From time to time, we find ourselves rummaging through car configurators. With our imagination and the options list being the only limitations, we try to put in just about everything in them just to see how much more we can bump the price up from the base model. When you take a look at options lists, what you'll typically see are body kits, safety systems, sport suspensions, advanced tech, appearance packages, interior enhancements, and maybe an entertainment system or two.
The thing is, we reckon car options were a lot more 'out there' than they are today. Sure, you can get something like Rolls-Royce's 'Starlight' function which replicates the stars in the sky on your ceiling, but that's tame compared to what we found. Here are just some of the weird and the wacky things automakers offered on their cars from the past. Some of these you may have heard about, but they're still worth a mention nonetheless.
Toyota Celsior (Lexus LS400) Mobile Facsimile
Yes, people don't really use fax machines these days but before the advent of e-mails, these things were a vital component of the office. But say you're a CEO in the early 90's and you needed to get that fax out ASAP. If you were in the market for a Toyota Celsior (also known as the Lexus LS 400 at the time), you can get Toyota themselves to fit one for you in your luxury cruiser.
It wasn't just some fax machine Toyota outsourced and fitted to the car either. They called it the Toyota Mobile Facsimile. The fax machine was placed in the upper glovebox and it slides out when you open it. However, that also meant that you no longer had space in the said glovebox, but it's an interesting addition nonetheless. This also came in during the time when passenger side airbags weren't mandated, which allowed Toyota to put that there in the first place.
Toyota Van/Master Ace Ice Maker
In flagship luxury sedans such as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class or BMW 7 Series, you can get a mini fridge to chill your beverages. As amusing as that feature is, it doesn't quite hold a candle to what Toyota did in the 80's, and it wasn't even an option on a luxury car.
For the Master Ace (or simply the Van in the US market), Toyota could fit in an Ice Maker. It's likely that Toyota reckoned it's not enough that your drinks aren't just cold, you must have ice to go along with it. After all, vans are made for road trips so perhaps making it an option for them was logical. It's unlikely that we'll ever see anything like it anymore, possibly due to complexity and cost, but at least you can get cooled center console boxes these days.
Honda City Motocompo
This, you're probably familiar with, but it was cool nonetheless. Back in the 80's Honda thought it would be wise to bundle a car and a motorcycle in one package. We're not talking about a buy one take one deal here either. Honda had stuck in a whole motorbike in the trunk of one of their cars.
We are, of course, talking about the Honda City with the Motocompo. No, not in the Honda City we know but rather, the first-generation City hatchback in Japan. Granted, the Motocompo ate up most of the trunk space, but how often can you say you have a whole motorcycle in the trunk of your tiny hatchback? What helped make it fit is the fact that the Motocompo was foldable so it fits perfectly (albeit a little on the snug side) at the back of the City.
Honda CR-V (first-generation) Power Shower
While we're on the subject of Honda, the CR-V had one option that would please the outdoor enthusiasts. If you had (or still own) a first-generation CR-V, you might remember that it came with a picnic table which carried through to the second generation. However, there is one more thing that's worth mentioning in the first CR-V, and that was the 'Power Shower'.
Simply plug the attachment to the 12-volt socket at the back, have a source of water, and you'll get a pressurized stream right out of the shower head. Okay, so you'll need to bring your own bucket of water to get rinsed off, and it was primarily for cleaning off a bit of mud or sand after a day outdoors. However, if you have a big enough bucket (and a whole lot of water), then you can easily get a full shower, no problem. Unfortunately, the curtain was not included.
Nissan Maxima Skyview
Nissan also got in on the whole bizzare options thing, and for a brief moment in history, they dabbled in reinventing the sunroof. In the early 2000's, you could've gotten a Nissan Maxima with what was called the Skyview roof. While some vans and SUVs had windows at the corner of the roof (ex. Toyota MasterAce, Land Rover Discovery), Nissan had a more novel placement.
As it was a sedan, Nissan couldn't put those windows on the corners of the roof. Instead, they put a slim glass panel on the roof of the car...vertically. Think of it then as a precursor to the panoramic glass roof we see in a lot more cars today. Mind you, it doesn't slide open. Instead, you pull the cover to the side (manually) to get a bit more daylight into the cabin. There are those who call this particular roof option the 'coin slot', and we're not really surprised how that name came to be.
Mitsubishi Mirage XYVYX
You're probably wondering how XYVYX is pronounced. But that's not even the most unusual thing about this special (or bizarre, depending on how you look at it) Mitsubishi Mirage. See, the XYVYX package is a special package for the third-generation Mirage hatchback (1987 to 1995) that allowed you to turn this small runabout into just about anything you want it to be.
It had a customizable roof which added what looks like a capsule on top of the standard car. That attachment would allow you to turn the Mirage into a mini-camper, or perhaps more interestingly, a mobile theater. Sure, there are cars with monitors at the back but what made the Mirage XYVYX unique is that it's a whole theater in there. It was fitted with what the late 80's could offer at the time in terms of entertainment, namely a VHS player, a mini-television (a classic CRT no less), and even multiple antennae for better TV reception. Of course, there's no need to put a box on the roof for in-car entertainment these days, showing us just how far technology has come.
Chrysler Highway Hi-Fi
If you've noticed, just about every odd option mentioned above came from Japanese automakers, but the Americans also had their fair share of unusual options. One of them is from Chrysler with the Highway Hi-Fi. Sounds like a modern feature, right? Well, it was introduced in the mid 1950's. So what was it?
Simply put, it was a turntable in your car, meaning you can play your records/vinyls as you trundle down the, well, highway. In an era where the most entertainment you got from your car was the AM radio, this must have been revolutionary when it first came out. Of course, we can only imagine just how many times the record skipped when the road got a little bumpy. It's unusual to hear about it now but this was probably the birth of auxiliary in-car entertainment as we know it today.
Ford Falcon Mobile Office pack
Last but not least is an option from the land Down Under. It came from Ford and, yes, we know Ford is American, but this particular add-on was made for the Australian Falcon just before the dawn of the new millennium. They offered what's called the Mobile Office Pack, which was made for sales reps on the go.
According to Ford's archives, the Falcon's Mobile Office pack included a Horizontal Work Table (with a built-in cup and pen holder no less), Mobile Phone Presenter, an extra 12-volt socket, and aimable reading lights at the front. The table is of particular interest, and it actually uses the gear selector as a mounting point. It essentially rests on the gear selector with a pull-down peg that slots into one of the storage pockets to make it sturdy. Ford made sure that you can't type and drive at the same time because it will only be mounted properly if the vehicle is in Park.
Those are just some of the most unusual ones we can find. We're sure that there are more out there, and certain that there will be more in years to come. As the automobile moves into a new age, there are some novel features and options now that will seem wacky in the future. Who knows, maybe we'll be writing another one of these in 20 years. Until then, we'll be looking out for the weird in the wacky in the options list.