In the mind of the inventor, the line between insanity and sheer genius is often very thin. But on that, we’ll let you be the judge. From pedestrian nets to the in-car minibar, here’s a nostalgic look back at a selection of automotive inventions that never really took off.
Last year, a European road survey found 60-percent of French drivers freely admitting to dangerous driving habits and a general disrespect for the basic rules of the road. The tradition of reckless driving goes back to the early days of the automobile, and here’s a little proof. In 1924, pedestrian casualties caused by French drivers apparently reached such disturbing proportion that mounting a net on the front of vehicle was considered a great idea by at least one inventor.
The Original “Doggie Bag”
Popular Mechanics, 1935
There are so many obvious reasons why having to forcibly wrestle the family dog into a big canvas bag every time you wanted to go for a drive never really caught on with the American driver/dog owner. But let’s leave modern morality and concerns about animal welfare out of it and keep this strictly about cars. The old ad in Popular Mechanics promised that the head hole in “the dog sack” was covered with small rubber tubing designed to protect your car’s finish. But what about that precious paint job when the car actually got moving and the dog, peppered with road grit and flipped out with fear, tried to claw and chew its way out of the sack?
Poison Gas Shooting Riot Car
Patented in 1938 by New Yorker Victorino Tunaya but never actually built, this futuristic-looking vehicle was designed to mow down angry crowds of protestors, rioters or any annoying group of agitators with streams of poisonous gas, powerful water jets or a hail of bullets.
In Car Mini-Bar
If you’re old enough to remember when Perry Mason and I Love Lucy were two of the most popular shows on television, then you also probably remember one of the biggest headaches with cars back in the day: there was never a handy place to put your drink. Cadillac tackled this problem head on when it offered this magnetized glove-box minibar as a standard option on its 1957 Eldorado Brougham.
To make tires glow in 1961, engineers at Goodyear supposedly used special synthetic rubber and mounted actual light bulbs on the inner wall of a tire’s rim. Called “entertaining but ultimately pointless” by the press (and a road hazard by anyone else who understood how broken glass and inflatable rubber tubes don’t mix), illuminating tires looked pretty cool but never really caught on.