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Quirky mods, tiger tails, dancing Elvis

2014-07-28 08:06

ELVIS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING: Maybe so, but he’s to be found in my car dangling from the interior mirror, his torso gyrating away to the beat of the music from the stereo. Image: DAVE FALL


We all know that owning a car today can be a very expensive business – and that’s before one tries to customise it with go-faster stripes, a set of after-market alloy rims or, if you live where I do in the southern suburbs of Cape Town, by painting the bonnet black to go with the go-faster stripes on the flanks of your ‘cab’.

Take little ’ol Elvis seen alongside: I’ve had him for yonks and he’s still capable of gyrating his way through any pop number that comes on the stereo. OK, in a traffic jam I get strange looks from other driver who point and laugh at Elvis wiggling his hips, and then they suddenly focus on the driver (yours sincerely) a pensioner – but we don’t need reminding of the fact three times, do we?


Some of the weirdest accessories I can remember down the years have been really daft but occasionally some – not always the most expensive – can actually serve a purpose.

Take that black bonnet that’s all the rage down Lavender Hill way – this one is definitely of the go-faster accessories and believe it or not could be specced in the UK for your late 1960s Mark I Capri from the Ford factory.

Car rally teams went to great lengths to try to preserve their driver’s levels of energy and reducing the glare from the sun bouncing off the car’s bonnet in a long-distance event was a good jumping off point. Interestingly, on an earlier Capri options list for 1968, was listed an all-pink steering wheel, centre console, window winders and instrument binnacle…

Musical air-horns used to be all the rage back in the 1970s. Easy to install, they could be ordered to play a tune or simply emit a shrill blast if an errant motorist got a little too close. Come to think of it I think I’ll get a set for my bony… Cape Town drivers can be a little dozy at times, can’t they?


Petrol companies occasionally like to get in on the act: back in the 1960’s Esso in the UK came up with arguably the best campaign before or since with their “Put a Tiger in your Tank” slogan: buy petrol from their forecourt and receive an imitation tiger tail that you tied around your petrol cap.  The company reputedly distributed more than 2.5-million tails in a 12-month period.

A few years ago Volvo came up with a great idea for a very sensible car accessory: a round fuel can that fitted inside the spare wheel where it stayed without fear of rattling around.  Citron, not to be outdone, supplied a fold-up plastic shopping trolley in their 2001 Xsara model. Shopping transferred to the boot; it was simply folded flat and hooked on the back on the rear seat.

Audi listed magnetic damping (shock-absorbers) as an interesting optional extra to their TT sports model. Basically, an on-board computer sensed the amount of suspension damping needed and by applying circuitry to the fluid the magnetic particles floating in the fluid would alter giving the perfect ride.

In the roaring 1920’s French glass manufacturer Jules Lalique provided car owners with the very best mascots to adorn their radiator top. Most would light up at night but unless they were bolted on really tight tended to disappear without trace when the vehicle was parked in Paris overnight; as I imagine they would do in Parys, Pretoria or Pietermaritzburg.


Perhaps the strangest accessory of them all is – I kid you not –the gun safe. More of a vault, it is concealed inside the centre console.

Made from 12-gauge cold-rolled plated steel with welded seams and three-point locking system, it still features today but only in American cars… if you want one that badly I’m sure the company would oblige South African owners!

Vinyl roofs, exhaust flame throwers, competition seats, Citizen Band radio, pseudo bullet-holes - all have come and gone.

Me? I’ll stick to Elvis doing his ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ tap dance whenever he cares to show off.

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