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Retro Rides and Ridiculous Add-Ons: A Look Back at Some J.C. Whitney Catalog Highlights

Contributed By The Autopian

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The Autopian is the ultimate car-culture website run by obsessive car nerds who want nothing more than to make people laugh while teaching them about geeky car minutiae. Founded by the two most-read Jalopnik writers ever, Jason Torchinsky (an artist and comedian) and David Tracy (an automotive engineer) — along with prolific businessman/TV personality Beau Boeckmann — the site places a strong focus on technical expertise, leveraging industry insiders to provide key insight into the automotive world. But as detailed as things get at The Autopian, the site’s main focus is to create fun, engaging content that fosters an inclusive, close-knit automotive community. Beau, David, and Jason literally created the website’s mission statement while sitting in a 1901 Sunbeam-Mabley, surrounded by postwar microcars like a Messerschmitt Tiger (see image above). That mission statement, by the way, is: The Autopian exists to serve the car enthusiast community by creating content that informs and entertains, while celebrating the unifying quality of automobiles.

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The pages of a 1970’s J.C. Whitney & Co. catalog, is a treasure trove of automotive accessories that encapsulates the peculiar charm of the 70’s car culture—a time when extravagance knew no bounds, and often took a back seat to style.

The 1970s were an era defined by its bold choices, not just in fashion but in automotive customization as well. One such brazen choice was the availability of bumpers that could easily be mistaken for medieval battering rams in today’s world of sleek, sensor-equipped vehicles. Yet apparently for many, these monumental bumpers were not enough. Enter the bumper guards: chrome vertical guards, promising to shield your car’s precious bumper from the indignities of dings and scratches. 

What’s truly captivating about these bumper guards, as the catalog proudly proclaims, is their ability to “PAY FOR THEMSELVES MANY TIMES OVER.” That’s a bold claim. According to the catalog, these guardians of the bumper realm offer three unbeatable benefits: saving you from costly repairs, outlasting the life of your car (because who doesn’t want indestructible bumper guards as their lasting legacy?), and, perhaps most astonishingly, increasing your car’s trade-in value. Was the world ever that easy? 

But the J.C. Whitney catalog of the 1970’s didn’t just stop at bumper protection, of course. For those who appreciate a top-shelf auditory experience, it also offered an array of car alarms and horn sounds guaranteed to make heads turn. Ever dreamt of your Mustang whinnying like a show pony? The catalog had you covered, with horn sounds available in both horse – and donkey – sounds!

For the aesthetically minded, the 1970s catalog presented an array of lighting options that could make any car enthusiast’s heart skip a beat. Imagine your vehicle sporting headlight wipers powered solely by the wind, turning your car into a wide-eyed creature of the road, its gaze perpetually clear, no matter the muck and grime. 

J.C. Whitney’s back catalog may be out of stock, but the pages within past issues serve as a reminder of bygone eras in automotive customization, where whimsy reigned supreme, and practicality was sometimes an afterthought. It’s a nostalgic look back at a time when every car had the potential to be a moving masterpiece—or at least, a conversation starter.