Classic Accessories: Five Really Cool Old Car Add-Ons
From car coolers to car tents, what are the most functional and unique car accessories of the last 70-odd years? To open up the discussion, here’s a shortlist of some that aimed to enhance and car’s usefulness and versatility, plus a few that just made owning and driving a vehicle more fun.
One of the coolest car accessories from driving days of old has to be the “running board picnic suitcase.” Back before a fast food restaurant graced every corner, traveling families packed picnic lunches to enjoy along the route (or while father was patching the inner tube of a flat tire). While original picnic suitcases can still be found on eBay and specialty websites like www.classicaccesories.org, car makers stopped offering them around the same time they stopped making cars with running boards.
Better Than a Bobblehead
Iconic, kitchy, and quite possibly the most beloved car decoration of all time, the “Hula Girl Nodder” was created in the 1950s and quickly became a popular dashboard accessory thanks to the influx of American soldiers into Hawaii during WWII. According to the blog, Retro Planet, original Hula Dashboard Dolls had a hole in the bottom where a magnet could be inserted so that the doll could be attached to the metal dashboards of cars.
If you’re old enough to remember when whitewall tires and flashy chrome hubcaps were all the rage with American drivers, you can probably also remember this little gadget that saved those precious tires from scraping over concrete when parking at the curb. The blog Yesteryear Remembered offers this short homage to the simple yet functional “curb feeler” that some folks still affix to their cars to give their favorite ride that classic ‘50s look.
In The Spotlight
Unless you’ve ever been stranded alongside the road with a flat or some midnight engine trouble, the early American driver’s preoccupation with exterior lighting might seem a bit odd. Spot and fog lights were popular accessories on most early automobiles. Those from Appleton were the most popular because they were stylish and reliable. Coveted by restorers, Appleton spotlights sell for anywhere from $50 to $100 on eBay with some of the more rare models (once offered as standard on some early American cars) fetching hundreds of dollars.
Passengers of early, open-air convertibles didn’t just swaddle their legs in any old blanket to ward off the chill of a Sunday morning drive. Instead, they used something called a “lap robe.” Typically made for the season (silk in summer, alpaca fur or wool in winter and fall), lap robes were listed in the early “Packard Approved Accessories” catalogs (see above) along with a host of other items, some of which you can see at www.classicaccessories.org.
Thousands of car accessories have come and gone over the years. Some, such as car radios and “car coolers” (the predecessor of modern automobile air conditioning) were so successful they became standard equipment on modern cars. What are your thoughts on fun automotive add-ons? Take a moment to comment below or head on over to the HVA’s Facebook page to share your favorite and see what other members are saying.