Doctor Diesel


Dear Doc,

I recently went to my local Halfords looking for Christmas presents for my car mad nephew, who has just started out driving. 

There were all sorts of tools, oils and car cleaning kits, which you’d expect, but it all seemed a bit sensible and boring if I’m honest. I know most cars have all the kit you need, but the fun, silly things that used to be sold by high street motor factors all seem to have disappeared from the high street.

Doc, are there any accessories that you’d like to see make a comeback, and you’d rather not have in your Christmas stocking? I know this isn’t a technical question, but I’m sure you’ll have an opinion! 

Marcus White

Dear Marcus,

This makes a change from being asked about power bands and ergonomics, so many thanks for that, but you won’t be too surprised to discover that many over the counter car accessories cause my inner Scrooge to shout ‘Bah! Humbug!

I can dimly remember when a lot of cars didn’t have heated rear screens, so drivers attached rectangles of clear plastic containing heater elements patched into their wiring. These allegedly had de-icing properties, although they barely worked, and created condensation rather than a clear rear view.

Some people still use their rear-view mirrors to hang non-specific dangling things, the better to distract them from the road, but the teeth grindingly unamusing sucker mounted waving plastic hands that cluttered up the back windows of many cars in the 1980s seem to have been consigned to the landfill of history. Likewise, the small, flag shaped stickers some drivers liked to attach to their car windows so the wider world would know that they’d been to Bournemouth and Skegness. These were preferable to the ‘comedy’ stickers containing bad greetings card-style jokes, such as, ‘My other car’s a Porsche,’ or the side splitting one aimed at van drivers that said something like; ‘Don’t laugh. Your daughter might be in here!’

During the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, some accessory opportunists began selling head and shoulder cardboard cut outs of the soon-to-be unhappy couple, with their own waving hands, which naturally almost completely blocked the vision of any car side window to which they were attached. Even now the thought of them makes my lip curl, and when they were new these objects never made me go ‘Ho! Ho! Ho!’

All these things did have one positive by product. The people who festooned their cars with this sort of tat were often rotten drivers who didn’t look where they were going even when their views weren’t obscured by stickers and dangling appendages. At least they were a visual warning that the driver might do something dumb.


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