Hooniverse Asks- What Automotive Accessory Do You Wish Was Still Around?


Brodie knobs  (or necker’s knobs to you lotharios), those little sandbag ashtrays, nodding-head chihuahua dogs for the parcel shelf – like the conestoga wagon, these, and many more automotive accruements seem no longer in fashion, or obsolete. But that doesn’t mean we can’t pine for them.
When I was a kid, we used to have this plastic tray that fit in the middle of the bench on our Cadillac, and provided an enclosed storage box as well as a couple of cup holders. This was, of course, back in the days before cup-holder technology had reached its zenith, and the Caddy, while bedecked with fins and enough chrome to float the plating industry for a decade, lacked a single secure receptacle for a cup of joe or can of refreshing Fresca. The molded plastic piece – purchased at Pep Boys – rectified that oversight, and was part of a healthy after-market parts economy.
But these days cars come with more bells and whistles, and provide fewer opportunities for the impulse purchase accessories which were the staple of many an automotive aisle at your local mom & pop hardware store. We also used to have a little green anodized ashtray with a natty plaid sandbag base which could be set on the seat or flat expanse of the dash, providing a convenient receptacle for your Lucky Strike or Camel detritus. These days nobody even smokes.
Your experience may not harken back as far as mine, but there’s still a lot of stuff that you can’t find any more that was available just a few years back- remember those two-blade windshield wipers? Those things were crazy! And what about peeing calvin stickers? You know those were part of our national discourse for a while there, and now they only seem to be on the cars of angry loners and crazy folks.
So, what automotive accessory sends you into an apoplexy of fond memories? And if there are none, which current accessory do you love or love to hate? I’m looking at you stick-on portholes.
Image sources: [wikimedia, smokingonline]

74 Comments

  1. My vote goes for CB radios. Talking to other people out on the highway, trying to convince the truckers that you were about to land a plane on the freeway…good times!

    1. They are/were the key to road trip hilarity. Once chat rooms hit internet-connected cars, WATCH OUT. Oh, the trolling we'll do…

  2. Brodie knobs? Where I grew up in southern Oregon we called those 'suicide knobs', I'm not sure why. Regional dialect I suppose. I do miss those little sandbag ashtrays though, they were mighty handy and I always look for them in auto stores but never find them.

    1. We called them suicide knobs in Michigan too. And we would tie a 1' length of telephone cord (the curly one connecting receiver to base) to the suicide knob and make life extra hilarious.
      And amazingly, I googled those ashtrays on Sunday too as I needed the pic for a joke I made in a forum. Many lolz, many lulz, oh the way we were…

    2. They’re called suicide knobs because just imagine what happens when the knob breaks off, or comes loose.

        1. I remember these (suicide-knobs) being on lots of Trucks when I was younger, but I thought they got the name because if you were backing up (where these were super-useful) and hit a rock or curb with either tire on the steer-axle the steering wheel would violently whip around and break your hand so fast you would wish you were dead. Would love to have one like the one in the picture above on my Volvo though.

          1. Remember being warned not to steer a truck in the rough with your thumb inside the steering wheel, in case you hit a rock and the wheel spins around and the spoke takes out your thumb? I do, and remember forgetting about that advice long ago driving a Deuce and a Half. Hurt like hell, and I've never had it happen to me since. I've since learned to let the wheels find their own line, and just kind of let the steering wheel spin back and forth inside my hands. With my thumbs tucked out of the way.

          2. The first truck I ever drove that I could kind of call my own (meaning I didn't have to clear out all my gear at the end of a shift, because I was now the only driver) was this super short wheelbase '77 KW K-100 Cab-Over that was from the old days of regulation and length laws and the ICC. Thing was as tall as it was long, and great for a new driver except that it had manual steering. I was a kid, but I shit you not, that steering wheel was close to three feet in diameter, and one day one of the old-hands saw me having trouble spotting a trailer and showed me a trick. You could kind of stand up out of the seat and grab the wheel with the opposite hand of where you wanted to go palm-up through the wheel and sort of lay down on top of it to use your skinny-ass body weight to lever the wheel at slow speeds. He was quite adamant that this technique only be used when going forward, and never in reverse.

          3. I was warned that laying on the horn on my Camaro while the airbag went off would break them. Didn't help with the femur though…

    3. I also grew up in southern Oregon and was told the name "suicide knob" referred to the problem of catching the cuff of one's shirtsleeve while winding the wheel for a turn, making it difficult/impossible to straighten the wheel in time. That doesn't stop me from using the one that's still installed in my '37 Plymouth– it's just far too convenient for controlling the wheel while using hand signals (electric signals were an extra-cost option, after all).

    1. The cigarette lighter in my truck has some serious spring-loaded action. The catch is warn down, so basically, when the lighter is hot, it shoots out into your knee.

  3. Funny thing about those console cupholder/storage boxes… My parents had them on pretty much every '70s & '80s model we owned. They even managed to find one in mint green to match the (UGH-ly) interior of the '77 LeSabre. It seemed like the first stop on the way home with any new car was Advance Auto, to buy one of those things.
    My father passed about 5 months ago and we've been slowly cleaning out his house to get it on the market. I'll be damned if we haven't run across TWO of those things, despite the fact that he hadn't owned a car that would have accepted one in at least 20 years. Apparently a snub-nose .38 fits quite nicely in the bottom of one. I guess I now know why he was so quick to buy them.

    1. My '64 Studebaker Lark Daytona 2drht had them.
      All I needed was a cheap little FM wireless mic, from RadioScap, elastic-banded to the drive-in speaker (which was then left outside, on-the-post (Baggie if it was raining)) and an in-dash AM/FM cassette (also RS) and four decent speakers. Flip the seats and stretch out to watch the show, with surround sound. Easier to duck below window level, too, should the mood strike. 🙂 (This would have been mid '70s)

    1. Agreed. There is just something more satisfying about the tactile feel of switches and toggles made out of solid material. Man interiors suck in our fine country.

  4. I was going to say the tape deck, since I miss listening to my "Cool Songs" and "Early '90s Power Ballads" mix tapes. I went on Crutchfield and actually found one. So, there goes that idea.
    One thing I won't miss when it finally dies off is the giant wing on the back of a FWD car. Idiots. This is how it's done right:
    <img src="http://image.motortrend.com/f/motorsports/front-wing-equipped-scion-tc-breaks-lap-record-at-willow-springs/16532987+w750/chris-rado-front-wing-scion-tc.jpg&quot; style="width: 500px; height: 310px; border: 0" alt="imgTag" />

    1. Where does this fiction that the wing has to be over the driven wheels come from, anyhow? Actually, given that a FWD car has most of its weight up front, a nice chunk of downforce over the rear wheels can help keep the rear end from going completely unloaded when decelerating into a turn.
      Not that I'm going to miss ricer wings on slow-ass street-driven Civic either, mind you, but there's a reason that the above car (and everything you see in IRL and F1, for that matter) has wings at *both* ends.

      1. FWDs don't generally have a problem losing traction in the back. The usual story is massive understeer, which would be better served with a front wing than rear.

    1. Hell yeah! Actually my 1995 LS400 has the AC vent below the steering column. Like you say, driving bliss when it's hot out.

      1. I got a set of replacement full hard doors on my YJ that had them.
        No such luck on the TJ, though.

  5. I know that retrofitting power windows into your street rod is nearly a requirement nowadays, but given the current state of my Panther Town Car, I vote for aftermarket window crank retrofit kit that would allow me to go in the other direction.

  6. Asked and answered: The Brodie Knob.
    In California they were outlawed before they became irrelevant. I had one on the wheel of my first set of wheels, a '54 F100. It was red acrylic with sparkles! I had one because that truck NEEDED one; it had no power steering and a great big 1950's steering wheel that spun (what felt like) 15 turns lock-to-lock. These days of course, the iconic Brodie Knob is no longer needed. Folks that hot rod old cars these days swap out the steering assembly for something modern and POWERED. I still think they are epically cool and would totally Fight the Power and install one on a rat rod (if I had one).

    1. I'll bet my '66 F100 has the same steering box as your '54, and yeah, it's like fifteen turns lock to lock. I've never considered a brodie/necker's/sucide knob, though. I just kinda spin it with the heel of my hand. However, I remember driving a forklift with one, and it came in real handy.

    2. I used to drive (a looong time ago) a plumbing supply delivery truck that had a suicide knob, and it was great when you had to back up in tight and twisty places. The truck was a '64 F350 (I think) and steering that bastard through construction sites gave you a real workout.

    3. My grandad was paralyzed and used one til the day he died. He like it since he operated the throttle with this bitching airplane/boat sliding control with the other hand. I loved driving that old Town Car.

    4. No state in the nation has outlawed Brodie knobs. I am glad to report that is an urban myth — check "Brodie knobs illegal" on the Internet and you will see that currently there is no state law prohibiting them. It is possible that some localities have statutes banning them but no state laws are in existence.

  7. Yes, yes, YES! THAT is this single feature of old cars I miss most on modern ones. Funny that this did not occur to me as my first 5 vehicles all had these.

    1. IIRC, they had those up through the 1989 model — my first car was an '89, and I had those little roll-down triangles up front as well. That car was great when the electrical bits were working — I was the only guy in high school with so much luxury.
      Then the locks all broke, and the radio quit, and then I got T-Boned. It was good while it lasted, anyhow…

  8. Are those air fresheners shaped like crowns still around? They used to be everywhere in Detroit. San Francisco, never seen one.

    1. I was still seeing them in and around Detroit within the last couple of years. I always assumed they somehow connoted gang affiliation, but that might be because I'm a paranoid white boy from a small town.
      For a long time, I thought they were a standard option on G-bodies.

  9. Has any automotive accessory ever really gone away?
    You want a steering wheel knob, here you go: http://www.jcwhitney.com/sports-ball-steering-whe
    They might fall out of popularity, but I can't think of anything that is no longer available. Sure some things might not be at every Wal-Mart and auto parts store, but you can still get them. About the only thing two things I can think of are the windshield wipers with the three little spoilers on them and boomerang TV antennas, I'm just guessing that no body makes boomerang antennas for HDTV.

    1. Back in the eighties in SLC every cheese-dick in the 'burbs had those boomerang antennas. My '71 Caddy limo had one when I bought it, I got rid of it immediately.

  10. Growing up my dad never needed cupholders because he always kept his ice-cold Buckhorn between his legs when he drove and the cooler between the seats. That said, I miss real ashtrays, manual lockout hubs and bench seats.

    1. Even in 1989/'90, my folks had to call around a bit before they found a Bronco II with manual hubs. A shame indeed.
      My car has one half-cupholder – it's at a thirty-degree angle to the floorpan. I usually have a two-liter bottle tucked between the set and doorsill, where it fits perfectly.

  11. Imiss Winky the cat tnd the related stuffed animals that had eyes that lit up when you braked. I still have one in the original box waiting for some custom.

  12. California, the 1980s. Imagine, if you will, a state full of Datsun 280Z's, each with a louvered hatchback window shade.
    <img="http://i.ebayimg.com/02/!Bnl,MvQ!2k~$%28KGrHqQOKiwEtk6dnLhpBLkCufOzqw~~_12.JPG&quot; width=500 height=375>
    Oh, and since cars quite often didn't have that blue shading embedded in the top of the front windshield, I think the louvers must have come with a free "visor shade" in the box, which naturally said "Datsun". I haven't seen one in a long time, but they were everywhere once.

    1. Yeah, and everybody without the window louvers had to have the sticker that said "Oakley: Thermonuclear Protection" stuck on the back window.

    2. This is the correct answer.
      They made 'em to fit the 242/244. I am afraid that if I ran across 'em I'd buy 'em.
      Also, my old windshield had LA-smog-brown shading. Then it broke. Now it's blue.

  13. Those little trash bags with the flap at the top that had a hole in it so you could hang it on the radio knob.
    I also miss knobs, but they were not generally accessories, unless you count the cheap ones you bought at K-mart to replace the ones that (always) fell off the lever to roll down the window. Now everything is switches, latches, levers, buttons, touchpads, and joysticks. But darn few knobs.

  14. Knobs, steel dashes, bench seats, vent windows (Don't need A/C as long as you keep moving), and ash trays. When, when I was young, I knew of cars that had a separate ash tray for each passenger.

  15. Is the JC Whitney catalog still published? I haven't seen one for years, but it was chock full of completely useless auto gadgets, as well as some vehicle specific useful stuff. I think I was one for three for actually getting correct part I ordered the first time.

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