Home » Back In The ’90s Your Toyota Dealer Could Cram A Smell Machine And A Weather Station Into Your Car’s Radio Holes

Back In The ’90s Your Toyota Dealer Could Cram A Smell Machine And A Weather Station Into Your Car’s Radio Holes

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One strange thing about the automotive world is how resistant to standardization it can be (the fact there is more than one type of EV charging cable is absurd, for example) when standards could very often be helpful to everyone. And yet, at the same time, some standards manage to develop, grow and survive, seemingly without anyone actually trying or intending to. But sometimes the standard is intentional, useful, enduring, and most incredibly, respected by most automakers. An example of such a standard is ISO 7736 from 1984, originally known by its German national standards institute (Deutsches Institut für Normung) name, DIN 75490. That’s why here in America we still call it the DIN standard for radios. I’m bringing this up because I recently learned of two of the strangest things I’ve seen that fit in single-DIN-standard holes, and they were both sold by Toyota dealers. They’re the Airfantasy and Field Monitor.

A big part of the reason these have captured my imagination so I think are the names, especially the names together, which form a sort of yin-yang, left brain/right brain, magic/science dichotomy. The ethereal, woo-woo-sounding Airfantasy and the nearly military-seeming Field Monitor. What an amazing pair of things to shove into your dashboard! So what are they?

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Well, I learned about them via this tweet:

It’s a FRAGRANCE CONTROL SYSTEM? And that Field Monitor can somehow predict the weather? What is this madness?

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So, it seems that if you were buying a new Toyota Corolla or Starlet or Sera or Levin – any of the AE100 or AE101 cars, from around 1995 to 2002, and you were in Japan, your dealer had the option to order either or both of these to fill the double-DIN-sized hole behind the shifter, under the basic radio and HVAC on the dash. So what do these things actually do?

The Airfantasy is an in-car air-ensmellinating system; a number of premium carmmakers have had these systems as options for a while. Mercedes-Benz, for example, first offered their Air Balance package for the S-Class in 2013, and now offer the system pretty much across their whole spectrum of models. But long, long before that, JDM Toyota dealers could have slapped a similar system into your brand-new Sera, if you asked nice and paid them a few more yen.

Here’s how the system works, according to someone selling one:

“The Air Fantasy system works by pushing air from the A/C evaporator housing through a rubber hose into the rear of the unit and then into one of the nipples on the selected Air Fantasy scent cartridge. The scent is then carried through to the second nipple on the selected scent cartridge, out the rear of the unit, through a second hose to the heater unit and then gets distributed through all four of the front vents. You can choose to have the unit on auto or manual. The auto mode will send a burst of fragrance through the ducts periodically (about a 5-minute delay between bursts) and the manual mode is an ‘on-demand’ feature, where you simply press the button for the scent cartridge you want to use (Mode-A, Mode-B or Mode-C) and it will send a burst of the selected fragrance through each air vent.”

Pretty clever, really, the way it interfaces with the existing AC system, using the airflow from the AC to distribute the scent of your choice, as chosen from three cartridges installed in the unit. Here’s where the smell-carts plug in (pics from this eBay ad):

Airfant 1

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I used Google Translate to read the labels of the smell-carts there, and I’m not really sure I’d call the results successful. “Pop mint” I get, but “deodorant riser” doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense and “Tioning Clean” really doesn’t because I don’t think “tioning” is an English word. Of course, these carts aren’t available anymore, but there are enterprising smell-enthusiasts out there 3D-printing new smell cartridges that, I suppose, they fill with their own home-brewed stench concoctions? Or maybe just cologne or perfume or chili?

Carts

Ah, this image shows “morning green” for the one on the right there. That makes a little more sense.

What’s exciting is that, because this main unit is just a standard DIN-sized unit, you could, hypothetically, install it in almost any car with a normal radio slot and an AC system! You don’t have to go all the way to a brand-new Benz to get your car smelling the way you want! This is the democratization of stench! I’d really be excited to see this in an older car, taking up the lone radio slot, the owner having decided they’d rather amuse their nose than ears while driving.

The Field Monitor is a very different sort of single-DIN device, and like the Airfantasy, there’s no reason it couldn’t be installed in almost anything with a dozen volts and the right-sized hole. It doesn’t even need connections to the A/C system because it’s just a compass, thermometer, and, incredibly, a barometer all in one nifty digital package:

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Fieldmon

Now, cars have been using barometric pressure sensors for a while to adjust fuel-air mixtures and timing, but weather-prediction barometers have been much less common on cars. So, how does a barometer work for weather prediction, anyway? National Geographic, undoubtedly the refuge of many a barometer-lover, has a nice simple explanation:

“A rapid drop in atmospheric pressure means that a low-pressure system is arriving. Low pressure usually means it will be cloudy, rainy, or windy. Air moves away from areas of high pressure. High-pressure areas usually create cool, dry air and clear skies.”

So, what I think happens here, based on what the display seems capable of, is that the weather icons can be a cloud and an umbrella, which can appear individually, together, or both off. So, I guess it can tell you if it’s cloudy, or about to rain, which would be handy if, say, you had a Starlet that lacked windows.

I like how the design of the compass is handled, because it looks like a display that is doing a hell of a lot more than just displaying a couple cardinal directions. Really, many cars have temperature and compass settings in them. but it’s just fun to see these presented in such a comically serious way as a Field Monitor.

These are pretty rare and hard to find now, but I think if you should happen to come across one, and have a car with one or two open DIN-holes, I say treat yourself! Any chump can have an in-dash radio; you could have an in-dash fragrance system or know it’ll rain before it happens, like some sort of magical vizier, all for a few hundred bucks sent to some stranger on eBay.

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Jakob Johansen
Jakob Johansen
1 month ago

cars have been using barometric pressure sensors for a while to adjust fuel-air mixtures and timing,

I am still surprised by all the effort that has been put into increasing the efficiency of the ICE.

I wonder where we would be if just 10% of all that time and money had been spent on one of the other competing technologies.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
1 month ago

A Field Monitor would be a neat add on for a HiAce camper

Ben Chia
Ben Chia
1 month ago

BMW made a big deal about their in-car fragrance system in their G11 7 Series. Little did I know that Toyota did it much earlier…

Jim Stock
Jim Stock
1 month ago

I would love to know why modern cars do not come with weather band radios? is it just cost? With all the Overlanding stuff and all the trim packages pretending to be for back-country travel, one could assume that a weather radio feature would be a selling point.

Zac H
Zac H
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Stock

My 1999 Cadillac Seville STS had a weather band radio! No idea why they’re not more common. I guess they assume you have a smart phone now.

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
1 month ago

Since I work at the sewer plant, I’m concerned that the only thing I’d notice coming out of the AirFantasy would be Axe body spray. Might not be worthwhile for me.

Greensoul
Greensoul
1 month ago

OK, read on. Reminds me of those crazy perfume commercials from the 60’s and 70’s. Oh Sera, I can’t seem to forget you, your Windsong stays on my mind!

Greensoul
Greensoul
1 month ago

Forgive me. I’m still obsessing over that awesome green Sera in the lead photo. What was this article about again?

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago
Reply to  Greensoul

“MX-3 eh… Mazda, you might be on to something. Hold my beer.”

-Toyota designer-

The Dude
The Dude
1 month ago

I found a few Field Monitors on eBay, for ~$150. Very tempting, except my double din is already taken up by an aftermarket stereo and I don’t want to give up Android Auto.

Last edited 1 month ago by The Dude
Top Dead Center
Top Dead Center
1 month ago

Fill it with Drakkar Noir for that 1990s feeling, complete with pre-shame for the day after…

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago

Pre-shame.
That’s a bold scent name.

‘Eau De Pre Honte’

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 month ago

As much as I was a user of DN back in the day, I’m going for English Leather and British Sterling. I want to smell like my old Triumph Spitfire.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 month ago

Whenever I smell unburnt hydrocarbons, oil dripping on an exhaust pipe, or lightly smouldering carpet fibers, I’m strongly reminded of my TR6.

PajeroPilot
PajeroPilot
1 month ago

I just acquired a decrepit 1992 Camry wagon, that I’m sure has the “headless” version of the AirFantasy system. As you drive, it randomly distributes scents from the “Cigarette Butt”, “Faint Petrol and Oil Aroma” and “Decaying Plastics” cartridges.

Erik Hancock
Erik Hancock
1 month ago

What you translated as “Deodorant Riser” is just “Deodorize” – which I assume is some neutralizer to remove smells?

Ecsta C3PO
Ecsta C3PO
1 month ago
Reply to  Erik Hancock

These are all phonetic English-ish words

  1. Poppu Minto = Pop Mint
  2. Deodorizu = Deodorize
  3. Moneengu Gureen = Morning Green
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago

“Of course, these carts aren’t available anymore, but there are enterprising smell-enthusiasts out there 3D-printing new smell cartridges that, I suppose, they fill with their own home-brewed stench concoctions?”

Some scent recommendations:
Determined Ocelot
Traumas Unresolved
Thick Cheese

https://www.theautopian.com/these-are-the-15-most-horrible-car-air-freshener-scents-of-2023/

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
1 month ago

There may be a pattern to Jason’s posts

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago

Hmmm…

d x 1 dt = − x 2 − x 3 , d x 2 dt = x 3 + a x 2 , d x 3 dt = b + x 3 x 1 + c

There may be. But it’s cloaked in chaos.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago

I have no need for such a thing. I provide my own smell machine which changes daily depending on what had for dinner.

Uninformed Fucknugget
Uninformed Fucknugget
1 month ago

With the correct scent cartridge, the Air fantasy would pair well with Tesla’s farting turn indicators.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago

No ociffer, that’s just the “fine wine” Airfantasy cartridge you’re smelling.

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
1 month ago

Ah, this image shows “morning green”

Usually we’d use Ozium to get rid of the “wake ‘n bake” smell

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
1 month ago

“Hmm let’s see what kind of climate I can get…Winter Wonderland..Spring Fever..Indian Summer..Tibetan Wilderness..Tropical Paradise…”

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 month ago

As a kid I was fascinated by the floating rotating cylinder compass on the dashboard of my Dad’s Chrysler. As a nerd adult I created a simulated graphic version in an automotive performance product I designed. I’m not sure if anyone ever used that mode other than me but every time I watched the smooth-scrolling graphics I thought of my Dad and that always made me smile.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

Couple of cans of Febreeze takes care of optional odors. My knees let me know when the weather’s getting ready to change. How about something really useful like a condom dispenser, or a bubble machine for listening to Lawrence Welk, maybe an automatic joint roller?

Last edited 1 month ago by Canopysaurus
Citrus
Citrus
1 month ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

If you’re old enough for your knees to tell the weather you probably should go somewhere a lot more spacious to use that condom.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  Citrus

You’re making a generously ambitious assumption here.

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
1 month ago

My 1993 Miata has the somewhat rare (not crazy rare) MSSS1 stereo. Not totally unheard of, but it was a “bodysonic” system that included transducers mounted in the seats. Instead of trying to produce real bass in a small convertible where that’s really hard to do, the transducers shake the seats to produce the sensation of bass from the stereo.

I went out of my way to get the original MSSS1 deck restored (shout out to YouTuber BBishoppCM’s World who does amazing work for a good price!) so I could experience these things myself. Totally worth it. I think stereos with transducers exist today, but they aren’t that common.

Side note, the restoration included an internally mounted BlueTooth, so now I have a stereo that has a functional radio, CD player, tape deck and BlueTooth receiver. All for a third of what it would have cost to put in a new system.

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 month ago
Reply to  Sid Bridge

If that was the ’93 black exterior, red leather interior Limited Edition with the shiny silver radio, the seat thumper, and the revvy 1.6L engine, congratulations on your excellent taste. That was the best Miata Special Edition ever, IMO.

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
1 month ago
Reply to  Chronometric

Those are pretty hard to find. Mine is a black/tan package C with that same radio. About as close as you can get to the LE without the red leather.

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 month ago
Reply to  Sid Bridge

Black and Tan is a great drink but I’m all over those red seats.

Alexk98
Alexk98
1 month ago
Reply to  Chronometric

I had a buddy who up until recently had a 93 LE, and that red interior was absolutely killer. Meanwhile I’ve got the most basic possible ’90 with red exterior and black interior, which just happens to be the invert of the LE.

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 month ago
Reply to  Alexk98

I have red outside, black inside too. Not that I am complaining.

Alexk98
Alexk98
1 month ago
Reply to  Chronometric

Same, it’s iconic for a reason! I prefer tan interiors overall, but on a miata of this age, I’m really glad its black cloth since its held up extremely well over the years.

Library of Context
Library of Context
1 month ago

The Field Monitor looks like something I’d expect on a 1996 Subaru Outback.

FuzzyPlushroom
FuzzyPlushroom
1 month ago

It’d go perfectly with the factory weather-band radio! (Edit: Belt and suspenders.)

Last edited 1 month ago by FuzzyPlushroom
Citrus
Citrus
1 month ago
Reply to  FuzzyPlushroom

Never trust a guy wearing a belt and suspenders, he doesn’t even trust his own pants.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
1 month ago

+1 came here for this.

Subaru had this as an option, but sadly, mine doesn’t have it. It was available on the first-gen Forester and Impreza, so probably the Legacy and Outback had it available, too.

SegaF355Fan
SegaF355Fan
30 days ago

This was actually an option I ordered on my 2000 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS. It was slightly different from the Toyota one because it used the barometer to display altitude (absolute or relative, depending on the mode you had selected) instead of trying to predict the weather. I used to calibrate it by driving past a hangar at a local airport that had “feet above sea level” painted on it and then manually adjusting the setting on the in-car readout.

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