini name to other products, meaning everything from a Tonino Lamborghini-branded $19 Eau de Toilette to a $150 lighter.
Since Audi’s in the accessories game, too, Audi’s efforts are identified by a black badge with a gold or a silver bull, Tonino’s products get a red badge with a silver bull.
But only Tonino has an Officina Gastronomica selling beverages: two blends of espresso, eight flavors of hot chocolate, an energy drink, vodka, and Sangue di Miura wine.
The energy drink could be considered the most on-brand. People who review such liquid hyperactivity (who knew?) say the Lamborghini drink tastes just like Red Bull—Tonino’s site even refers to his can’s “red bull logo.” An 8.4-ounce can from each brand contains the same amount of caffeine at 80 milligrams, but the Red Bull has ten times more taurine, a difference that can only be regarded as admirable restraint from Lamborghini.
Jean-Pierre Peugeot II and Jean-Frédéric Peugeot turned their father’s old grist mill into a steel foundry in 1810. So began the company that would deliver the 308, win five World Rally Championships, eight Le Mans trophies, and compel Porsche to rename the Porsche 901 to the 911.
They started with small tools and home goods like saw blades, umbrellas, and bicycles. In 1848, they debuted their first coffee grinder. Engineers adapted that grinder for use on peppercorns and rolled out the Z model home pepper mill in 1874, first fashioned out of white china. Peugeot didn’t make its first car until 1889.
That original pepper mill has been joined by others, but the grinding mechanism from 1874—now fashioned from corrosion protected, case hardened steel—remains in use today. It’s so highly regarded that Peugeot mills regularly wins accolades in the classic category, like in the New York Times in 2014, and this year at Forbes, Business Insider, and the the Times yet again.
The Peugeot car company split from kitchenware division Peugeot Saveur in 1926. The latter now makes seven spice-specific grinding mills for coffee, salt, wet salt, pepper, chili peppers, nutmeg, and other herbs and spices, as well as glassware and dishes.
Porsche and Rolls-Royce Make Honey
Porsche maintains 300 acres of undeveloped land around its Leipzig factory. Cayennes and Macans prove their off-road prowess there, sharing the dirt with a small mélange of animals like Exmoor ponies, Aurochs, and bats. In 2017, Porsche added 1.5 million bees in 25 colonies to the coterie and began selling Turbienchen spring blossom honey produced by those bees at the Leipzig customer center.
The arcadian paddock has grown to 326 acres, and the bee colonies with it—bees said to be the third-most important “production animal” in Germany after cows and pigs. There are now three million bees on the Porsche, each colony producing about 55 kilograms of raw honey each year, processed on-site into Turbienchen. VW has a thing for nature and bees; Audi maintains ten bee colonies at its Neckarsulum plant, and VW tends to wildflower meadowlands and “insect hotels” at its plant in Bratislava, Slovakia.
If you’re into more gilded pollinators, since 2018, Rolls-Royce has kept six colonies of roughly 300,000 English honey bees at its Goodwood Apiary. Buying a Rolls-Royce is the easiest way to get their honey, as it’s only “served to guests of the marque, including customers commissioning their motor cars in the company’s Atelier suite.”
Last month, Rolls-Royce announced it was looking for five current employees to undergo training to work with the bees: “All positions are unpaid and on colleagues’ own time but rewarded by making a positive contribution to bee conservation, and involvement in the production of the rare and precious ‘Rolls-Royce of Honey’.”
In 1910, Louis Renault, one of the three brothers Renault that founded the car company, purchased a building at 53 Champs-Elysees in the heart of Paris to use for office and display space. Renault says it was the first automaker to set up shop on Paris’ most famous boulevard.
In 1963, Renault turned the building into the Pub Renault, a watering hole for locals and visitors. In 2000, a third overhaul turned the building into the L’Atelier Renault. The ground floor contains a merchandise shop, and rotating exhibits from Renault Formula 1 cars to local artist takeovers. Gearheads can stop by to watch an F1 grand prix and root for recently-rebranded Alpine team.
The second floor and its five elevated walkways, as well as an outdoor seating area on the broad sidewalk, are for the atelier restaurant Le 53. Renault isn’t in the luxury car business, but Le 53 is a luxury food experience at a Renault price, the gastronomy menu pairing delightfully with views of the Champs-Elysees and Parisian people-watching.
Intersect by Lexus
A year ago, New York City hosted two automaker-funded restaurant and event spaces, but the Mini-backed A/D/O in Brooklyn closed in May 2020 after three years. That leaves Intersect by Lexus in the city’s Meatpacking district, along with locations in Dubai and Tokyo. We’re told it’s a “manifestation of Omotenashi, a Lexus core value characterized by an unwavering commitment to exceptional hospitality.”
Lexus revamped Intersect’s ground floor last year, turning the former café and gallery into a cocktail lounge overseen by a “Guest Craft Cocktail Expert.” A full-service restaurant takes up the second floor, an event space fills the third.
Part of Intersect’s draw is a rotating chef-in-residence. Currently, chef David Kinch from California’s Manresa, a Michelin three-star restaurant, is the sixth chef to transfer his specialties to the Intersect dining room. He follows stints by culinary masters from Argentina, Chile, France, Georgia, and India.
Three more feathers for Interect’s cap: the full-time pastry chef came over from NYC’s Le Bernardin, another Michelin three-star restaurant; a meal for two can be had for around $200, which, considering the fare and the location, is a bargain; and the toilets have heated seats.
The GM Diet
This one is like an automotive myth that rages outside the car world. The GM Diet is a seven-day plan supposedly created by General Motors to help its employees lose as much as 17 pounds in a week.
Problem is that no one knows when GM supposedly created this diet, and GM has disavowed being the source. Web sites alternately claim the diet’s origin as 1985, or 1987. In 2009, an automaker spokesperson told the New York Times the only drastic slimming scheme the General should be credited with was the company’s shrinkage and greatly diminished workforce since 1986. “That’s the real G.M. diet, an almost 90 percent loss.”
This hasn’t quelled the diet’s popularity, with Google searches peaking in 2015 and 2016. But dieters who have a hard time sticking to bananas, milk, and the cabbage-heavy “GM wonder soup” on Day 4 of the diet can’t blame GM.
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