10 Questionable DIY Automotive Ideas From the 1950s

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There’s nothing better than chancing upon a stash of old¬†“do-it-yourself” magazines. It was a time when DIY wasn’t something tax attorneys did for fun on the weekends; instead, it was a way of life for people who weren’t waiting around for a mechanic to set their ignition points. Each issue in this pile was packed with good automotive information, while being sprinkled with some that wasn’t so hot.

Here’s some of that¬†bygone era’s bizarre automotive advice.

It’s not really the bottle warmer that’s the bad idea here, unless it was an earlier version that used an open flame provided by a fresh stream of gasoline from the fuel tank. It’s the idea of hurtling around 1950s America with a baby in your arms. It’s a miracle an entire generation survived.

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The questionable ideas in this “portable” cooler/air conditioner come by the truckload:

A) Anything that can blow 550 cubic feet of air per minute probably shouldn’t be fed through that 22 gauge wire plugged into the cigarette lighter.

B) Does the spray of water hit you in the face as you’re driving, like Bingo the Clown’s squirting flower?

C) There’s 2.5 gallons of water sloshing around in that thing. Combined with the weight only a stamped steel box can provide, there must be 60 pounds sitting on those spindly legs.

D) Now you know what all the hernia trusses advertised in the back of the magazine were for.

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Are you tired of breaking stride in your car trip to pull over and wait the four minutes it takes to prepare a hot dog at a roadside stand? Simply stuff two franks in this hot dog treadmill! They’ll cook to a tepid 99.3 degrees while you toast your buns on top!

Driving alone? Simply find a straight stretch of road and use your necktie to tie the wheel to the vent window and stay on the straight and narrow!

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We don’t know the science-y explanation, but an engine that runs on nothing but waste oil is probably why we don’t have glaciers anymore.

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This seemed like a super-great idea until the first motorcyclist to hit it in the rain realized that painted concrete is the slipperiest surface known to man.

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This photograph explains approximately 13 percent of the infant mortality rate in the 1950s. Nothing provides an infant a safe place to ride like half-inch plywood and steel hooks.

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There was a time when a car didn’t come with a windshield washer as a matter of course. NO PROBLEM. You just stole the rubber bulb you used to suck the boogers out of your infant’s nose and squirted that on the windshield, filled it with alcohol, and then put it back in the kid’s room when you were done.

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The key passage in this entry is at the very end: “To keep the ‘ship’ from sinking, his passenger manned a small bilge pump.”

Do not try this at home.

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In the go-go 1950s, you didn’t often have time to shower at home, so you just set this portable rig up to cleanse yourself. You can use the two gallons of water from the cooler above for showering.

Portable toilet sold separately.

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In the 1950s, everybody needed a bean harvester. This entry incorrectly states that this particular bean harvester does “three jobs.” With that open bicycle chain flapping around, it also does an admirable job of removing those pesky, unwanted extra fingers.

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Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald

Writer, editor, lousy guitar player, dad. Content Marketing and Publication Manager at BestRide.com.