This Car was Allergic to Vanilla Ice-Cream

Cody McLain
2 min readMay 21, 2019

A story that originated in the early 70’s details a time that somebody submitted a complaint to Pontiac. It was a tradition in his family to buy ice-cream for his family after dinner each night, but he was having problems starting his car after buying a certain type of ice cream.

The man had recently purchased the new car and hasn’t had issues with the car starting on any of his other trips. Regardless, every-time he bought vanilla ice-cream, the car wouldn’t start. He knew this sounded silly but was adamant that the car had no problems starting if he bought any other flavor in the store.

The president of Pontiac was understandably skeptical about the letter, but nonetheless sent an engineer to check it out anyway.

They agreed to meet one night after dinner, and the two hopped into the car to drive and pick up the ice-cream. It happened to be vanilla that night, and sure enough, after they came back, the car wouldn’t start.

The Engineer returned for three more nights. The first night, they got chocolate. The car started. The second night, he got strawberry. The car started. The third night he ordered vanilla. The car failed to start.

The engineer, being a logical man, refused to believe that the man’s car was allergic to vanilla ice-cream. He arranged to continue his visits for as long as needed and started to write down all sorts of data like the time of day, type of gas, time of driving etc..

In a few days, he found a clue: the man took less time to buy vanilla than any other flavor. It turned out the layout of the store had vanilla, the most popular ice-cream, at the front where it could be picked up quicker. The engineer realized it wasn’t the ice-cream, but rather the shorter length of time between starting the engine that was the problem.

After further analysis, he concluded it was caused by vapor lock. The car’s engine needed more time to dissipate the heat before it could start again.

Whether true or not, this story exemplifies that most problems, no matter how complex they might seem at first, can often be deduced to a simple solution. I’ve often found myself procrastinating on simple tasks, yet once I exerted the effort, found that the solution was much easier than I had anticipated.

Remember, no matter how crazy or difficult a problem might appear at first glance, what really matters is our attitude and perception because we can rarely read a book by its cover.



Cody McLain

Founder of $12m SupportNinja, Author of From Foster Care to Millionaire book, Host of Podcast