The mysterious clunking sound that “… makes good things taste better”

Back in the 1950s, General Motors didn’t really have to worry about keeping customers, so quality control was, shall we say, a bit lacking. Here’s proof:

The other day, I heard a remarkable story from a onetime Chevrolet mechanic named Ken while we both attended a gathering sponsored by the Detroit Triumph Sportscar Club.

During the mid-1950s, when Ken worked for a Chevy dealership, he and a couple colleagues drove to lunch—on a hot summer day—in a nearly new customer car that was in the shop because of a mysterious clunking sound. A few miles down the road, they heard the clunk themselves. The driver was certain that the noise came from the trunk, so he pulled over, got out of the car, opened the trunk, and climbed right in, closing the trunk behind him.

He poked around in the dark for a couple minutes, and, finding nothing, called to his buddies to open the boot.

But the keys to open the lid were in TrunkMan’s pants pocket. And in those days, of course, cars weren’t built with those handy little glow-in-the-dark interior trunk releases like the one pictured. (And you thought those were designed to prevent children from getting trapped!)

TrunkMan tried and tried to find a hole in the trunk through which to drop the keys onto the ground, but he had no luck—even after displacing the spare tire to check the floor of its well. (The fact that a full-grown man could be closed in the trunk of a car and still have room to move the spare tire should give you an idea of how cavernous these cargo areas really were.)

Ken and his colleagues could only laugh—and call for a tow truck—as TrunkMan fumbled around, sweating inside his makeshift oven.

Once the Chevy was towed back to the shop and the trunk was finessed open, a highly amused welcoming party greeted TrunkMan’s emergence from the Chevy’s boot. Of course, he never lived it down.

Eventually, a rear quarter panel had to be removed to locate the secret source of the clunk. What was it? An empty Coke bottle dangling from a string, between the inner and outer body panels. Inside the bottle was a note from the GM assembly-line jokester. It read something like:

“Congratulations … You finally found the source of that annoying clunk!”

BS, you say?

“Now I know that sounds like an urban legend,” Ken concluded knowingly. “But I assure you that it’s true. I was there and saw it with my own eyes.”

*Coke’s slogan in 1956, according to Wikipedia, was “Coca-Cola … makes good things taste better.”