If you’re like me, you love sending faxes from your car but absolutely hate it when the reel of electric and phone line extension cord runs out and jerks your fax machine backwards at high speed, smacking you in the face and sending teeth and blood flying around the inside of your car, looking like someone flung a bottle of ketchup and a glass jar of mint Mentos at one another. There has to be a better way, right? Well, there is, and Audi thought of it years ago, and it’s on sale on eBay right this flapjacking minute! Hot damn! You’re going to be faxing up a storm in your car in no time with this baby!
Here’s the ad, in case this fantastic automotive artifact gets snatched up:
So what the hell is this thing? Why was Audi making fax machines? The answer to that is simple: Audi designs vehicles for humans, and humans have an innate need to fax. We feel it deep down in our souls – the need to take something printed, transform it into a string of electrical impulses, send it out into the aether, and have it re-appear as paper at some far-off location. The need becomes especially overwhelming while we travel; its basic biology. Unfortunately, this need is one that can’t just be granted william-nilliam to everybody; only those who have proved their worth as a human, say, by purchasing an Audi A8 Long Wheelbase W12 motorcar, can really slake this thirst to fax while in motion.
That unit for sale up there for $750 originally lived in the rear armrest of an Audi A8 Long Wheelbase with the Exclusive package, and I think this one is from around 2007 or so, which does seem a bit late in history for faxing, but who knows, faxing is still a thing in lots of places. Here’s one of the only videos I could find of the fax machine in place:
The Audi-fax there says it needs a SIM card, which is good news for you, the person at this very moment considering buying that car-fax so you can install it into your car, because it means that the cellular radio and other associated hardware are onboard the fax itself, so you can just purchase a SIM card, wire it up to your car’s 12V, and start faxing like a demon.
I mean, I think you can; there’s a bunch of cables here. One has to be just the 12V from the car, but what is that DB-25-looking connector there? The big metal one? It looks like the plug for a serial port. What’s that connecting to? What else does this thing need to connect to other than power, if it has its own cellular hardware? Oh, probably an antenna – I bet that’s the plum-colored connector. I think the white one is power, but the black three-pin one also baffles me.
I’m sure you’ll figure it out, though!
There was once a time when a fax machine in your car was considered a real mark that you’ve arrived — an undeniable signifier of your importance, as a human. The Toyota Celcior, for example, a car we got in America as the Lexus LS400/430, had an option for a glove box-mounted fax machine:
Before that, concept cars would throw in fax machines to remind you that the technology being crammed into these cars was absolutely bleeding edge, because it was, because you could get documents while driving, pulled right out of the air. It’s incredible! The Ford Seeka from 1990 had one, as did the Isuzu 4200R concept car from the year before:
Ever since cellular-based car phones became available in the 1980s, attempts had been made to bring faxing to cars as well — so powerful was this desire. And, even before that, the predecessor of faxing, wirephotos, commonly used to transmit photographic imagery via telegraph lines for newspapers, occasionally were made portable, via trailers that held the bulky drum scanners and transmission equipment.
And, hell, if we’ve gone this far talking about transmitting printed images electrically over radio waves or wires, we may as well go all the way back to where it all started, with Giovanni Caselli’s Pantelegraph, a pendulum-based facsimile system using telegraph wires. It was developed in the late 1850s, and by 1860 a commercial pantelegraph line was established between Paris and Lyon.
The system used synchronized pendulums at the sending and receiving ends, and by using insulating ink on fixed metal plates, an image could be “scanned” with an electrical pulse being sent when over a blank area and interrupted when a marked point was encountered. On the receiving end a stylus would drop and make a mark on a synchronized plate when the current broke, so you’d get surprisingly high-fidelity copies of whatever was being sent.
It’s amazing. While in America we were fighting the Civil War, people were freaking faxing each other over in France.
But look – if keeping up this centuries-old tradition of sending printed documents electronically is important to you – and it should be – then best see if you an win that unusual and rare Audi fax machine in the auction! Get that baby installed in your dash and fax, fax like the wind!
(thanks to Derek Powell for sending me this!)
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I sat through all 1:11 of that clip, wanting and waiting to see and hear something happen: just some modemy handshake noise, or some clicking, or some paper movement, or anything.
It’s interesting, and Audi did a nice job of integrating it between the seats instead of eating up the glove box. Lately however, I’ve been fetishizing various in-car espresso machines, since they have slightly more real-world, current-day use to me personally.
This one that was actually available from the factory could be found in the Fiat 500L MPW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6aCoH2M3fQ I THINK it was also an available option on the Fiat 500L that came to the States, but I’m not sure. I was skimming eBay for a while, hoping to run across one from a wrecked 500L, but didn’t see one (yes, I know there are similar third-party ones around).
I can’t say for sure, but it’s possible that some of my interest in that Lavazza/Fiat espresso maker is due to the fact that the lady demoing it (Hannah) is pretty damn cute (IMO… I’m in my 50s). But that aside, I really do like espresso.
PS: is there a way to embed/display images in posts here? Or video clips? Or edit them after posting? Just wondering. 🙂
The made-for-TV movie/failed pilot Knight Rider 2000 had K.I.T.T. featuring a built in fax machine.
The second to the last paragraph reminds me of the Samurai/Abraham Lincoln memes from a year or two ago.
Damn it Torch, now I have to go down a rabbit hole and read all about wirephotos and pantelegraphs!
Fax machines still proliferate in the healthcare industry (in Australia at least). Prescriptions, referral letters and reports still commonly travel between hospitals and clinics via fax. As another commenter alluded to, they are perceived as more secure than email. Several attempts have been made to replace them but in hospitals, fax machines just seem to be a turd that won’t flush!
Jason, you stole the term ‘william-nilliam’ from me. I demand to be paid a licensing fee in a currency of your choosing!
We have a copier at work that has fax capabilities. We get multiple spam faxes everyday! Let me know if anyone needs a Flat Roof Specialist, their fax based marketing is still going strong!
I hate spam faxes!!! I can’t believe they are still a thing. It does always seem to be flat roof specialists though doesn’t it?
Fax machines are still a big deal in Japan, partly because of their alphabets. They have three, and one of those has over three thousand characters. So it’s quicker to hand write a note and fax it than it is to find the right keyboard combination to make a character, especially for older folks.
Faxes are also guaranteed secure, because it’s point-to-point between two known phone numbers. Email makes no promises about security or delivery; it’s not part of the spec.
Not to mention the common Japanese domestic view of tech as a thing to be appreciated as a novelty, rather than as something primarily to help you do whatever you’re doing more efficiently.
Damn! I can’t belive The Transporter is that long ago! At least for the Toyota, there is still some use for it (you still need it to do stock trades eg)
I’ll take the fax only if it comes with the Q branch shredder to shred my top secret orders from M.
I’ll also take that Isuzu 4200R for a spin. All my cyberpunk dreams crystallized into automotive form. Why didn’t Joe Isuzu sell me that?!
That reminds me of a scene from one of the greatest movies of all time, Hudson Hawk. Richard E. Grant receives a fax in the car and immediately shoves it into a shredder and the paper shreds shoot out the back of the custom 1955 Chrysler Imperial limo.
At one point these were so common that in Robert Altman’s “The Player” there’s a line “have your Range Rover fax my Range Rover”. While we never had a mobile one, in the early-mid 90s we had a fax machine at home.
My Google-fu is weak, but somewhere in cyberspace is a picture of a mobile office, complete with secretary, in the back of a 50’s Cadillac.
“There was once a time when a fax machine in your car was considered a real mark that you’ve arrived “
Well if you have arrived, they probably have a fax machine there already.
What sort of faxes would one need to receive in their car anyway? Oh, since this is an Audi I suppose pages from the service manual would be handy.
It’s not surprising this would show up in a German car. To this day, in Germany, official admin and paperwork stuff is often done either in person or via fax. Those are your two choices. Email is not to be trusted, apparently.
This might explain it…
Shipping and handling
Item location: Riga, Latvia
Russian Federation, Ukraine
Extremely disappointed to find that this was a rich guy toy and not a novelty fax machine shaped like an Audi sedan.
show me the car fax 😛
But the Pantelegraph was a decade+ behind the Electric Printing Telegraph, which was the first fax patent with working equipment to demonstrate it. If we’re going to harken to the original, lets attribute correctly.
Since it’s an Audi fax machine, it will need a timing chain replacement which requires the engine to be removed at a cost of $17,000.
Vorsprung durch Service Position
I’ll doubt it’s usable today. I bet it’s for 3G cellular, which no longer exists. Just like early GM OnStar.
in 2007, it was probably 2G
It probably uses voice modulation ie modem noises, so as long as there is an adaptor it should work.