It’s Friday afternoon, global productivity is coming to a screeching, sloppy halt, which means it’s an absolutely ideal time to take a moment and consider and really meditate on a few carefully-selected items from this 1974 J.C.Whitney & Co. catalog I have here. It’s a dazzling dive into an automotive world that’s now pretty much forgotten, but a world that still has the power to amaze, delight, and, yes, for much of the catalog, even bore people today. It’s the glorious, dazzling world of cars in the 1970s, when everything sucked just the right amount, and or standards were nice and low. Also, everyone was sexy and smoked while they ate cheeseburgers. Let’s explore!
As anyone who lived in the 1970s will tell you, it was an era when bumpers needed guarding, and the brave Guards of the Bumper were these chrome vertical oblongs, faced with rubber, that were a factory option on many cars, and also wildly popular aftermarket add-ons, like these. Even though the ’70s were the era of massive, chrome, battering-ram bumpers that make today’s fussy painted plastic and sensor-laden bumpers look like absurdly fragile canapés stuck on either end of your car, it was still not enough for many people, hence bumper guards.
These mostly just kept your big chrome bumper from getting dinged or scratched. Remember, those heavy, 5mph bumpers didn’t really make the cars that much safer as much as they let insurance companies be cheapskates, because they were good about protecting fenders and grilles and lights. Anyway, what I like about this bumper guard entry is what’s in that box there, where the shout how the bumper guards PAY FOR THEMSELVES MANY TIMES OVER.
That seems like a pretty bold claim, right? Bumper guards that pay their own way? They must have a reason, right? Bitch, they got three:
- Save you costly front and rear repair bills
- Outlast the lifetime of your car
- Increase your car’s trade-in value
These are incredible reasons, deeply pulled ex recto. Let’s think about each of them:
- Save you costly front and rear repair bills: Really? I mean, I guess for really minor things, like backing into a box spring, sure.
- Outlast the lifetime of your car: How is this helping you? You can take them off and bring them home when you take your car to the scrapyard?
- Increase your car’s trade-in value: Oh yeah, I’m sure some bumper guards on your Vega will about double the price. Easy.
Let’s see what else we got here. Who likes noises? JC has you covered!
First, we have to talk about YELPING. That’s the sound you want from your car alarm, right? The same sort of sound you make when you pinch a little bit of scrotum in a zipper, during some ill-advised experiment in going commando? Or, if you lack a scrotum, perhaps the sound one makes when you accidentally almost sit on your cat? Also, the fact that the illustration uses the gerundive form, yelping, just somehow makes it even better.
Let’s talk about these horns, and how JC Whitney provides multiple equine-inspired horn sounds. What Mustang owner doesn’t long to hear their muscle car whinny, like a fancy show pony, trotting around all proud? Listen to that baby whinny, like a motherloving dressage horse!
If that’s not for you, there’s always the HEE HAW of a donkey to let everyone know you’re someone who appreciates the finer things. Like a donkey.
Also, how did these work, in the days before digital sound recording? Was the realistic “bray of a donkey” stored on a little loop of magnetic tape? A grooved record-like thing? Or just simulated with horns?
I’m a lighting fetishist, as you may recall, and JCW doesn’t forget that. Look at these incredible lighting options:
Why should Saabs have all the headlight wiper fun? They shouldn’t. What if you want headlight wipers, but you’ll be damned if you’ll do any sort of electrical work, and you also are committed to looking like an absolute loon in everything you do? They have a solution, for less than $1.50 per headlight: these propeller-like headlight wiper things, driven by the wind! They must have made your car look absolutely bonkers as it drove, with twin spinning spiral crazy eyes, wiping away grime, blocking your light or causing crazy rotating shadows as you drove. I’d kill to see these in action.
Then there’s that coach light. Who was buying those? What were they putting them on, and why? Did people, like stick one on the roof of a Chevette? Would people use these, with amber bulbs, as indicators for their Thunderbirds? I need to know! Who saw this and thought, hell yeah, that’s what my car needs?
For this one
…I have questions. Well, maybe more doubts. Because, I’m just gonna say this, I do not believe that Rolls-Royce “approved” this polish. I’m just not buying it. And that “famous mirror test”; I like how they describe the process of how a mirror works? There’s even illustrations! Of people encountering their own reflections, with amazement, like they’re birds. Remind me to reach out to Rolls-Royce PR and ask if they still use Special Formula #2 Car Polish.
Oh, J.C. Whitney. You give and give and give.
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When I was in college for engineering I had a professor that told us if we “tried to solve all the homework problems and handed it in, we’d get an A. Just write down the problems and hand it in, B. Write your name on a piece of paper and staple it to a JC Whitney catalog, you’ll get a C.” I think I was the only kid in class that knew what JCW was and laughed.
Oh man that donkey horn seems perfect for calling out when someone else on the road makes a dumb move. Pull out in front of traffic? HEE-HAW you ass.
In 1978, I bought a set of baby moon hubcaps from JCW for my ’67 Galaxie. They were the perfect complement to the $49.95 Earl Scheib paint job. The basic Scheib job was $29.95 I think, so I went for the Deluxe because that’s how I roll.
A $25 animal call/various siren/PA system I got from JCW for my high school car was the best ROI I ever had. Dog, rooster, and cow got a lot of use. The dog was a big dog answered by a little dog (or vise versa, I don’t remember) and when I used to pick up a friend and hit that instead of the horn, the entire neighborhood of dogs would go nuts.
Don’t forget the swan hood ornament with lighted wings, and it’s complement the guy thumbing his nose, also illuminated.
And nary a mention of the much-lamented* Winky the White Cat?!
I’d enjoy seeing a Torchinskified version of Wanky the Safety Cat.
*at least by Murilee
Aw, man. Wanky the Safety Cat was one of my favorite Ye Olde Ancientteee Jalopnike projects.
In 82 we drove from alberta to Montreal and stopped in Chicago and went to this store too bad most of the products weren’t on xxdisplay
Kind of reminds me of the same sort of copywriting that was done for the American Science & Surplus catalogs in the 1990’s.
I’m not familiar with that one, but I was certainly in the target audience of the Edmund Scientific catalog in the 80s…
They still send out those catalogs, I think about 4 times a year. I’m still on the mailing list.
I loved American Science and Surplus. So much useless garbage to lust over!
I used to love looking through those things when Pop would bring one home. The weird crap you could buy was astounding.
I miss the JC Whitney catalog, and catalogs in general. Between JC Whitney and the automotive section of the Sears catalog (the Big Book, not the Wish Book) I used to create budgets for imagined ‘restorations’ of my parents’ cars.
Old enough to have ordered all kinds of stuff from JC Whitney from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, for all kinds of VWs and Jeeps. One could nearly buy and entire VW bug from JC W one part at a time.
When I bought my Aveo, a friend remarked, “oh, you don’t want to buy that. It has no center console.” I shot back with, “It’ll have one courtesy of JC Whitney.” and within a month of the vehicle’s delivery, it has center console.
I now joke that the “JCW” on Minis stand for JC Whitney, even though I know it’s not true.
I remember parts came in three varieties: “stock”, “heavy duty” and “custom”..
As someone who remembers JC Whitney catalogs, I would have believed any crazy product you made up for this article.
I ordered a replacment top for my 83 Mustang from JCW. Lusted over the hood ornaments and crazy horns too. Knockoff centercaps for regular aluminum wheels were on my list for years. . .
I bought a great headliner replacement kit for my ’78 Impala from JC Whitney. Great color match, easy installation and cheap as hell. I always wanted one of those stupid foot-shaped gas pedals but never pulled the trigger
I’ve bought stuff from JC. From what I remember, grill, hood (steal bummer), and lever door handles for my 67 MGB.
We would get the catalog when I was maybe 8 or 9 and I would PLEAD with my Dad to buys some awesome shit and he just wouldn’t because he was totally lame and out of touch with awesome car accessories. If he had just listened to me we could have put a sweet Rolls Royce hood on my moms Superbeetle, maybe some window louvers, a general lee horn…. Instead we had to drive around like a family of CHUMPS in a normal light blue bug with the paint that was all chalky and oxidized even though the car was only like 5 years old. Whatever. Dude missed out.
I sure wish curb feelers would make a comeback. So many of us could avoid getting nasty rim rash on our wheels. I remember ordering those from JCW.
The “real” coach lights in the UK sitting atop Rolls and Daimler limos have blue lenses. The chauffeurs flip the lights on as they approach the front of the theater when picking up their snooty nose employers so the lord and lady know their coach is approaching. What I can’t fathom is how they can distinguish their blue coach light from any of the others that are probably parading forward toward the portico. Oh, the problems of the idle and rich. An amber one on a Chevette makes so much more sense!
There’s one of those Rolls Royce beetle kits sitting in someone’s field in my town, I’ve been meaning to snap a pic of it for years.
There was nothing on a vehicle that could not be fixed through JB Weld or JC Whitney. All it took was a bit of time, a check, and patience waiting for USPS to deliver in 4 to 6 weeks.
My favorite part I ever ordered from JCW was the headers for my 70 jeepster commando.
The early 90s when I was 16 I built my then first car (1968 Chrysler Newport Custom ) almost entirely from JC Whitney. Carpet, seat covers, additional material to match door panels. Appleton dummy spot lights, antennas, engine dress up, exhaust, and a whole host of things! By 17 I had a mild 60s kustom thanks to that catalog. The only thing I regretted getting from there was a Amp….it sucked so bad it wouldn’t make a tweeter play …took it apart and literally found nothing….. But I charged it to the game… $20 bucks gone at that time.
How I wish ALOT of those items were still readily available.