Home » Here’s A Look At The Incredible Car Accessories That 1970s Blaxploitation Movie ‘Super Fly’ Inspired

Here’s A Look At The Incredible Car Accessories That 1970s Blaxploitation Movie ‘Super Fly’ Inspired

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Occasionally, there will be something from pop culture that influences trends in what people do to their cars, but it’s not common. Usually when it happens the pop culture in question is tied pretty directly to automotive culture in some way, like how the Fast and Furious movies made people  install 20-gear transmissions in their cars. Rarely, though, there will be a non-car-focused movie that spawns trends in car customization to the point where aftermarket companies are selling parts just to fulfill the demand spawned by the movie. And when I say “rarely,” I mean I can only think of one pop cultural thing that fits this category, the 1972 blaxploitation film Super Fly.

Yes, Superfly. It’s very much a blaxploitation film, and likely doesn’t really portray the best archetypes of characters, especially to modern eyes, but mostly I just want you to see the hero car in the film, which is featured pretty prominently in the trailer:

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See that thing? It’s a car that’s based on a 1971 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado, modified by a company called Dunham Coach. That distinctive, over-the-top, chrome-slathered, pimped-out look is largely the creation of Les Dunham, at least according to him, in this video, which also lets us know that he made the Corvorado (a Corvette/Eldorado hybrid):

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All of the exuberant and flashy bits bolted onto these Superfly cars, the oversized grille caps, those genuinely bonkers massive three-bar faux headlight things that fit over the existing quad sealed-beam headlamps like Sally Jessy Raphael’s spectacles, all of this Superfly crazy chrome candy was made available to the common, Normalfly people thanks to the magic of the JC Whitney catalog (I went a bit into the history of the catalog in this post).

Thanks to our own social media guy Peter, who sent me an old 1974 catalog, I can show you exactly how you could Superfly your own ride, in the comfort of your own driveway or lawn. Just look at all these Superfly options you could have:

Superfly Spread

Holy crap, that’s a lot of options! Can one car support this much superlative fly? I have no idea, but I suspect many, many people pushed those limits to see what was possible. Let’s look at some of these options in detail:

Trunklids

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Why should Lincoln Continentals have all the fun of pretending to house a spare tire upright in the back of a trunk and not you? They shouldn’t, which is why you should be thrilled that you could get a Continental-style trunk lid for a huge variety of American cars, including the Mustang II! It’s also perfect if you haul a lot of tall, round items in your trunk, like cable spools or huge pizzas, stacked vertically like books on a shelf.

Grillecrowns

Grilles are a big deal, visually, and go a long way to defining the face of a car. So, if you found that even 1970s exuberance wasn’t enough to satisfy your exhibitionistic grille demands, JC Whitney had your back. If you felt your grille was close, but just needed a little bit of goosing, you could get a Grille Crown that you just popped atop your existing grille, like a little chrome hat.

At about $55 in 1972, these would be about $385 today. That’s not that cheap!

I like how the copy for these things says:

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“Even if you can’t afford a Rolls or a Lincoln Mark IV, you can own a car with a grille that looks every bit as prestigious.”

I’m sure this was absolutely true, and valets would be thrilled to park your Mustang II out front, right next to the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow that is quite clearly your car’s peer.

If a grille crown wasn’t enough, there were full grille replacement options, too:

Grilles2

Some of these were in separate parts you had to assemble around your old grille, some replaced the grille outright, but all gave your car the gravitas and presence of a machine that pushed around a chrome model of the Parthenon on its face.Headlights

These Superfly Headlights are probably the most distinctive and noticeable bolt-on your could add to your car to really lean hard into this look. Designed to evoke the massive headlamps of cars like 1920s and 1930s Rolls-Royces, with their tri-bar internal supports and gargantuan size, these units fit over two sealed beam lights per side and extended up and above the car’s hoodline, to give the illusion of being separate lamps.

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I think these light covers give the car a strange, myopic look, but who cares? These things definitely can’t be ignored. Landau

Landau bars are strange things in automotive design. They started out as literal, functional hinges for convertible tops, and then somehow became so synonymous with wealth and class that they’re now an expected part of a hearse, a vehicle about as unlikely to be a convertible as anything I can think of:

Landau2

In 1972, though, they definitely suggested classy, with a capital “assy.” So I’m not surprised JC Whitney offered four different stick-on landau bar options. They make as much sense on the C-pillar of a coupé as they do on a hearse, so why not live a little?

Operawindows

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Speaking of C-pillars on coupés, this period was definitely the Golden Age of the Opera Window. Opera windows were strange little portholes in the C-pillars, I suppose offering more sensual privacy for whomever was in the back seat doing whatever, and if you were so miserably impoverished as to be saddled with a car that lacked opera windows, old JC was here to help.

I think it’s worth noting that you had two very different options: real opera windows that were actually, you know, windows, that you could see through, but those were difficult to install, requiring cutting holes in your car and all that. The catalog made a point to note the difficulty of the installation with a big IMPORTANT: Warning. And, they reminded you that these windows were non-refundable, so when you found yourself with a crudely hacked-out window hole the shape of Cuba, no, you can’t return the window.

That said, JC isn’t going to leave you hanging! You can get something almost as good for way cheaper and easier: a “Self Adhesive Port Window!” Essentially, this aplastic sticker of an opera window you can just slap on your roof. It won’t do shit to make the inside of your car less dark or claustrophobic, but you’ll think it might from the outside!

Too bad JC Whitney couldn’t have llicensed this fantastic Acme technology that would have made these so much better. Targa Window

These last ones I want to show you are quite strange: that Targa band feels more like something you’d find on a European car, like a Porsche 911 Targa, and as such is kind of out of place in this context. I guess it would still dress up a roof with a belt of brightwork, even if I don’t really think it looks like a Targa top.

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Those other things, the Window Blank-Out Kits, are a strange sort of way to convert a normal, full-sized window into a much smaller opera-style window. Or, windows. I think to sell this you’d have to throw some vinyl over everything, but I suspect that’s just fine, in this context.

Honestly, I kind of love that all of these options existed! Say what you will about the aesthetic, but you can’t deny that people who bought and install this stuff had to be absolutely loving the shit out of their cars, and, really, that’s what matters. Have at it! Be as superfly as you want to be.

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Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
1 year ago

Regardless of whether it’s one’s cup of tea it’s always cool whenever people customize their cars which is lamentably rare given how people tend to be concerned about the “resale value” of their cars (cf. the way people deliberately choose boooooring grayscale colors when buying new cars under the impression, thankfully now erroneous, that such cars hold their value better.) That said, there’s one customization that needs to be sent to each & every circle of hell: the kits sold in the mid-50s for converting the split (two-piece) rear windows of pre-’53 VW Beetles to single-piece rear windows.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

I feel the same way – cars aren’t an investment, they’re meant to be used and enjoyed. Not doing that is like buying a piece of art and locking it in a vault somewhere.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

This stuff was also very memorably seen just a little later in the most ’70s of the ’70s James Bond movies, Live and Let Die. Bond’s adventures in Harlem are something else.

Interestingly, it manages to be fairly faithful to the feel of the novel which came out like 2 decades earlier.

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
1 year ago

I hope sometime in the future a very large 3D printer crosses paths with a very old J.C. Whitney catalog.

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
1 year ago

The bars on the Superfly headlights should rotate, like rotary headlight wipers.

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 year ago

I think the Superfly car also influenced Homer Simpson’s design of “The Homer” car which in turn influenced my real life 24 Hours of Lemons racer. I would have loved to be able to find some of these JC Whitney accessories for the build, but alas I had to resort to junkyard parts.

That’s how I learned the grille on a Lincoln Continental Mark IV weighs literally about 40 lbs. When I removed the last bolt in the junkyard the grille damn near ripped my arm off because it was so unexpectedly heavy. I decided not to buy it. Thankfully the grille on a Mark VI is thin metal and plastic and offers 90% of the opulence of the Mk IV grille at a much more racing friendly weight.

https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a15370296/now-racing-in-the-24-hours-of-lemons-the-homer/

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
1 year ago

Isn’t it a Dunham Corvorado in one of the opening scenes of Live and let die?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhCB8HKzvwA

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 year ago

Classy with a capitol “assy”

Totally stealing this line.

Sklooner
Sklooner
1 year ago

I went to the JC Whitney in Chicago in 82 while driving from Edmonton to Montreal, remember being entranced by seeing in the flesh all the stuff I had only seen in the catalog. I also installed some of those opera windows in the late 80s in some Limos a sketchy company was ‘updating’ we insisted they pay cash in advance for all work we did

ExAutoJourno
ExAutoJourno
1 year ago

Back in the day, I lived for a time in what was then called South Central Los Angeles. Didn’t need any catalogs or magazines; just a stroll down Crenshaw Boulevard down around 83rd Street would get you an eyeful of the Real Thing. You really can’t get the full impact of “Superfly” headlights until you’ve seen them….

Being into foreign cars, I was too hip for that stuff. Besides, landau bars would never have fit on my Renault.

chewymilk99
chewymilk99
1 year ago

Sigh. I really miss JC Whitney. I made many a ghetto Baja bug from their pages.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 year ago

Damnit.
Now I want a MustangII with a Continental kit. Or maybe a Pinto: that would look freaky-and might save me from fiery death

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
1 year ago

If you could not afford a Stutz Bearcat, you make it kind of look like one.

I don’t mind these as it more about style and arriving vs the high speed ride.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
1 year ago

Boy this brings back memories! I used to love looking through the thing every time it arrived. I actually ordered a 67 MGB grill from it.

I_P_Nightly
I_P_Nightly
1 year ago

I worked at a Detroit Cadillac dealer in the 70’s and I remember a few Eldorados pimped out in full Fly-shit regalia. The stock hoods were already big and heavy and the factory hood springs were useless against the added weight of the heavy radiator shroud and headlight trim. You needed a broomstick handle to keep the hood up. Interesting times indeed.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago

The window blank out kits were pretty much exactly what some OEMs did to create their factory opera windows in the day (M-body Chrysler Fifth Avenue and K-car derived Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue & Imperial all come to mind)

Huibert Mees
Huibert Mees
1 year ago

Oh Jason, you’re taking me down memory lane! I used to get these catalogs in the mail all the time back in the 70’s (don’t know why, I never bought any of the stuff). My friends and I loved looking through the pages and seeing the crap they were selling and wondering who the hell buys this stuff. Every now and then we would see a car that looked like the guy (yes, it was always a guy) had ordered something from every page. Nothing fit right, the stick-on stuff would unstick after a few months and the chrome was already peeling off. It was absolute junk.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
1 year ago
Reply to  Huibert Mees

I know exactly why I used to get the JC Whitney catalog between approximately 1987-1995: because I owned a second-gen Camaro as my first car in 1988, and later a VW Westfalia camper, and JCW had GOBS of parts for both. Fellow 1978-81 F-body owners, remember the sucky redesigned door pull handles that always broke off? JC Whitney’s got replacements. Console cover cracked? Yep, got that too.

And they sold so many parts for Army Jeeps, I’m pretty sure you could have built one from scratch by mail. Pity Tracy missed the golden era of the awesomely tacky, jam-packed-with-parts newsprint JCW catalog.

Justin Short
Justin Short
1 year ago

It seems like i remember hearing “All you needed was a Vin plate!”

kingRidiculous
kingRidiculous
1 year ago

With vehicles looking so much the same these days, you would think this type of customization would make a comeback.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago
Reply to  kingRidiculous

Cars more expensive now, and also are much more likely to be leased than in the past, both of which limits willingness or ability to mess with them too much. Hell, even the bumper sticker industry is way, way smaller than it used to be

Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
1 year ago

I actually have questions about the logistics side of a company like J.C.W.
Was there a warehouse somewhere stocking trunk lids? Did they make them to order? I am not sure where or how they stored all those large scale mods. Does someone know how they operated for parts that were body panels?

Tom Halter
Tom Halter
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Wyman

Former JCW employee here. While we had a large distribution center and stocked many of the items we sold, large items like trunk lids were almost always drop shopped to the customer directly from the manufacturer.

Not only did this save warehouse space, it avoids having to pay to ship it twice (once from the manufacturer to the warehouse, and then from the warehouse to the customer).

Stephen Bierce
Stephen Bierce
1 year ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQZ1ycI8hrc

The day I got my High School diploma I saw a Coupe DeVille that had been super tricked-out with this stuff. Even had the steer horns over the grille. Air horns atop the bumper. Mud flaps on all four wheel wells. I don’t remember if it had the fake spare tires on the fenders or just fake exhaust pipes.

Stephen Bierce
Stephen Bierce
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Bierce

The reason I remember this is because the owner of the car was ALSO getting his High School diploma that day. Money and/or sense, anybody?

Dave Horchak
Dave Horchak
1 year ago

Who is the Black Dick who is a sex machine?
Nobody knows him but his lady!

Just talkin about Shaft!

First thing that popped in my head after reading the headline.
I hope I do not offend anyone.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Horchak

I can dig it.

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Horchak

Damn right

JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
1 year ago

I wanna do this to my Tesla.

Stephen Bierce
Stephen Bierce
1 year ago
Reply to  JaredTheGeek

Those blanked-out facias are very in need of accesorization. It’s just WRONG.

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
1 year ago
Reply to  JaredTheGeek

Ever think of putting a little “unleaded fuel only” decal on the charger port door? It would even be true.

Hotdoughnutsnow
Hotdoughnutsnow
1 year ago

I wonder what the quality level was for those chrome grills; I would have liked to read the customer reviews, if they had them in the 70s.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago

Some JC Whitney stuff was alright, but I’m thinking those were probably in the same vein as the grilles on those 1970s fiberglass “Gazelle” kit cars, which always seemed a bit like aluminum foil glued over cardboard

Michael
Michael
1 year ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

“Some JC Whitney stuff was alright…”

The Kraco head unit in my dad’s old van was pretty alright, save for its tendency to randomly eat cassettes. We kept a #2 pencil in the tray of the center console just for the occasions its hunger would disembowel Van Halen’s 1984 or whatever my preteen self would want to listen to on a road trip. That brushed stainless finish on it was pretty boss, nevertheless.

Incidentally, I was today-years-old when I learned that Roy Warshawsky has earned his rightful place in the Automotive Hall of Fame:

https://www.automotivehalloffame.org/honoree/roy-warshawsky/

4AGE_ForFood
4AGE_ForFood
1 year ago

Growing up around Chi-town and often visiting the JC Whitney store in-person myself, can definitely appreciate this era. I wish I still had some of the stacks of catalogs. Oh man let’s not forget the curb feelers , followed promptly by the fake tv antenna (which was boomerang shaped) period. JC Whitney had everything, and like a 7 story brick warehouse… for your stuff and then take your receipt a few blocks over to the warehouse where an old fella in denim overalls would fire up an ancient ass elevator and truck on out to go get your part. It was glorious.

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 year ago
Reply to  4AGE_ForFood

My neighbor has a mint ’85 Toyota pickup with a boomerang antenna on the roof. I don’t get it either.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
1 year ago

Oh man, the memories. I wanted a musclecar so bad when I was growing up in the 90s; I’d hoard JC Whitney Catalogues, magazine (mopar monthly, tons of classifieds), and restoration catalogues like Year One. When I was 16, I wound up purchasing a terrible/awesome 68 Dodge Charger with a big block that was half-bondo, and spent untold hours pricing out parts for it, saving every penny I earned through working 2 part time jobs, and would make financial decisions based on a small paragraph, and a black and white illustration of whatever it was I was buying. It was always a huge roll of the dice; some things that looked like they could be so cool in the catalogue wound up being super cheap, chrome-plated plastic garbage. There is just no way to tell the quality of the part, the fitment, from printed media like this.

Today, you can find video reviews, unboxing videos, recommendations/reviews, full color photographs from multiple angles, dimensions… the buying experience today is just so completely different to that era; looking at it now makes me realize it was closer to that experience of pioneers ordering things from the sears catalogue during the western expansion.

Arch Duke Maxyenko
Arch Duke Maxyenko
1 year ago

Today’s equivalent are the aftermarket DRL headlights, Faux R A P T O R grilles, Angry Eye Jeep faces, and Thule Roof boxes

Hotdoughnutsnow
Hotdoughnutsnow
1 year ago

As a Jeep owner, I am always annoyed at the “grumpy Jeeps”… yeah, we get it; you’re insecure and have a poor relationship with your parents.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
1 year ago

angry faced jeep = compensation for height or length imho

lukeofthehillpeople
lukeofthehillpeople
1 year ago

Hey now, my Thule roof box is useful. It keeps road crap off of my snowboards, my beer stays cold up there half the year, and if the kids misbehave, I can stuff them in it too. Also, the Minnesota DMV requires them on any Volvo wagons.

Sklooner
Sklooner
1 year ago

I remember when Firefly used them as coffins

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