Home » Rack Em’ Up: Cold Start

Rack Em’ Up: Cold Start

Topshot 136
ADVERTISEMENT

It’s nice that we’re able to look at a pandemic in the rear-view mirror and be grateful for the way things are today; things that you might take for granted. I feel the same way when I look at clean trunk lids of cars on the roads now. Why? Because I can remember the horror that was the Great Luggage Rack pandemic of the malaise era.

Nothing is inherently wrong with luggage racks on a car trunk. They did (and still do) serve an important purpose by adding cargo carrying capacity, especially with things like British sports cars that had limited trunk space. On a mid-sized sedan, however, the rack will see very little use other than delivering a look. Jason Torchinsky has mentioned his family’s 1980 Honda Accord four door sedan that his mom specifically ordered with one of these things on the trunk lid. He does not remember it ever holding a piece of luggage, but his mom did regularly add teak oil to the wood strips on the bottom of the rack. Obviously, this thing was purely for aesthetics.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

The example below is a rare Special Edition model Accord of that vintage, which had the witchcraft of power windows that I am sure the Torchinsky family thought would be frivolous; the luggage rack was probably showy enough.

Screenshot (1390)
Bring A Trailer

 

More than anyone else, General Motors really seemed to go all-in on the game in the mid-eighties. It seemed like every car they sold had one, either from the factory or dealer installed.

ADVERTISEMENT
Luggage
wikimedia/ssmIntrigue, Bring A Trailer

 

The Fox Body Mustang convertible typically came equipped with a luggage rack, yet here it helped serve other purposes. Not only is this a car where luggage space was compromised a bit by the folded top, but you can see that the trailing edge of the rack conceals the stuck-on CHMSL. Also, the rack helps to hide the exposed hinges of the trunk that appear on all drop-top ‘Stangs. We’ll give this one a pass.

Used 1988 Ford Mustang Gt Convertible See Video 1695673410
North Shore Classic Cars

The most disturbing instance of the Luggage Rack Pandemic has to be from Ford. In the late seventies, just before this malaise-era craze really hit, Ford put not luggage racks but luggage straps onto the trunk lids of some cars like this Thunderbird with the “Sports Décor Group.” They were actually dubbed “deck lid straps,” and perfectly coordinated with all of the other “color keyed” matchy-matchy stuff that constituted “luxury” features in those bygone days as Jason wrote about a little while ago.

4
Ford

Designed to look like the leather hold-down straps on some pre-war cars, these things were literally strips of stitched vinyl glued to the top of the trunk lid. Ignore the semi-realistic looking buckles on the ends; these things were as fake as a three-dollar bill. If you want to lash a suitcase to the back of your T-Bird, you ain’t gonna be using these “straps.”

Screenshot (1385)

ADVERTISEMENT

I think it was Ford’s onslaught of aero cars in the late eighties that finally put these silly things to rest. But trends don’t die, they just transmogrify into something else. Now we just have giant roof racks with 6 million candlepower LED light bars on Subarus or 4Runners from people that will never drive off road. Is that really any better?

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
47 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Andy Individual
Andy Individual
2 months ago

For when you have one more body than your trunk can hold, or you don’t want to stain the carpet. What I never quite understood is how do you tie it down?

DysLexus
DysLexus
2 months ago

I guess people call it “bling” today.

For some unknown reason, my favorite hot wheel as a preschooler in the 70’s was a Lincoln Continental. I was fascinated by the tire bulge on the trunk lid.

Then, it literally broke in half (top half off broke from bottom) and my mom threw it away. Next up was the 73 Camaro Z28. I guess I matured a lot in those years.

Tbird
Tbird
2 months ago

As an aside, I think Torch and The Bishop should alternate cold starts after he is healthy. I think The Bishop is doing a more than admirable job holding the flame aloft and admire his deep dives and perspective. I also miss the Torch weirdness (in a GOOD way) and the levity and fun he brings to the mix. As a duo they would be unstoppable.

Tbird
Tbird
2 months ago
Reply to  Tbird

Been reading this site since Day 1. Almost thought the first The Bishop post was a Torch prank.

The Clutch Rider
The Clutch Rider
2 months ago
Reply to  Tbird

i still believe that they are one and the same person and you can’t change my mind

The Bishop
The Bishop
2 months ago
Reply to  Tbird

I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear that- thank you! I’m no match for the great man’s wit and collection of weird euro car brochures but my malaise game is strong and it’s fun to share. I appreciate the kind words.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
2 months ago
Reply to  Tbird

I agree. The Bishop is one of my fave writers on this site and prior to the health issues Jason had discussed the incredible demands on his time. I still want my Torch lunacy but pairing them up would reduce the grind a bit and we would still get great quality Cold Starts every day.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
2 months ago

It’s all about planning ahead. If I fill my car, then fill my other car which I’m flat towing, then fill both sets of roof racks, well, at least I’ve still got a luggage rack when I need it:

https://live.staticflickr.com/3904/14546524476_70b19e8dd1_c.jpg

Data
Data
2 months ago

A few months back, I saw someone had installed one of the tray style roof racks on their Ford Escape. I really wish they would have tossed the donut spare up there.

Vee
Vee
2 months ago

As much as I love ’70s stuff I never understood the neoclassical design elements they threw on to cars almost haphazardly. Imagine if you will a modern doctor’s office with the fake wood paneling and the weird ribbed steel panels seemingly hung from the walls at random, but instead of glass panes up front it has lancet windows, and instead of drop tile ceilings it has vaulted stucco ceilings. Be pretty friggin’ weird, wouldn’t it?

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
2 months ago
Reply to  Vee

People at the time felt it made cars look expensive – big 1930s coachbuilt luxury cars seemed like the sorts of things plutocrats were just meant to ride around it, so let’s stick some of those details on a warmed-over 1960 Falcon, call it a Monarch, and jack the price way up. If insurance rates and environmental and fuel economy regulations meant cars couldn’t be fast and powerful anymore, then might as well make them opulent

But, it wasn’t about retro design per se, it was more that people’s perceptions of elegant, high status luxury cars were closely associated with the ones from the ’30s, so they cherry picked recognizable styling cues from them.

There was also some revival of 1930s and ’40s fashion going on at the time, too – double breasted suits with wide lapels and looser fits came back in for a period in the ’70s, along with wide ties and louder patterns. Stuff seems to be cyclical, after 30-40 years, it a lot of it was ready to come back around

Vee
Vee
2 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

The fashion and interior design are something I’m very familiar with, but it’s a lot easier to share similarities in design for something like a chandelier. The cars not so much. If the only thing you’re carrying over are tiny details nobody would really know what it is you’re trying for.

For example the hidden headlights of the Ford Thunderbird, Chrysler 300, Chrysler New Yorker, and Lincoln Continental were aping the hidden lights of the Cord 810 and custom bodied Alfa Romeo 8Cs. The large hood ornaments were calling back to the various fancy radiator caps for cars like the Graham Paige 800 series. The “running tunnel” hood and fender design that formed humps from the windshield to the headlights seen on things like the Ford Pinto and ’73 Chevrolet Malibu aped the heavily domed fenders and “cooking pot” headlights of cars of the era. Most famously GM’s “Colonnade Cars” like the original Monte Carlo had cuts into the sides of the body to ape the flowing separate fenders and running boards of the Cadillac 16.

The problem is nobody could tell, even back then, what these were in homage to except old people. The generation now in their sixties and seventies who lived through the Hollywood Golden Age of the 1920s and 1930s, when stars like Laurel and Hardy or Jean Harlowe showed up to premieres in these massive chrome and brass machines with engines bigger than most people’s dinner tables. And those phaetons and landaus were nothing like the “phaeton coupes” and laudau bar laden personal luxury coups of the 1970s. The 1920s and 1930s cars were upright and narrow with the cab pushed back onto the rear axle, flowing fenders, and a very upright and narrow prow. The closest we got was the bustleback Cadillac Seville and the epidemic of the coffin nose hood treatment with the narrow upright grille seen on everything from that decade that was a U.S. domestic vehicle. And worst and most importantly of all, the ’70s cars were boxy as fuck. The 1961 Lincoln Continental still had a stranglehold on everybody’s designs, and nobody in the U.S. strayed far from it until the mid 1980s. You couldn’t call back to the 1930s with their teardrop shapes or the 1920s with the draped buck look if your car was composed of a rectangle and a trapezoid.

That’s why I made the comparison between 1970s cars and a doctor’s office sporting Romanesque and Gothic architectural details. They just threw random details into the mix because they couldn’t even begin to approach recreating the actual base form. The only company to successfully do so was Chrysler with the Plymouth Prowler twenty five years later, and we all know how costly and complex of a design it was. Not to mention the Prowler was based on a late 1950s conception of a 1930s hotrod, so even it strayed a bit from the form it was intending to pay homage to.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
2 months ago
Reply to  Vee

It wasn’t so much recognizing where they came from, as that “stand up hood ornament = fancy” “pontoon fenders = fancy”, heraldic crest emblem = opulent, etc. People interpreted those visual cues as signifiers of luxury.

And that’s where Bill Mitchell screwed up. He had a personal obsession with classic prewar coachbuilding and had long been working in styling cues and ideas here and there, which the market generally went for, but he completely misinterpreted the whole thing. People went for retro styling cues not because they recognized them as being from vintage cars, but because they recognized them as denoting opulence. He thought it really was because people wanted cars that looked like vintage luxury models, and it backfired every time he went all-in on the idea – the 1966 Toronado was a very heavy reinterpretation of the Cord 810/812, and underperformed to GM’s expectations, the later face-lift toned down the Cord cues. The 1971 Rivera was a blatant riff on the Auburn 851 Speedster, but, again, was polarizing and didn’t meet sales expectations. And it all culminated in the 1980 Seville – the last new model he signed off on before retirement, and the end result of a Hooper-bodied Rolls-Royce-inspired proposal for the Eldorado that someone on his staff sketched in the ’60s and which he had reworked several times over the years until he found a production use for the bustle back shape. When it was just a fender bulge or a padded vinyl roof, or an upright grille, the public was with him, that was just “luxury car” style. When he went outright 1930s retro, it didn’t work so well, but that’s where his personal tastes would have steered him if not for other considerations

Last edited 2 months ago by Ranwhenparked
Sam I am
Sam I am
2 months ago

“For the sporty set”

Instagr.am/JakobKsGarage
Instagr.am/JakobKsGarage
2 months ago

Nice how they aligned the dual propellers on that airplane. Like Rolls Royce wheel logos on their old press photos (before they were self levelling..)

The racks also serve the purpose as an extra trunk handle.
Could really use one on my Figaro, as my European fingers are quite big to get in the narrow Japanese crack that appears, when you have released the roof compartment solenoid…

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
2 months ago

Since this was in the antenna-ed flip phone and Blackberry era and when film developing was expensive I don’t have any pictures but some friends had a Miata and since they were avid gardeners and makers they bought the best and sturdiest luggage rack they could find and used it on their Miata to its fullest capacity for things such as bales of hay, bags of mulch or even cement mix, and… actual trunks. A real hoot to see on the road.

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
2 months ago

Come on, man, the T-bird needs the luggage straps to distract you from the hideous ridiculousness of the opera windowed faux targa bar and, well, frankly, the general ugliness of American cars of that era.

Last edited 2 months ago by Alan Christensen
Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
2 months ago

“It’s nice that we’re able to look at a pandemic in the rear-view mirror”
Uh, the pandemic’s still going on? We just choose to pretend it’s over:
https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
2 months ago

And by now, you couldn’t make me care at gunpoint. Let’s get on with the rest of our lives, hm?

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
2 months ago

Ah, yes, thank you for proving my case.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
2 months ago

Our handling of the pandemic will go down in history through this as the single biggest grift ever perpetrated against mankind by those in power. If you are not already beginning to realize this, you have not been reading the news. Not the tin foil hat news, but CBS and CNN and the like. As it turns out, nearly every institution we thought we could trust lied their asses off about where this illness came from, and the most effective ways to handle it.

I will admit a personal bias, because my covid vaccine gave me health problems for over two and a half years, after 49 years of unbroken perfect health, due to “viral persistence” from the virus that I willingly had injected into myself. Brain fog, fatigue, vertigo, increased likelihood of just up and passing the hell out – and I was one of the lucky ones. At least I didn’t lose my site or my hearing, or have my legs feel like they were on fire. And THEN I contracted covid, eight months later. Just like I was assured that no one would. I should have taken my chances with the illness.

And guess what finally knocked it out? That’s right, ivermectin, good old horse dewormer. Which was prescribed to me by an eminent neurologist. A prescription which was filled at a people pharmacy, in a bottle filled with people pills for people to take. You know, the same stuff that won a Nobel prize as an antiviral treatment back in the ’80s, that has been approved for human use longer than many of you have been alive? Yeah, that one. A 5-day course cost me 55 bucks. But then, that’s no way for Pfizer and Moderna to make jaw-dropping profits, is it?

Don’t start with me on this shit.

Last edited 2 months ago by Joe The Drummer
Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
2 months ago

I grew up in those 70s luxobarges, and like the other commenters, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything on one of those luggage racks. But when I was stationed in Turkey, I saw plenty of luggage and people and farm animals on deck lids and roofs of coupes, sedans and mini vans, and few, if any, luggage racks (mini vans often had rails around the perimeter of the roof for “safety”, though).

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
2 months ago

As a former owner of a 1990 Mustang GT convertible, I appreciate the pass. I had the car for 7 years and I used the luggage rack once. Usually if I needed extra cargo room, I’d just put the top down and start piling stuff in the back seat. It was pretty impressive how much that car could carry!

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
2 months ago

Convertibles are much more practical that one might think.
I drove cross-country at the beginning of the pandemic in my Mercedes-Benz CLK350 convertible with the roof down most of the way.
– the only way to get the larger pieces of luggage inside were to put the roof down and load them in the back seat.
I also found that when the back seat was loaded with luggage, it made for a very effective draft stop.
No luggage rack necessary.

Red865
Red865
2 months ago

Yes, this! Hauled a lot of lumber and stuff in my 1989 LX 5.0 Mustang Conv. Even took out the back seat cushions when moving apartments to fit more boxes, furniture. Actually did strap a boxed Christmas tree to trunk rack…was middle of winter and had wife with me.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
2 months ago

I once moved my entire apartment setup in a ’66 Mustang convertible including a decent size dresser and a queen-size futon with frame. Multiple trips, of course, but it worked just fine.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
2 months ago

I remember being mystified by those things when I was a little kid. I was aware of spoilers, and I thought that these luggage racks were cheap aftermarket spoilers tacked onto cars for looks. I mentioned how stupid the “tiny chrome spoilers” looked once, and my dad informed me that they were luggage racks. From that day, I kept my eyes open for one of the flimsy little things with any sort of cargo strapped to it and never saw one.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
2 months ago

I kind of want a removable luggage rack for my ND Miata.
Love the car, would drive it cross country multiple times. However if I did so I’d have to stop every other day to wash clothes.

Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

Take a look at the Boot Bag. I got one a couple years ago, and it’s very nice for the occasional long trip.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
2 months ago

Sweet, I will. No issues with paint or anything?

Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

None that I’ve seen! It’s essentially a waterproof duffel that sits on a rubber mat integrated into its bottom, and all that sits on a squishy cabinet liner that’s placed on your trunk. So nothing scratchy or wiggly. The tie-down straps loop all the way around and buckle to themselves, so you’re not getting scratches on the decklid edge like you would with cheap bike racks that clip onto the edges of the sheet metal.

I’ve driven through a couple nasty mountain storms and the interior has stayed dry. The rubber bottom of the bag does pick up dirt very easily, so if you’re using it as a standalone duffel, you’ll just want to be conscious of not setting it down on gravel surfaces and the like.

Codfangler
Codfangler
2 months ago

In 1967, my exwife and I drove away from our wedding in my Austin Healey Sprite Mark III, with a luggage rack affixed to the trunk lid with suction cups and straps. Later, IIRC, we used this rack on a Ford Cortina GT. For someone like me, who likes small cars, the ability to carry one extra suit case came in handy, but I seldom saw anything being carried on the permanent luggage racks like those shown above.

Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
2 months ago
Reply to  Codfangler

Nice! In 2005 my wife and I drove away from our wedding and took a 2 week road trip honeymoon in a 1971 Triumph TR-6. Bought the luggage rack for just that occasion. It held an old tweed suitcase and the obligatory “Just Married” sign. I didn’t mind drilling holes for the rack and it didn’t look that bad.

Jerry Thomas
Jerry Thomas
2 months ago

I remember my Grandma having a mercury topaz with a luggage rack, and I think it had a little warning not to put more than 20lbs on it… very hazy 30+ year old memories though

Last edited 2 months ago by Jerry Thomas
Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
2 months ago

You know, my formative years were the Malaise Era, and these things just never registered with me. I saw them, but I never even imagined them with a piece of luggage on top. I guess with so much tacky frippery going on (just look at that T-bird), the luggage racks just blended in.

What did register was the spray-tan color of the straps, vinyl roof, door edge guards, wheels (!!!) and no doubt the interior of the T-bird. Ford called it “saddle” and paired it with pretty much any color, and it clashed with all of them. I hated it so much.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

Same era, and yeah, I don’t think I ever saw a piece of luggage strapped to one.

I came to view them as sorta quasi-sporting, as at that time, only serious stuff had actual spoilers (unlike today were they seem to come standard on any sedan).

Last edited 2 months ago by Jack Trade
Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Yeah, luggage racks were a thing on little British roadsters of the ’50s and ’60s, due to the almost nonexistent trunk space. Connected the trunk lid luggage rack with a perception of sportiness, let people feel more like their new Buick Somerset was a worthy replacement for the MG Midget they had in college

Tbird
Tbird
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Hated seeing most of these luggage racks in the ’80s. Agree it seemed all the GM A-bodies had them. Saw a lot on Grand Am/Cutlass Calais as well as the FWD full sizers. Tempo/Topaz were the big offenders from Ford.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
2 months ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

I’m in a similar boat, and never really gave them any attention until I lived in the upper Midwest in the late 2000s. By that point, these malaise-era cars were rusted out beaters, and I would regularly see those racks doing the work of pickup trucks hauling lumber or boxes from the local home improvement store. My favorite was a person in my town whose GM A-body was so rusted that it wasn’t identifiable for make or model and had lost the mounts for the fuel tank, so they strapped a 5-gallon plastic gas jug to the trunk-mounted luggage rack and ran a rubber hose through a rust hole in the trunk to what I assume was an inline fuel pump somewhere nearby. The car also used a gate latch to hold the driver door closed and a chain wrapped through the rust holes where the door handles used to be on the passenger doors to secure them shut. It was wild.

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
2 months ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

Well, that sounds like someone who never had to worry about being tailgated.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
2 months ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

Counterpoint. I absolutely love the saddle and dark blue version of this trim. And yes, I do have a perverse love of big, inefficient 70’s PLC’s.

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
2 months ago

Dark blue was probably the least objectionable. But green? Time for some eye bleach.

Tbird
Tbird
2 months ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

The burgundy and saddle is quite jarring. The ’78 LTDII I had in high school was silver paint with burgundy top, trim and interior. My ’96 was cranberry with the same saddle interior, but the dash and console were more of a walnut brown.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
2 months ago

This trend was a reaction to downsizing. A big ‘ol ’70’s barge has more than enough trunk space to accommodate the baggage of six passengers. Then we downsized, but we still called a GM A or Chrysler K a “six-passenger” car- even though the drastically downsized trunk could never hold six people’s worth of baggage. From this point forward, we started stacking our baggage vertically in minivans and SUVs.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
2 months ago

Now how do you propose I transport my four steamer trunks to the Tweedledee? How is our man Jason doing?

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
2 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Thanks for the update! Good to hear he hasn’t lost his quirkiness.

47
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x