LASALLE, Ill. (Feb. 27, 2015) — Any automotive buff knows a JC Whitney catalog conjures visions of lake pipes, carbs, fenders and hard-to-get parts and accessories.
The company that bills itself as having “one of the most comprehensive selections of auto parts and accessories in the world” has built its business since 1915 by offering “everything automotive” to DIYers, auto enthusiasts and anyone looking to personalize their rides. As the LaSalle-based firm celebrates its 100th anniversary, it has collected a treasure trove of strange and colorful items for sale over the years through its famous JC Whitney catalogs.
“As we celebrate our centennial anniversary, it's only natural to look back at some of the classics found in our catalog,” said JC Whitney President Shane Evangelist. “We found more than a few crazy accessories from the past — especially around the 1960s turn signal stuffed animals and record players — things that make you shake your head and laugh.
“But we also found a few hidden gems that were ahead of their time, precursors to today's in-car gizmos.”
Combing through past catalogs of the 1950s and 1960s and talking with auto enthusiasts, Whitney's staff produced the following 10 creative, unusual and just plain bizarre items that it once had for sale:
1. Door Re Me Door Chime
A music box that plays a song melody when the car door opened, this accessory offered an easy way to class up your ride — and surprise that special someone, Whitney said. It was available in four different versions, including “Ave Maria,” “Let Me call you Sweetheart,” the “Anniversary Waltz” and “I Love You Truly.” One wonders: would a modern day version of the Do Re Me Chime include “Shake it Up?”
Vintage sale price in the 1960s: $4.98 per selection.
2. Fuzzy Car Muffs
Why? “Because cold weather makes people loopy enough to put fuzzy warmers on their cars,” the company said. “What was promoted as a ‘countrywide rage' featured wrapped fuzzy white fur over mirrors, horn rings, visors and car club plaques. It's like driving a polar bear!”
Today's Boston version would undoubtedly include a snow shovel. Vintage sale price in the 1960s: 79 cents to $1.50.
3. Dashboard Record Player
Was this an early version of the aux port? The integrated mp3? No — but it was an interesting idea: hook up a portable record player to the car radio. It played 45s with the claim that it “Performs smoothly even over rough roads, rough curves, even during fast starting and stopping.” Whitney said it also marketed full-size record players available for travel trailers during the 40s and 50s.Vintage sale price in the 1960s: $59.95.