Home » Car Bras Seem To Be Dying Out And That’s Fine By Me

Car Bras Seem To Be Dying Out And That’s Fine By Me

Bra Top
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You know what I haven’t seen out on the road in a long-ass time, that I used to see everywhere? Bras. Not the kind to restrain those magnificent markers of mammality, the car kind. You know the ones: leathern or faux-leather mask-like things strapped to the faces of cars, often in an attempt to protect them or out of some dreadfully misguided sense of style. Growing up in the 1980s and into the 1990s, these things were all over the place, making any random parking lot look like it had a sprinkling of cars that were either into some kind of kink or had compromised immune systems. But, they seem to be disappearing off our roads, so let’s take a moment to yell some shit at them as they slink out, hopefully on their way to the landfills of hell.

I realize it’s possible a lot of you may never have encountered bra-wearing cars! In that case, here, let me show you what they are:

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Bras1

Keep in mind, people chose to do this to their cars. They spent their own hard-earned money to apply something to their cars that gave both of these vibes, somehow simultaneously:

Gimp Plasticouch

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Yes, if your goal was to turn your car into something that managed to make people think of both bondage gimp masks and how your grandma used to sheathe her sofas in plastic covers, then a car bra was absolutely the right call.

The history of the car bra is mildly interesting, as it seems to have been something that Porsche used when doing testing, as a temporary way to protect the paint. They’d been doing this since the 356 era, and even directly referenced the practice in a 1969 ad for the 911:

Porsche Ad

They call it a bra there, too. But as far as non-manufacturer-internal-use bras go, those seem to have been born in 1961, directly inspired by these Porsche bras. According to Bill Colgan, inventor of the Colgan Original Car Bra, this is how it all started, as told in 1988:

One day a group of Lockheed engineers brought me a ragged piece of canvas with sewn-in wooden slats, rubber bands, crude hooks and other miscellaneous innovations. They asked if I would be interested in making about a dozen of these and I remember saying “What the hell is it, a chastity belt for Godzilla ?” They replied that it was a protective cover used by the Porsche factory for road testing new cars and on unofficial loan to them.

I accepted the challenge and completely redesigned the German cover, spending about as much time road testing as sewing. After about six weeks and a small mountain of scrap material we finished 12 covers. Within a week the Lockheed engineers were back asking for 50 more covers. We made a total of about 150 covers at that time, all for Porsche 356 models, until I had to discontinue the project because of an overload of upholstery work.

Much like other innovators in the automotive world, such as Bruce Meyers and his Meyers Manx kit, Colgan soon found that, after initial mockery, his product came to be copied by anyone and everyone with leather and thread:

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In 1973 I applied for a $3,000 loan. When I said that I wanted the money for material to make car bras, all I could see were the soles of the banker’s shoes as he went over backwards. It was about 5 years, around 1975, that the bra began to show signs of interest for anyone other than Porsche owners. Soon it became obvious that those funny looking things were starting to sell and I was no longer the only one making bras. Now of course anyone with a sewing machine and a pepper tree to set up under is into the act. Today most people know what a bra is but I only wish some of these late-comers could have been there in the early days when only a handful of Porsche enthusiasts knew what a car bra was.

I respect Bill Colgan and what he managed to pull off, but I just can’t come around to respecting car bras. When Porsche developed them, they were for temporary testing use, for cars that would then go off to be sold, and that makes perfect sense. That’s a good application for that thing.

But that’s not how car bras were used by the people who bought them. Almost invariably, they’d just be left on the cars all the time. where, sure, they’d protect from unsightly stone chips or squished insects or whatever, but as a result you’d have that ridiculous-looking swath of black leather or vinyl all over the face of your car.

This feels like one of those cases where the cure is worse than the disease. A few stone chips or minor dents or scratches or whatever aren’t the end of the world – cars get used, out in the messy world, and imperfections add character. A big sloppy black leather Hamburglar mask on the front of your car just looks worse.

And, if that’s not enough, the protection car bras provide is, at best, illusory. Maybe you’re not getting rock chips, but that bra is also collecting grit and grime and moisture and probably a few rat poops and who the hell knows what else. When people remove car bras that have been on cars a while, they’re usually confronted with a paint-ruining mess, like what you see here:

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Now, you can argue that if you’re maintaining it properly, removing the bra every month or so and carefully cleaning and drying the car, then replacing the bra, then everything would be fine. If you think that’s a reasonable thing to expect of most car owners, then I’d encourage you to go out and actually meet some human beings, who have lots of other endearing traits other than careful, regular car maintenance and often give wonderful hugs.

So, to recap, car bras look goofy, have all the character of an overly fussy grandma who is afraid to get their hair out of place, and do more damage than good, overall. So why the hell were these things ever so popular?

Happily, they don’t seem to be anymore. More modern solutions like clear-film protective car bras have replaced these by and large, though they seem to have their own significant issues when it comes to removal.

But, again, car bras seem to be disappearing, and I’m delighted. Enough with these stupid, fussy, awkward things! Your time is over! See you in hell, stupid car face mask bullshit!

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Toddyus
Toddyus
10 months ago

At $5,100, according to the ad, that Porsche would be about $44K today after adjusting for inflation. Damn.

rctothefuture
rctothefuture
10 months ago

Something about an early 90’s Grand Prix, with a black car bra, just looks right.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
10 months ago

I can’t believe nobody has mentioned the Velorex yet?

It’s practically a whole made out of the stuff ! And also the butt of some of JT’s automotive jokes regarding strange thoughts inducing protuding rubber hoses..

(Cool name by the way, Velorex, sounds like something from a cross over between Star Wars and Game of Thrones)

Last edited 10 months ago by Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
10 months ago

Aren’t they just getting outmarketed by that expensive film coating thing, which does the same thing, but is also invisible?

And could that stiff green pedestian slicer, people have on the front of the hood of their pick up truck please go the same way?

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
10 months ago

So Jason, you’re anti leather made car front protective apparatus yet you’ve made some passionate pieces on the benefits of the shitty black rubber bumper.

What’s the difference? Is it the material that offends you? The aftermarket nature of the bra? Some political leaning? Or the fact that bras look just so damn awful?

Last edited 10 months ago by Manuel Verissimo
Ana Osato
Ana Osato
10 months ago

I’d imagine it’s the purpose. Black rubber bumpers are for bumping, reducing and/or eliminating damage to the car.

The bras, on the other hand, simply replace one problem with at leastan equal amount of others.

That’s if we ignore aesthetics entirely.

Rafael
Rafael
10 months ago

I learned English from a few movies and magazines I had when I was younger, and one of them was a July 96 edition of Hot VW magazine. On it I saw many ads for some bizarre stuff called a “bra”, which at first I thought was some sort of allusion to my home country (BRAzil). Later on I found out that a “bra” was the name of that piece of exclusive mammalian gear, and giggled a bit on the thought of cars wearing it. And it went COMPLETELY off my brain until today! Thanks Torch, this is oddly nostalgic!

Strangek
Strangek
10 months ago

One of my best friends still has one on his piece of shit Kia Rio, he’s an idiot.

Last edited 10 months ago by Strangek
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
10 months ago
Reply to  Strangek

The bra is the only thing keeping the Rio together.

Clark B
Clark B
10 months ago

I feel like in some cases, having a bra on your car might do more damage to the paint. Yeah, rock chips suck…but so does having paint that won’t match the rest of the car, marred with scratches and scuffs from every single particle that gets under the bra and rubs against the paint. I feel like they have their purpose for sure–like long road trips, or if you tow your car behind an RV or something. But leaving it on all the time seems almost counterproductive.

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
10 months ago
Reply to  Clark B

I bought a white 88 grand prix in 2005 from a family member who had installed a bra on it. I couldn’t remove it because the paint under it had gone off white. Luckily they never put the hood portion on, so it didn’t look entirely terrible with just the bumper covered in black vinyl.

Phuzz
Phuzz
10 months ago

In the UK they seem to be mostly on VW Transporters. I have no idea why that specific model and not any others.

Brynjaminjones
Brynjaminjones
10 months ago
Reply to  Phuzz

I never understand that either – they seem super popular this past few years. Usually with some kind of tacky pattern on it, like checkerboard or a giant VW logo.

Ana Osato
Ana Osato
10 months ago
Reply to  Phuzz

VW people. As if VWs aren’t ugly enough from the factory, the buyers wish to actively make it even worse.

DONALD FOLEY
DONALD FOLEY
10 months ago

Extra points for “leathern”.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
10 months ago

Had one on a car back in the 90s. I took it off to clean it and found the damage to the paint underneath and never used a car bra again. Interesting idea, crap execution.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
10 months ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

Same experience but after a few years leaving it off rust, chips, holes so put it back on

LTDScott
LTDScott
10 months ago

Ha, I’m Facebook friends (yes I’m old, get off my lawn) with a guy who is an unashamed lover of car bras and has one on every car he can find one for. The latest is an SN95 bra that doesn’t actually cover the bumper but goes up the hood like an upside down thong. Methinks this article will rustle his jimmies.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
10 months ago
Reply to  LTDScott

Intriguing – I’m old too, so when it comes to bras on domestic iron, I associate them with Camaros, not Mustangs, for some reason.

Zorn Zornelius
Zorn Zornelius
10 months ago

“… magnificent markers of mammality…”

A Treatise On Teats

– Torchinsky

Ian McClure
Ian McClure
10 months ago

I especially never understood why they often had two elongated loops sticking up along the top edge. Served no purpose I could discern.

Keon R
Keon R
10 months ago
Reply to  Ian McClure

Yeah, WTF are those for??

i3 Driving Indicator Fetishist
i3 Driving Indicator Fetishist
10 months ago
Reply to  Keon R

I think they were aero bits meant to keep that edge along the hood from flapping at speed… don’t quote me on that tho 🙂

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
10 months ago

Say what you will, but back in the 90’s a bra helped keep a pristine 97 Mustang from chips and bugs when moving halfway across the country. The key is just taking it off.

121gwats
121gwats
10 months ago
Reply to  Inthemikelane

I can absolutely see an argument for having one on for x-country drives. I bought a Tesla and drove it from LA > Chicago and got 4-5 good sized rock chips on I-5 alone, in addition to 3 chips on the windshield. I’ve just never.. ever before. Worst luck ever.

Jbavi
Jbavi
10 months ago
Reply to  Inthemikelane

I’ve never wanted a car bra but I saw their utility after driving long distances on muggy summer nights. The amount of bug carcasses stuck in my grille and gaps around the lights was wild, whole dragonflies, moths, katydids and whatever else was feeling frisky that night

PajeroPilot
PajeroPilot
10 months ago

My father in law’s Monaro sports a car bra. Not only that, it’s kept in one of those inflatable clear plastic bubble things. The whole thing seems as counterproductive as wearing two condoms at once.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
10 months ago

Like you, growing up in the 80s and 90s, these things were EVERYWHERE. I used to wonder what they for. I was told they were to protect the front end of the car. OK, but you then have to have that stupid bra on all the time. I’m surprised you didn’t mention how they would eventually end up getting loose and saggy and seriously looking like shit. I haven’t spared them a thought in a long time as I can’t remember the last time I saw one. That said, I was stunned at how many late models were in your picture with bras on them. (Shudders)

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
10 months ago

Well, there are hardly any bugs ending up on windshields these days, so probably not much need for a car bra either.

121gwats
121gwats
10 months ago

Where do you live? I have to pressure wash my bugs every week (EDIT: in the midwest).

Last edited 10 months ago by 121gwats
Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
10 months ago
Reply to  121gwats

Connecticut

Matt Campbell
Matt Campbell
10 months ago

I also live in CT and wash my windshield weekly because of bugs

Nauthiz
Nauthiz
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Campbell

The flow of air over the vehicle and the shape and slope of the windshield really makes a difference. I’ve driven vehicles where I can see the bugs just collecting, and others where it’s mostly just road grime and dust that dirty the windshield up.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
10 months ago

Anyone who’s ever watched Girls Gone Wild (or even just the commercial) knows easiest way to make a bra disappear is to throw some beads.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
11 months ago

Always been a bra-less kind of guy.
But the photo at the top is beyond disturbing.
Car looks like it should be leading the BDSM wing of the gay pride parade.
(not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
11 months ago

Hurray for the death of bras! Now, can we work on getting splitter guards off Challengers? It is freaking packaging! My eyes roll out if my head every time I see them.

Henry Krinkle
Henry Krinkle
11 months ago

Bra ruined my red 1966’s 911 paint. Was a good thing. Stripped the entire car, streamlined the bumpers and did it in Polar Silver Metallic. BTW – happy to see Jason’s writing. Always a good thing too. https://twitter.com/Absurd_Stoic/status/1679941459036762119

TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
11 months ago

Never understood them for a second. Best case Ontario, you have an entire section of your car with a completely different paint color by the time fades sets in to the rest.

BigThingsComin
BigThingsComin
10 months ago
Reply to  TheHairyNug

Great typo!

TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
10 months ago
Reply to  BigThingsComin

it’s a reference

BigThingsComin
BigThingsComin
10 months ago
Reply to  TheHairyNug

To what? Trailer Park Boys?

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
11 months ago

In Florida, all lady cars are required by law to have a bra. Otherwise straight to jail.

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
10 months ago

And man cars are prohibited from having one.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
11 months ago

I keep waffling back and forth between filling in the chips or wearing all the Lancer’s rock chips (that didn’t pierce the base coat) with pride. It’s been used! Loved, even. It’s such a good little car.

Anyway, car bras are stupid.

Last edited 11 months ago by Stef Schrader
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