Hooniverse Asks: What Dashboard Accoutrement Did Your Family Car Have When You Were Growing Up?

My dad had a white Mercury Montego wagon when I was a kid. I remember two things vividly about that car: staring out the back window from the rear-facing back seat, and the bobbly ball-in-water compass that was mounted on the dash. My dad bought the Merc used, and the car came with the compass. My dad was not a man to ever get lost, but he kept it there nonetheless giving us all an added bit of in-car entertainment in an era before FM radio gained a foothold.
Dashboard accoutrements were a big part of my youth. There were hula girls, sandbag ashtrays—yeah, everybody smoked back then—and even little magnetic notepads. I remember my mom had one of those and would write her shopping list on it. Let’s take a trip down memory lane. Do you remember your family car having a dashboard tchotchke?
Image: JalopyJournal

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26 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What Dashboard Accoutrement Did Your Family Car Have When You Were Growing Up?”

  1. 0A5599 Avatar

    The ball compass suction cupped to the windshield.
    There was an FM converter under the dash of the Fleetwood.

    1. Tanshanomi Avatar

      Never had one of those, but we did have an accessory under-dash (actually mounted to the transmission tunnel) A/C unit installed in my dad’s ’67 Chrysler Newport Custom when we moved from Buffalo to Tampa.

      1. 0A5599 Avatar

        We had a Dodge van with what must have been a dealer installed air conditioner. It hung from the passenger-facing side of the dash, right above the doghouse, but the color didn’t match the rest of the interior.
        It had its own controls for fan speed and temperature. Heat and defrost came from controls integrated from the factory. I used to try to run a/c and heat at the same time to try to create a small tornado inside the van.

  2. GTXcellent Avatar

    Absolutely nothing – not even dust! My mother was/is very ‘particular’ about keeping her vehicle interiors factory fresh. She’d put towels on all of the seats and carpet remnants on the floor. Eat in the car – “are you out of your mind?” My dad smoked – but never in the car (oh how he’d burn through the Winstons the second we got anywhere though).
    So no, there was never any kind of aftermarket bobbing head dog or pine tree air-freshener in any of our rides growing up.

    1. 0A5599 Avatar

      I remember my grandfather’s car had custom-fitted clear plastic slipcovers over the seats. They were hot in the summer, looked bad, and were kind of slippery back in the days when bench seats were the norm and seat belt usage wasn’t. I think there were also clear plastic floor mats. Back then, he was replacing his cars every couple of years anyway, and parked in a garage, so the interior should have held up long enough without the extra measures.
      After my grandma died, his next car didn’t get the plastic.

    2. Zentropy Avatar

      My dad drove a 1970-ish Ford van that we used for family vacations. The interior was always immaculate, and the bench seats kept pristine with heavy clear plastic covers that had a raised diamond-plate texture to them. I recall the A/C not being particularly strong in that car, and my sweating legs would adhere to these seat covers. Upon exiting at rest stops, my sister and I would get stares for our seemingly “diseased” legs.

  3. Maymar Avatar

    For most of my youth, my dad drove a remarkably plain Plymouth Sundance with nothing extraneous except a set of golf clubs perpetually in the trunk. Although, as much as my parents didn’t want to spend on metallic paint, they were insistent on not getting white or black (there was a non-metallic red and blue available at no charge – they just chose red because that’s what our dealer got).

  4. Zentropy Avatar

    When I was born my mother drove a metallic green ’72 AMC Hornet SST with this green toy “hornet” hanging from the mirror. It eventually graced the mirror of the ’82 AMC Concord Station Wagon (also metallic green) in which she hauled the family. Recently my father found it and hung it on the mirror of Mom’s (metallic green) Mercury Mariner. My sister and I recall it vividly, because it was squishy and oddly satisfying to squeeze.

  5. engineerd Avatar

    My mom and dad’s cars never had anything on the dashboard that I can recall. My grandfather always had one of these:
    Often, we doubted its accuracy.

  6. Alff Avatar

    None on the family car. My first car did sport a fine looking feathered roach clip hanging from the rear view mirror – purely for aesthetic purposes.

  7. JohnComposMentis Avatar

    In the late ’50s and early ’60s, my devout Catholic mother insisted on a St. Christopher statue on the dashboard, which was supposed to protect us while traveling. None of this new-fangled seatbelt nonsense until my father had the dealer install two in the front seat of our ’62 Ford, just that plastic statue.

  8. outback_ute Avatar

    A friend at school velcroed a Sony Discman to the dash of his car. When it came time to remove it, the Velcro stayed stuck and a chunk of dashboard came off with it!

  9. Professor Lavahot Avatar
    Professor Lavahot

    We went through about 5 or 6 of these, none of which ever worked particularly well.
    Honestly, no CD player of the time was ever not going to skip in a bouncy Blazer.

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

  10. Tanshanomi Avatar

    Nothing. My parents couldn’t be bothered to devote one more moment of attention to our motor vehicles than absolutely necessary.

    1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
      dead_elvis, inc.

      Hey, brother from another mother!
      After 50+ years of driving, my mother remains annoyed by the fact that owning a vehicle requires more than putting in fuel.
      Despite that, she’s infinitely more attentive to (and thus, responsible for) maintenance of their cars than is my father. I find it pleasantly surprising that she’s now willing to call me AFTER some cursory googling when something other than routine maintenance is required.
      I was holding out hope that Dad would get on the ball about it after he & I did a cross-country road trip earlier this summer. After a distributor failure in the RV we were driving, he admitted how little he understands about cars & expressed interest in finding out more. However, nothing I’ve seen or heard from him since indicates that was more than a quick “hey, I don’t know what you’re talking about” reaction. He’ll continue to buy beaters every five years or so & drive them into the ground without a second thought, while Mom will probably have her Subaru until she’s no longer able to drive.

      1. Tanshanomi Avatar

        My dad’s longtime saying is, “I know where to put the key and the gas nozzle. That’s as much as I need or want to know.”

        1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
          dead_elvis, inc.

          Good on him for being honest about it.

  11. mzszsm Avatar

    in the back window https://youtu.be/H7XO_1U5Jvg

  12. tonyola Avatar

    I had one of these (Doraemon) hanging from my 1990 Civic’s rear view mirror for a few years at the behest of my Japanese girlfriend.

  13. Guest Avatar

    Since I’m still growing up, here is what my family currently has:

    1990 Ford Taurus SHO (mine): Solar-powered hula girl, just for kicks.
    1991 Toyota Pickup (sister’s): Two magnetic psychedelic peace signs.
    1995 Jeep YJ (father’s): Hula girl / Hand-painted (by my brother) 1:64 model of the Jeep.
    2000 GMC Sierra 2500 (farm truck): Solar power hula girl.
    2006 Honda Odyssey (backup vehicle): Stormtrooper bobble-head.
    2010 Mazda CX-9 (mother’s): Nothing.

    The hula girls are all from a trip to Hawaii last year, while the 1:64 Jeep was a Father’s Day gift from my brother. The Stormtrooper has been taped to the dash of the Honda for at least 8 years…

  14. ptschett Avatar

    Nothing in the cars… but back when cellphones either were a brick or lived in a bag, several of the farm pickups had a 40-watt UHF Motorola 2-way radio under the dash which had meaningfully better range back to the repeater than the (also brick-like) 4-watt UHF Motorola HT600’s that everyone on the farm carried. The pickup radios & some of the hand-held units had phone keypad buttons for making or receiving calls via the repeater’s phone patch into the main farm phone line (as long as the caller or recipient was comfortable with everyone on the system hearing the call… and it was simplex rather than duplex so a number of incoming callers hung up just from thinking they’d been hung up upon.)

  15. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    Well, it sure as shit wasn’t a defroster.

    1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
      dead_elvis, inc.

      ACVW family?

  16. Sean McMillan Avatar
    Sean McMillan

    Growing up there wasn’t much on the dash. My dad had a bunch of fridge magnets holding various notes on the glovebox of his 71 Belair but that’s about it. When I got my Lancer, I had a hula girl on the package tray, but her skirt didn’t survive the heat or the wind so I replaced her with a plasma ball. That looked pretty cool for a few years until it quit working. Now it’s bare. The Volvo has a solar bobbing skeleton in a top hat on the dash. My wife’s old Datsun 720 had a Bumbles ( the Abominable Snowman) bobblehead. That’s all I can think of.

    1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
      dead_elvis, inc.

      I don’t see a return of the full metal dash anytime soon, but a panel – hmm, something about the size of a panel that covers the glove compartment – of steel where you could use magnets wouldn’t be the worst thing to have. I’d like to be able to use magnets on the dash someplace – summer heat dries out the glue on my Post-it notes & they fall off, and I get all discombobulated.

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