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The Five Worst Automotive Style Accessories

Posted in auto industry, Car Accessories, Cars, Custom, FAIL, General by Kurt Ernst | October 30th, 2010 | 12 Responses |

Beauty, people say, is in the eye of the beholder. I’m not sure I buy into that, as some styling trends are just so damn ugly that you can’t help but wonder what the hell someone was thinking when the stuck that eyesore on or in their car. Automotive style has always been a topic of some debate, but the five accessories below never did a thing to improve the appearance or functionality of the cars they were installed on. Fortunately, most have died a slow, painful death over the years, and you’d be hard pressed to find a modern car that sports more than one.

Vinyl Roofs

Photo: CZmarlin

Why anyone would add weight, parasitic drag and increased maintenance to their car is beyond me. Manufacturers stopped cranking out factory-produced vinyl roofs in the last decade, but that hasn’t stopped customizers from keeping the style alive. Today, they can still be found on customized Buicks and Mercury Grand Marquis’, typically driven by blue-haired old ladies. If you see one on the road, be afraid: be very afraid.

‘Wire Wheel’ Wheel Covers

Yeah, that looks good...

Let me clarify one thing: authentic, factory original wire wheels are cool. Sure, they’re also heavy (by modern standards) and high maintenance, but they give a vintage car an authentic look that you just can’t achieve with other wheel styles.

Wire wheel hubcaps, on the other hand, are an abomination. They really don’t look like wire wheels, since they lack dimensionality. Most don’t even sit flush against a car’s steel wheel, which gives them a bizarre, oscillating effect as you drive down the road. Even the factory wire wheel covers pegged the cheese-ometer, and you could generally hear them rattling, squeaking and popping from blocks away. Aside from rusting hulks by the side of the road, I haven’t seen a set on a car in years, and I say that’s a good thing.

Continental Kits

Originally offered as a functional accessory, continental kits moved the spare tire from inside the trunk to the rear bumper. Cars that came with these from the factory (some Nash sedans, the Nash Metropolitan, T-Birds, Lincolns, etc.) are cool. Cars that added a fiberglass or plastic replica continental kit, purchased from the back of a J.C. Whitney catalog, are not.

This trend was kept on life support for years, as automakers shaped trunk decklids to give the appearance of a continental kit. Take the Lincoln Mark VIII for example; the designers insisted on carrying over this bizarre styling relic. I’m just happy that Cadillac didn’t feel compelled to work a continental kit look into the CTS-V.

White Wall Tires

A Ford Granada, with factory-installed ugly.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, white wall tires were like Lady Gaga is today: try though you might, you just couldn’t avoid them. They looked horrible on most cars, unless you were going for the whole polyester-slack-wearing-retiree look. Worse, a lot of cars left the assembly line with fake wire wheel covers and whitewall tires, something I still have nightmares about. Thankfully, automakers came to their senses in the past 20 years, and I can’t think of a single car that rolls on whitewalls from the factory anymore.

This doesn’t apply to the wide whitewalls favored by cruisers and hot rodders. On the right car, wide whitewall tires look damn good, but only if the car was built prior to 1960.

Plastic Seat Covers

I can’t remember the last time I saw this staple of 1960s suburbia, and I say good riddance. Why anyone would think it was a good idea to put toxic-fume-leaching plastic across cloth seats was always beyond me. In the summertime, it trapped heat until the seat was about the temperature of the sun’s surface. When you tried to slide across it, you often left bits of flesh behind, as they’d fused to the plastic. In the winter time, it was like sitting on a block of ice, and the total absence of friction ensured a workout as you tried to stay in place behind the wheel. On the plus side, it did keep the upholstery from getting worn out.

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12 Responses

  1. […] The Five Worst Automotive Style Accessories […]

  2. Lightnup says:

    Up there in the top ten has to be the “Chrome-look” stick-on door edge guards (and, for some over-achievers, trunk & hood-edge guards) that started peeling off after the first car wash

  3. eddie_454 says:

    those chrome taillights have got to go,notice the buick look on the front fender of the 300,i cant understand that.the first car could have a curb feeler on the tail pipe,that was a goofy accessory back in the day.i passed the drivers test in my dads 57 chevy by backing up along the curb,i asked how did i do, she said great except you backed up to fast!

  4. TwistedD85 says:

    You’ve basically listed accessories for the man that bought his first car in the 60’s or 70’s, back when that stuff was actually showing off. Cars in Florida are riddled with these things. Even good, wholesome, decent cars get the treatment.

  5. BigRuss says:

    i would have put the ever dated Fake Portholes on the list…. you see them everywhere…. granted that cars that came from the factory with them look decent… but a rusted out grand cherokee with them lil diamond shaped port holes with the carbon fiber inlay?

    • Kurt says:

      Good call, Big Russ. Portholes look good on vintage Buicks (three per side if it’s powered by a six, four per side if it’s powered by an eight), and that’s about it. Carbon fiber and portholes go together like Anthony Bourdain and PETA.

  6. BigRuss says:

    that and the “blinged out” lettering…

  7. Les says:

    I think those large diameter wheels are the ugliest thing I have ever seen. Big wheels belong on semi trucks!

  8. Kurt says:

    Les, I’m with you on this. Why would anyone mod their car to make it go slower?

  9. JFCost says:

    A great list and some great add-ons! I think you missed out on the old green windshield shades / visors, the original green plastic hood wind deflectors, and too many of the crappy looking fender skirts. By the way, WHAT is that on the front fender of the black caddy in the first photo????

  10. Kurt says:

    JFCost, I believe that’s a creatively mounted continental kit. Good call on the green bug deflectors – I’d forgotten all about those…

  11. BigRuss says:

    i did have big wheels on my grand prix… but with no traction control and the stupid power of a supercharged v6 on the front wheels… it kinda helped the car put the power down…. with my stock 15’s on it dyno’d at 325, the 20’s was 315 at the wheels…. BUT no wheel hop