The Lily, Gilded

Rather a long time ago there were areas of the car market not occupied by the OEMs. How about a nice bit of plastic for your car, sir?

1992-BMW-5-series-deflector
Wind and rain deflectors for E20 BMW 5-series

This advert is from the 1992 Daily Mail Motor Review. The back pages of car magazines usually featured this kind of thing. After you bought your car you could get rubber mats, car seat covers (the loud, tweedy ones were best), sun roofs and moon roofs, engine additives and car covers. Fog lamps could also be added, the more the better.

Still available: source
Still available: source

Much of that market has disappeared. The back pages of the TG New Car Buyers Guide [sic] has ads inviting us to protect our wheels, car waxes and plug-in diesel upgrades. And an ad for a garage. So, nothing you would really notice had you bought them all. The meaning of this is that the design of the cars makes them almost unchangeable unless you really want to make a statement: badly designed bumpers and, perhaps, shade strips for the front window. It also means that OEMs want customers buying addenda from their catalogue, thus taking a bit of that market under their roof. I don´t think any of them offer rain shields, which says something about the improvements in water flow management and aerodynamics. The E20 wasn´t the most slippery vehicle and adding these transparent items probably made the cD even worse. Oddly, in 1992 the car would have stood out from the rest of the herd quite well without them. Having a BMW was more than enough of a statement. Such items constituted gilding the lilly.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

19 thoughts on “The Lily, Gilded”

  1. The other thing that the back pages seem absolutely full of is personalised plates. I really don’t get it but some of the prices paid are phenomenal. Perhaps people feel this is the only way to make a statement. Here in Ireland with our numbers based system you can pay €600 and if nobody else wanted 3201 you can put 320 1 on the back of your 320i. Not for me thanks.

    1. Number plates are another bit of ‘personalisation’ I just don’t get. Please disregard the fact that I own a car with ‘personal plates’, that’s the way the car came and at least once a year I think of selling the plates and getting a nice anonymous L registration. But since, as far as I know, they are the plates the car has had for its 44 year life, I then decide that they are part of its fast diminishing ‘originality’.

      Even odder than actually finding a plate with your or you car’s name, or at least more or less (as in 5 EAN) is not quite doing it. I saw an expensive looking BMW the other day sporting a BMV suffix. No, that really doesn’t work.

  2. Oddly my partner asked me just last week about ‘deflectors’. When she was a child, her aunt had them fitted to her car (in Ireland) and she wondered why. That is the only time she remembered noticing a pair though, having travelled around Italy with her several times, she would have seen a lot, since they were once very popular there. But I’ve mentioned her shocking lack of interest in automotive details before.

    As a child I was as fascinated with add-ons to personalise your car as, today, I abhor them. I wanted my parents to buy all sorts of things – wind deflectors, windscreen visors, mudflaps, headlamp cowls, fancy hubcaps, etc. Fortunately they had better taste than me.

    Most of these aftermarket thingys seem to have been designed to appeal to OCD jackdaws like little me or the sort of motoring hypochondriac who was always preparing for contingencies that never occurred. But I do recall from travelling with an Italian in his car on a hot day that ‘deflectors’ were quite effective – assuming you wanted open windows that let in flies but kept out air.

  3. Apart from a square number plate, often the easiest way to spot a JDM import in the UK is the fitment of window deflectors. I wondered why deflectors were so popular in Japan, until I remembered that the Japanese are often big smokers. My step-granddad had deflectors fitted to his Opel Ascona for the same reason; he smoked Embassy cigarettes like a chimney, and the deflectors allowed him to flick ash out of the window without it blowing back in.

    Incidentally, an 06 plate Astra Sport-hatch I used to own boasted wind deflectors fitted as a part of a Touring option pack, alongside a superb eight speaker stereo and some of the most comfortable adjustable leather seats I have ever sat in.

  4. Thanks, Chris, for explaining deflectors’ function. I couldn’t imagine why people bought them.

    Years ago my wife, who’s to old to belong in the class, she went all yuppie scum and insisted on having a sunroof deflector put on her then new Civic coupe. The theory, they said, was that it would let her open the sunroof a little when it was raining. Perhaps. With the sunroof closed in the rain, large puddles accumulated at each end of the deflector.

  5. i actually have wind deflectors on my Domingo, and i’m contemplating ordering some for my renault 5.

    if you don’t have aircon, driving with the window slightly down at all times becomes a necessity during summer, and the deflectors really help with reducing the deafening roar of wind noise when driving at highway speeds.

  6. Well the Subaru has deflectors so that the dog can have ventilation without foot well puddles in rainy weather and there are rubber mats to take care of mud/water following fishing or dog walking. The standard fog lights are hopeless compared to the aftermarket Hellas I had on the Saab so I don’t think all accessories are tasteless tat. You could have mentioned stick-on whitewalls, bonnet bug deflectors, curb feelers or exhaust ejectors. The worst accessory I can think of were the clear vinyl seat covers; horribly uncomfortable and aesthetically unpleasant. The seats looked like they were wearing condoms.

    1. God how I wanted us to get whitewalls. By ‘exhaust ejectors’ do you mean one of those chrome scallop shells that direct the exhaust downwards instead of straight out. Were they to stop pollution? No, I forgot, we didn’t have pollution back then. Just smog.

    2. Barry- thanks for mentioning the vinyl clear seat covers. Call me mean if you will: I do not like seat covers unless the original seat is damaged in some way. The urge to put on seat covers is not far from the wish to have a “good room” for guests to sit in. It’s also related to the desire to leave the plastic on the seats of the car after purchase.

    3. Sean, have you checked to see if Nissan or some aftermarket outfit offer them for the Cube? Live the dream…

  7. Incidentally, the ash problem is worse for rear passengers. At the front there is usually an area of negative pressure around the a-pillar. I know this because I have seen smoke drawn from the cabin interior if the cigar is held near an open window (partially open). At the rear ash is always thrown into the car and the cabin throbs when the rear windows are open at speed.

  8. Not quite an accessory, but I can’t abide large Kleen-exe (or any other tissue) boxes in a car. Not that my nose never runs, and not that I don’t accept they have other uses but ….. I just can’t abide them.

    And, except for the people reading this who are noble exceptions since they have the good taste to find their way here, I have never seen a good driver driving a car with something hanging off the rearview mirror.

    Oh yes, and I hate air fresheners too.

    You might gather that my austere attitude towards these and other things sometime engenders tension between myself and my above-mentioned partner.

    1. Fascinating – I’d never dream of having a box of tissues in my car. It’s not an accessory though.
      Have we forgotten nodding dogs?
      And luggage racks for bootlids, made of tubular steel. Yuk or yum?

  9. Funny no one has mentioned chromed wheelarches yet. They are perfect to complement your 25 year old barge with grey plastic trim if the actual wheelarches start rotting. If this is not enough, chromed bonnet handles will enhance your car even further, especially if it’s a boring, plain design like a Citroën DS or CX.

    1. Since you mentioned the DS, at the end of its life even dealers had them new in the showroom tarted up with a horrible bonnet mascot cum handle. So not quite aftermarket, but awful nevertheless.

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