Car accessories we don’t need anymore

Today, our cars are packed with useful tech and accessories - but we don't think you'll have much use for this lot.....

A cottage industry was once devoted to addressing the shortcomings of many new cars you could buy in the UK.

Scanned archive mag image

Motorists take safety, comfort and reliability for granted nowadays. The modern car is an incredibly complicated piece of machinery, but it wasn't always like that.

In the past we were expected to spend our cash on an array of accessories to make our lives easier and more comfortable. We've been delving into our archives to bring you some of the best gadgets and accessories from years gone by we no longer need – let’s take a look:

Slideshow story – click the right arrow above to continue

Brexton Minitable

Scanned archive mag image

Brexton made high-quality picnic sets, but the company also offered this clip-on table which allowed you to sip tea from fine bone china cups while you waited for the traffic to clear.

The widespread introduction of the cup holder did for this particular accessory.

Auster sun visor

Scanned archive mag image

Sun visors like this were a reasonably common sight back in the day.

Nowadays a combination of cheaply available sunglasses and tinted glass suffice.

Monsall holdall

Scanned archive mag image

Struggling to fit everything into your car? No problem thanks to this device. Available in an array of colours, you could buy a Monsall holdall for pretty much any car on the market.

Today, we have proper, sturdy and lockable roofboxes instead.

KL Sit-Rite

Scanned archive mag image

Manchester company Mosely sold you inflatable cushions for the ultimate in comfort. Today the most comfortable cars still make use of air to good effect – but in the form of suspension systems, not cushions.

KL Sit-Rite

Scanned archive mag image

For long drives these seat clip-ons could come in handy to give extra support. Today, good old lumbar supported-seats will do the job.

Sparkrite computer

Scanned archive mag image

By the 1980s third-party digital trip computers like this were appearing. Today, even the most basic of cars will tell you your fuel consumption and alert you to your brakes being knackered.

Radiator blind

Scanned archive mag image

The idea of fitting a radiator blanket to speed up the rate at which your engine gets up to temperature was a major thing in the days before fuel-injection and thermostatic fans. Modern cars just have no need for this.

Elpico radio

Scanned archive mag image

Although the first cars got radios as early as the ‘30s, they were still a luxury for decades after. Retro-fitments such as this was the solution, and a pricey one. Today, it’s almost impossible to buy a new car without some sort of basic entertainment system.

Rear seat extension

Scanned archive mag image

In the 1960s you could buy items such as this rear seat extension to allow your kids to sleep unrestrained on the move. With seat belt usage now mandatory for all occupants, such an item would be illegal today.

Cooper sleeping conversion

Scanned archive mag image

Presumably designed for use only when parked up rather than when on the move, the Cooper sleeping conversion allowed you to convert your family car's interior into a luxurious bed for the night, to save on accommodation.

Cheap-to-buy tents, second-hand motorhomes and even Airbnb have done for this accessory today.

Philips shaver

Scanned archive mag image

We suspect the Advertising Standards Authority might have something to say about this one. The very idea of promoting shaving while you drive in our 21st century safety-conscious society shows just how much the world has changed in the past half a century.

Baronet wheel glove

Scanned archive mag image

Suffering from cold hands on chilly mornings? You could invest in one of these tasty-looking wheel covers. But today, even quite basic cars have heated steering wheels as an option.

Redi-Spare puncture repair kit

Scanned archive mag image

This is one accessory that went away but now has come back. Now fitted as standard to most new cars, the idea of a puncture repair kit and a canister of gas goes right the way back to the early 1960s. Of course this BMC Farina would have had a spare wheel anyway, unlike so many cars today that don’t to save weight.

Autoflex car fan

Scanned archive mag image

This unfortunate accessory company chose not one but two areas that would be murdered by technology. You have to go well out of your way to buy a new car without air conditioning today, while sat-nav will be more use than any compass, and even if your car doesn’t have it, your mobile phone will.

Felt safety cap

Scanned archive mag image

We love the fact that there was an organisation called the British Hat and Allied Feltmakers Research Association; it doesn't seem to exist any more, but there is still the Worshipful Company of Feltmakers of London.

We're also intrigued that a felt cap can protect you from head injuries; presumably it's got an armoured lining. To be honest though, this ‘technology’ still exists, but the trend for wearing caps in most places does not. Blame fashion, and the widespread availability of affordable warm clothing, reducing the need to reduce heat-loss from the head.

Horvell wheel trims

Scanned archive mag image

In the days before alloy wheels, keen motorists who wanted to make their car stand out from the crowd invested in some racy wheel trims. And what better than some chrome-plated trims from Horvell?

You can of course still get steel wheels, but they tend to be reserved for base models today.

Coleshill Engineering trailer

Scanned archive mag image

We're not sure we'd want to pull one of these lightweight single-wheel trailers at 70mph when empty, never mind when it's loaded up with suitcases. That one wheel looks about the size of the ones on a supermarket trolley…

We suggest a roofbox is a better bet if you really need more luggage capacity today.

Silverstone coat

Scanned archive mag image

The Thrussells Silverstone coat was the ideal garment for the active motorist in the post-war era. Today, heating and climate control systems mean that any car will get up to comfortable temperature within minutes, and indeed many modern cars can be set to do so even before you enter the car.

Safety-Face photoframe

Scanned archive mag image

The perfect idea to stop people driving recklessly – pin a picture of their loved one to their dashboard.

In an age where it’s not entirely uncommon to see fellow drivers watching YouTube videos while driving along, we rather like this symbol of a gentler period.

K-L Ventilor

Scanned archive mag image

The first half-decent heaters arrived on production cars in the ‘30s, but it was decades before they became standard equipment. So the accessory market stepped in, producing after-market kit like this Ventilor.

It was electrically operated so as a heater it was probably fairly effective – but in hot weather we suspect it didn't ventilate the car too well.

Hitachi air purifier

Scanned archive mag image

In the 1980s things had progressed beyond mere heating and cooling, with Hitachi offering this wonderful gadget – an air purifier for your car's interior. We wonder how many were sold.

Many posh cars today have something a bit like this plumbed in as standard.

Polco defroster

Scanned archive mag image

Presumably the Polco defroster gun doubles as a hair drier. Just plug it into your car's cigarette lighter, press go and a continuous supply of hot air is generated. We rather like the idea of this one – maybe it's time to revive the defroster gun?

Seriously, though, an electrified windscreen as fitted to most Fords and by many other car makers will do the job more quickly and efficiently.

Imperial Venetian blind

Scanned archive mag image

If Venetian blinds were good enough for your lounge at home it was good enough for keeping your Triumph Herald's interior cool.

Some posh cars have these, though almost always electrically operated, but in truth any reasonable climate control system will combat the sun.

Superb Tool Icetec

Scanned archive mag image

In the olden days, drivers had to invest in a separate external temperature gauge like this one – made by the Superb Tool & Gauge Company no less. So it must have been good.

Today, most cars have an outside temperature gauge, and computers in turn will alert you to ice dangers.

Clearvue demister

Scanned archive mag image

It wasn't until well into the 1970s that heated rear windows became common; up to that point they weren't even available as an option on many mainstream family cars.

But before heating elements motorists had to settle for one of these – a stick-on pad that didn't mist up, so you could see what was going on behind you.

Desmo roof rack

Scanned archive mag image

In the fifties, sixties and seventies motorists had roof racks. Guaranteed to create excruciating wind noise at cruising speeds, you had to tie your luggage to the frame and hope that it didn't end up all over the three lanes of the M1 as you went away for your holidays.

Today, these have nearly all given way to roofboxes, which are a much safer solution.

Topper car umbrella

Scanned archive mag image

Back in the day, umbrellas were long and the telescopic variety were rare and expensive. This was the solution.

Today Skoda and Rolls-Royce are two companies whose cars have brollies cunningly built into their doors.

Trico windscreen washer

Scanned archive mag image

For a long time a ‘windscreen washer’ was a dash-mounted, human-powered plunger that squirted out a tiny amount of water and was nearly useless. This gadget solved this, using the car’s engine to power the water.

Today, all water jets are electrically-powered, and many cars have water jets that clean the headlights as well.

Related cars

Spinner