In the wheeled world, what’s old is new again. From the Challenger and Camaro to the Mini and Beetle, roadways are jammed with retro-cool rides. Yet when it comes to throwbacks, not everything from yesteryear is worth celebrating. In fact, there are numerous accessories and option packages that should definitely remain forever entombed within the garage bay of history.
Vinyl roof: My dislike for the vinyl roof started when I was eight. My grandparents took me to African Lion Safari in their new 1970 Ford Fairlane 500. Unfortunately, cars with vinyl roofs were prohibited from touring the area where the wild things are – vinyl being no match for fangs, claws, and litigious bite-victims. End result: we had to tour the grounds in a bus. Safari etiquette aside, who truly believes a roof rendered from plastic adds appeal to any car?
Whitewall tires: There’s a good reason why whitewalls fell out of vogue decades ago. Namely, whitewalls look spectacular in a new car showroom. But after being bombarded by 50 shades of elemental grey (exhaust, dirt, dust, etc.) in the real world, they sporting a zombie-like complexion. Ivory-accented tires only shine when affixed to trailer queens.
Icemaker: Much was jolly about those Toyota Previas back in the 1990s. All-wheel-drive. Mid-engine. Supercharged. And we’re talking a minivan here. But really, what was the deal with that onboard icemaker that was briefly offered? Does even a motorist navigating the Sahara really need ice that badly? Besides, surely we’re never more than 10 minutes away from a convenience store that has bags of the stuff ready for the taking.
Denim interior: Those whiz-bang marketers at AMC surely harboured a death wish in the 1970s. First, they came up with “Gremlin” as the moniker for their grotesque new 1970 hatchback. (A gremlin being a mythical creature that likes to tamper with the mechanical integrity of vessels. Golly, was “Lemon” already trademarked?) And, as if to spit in the eye of fate, AMC unveiled the Gremlin on April Fool’s Day. But wait, there’s more: a V-8-powered version of the car, the Gremlin X, followed. Notably, the Gremlin X could be ordered with the optional Levi’s denim interior package. Yes, denim-covered car seats complete with stitching, buttons, and those Levi’s red tabs – just like your old jean jacket! On the bright side, nobody to our knowledge has yet to market slacks made from vinyl.
Elongated nose cone/towering rear wing: We concede that the rarefied 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird is a much sought-after muscle car collectible. But come on, can’t we all just admit that the Superbird’s aerodynamic add-ons (namely, that goofy elongated nose cone and supersized rear spoiler) look absolutely ludicrous and serve no useful purpose?
Pickup bed seats: Yes, the Subaru BRAT (Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter) is a truck. But in the early 1980s, the bean counters at Subaru came up with an ingenious way to avoid getting soaked by hefty truck tariffs. Namely, by affixing a pair of seats in the BRAT’s cargo bed, Subaru successfully argued that the BRAT was actually a passenger car. (At the time, passenger cars imported into the U.S. were charged a 2.5 per cent tariff versus a whopping 25 per cent for pickups.) Granted, sitting in a pickup’s cargo bed – a la Granny in The Beverly Hillbillies – might be dandy while slowly cruising the boulevard in a warm, dry environment. But just imagine the experience while en route to Kapuskasing in January.
Faux wood panelling: Chrysler can’t seem to let go when it comes to cheesy fake bark. Early Caravans were offered with faux wood panelling; more recently, one could order the “Woodie” option on the PT Cruiser. Real wood adorning a car body is cool. But a smattering of MACtac stickers pretending to be wood? Tacky indeed.
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