As much as car manufacturers want to think of their creations as perfect little mechanical angels, not every car buyer is satisfied with them in their stock forms. How else would you explain why the aftermarket tuning biz is still pretty healthy, even in this economy?
However, not every driver looking to personalize his or her ride wants to dump thousands of dollars on improving things like looks, acceleration, handling or any other major categories. Lots of people are perfectly content with smaller accessories and trinkets, and there are millions of them out there serving a litany of purposes. Unfortunately, with such a large crop of motoring bolt-ons and tschotskes on the market, there are bound to be a few stinkers. We’ve assembled 20 add-on atrocities after the jump for your viewing…uh…amusement?
It’s often said that drivers of big pickup trucks are overcompensating for something (three guesses as to what that something is). So it’s rather appropriate that there is at least one company (plus a few imitators) selling big, plastic, er, scrota that attach to a trailer hitch receiver. What do these accomplish? Asserting that your rig’s a dude? That flashing is one of your hobbies? That you’re a firm believer in Freudian theories? We really don’t know, and not sure we want to know.
Sometime in the 1990s, somebody apparently thought it would be hi-larious to dress up a toddler-sized doll and pose it leaning on a hot rod so it looked like it was leaning on the front of the car, face buried in its arms, and crying. Well, the munchkin mannequins quickly exploded in popularity to the point where you couldn’t go to a single hot rod or muscle car show without seeing a seven-nation army of the damn things. Thankfully, their ubiquitousness is all but a memory these days, though there are still a select few that still whip ‘em out come show time. Their reward? Being ostracized by the rest of the hot rodding community. WINNING!
Generally speaking, we’re fans of lingerie on women. But what about lingerie on cars, specifically car bras? Not. So. Much. Aside from the potential to trap moisture, scratch the paint by buffeting at speed, and create the automotive equivalent of a tan line in the finish (Hmm…another thing we find far less objectionable on a lady than we do an automobile.), it’ll also make you popular with amateur car spies who mistake your ride for a camouflaged future car (Veterans like Brenda Priddy will know better.), at least until they get tired of you unintentionally duping them. Then you won’t be so popular.
Not every car accessory can be credited with helping to launch a bona fide Internet meme, so whistle tips are in pretty elite company. Such a pity they manage to be both laughably pointless and annoying enough to be the target of bans in certain areas. Put another way: Bubb Rubb’s enthusiasm fought the law and the law won. Thank goodness.
These days it seems like luxury car designers have a colossal hard-on for fender vents. No surprise, then, that making aftermarket vents that simply stick on via double-sided tape has become big business. You can purchase them from many different sources in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: They will not make your Civic or Cavalier appear any more stately and/or sporty. Besides, what’s so prestigious about making it look like your engine runs hot?
We’d all love to spend less money on fuel, especially in this day and age. Good thing there are scores of gadgets and geegaws – ranging from an electronic module that plugs into your cigarette lighter to magnets that clamp onto your fuel lines – out there to bump up your gas mileage. Only one small, teensy tiny problem: Independent test after independent test has proven none of them. Do. Jack.
Think about it: Why hasn’t Big Oil bought up all their patents to keep such products off the market? Or the EPA mandated them as standard equipment on all new cars and trucks? If you can’t answer that, could you at least tell us if you’d be interested in purchasing an old suspension bridge over the East River from us?
Nothing says “f*ck-you money” better than gold (except platinum. Then again, how much platinum jewelry do you see relative to the gold stuff?). So if you want to at least look like you’re makin’ it rain, you want to flash copious amounts of the stuff, whether on your person or on your ride.
Gold plating has been around for many, many years, and has been upping the bling quotient on automotive trim for as long as we can remember. Of course, all but the biggest ignoramuses know that it isn’t solid gold, and why would it be, given the potential for thievery? So it’s common knowledge that it’s fake, yet you flash it just the same? Got it…
When the Toyota Altezza debuted in Japan in 1998, it garnered basically no attention on this side of the Pacific. When it arrived in the U.S. two years later as the Lexus IS300, however, it was on many-a-tuner’s radar. Not so much because of its small, rear-drive chassis or the 2JZ-GE 3.0L straight-six under the hood, but because of its taillights. Red lamp units encased by clear lenses became all the rage among aftermarket automotive exterior lighting makers throughout the first half of the Naughts. Eventually it got to the point where it seemed Lexus-aping replacement lamp clusters for every car except a Series II Humber Super Snipe were available.
And then, seemingly just as quickly as they burst onto the scene, Altezza lights petered out. Even Lexus dumped them on the second-generation IS. Yeah, they’re still available for quite a few applications, but these days they’re only bought by people who rent their movies and video games at Blockbuster (Yes, we mean the actual physical stores.) and are adamant (ADAMANT!) that “Survivor” and “American Idol” are at the bleeding edge of reality competition show innovation and freshness.
Wearing your seatbelt while driving is not only required by law pretty much everywhere, but it’s a damn good idea to boot. But it seems some people don’t like the feel of a strap over their shoulder. That’s where seatbelt covers (be they fashioned from sheepskin, Neoprene or some other material) come in. Oh sure, they may soften the feel of the belt across your clavicle, and make it easier for cops to see that you’re following the rules, but those same cops are also much more likely to point and laugh at you.
Our advice? Unless you have the worst case of psoriasis in recorded history, you should either a) cowboy up and ride barebelt, or b) surrender your Man Card at the nearest sports bar, home improvement store or strip club post haste.
Portable music players are great, especially in cars, since they allow you to bring along your whole music collection and not be stuck with the radio, which is slowly having all remaining life sucked out by the commercial-break-synchronizing Clear Channel Borg. But what if you drive an older car that doesn’t have an Aux-In jack and/or USB port? How do you get your tunes from A to B?
One way is an FM transmitter. Just tune your head unit to an unused frequency and voila, instant listening bliss, right? Not so fast. Even if you find an open frequency in an urban area, there’s a very good chance you’ll still have static and signal dropout, at least some of the time. And road trips? Be ready to hunt for available stations multiple times. Save yourself the frustration and headaches and save your pennies for a modern radio or, better yet, see if you can have the stock piece retrofitted with an Aux-In jack (Some manufacturers like Becker will do this for a reasonable price.).
Scrolling LED Signs
If you’ve ever accidentally cut someone off and wanted to apologize, there are companies that will sell you a scrolling electronic signboard that you can display in your rear window to convey custom messages. Neat idea, but we reckon it would be just as handy at creating road rage as preventing it. And what if, in your frenzy to type up a message to the irate driver behind you, you wind up ramming the vehicle in front of you? We’re betting no pattern of blinking LEDs is going to make that go away.
If you drive a car built prior to the mid-‘90s or so, it almost certainly doesn’t have any cupholders (No, those round divots on the inside of the glovebox lid don’t count.). There are, however, retrofits available, ranging from ones that fit in the map pockets on the door panels to ones that clamp onto the dashboard. But really, unless your car is a standard shift, holding a drink between your legs and not spilling it is totally doable. Trust us on this.
Cargo Area and Seat Pet Covers
If you have pets, you have to cart them around in your car to the vet, the park or elsewhere. And if your four-legged friends are too big for pet carriers or crates (or you just don’t want to cage them up), you can buy one of the specialized covers for rear seats and SUV or station wagon cargo areas. Such covers can sell for over $100, though. Alternately, you could go to a thrift store, buy a big towel or blanket and some clothespins for a grand total of about $10 and have something just as effective. But hey, it’s your money…
Back in the dark days of the late 1970s and early 1980s, most of the major automakers didn’t offer true convertibles, largely because there were fears the U.S. government would enact safety standards that would ban them anyway. As a result, carriage tops, which were designed to look like fabric convertible tops in the raised position, became all the rage.
And yet, nearly 30 years after the “rebirth” of the convertible, they’re inexplicably still around. Gaudy really doesn’t begin to describe them, and that’s just on the expected Lincolns and Cadillacs; we once saw one on a Jaguar X-Type and found ourselves grabbing for a bottle of Brain Bleach that just wasn’t there. The horror. The horror.
Turbo Whistler Exhaust Tips
A close cousin of the whistle tip, a turbo tip is a whistle suspended in the middle of the pipe to create the sound of a turbocharger spooling up and a blowoff valve chirping. Sounds neat on paper, but the increase in backpressure can cause serious damage upstream. What’s more, while putting them on, say, a Honda Civic or Mitsubishi Eclipse would make for a somewhat believable soundtrack, throwing one on something like an Olds Cutlass Ciera would be the motoring equivalent of a 100 lb. high school freshman stuffing a papaya down the front of his drawers: Not. Fooling. Anyone.
Wheel Size Emblems
Those who belong to the Church of the 20”-plus Rims aren’t known for being introverts. In fact, some members even like driving home the fact their rides’ wheels are bigger than all but the most extreme pizza pans by installing emblems denoting the diameter of the wheels. While it’s nice for curious onlookers, since they don’t have to squat down to look at the size molded into the tire sidewalls, they do come across as a bit tacky owing to the whole expansion of the “mine’s bigger than yours” mentality.
On paper, these things kick 31 flavors of ass: Fairly easy to set up (only having three walls and all), and they let you sleep in the smooth back of your own car rather than the lumpy forest floor. In practice, though, there are some notable issues: The gaps between car body and tent aren’t 100% fauna-proof. There’s no curtain or wall on the car side, meaning passers-by can, for instance, observe you and your favorite co-camper doing the birds and bees thing. And, most damning of all, two of the most frightful automobiles in history – the Chevrolet Vega and Pontiac Aztek – offered hatchback tents in their official accessory catalogs. We’ll take “Guilty by Association” for $500, Alex.
Chrome Rocker Panel Molding
Okay, we’ll admit it: These things have their place as original equipment on certain older luxury cars (We’ll totally cop to liking them on the 1993-’96 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, a car we half-ashamedly, half-proudly love anyway.). But late model pickups? Present-day rental car fodder? No. Just…no.
And don’t give us the whole “It protects the paint” spiel. Instead of having dirty or chipped paint, you have dirty or chipped chrome plating (or, if you’re a cheapskate, chrome-look plastic film) to look at every day. And like carriage tops, they simply don’t work, visually speaking, on modern motorcars. The world has moved on, and so should you.
Package Tray Menageries
While hatchbacks and station wagons are king in most other corners of the globe, notchback sedans have long ruled the roost in the U.S. of A. Part of that may be due to the perception of two-box automotive shapes being synonymous with basic transportation or riding with your parents, but another may be the way sedans, with their fixed rear package shelves (the flat surface between the top of the rear seatback and the back window) lends itself to displaying knickknacks.
Whether it’s the ever-popular Chihuahua bobblehead, Beanie Babies, Hello Kitty dolls or whatever you’re into, it’s easy to tell the drivers following what your obsessions (sorry, “interests”) are. Just don’t get into any frontal collisions, okay? That little Domo-Kun plush won’t seem so light and soft when it goes medieval on the back of your skull at 70+ mph.
Manufacturer-Branded Apparel Overload
Yeah, calling these legitimate car accessories is a bit of a reach. But considering most are available at the dealership parts and accessories counter, we’re lumping them in with the 19 aforementioned misfits…and how.
Don’t get us wrong; we have no problem with owning and occasionally wearing a hat or T-shirt emblazoned with your whip’s family crest. However, if your entire outfit consists of such profanely overpriced merchandise and you try to wear said outfit to as many public places as possible, you have a problem. Just because you’re dressed from head-to-toe (socks and skivvies included) in gen-yu-wine BMW and Motorsport GmbH gear doesn’t mean you’re no longer the owner of a theft-recovery E36 318ti automatic who spends his days in his bedroom/parents’ basement trolling Audi and Mercedes-Benz enthusiast forums. In reality, you’re a crown prince of the Republic of Douchenozzlia. Yeah, sh*t just got real in here. You’re welcome.