Car Trunks and Drawers

At one time the car bra was a popular automobile accessory. I don’t see so many car owners buying them lately. But in the late 1980s, this cartoon of a matching set of car panties and bra that I drew for Road & Track magazine was topical.

Yet this is not the kind of car drawers I am thinking about today. Rather, I am interested in discussing possibilities for new types of pullout drawers, cabinets, trunks and beds for cars and trucks. As cars have become an essential component of our 24/7 lifestyles – only in a few places like New York City is it feasible to live without owning or driving a car – it should theoretically be possible to make them more accommodating to our needs, with some of the features we expect in a home or apartment. For instance, our homes have drawers and closets. In the early 1980s I showed what closet cars might look like. Admittedly this was one of my more sexist drawings from a present-day viewpoint; it made more sense 30 years ago than it does now.

Closet Cars would look like roving closets. Clothes could hang nicely, without having to be folded flat on a back seat or hung from a hook, obscuring the driver’s view. The car would provide numerous handy drawers for storing shoes and clothing. Jewelry and valuables would probably be kept at home and not in the top drawer of a Closet Car, however.

A pickup bed can be viewed as just another kind of drawer that can be designed in different configurations. In the Double Bed Pickup Truck, a redesign of the standard pickup truck is imagined. The height of the car seat is raised and the hood is made into an ancillary box that is actually a pullout pickup bed. Access to the engine bay is still possible when the “hood” is pulled forward. Perhaps readers who are car buffs will point out that such a design would disturb a vehicle’s balance, which in modern vehicles would seriously affect the delicate power apportioning of the power brake system, as well as the airbag settings. The truck would ride differently depending on whether yard clippings or sand filled the front bed.

Though this drawing was created in the early 1990s, I believe there now exist systems similar to this that allow for extension of the pickup bed by some means. Recently, several car manufacturers offered four-door passenger vehicles with a short pickup bed in place of a trunk.

I have studied possible ways of adding drawers and cabinets accessible from the exterior of a passenger vehicle. The main flaw in these drawer ideas, as I see it, arises if a drawer becomes jammed or broken. This is a potential design weakness. A drawer that was not properly shut, and that has swung out when the car turned a corner, could be a problem. Minor accidents, which would be dubbed “drawer-bender” accidents, could permanently jam a drawer, blocking access to its contents. It would be a big concern, for example, if a laptop with files needed for a PowerPoint presentation within a half-hour, or a decaying salmon bought fresh at the fish market, were rendered inaccessible. The services of a Body, Fender and Drawer repair shop would be required immediately.

Yet in spite of weaknesses that I have enumerated, I am not yet ready to give up on the idea of car drawers or cabinets. Utility trucks have exterior cabinet doors for tools and supplies, so why couldn’t a family sedan? Consider the Picnicar, for example. Rooftop solar panels would help power small, insulated coolers and refrigerators accessible from the side of the vehicle. A handheld remote would unlock the cabinet doors. The elegant convenience of the exterior cabinets would be a selling point for this car. Perhaps there would be problems from wine connoisseur-car thieves who might try to pry open the exterior wine cabinets to see if rare wines are hidden inside. There is plenty to think about here!

Visit Steven M. Johnson at his website.

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Hi Steve,

Speaking of car bras:
you might like a little video one of my students did in 2003 for a car project I set.
A little "racey" but SFW.
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Hey Ron, I checked out the link and can see why you thought of it where I had mentioned "drawer bender" accidents. I like how our idea of what is safe in the context of a moving automobile continues to evolve. That folding seat seems comical now. I owned a '29 Model A Ford while in high school and it had a rumble seat, which would not pass any of today's safety standards. :)
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The "drawer bender" accident concept reminded me of a drawer system once offered, with a folding seat in it, on the Kissel Gold Bug. See the pictures of Amelia Earhart's at the Forney museum in Denver:, and look about 3/4 of the way down the page.
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