RARE AND UNIQUE OPTIONS BOTH FACTORY & AFTERMARKET
After all these years we decided to add a section on our website often spoke of but, not published. In our humble opinion what makes a car or truck at a Car Show is Unique, One-of-a-Kind, Seldom Seen Options. For example: of the 1,522,536 Chevrolet’s sold in 1957 there are probably 700,000 still left in existence ! So, what separates the chafe from the wheat is not only the Color Combination and, the Quality of the restoration but, ‘uniqueness’ of the individual vehicle. General Motors, for instance, offered an array of unusual options over the years that you almost never see, either because the owner of the car removed them, or they were stuffed away and ignored.
Some of the truly unusual options were:
- “Liquid Tire Chain”– offered in 1969 on the Camaro….. this enabled the car owner to get better traction in foul weather.
- “Space Saver Spare Tire”– available in 1968-1970 this provided a smaller, inflatable spare tire and opened up more room in the trunk making it more useable for luggage. It was accompanied by an Inflator Bottle– almost never seen now.
- “Swivel Seats”– 1973-1976 Chevelle Laguna’s and Monte Carlo’s were offered with these ‘trick’ seats ( along with a power “Sky Roof”). It was a spin-off of the 60’s option offered in the Chrysler 300 Model’s, in-which your entire seat spun around to allow egress from the bucket seat. Short-lived in popularity.
- “Factory Air Conditioning” Sorry, but we really gotta mention this seldom seen option in the 50’s..though it will result in a few folks out there going “duhh, that’s not ‘unique’!” ..it was, offered first in 1955 in Chevrolets at a cost of $565 and in Packards in 1939….a ton of money in anyone’s budget. Few Chevy’s or Packards are found with this expensive option.
- “Electric Shavers” (see accessory catalog 1951 Chevrolet). These were offered as an accessory from 1951-1959 (and ‘left-over’ at dealers later). They were always listed as only “Electric Shaver” leaving the door open for brand choice and were manufactured by Remington ‘Roll-a-Matic’, Schick and the Norelco ‘Sportsman’. All had 12v [cigarette lighter] plug-in capabilities for use at home or ‘on the road’ in the car.
6.”Vanity Case”– offered in 1957-1958 Cadillac Brougham’s in both the front and back seat. Almost never still in place. They contained an ounce of Arpe’ge Extrait de Lanvin ….touted as “a perfume in the Brougham price class”. They were accompanied by a brush, comb and mirror.
- “Memory Seat”– this was an option in 1957-58 Cadillac Broughams. The Brougham was Harley Earl’s (G.M’s Pres.) answer to the posh Radford equipped Rolls-Royce’s, and a slap-in-the-face comeback to Ford’s ‘elevated’ Mark II Model Lincoln. They had to discount the two-door Lincoln’s to get rid of them (‘selling around’ $8,000) while the 4-door Broughams were custom ordered, never discounted and sold at $13,074. The Lincoln’s sold 10,000 copies while Cadillac sold 400 in 1957 and 304 in 1958- a rare commodity. The Caddies also offered 2-4v carburetor’s in ’57 with a Batwing Air Cleaner and 3-2’s in 1958. The Lincoln only had a 4-barrel. The Cadillac was also offered with not only Leather but, 44 variations of Broadcloth in the interior. The pit fall of the Cadillac was it carried a Air Suspension, problematic from the get-go.
- “The Vacuum Ashtray” is listed in the Accessories Catalog by Chevrolet from 1956-1960 in it’s attempt to associate itself with the top-of-the-line models, like Cadillac . It was installed by the dealer not at the Factory. They have been seen in later years, probably installed as “left-over’s” by the individual dealers. They literally sucked the offending cigarette and ashes out a special ‘triggered’ device built under the dash. The hot trash was deposited in a cylinder under the dash to be discarded later. Despite the relatively low cost ($12.75) few smokers saw the need…it was easier to toss the butts on the road where they remain in our Ecology Cycle for Centuries. There were 3 different types over the years. The original had a glass, screw top jar but, not many remain today as they were usually broken. The 2nd and 3rd Series had a metal depository can.
- “Car Vases”– see our whole section on these on our site . They were used to act as a Deodorizer for the ‘wet’ leather and mohair interiors… mostly in cars from the 30’s and 40’s. Today they are seeing popular, new use for home decorating and in ‘new’ cars.
10.“Port-a-Wall White Walls”. Since the cost of upgrading Blackwall tires to Whitewalls was greedily explored by the dealers and tire stores, the ‘Port-a-Wall’ Whitewalls became instantly popular as ‘a cheap fix’. J.C. Whitney was famous for offering them (no more). You simply deflated your tire to allow the edge to be pinched in-between the wheel and tire and ‘Voila’…… instant white wall. Today they are a collector’s item.
- “The Under-Dash 45 r.p.m. Record Player”– in the Olden Days, most of us couldn’t afford to go to a Motel. You either ‘necked’ or tried your best to do your dirty deed in the car. Nothing was more conducive to romance than a good Radio. What better way to ‘woo your gal’ then to play her favorite 45 rpm song / record on your own private record player. What more could you do to impress her….. than have Elvis sing personally? Certainly not with just your 8″ shifter! These were not often used while riding down the BuMpY road but, for ‘parking’… it was a charm. Some models held up to 8 records and that could get you a long way with your date (average record 2.5 minutes long!, hey …. 20 minutes and your finished and down the road, buddy). Other models by Chrysler were called ‘The Highway Hi-Fi” but, played only 16 1/3 rpm records, but didn’t offer much of a variety. Today ANY version is a prized option.
- “The Desert Water Bag”– these canvas devices held water for that long journey across the desert. They had to be WET to work as otherwise the water would seep out. Gas Stations along Route 66 sold them by the dozens for those that feared their cars would overheat and spew out the precious engine saving liquid. Sometimes seen at car functions, they usually have Cherokee-type Indians painted on them or other Desert symbols.
- “Drive-in Trays” – who could forget these? They attached to your window and door and provided the mini-table for your Chocolate Soda, Hamburger, Fries and Milkshakes. Beware of cheap after-market repop’s ! Finding the original stamped, some even with the Drive-in Eatery name are in short commodity. The really rare one’s go in the backseat and hang over the back of the front seat. They are generally a bit larger and are super rare.
- “Drive-in Speakers”– why are these listed? Because many of them remained fixed to your car window as you bolted out of the drive-in (late) to get your date home before curfew. Sometimes you lost the glass but, many times the speaker was thrown in the trunk of the car never-to-be-returned to the poor Theatre owner. I mean, it wasn’t bad enough you were brutalizing his profits SNEAKING IN hidden in the trunk ! These can be readily found at the Car Flea Market as almost all the drive-in movie theatres are now closed.
- “Reverb Units”– this might jog your memory. These were attached in the late 60’s-and early 70’s (usually) to your AM Car Radio. Pontiac offered them in their new cars (1965-1970). It provided a ‘concert hall effect’ by adding an ‘echo’ to your music. This echo effect was magnified by the twist of a knob and you could actually create the illusion of sitting inside a brick well, legs immersed in water with the artist, by overworking the offending knob or create the exact sound of the artist playing live in the concert hall (usually a roller rink in those days). The downside- railroad tracks. The ‘spring device’ inside the unit would rumble so loud, when you drove over the RR Tracks, you would think the train had hit your car. Sure to be a popular ‘hit’ with your ‘new’ date who, terrified would try and jump out the window to safety. These are only available usually as non-working antiques at auto shows.
- “Swamp Coolers” – these were the earliest form of cool air – air conditioners usually seen out West or down South in the 50’s. They perilously hung on the glass window, were filled with dry ice or regular ice (and eventually melted water) and carried a built-in fan. Underway the rushing air forced the cool air into the cockpit and comfort was given to it’s sweating passengers. They were often Metallic Green with some, super rare, manufactured in California, that were bright Stainless Steel. They are considered ‘The Holy Grail’ of Car Show ‘antiques’ and often seen in AZ. and FL. Downside: on display, they pretty much guarantee a cracked passenger side window sooner of later as ‘dolts’ at cars shows run into them.
- “Side Exhaust Pipes”– Ahh, what better than the Sound of those Lake Pipes next to your ear- day after day, night after night, till your head was throbbing? These sounded great except under long-term use. No one could decide if it was the burnt legs, radiated heat, odor, traffic tickets from overzealous Cops, or….. the Repetitious Sound that finally did these in as a popular item.
- “Vanity Mirrors“– These were extra-cost options on almost all cars, except for Cadillac’s. If you wanted to be a “STAR” with your date…give her a Vanity Mirror on the Sunvisor. They were always ‘primping’! Later, they even lit them up for God’s sake!
- “Spotlights” – these have become so popular over the years that they are VERY common and found in most catalog’s and speed shops. I think it might have been the association with the “Car 54” TV Show? But, EVERYONE had them. They required drilling a hole in the windshield post which never interested me. They were good for lighting the path for your date to walk home (ho-ho), or looking for Werewolves but, I never understood The Big Attraction. Lighting up an “offender’s” speeding car I could relate to but…. they were indeed a popular option. “Dummy Spotlights”…maybe made for ?
- “Vinyl Tops” – these almost don’t deserve to be on this list- also very common and boring. These started in 1950 with the Ford Crestliner / Mercury Monterey and, at the time, certainly WERE unique and good looking. A great departure from the Plain-Jane metal tops. Ford added a matching color panel on the side of the Crestliner and the car really ‘popped’. Later, with the Convertible edging toward obscurity in 1976, they became a popular and in-expensive way to make your Coupe look-like a Convertible. Many , many cars had them. They don’t even deserve to be on this list but, I’m desperate to think back any further of something new 🙂
There are probably more ‘prizes’ out there . You’re welcome to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org with more. We will happily add them to our list !
Many of the rarest items on this list can now be found in our Gift Shoppe for sale…..some of these are for display only- NFS= Not For Sale
SOME OF THE CAR VASES YOU CAN FIND FOR SALE ON OUR SITE. THEY WERE A POPULAR ITEM USED DURING THE 30′, 40’S, AND EVEN LATER IN THE BIG SEDAN’S LIKE THE PACKARD, LINCOLN, CADILLAC, DUESENBERG …. EVEN FUNERAL COACHES.
THESE ARE YOUR TYPICAL ‘DRIVE-IN’ SPEAKERS/ BOTH THESE PAIRS HAVE THE DRIVE-IN NAME STAMPED IN THEM- NFS
THIS IS THE SUPER RARE ‘SWAMP COOLER’ , BETTER YET, IN STAINLESS STEEL WITH ORIGINAL DECAL – NFS
THIS IS A SUPER RARE ‘PERPETUAL MOTION” STEERING WHEEL CLOCK ON THE OPTIONAL ‘BANJO’ STEERING WHEEL- NFS
45 R.P.M. UNDERDASH RECORD PLAYER (COMPLETE WITH ORIG. WIRING DIAGRAM & MOUNTING BRACKETS) WORKED WHEN LAST USED;
SPACE SAVER SPARE TIRE N.O.S. FOR USE ON CAMARO’S AND FIREBIRDS
THIS IS AN ACCESSORY ‘VANITY MIRROR’ OPTIONED ON MOST ALL CARS. THIS ONE HAS THE SERVICE RECORD LOG PRINTED ON IT – NFS
VINTAGE 1 3/4″+ PORT-A-WALLS FOR 14″ WHEELS- ‘LIVE’ HEALTHY RUBBER-
CANVAS MINNEQUA DESERT WATER BAG IN SUPERB. CONDITION –
RARE N.O.S. VACUUM ASHTRAY FOR 1956-1960 (AND LATER) CHEVROLET’S –
VINTAGE (4) NEW-OLD-STOCK ORIGINAL GOODYEAR GT TIRES FOR A 1969 CAMARO-
DRIVE-IN TRAY COMPLETE W/ MAT, FAUX COLA & STRAW, BURGER IN BASKET WITH FOIL AND FRIES+ CHROME STAND W/ MENU
DRIVE-IN TRAY COMPLETE W/ MAT 2- CORNDOGS, KETSUP / MUSTARD & FRIES, CHEESEBURGER, BASKET/FOIL, FRIES AND CHROME STAND, ROOT BEER MUG (NOT SHOWN) W/ MENU
THIS IS THE SUPER RARE ‘BACKSEAT DRIVE IN TRAY‘ WHICH HUNG ON THE FRONT SEAT AND WAS A BIT LARGER – NFS
SELDOM SEEN ‘FISHER BODY’ BANQUET TRAY FROM ONE OF THE LAST COMPANY FUNCTIONS – DATED 1979
CIRCA 1955-1961 (EXC. ORIGINAL/COMPLETE WITH BOTH CORDS- NEVER USED?) ELECTRIC SHAVER AUTO / HOME BY NORELCO, CALLED THE ‘SPORTSMAN’ MODEL W/ PERIOD-CORRECT VINTAGE PLAID LINER CARRYING CASE
A VINTAGE SCHICK AUTO/ HOME 3-SPEED ELECTRIC SHAVER USED IN CHEVROLET’S 1955-1961, COMPL. W/ORIG.BOXES, BOTH 12V &110 CORDS / BRUSH