Unbelievable old car ads and products that are illegal today

A black and white old photograph of a man with a crash test helmet leaning on an old-fashioned car that's just run through a brick wall

Nicola Dowse

Posted June 28, 2022

Sometimes it's good to look back and ask, 'what were they thinking?’ Check out these real ads for products and car safety that are best left in the past.

Step inside any auto shop these days and you’ll find hundreds of car accessories. Roof racks, heated seat covers, exhaust tips, dash cams, pet hammocks… the list goes on. 

But car accessories aren’t a new concept, with auto add-ons having existed for as long as cars themselves. 

They have, however, progressed leaps and bounds in terms of safety. As demonstrated by the following very real (and bizarre) car advertisements that show either unsafe products or unsafe practices. 

6 old-fashioned and unsafe car advertisements

A old car ad with a baby sleeping in a hammock

This baby hammock would never pass the Australian standards required for child car seats. 

The “Lull-A-Baby” Car Hammock 

Child car seats have come a long way since this Californian advert for an infant car hammock. 

The first child car seats were created in the 1960s, but it took almost 50 years for the product to become the legal requirement that it is today.

Child car seats are now required from birth until children reach at least seven years of age and must meet Australian child restraint standards. Needless to say, this car baby hammock wouldn’t cut the mustard today.  


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These flames might look cool, but there are strict rules about modifying your vehicle.

Flare-o-Flame custom exhaust  

Back in the day you could add a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to your car simply by attaching faux flames to your car’s exhaust pipe.  

While this advertisement claims to increase safety thanks to its ‘fluoro glow’, it’s doubtful the product would get the tick today. 

There are rules about how you can modify your car to ensure that registered vehicles remain safe to operate. Some modifications, like bull bars, mudflaps and roof racks all need to meet stringent safety requirements. 

If you want to make a modification that isn’t on the approved list, you must get a Vehicle Assessment Signatory Scheme (VASS) Approval Certificate. 


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It's fine to give your car's upholstery a vacuum, but not with this device.

Exhaust pipe vacuum cleaner 

Some thrifty inventor once thought “why waste all those fumes coming out of you exhaust pipe when you could use them to clean your car’s upholstery?” 

While it’s always a pleasure to drive a clean car, repurposing your car exhaust to do so means filling your car with a mix of harmful gases including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and benzene. 

Instead, follow these six tips to keep your car interior clean and organised


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There's no way Junior would be allowed to ride in the front seat these days, and certainly not without a child car seat.

A toddler riding shotgun 

This old advert for Rambler features a two-year-old lying flat in the front passenger seat, restrained only by a lap seatbelt. The ad also implies that the vehicle is “the car of a lifetime”. But during that child’s lifetime, it’s become completely illegal (not to mention unsafe) to transport a small child in such a manner.  

In 1971, Victoria became the first jurisdiction in the world to mandate wearing seatbelts in the car, but adult seatbelts aren’t suitable for kids. 

RACV notes that a child using an adult seatbelt is 3.5 times more likely to sustain a significant injury compared to those in child restraints. 

The lack of child seat aside, babies and small children should also never ride in the front passenger seat. It’s a legal requirement that kids aged under seven years ride in the back seat, though the safest practice is to keep your child in their car seat or booster until they outgrow it.  


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Kids can nap while you're on a road trip, but they've got to keep their seat belts on at all times.

Letting kids use the back seat as a bed 

The defunct car manufacturer Nash might’ve made “the World’s Finest Travel Car” but it’s nowhere near the safest by today’s standards. 

At least the kids are in the backseat in this old advertisement, but they (in addition to mum and dad) appear to be completely unrestrained as they enjoy a nap. 

While no long car journey is fun, it’s of course completely illegal to allow adults or children to travel unrestrained. 

If, like these kids, you do find yourself sleepy while driving, it’s legal in Victoria to sleep in your car. The caveats are that you must be parked legally, and you mustn’t be over the legal blood alcohol limit. Some councils have bylaws preventing sleeping in cars.  


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Your motor oil can be recycled so don't risk the environment by pouring it into soil.

Column telling motorists to bury their used motor oil 

This ad suggests how “disposing of used engine oil can be a problem”. 

It’s even more of a problem if you dispose of it by (as this old tip suggests) digging a hole, filling it with gravel, pouring the oil in, and covering it all with dirt. 

Burying motor oil leaches harmful chemicals into the soil where they can eventually end up in water table, harming animals, plants and people. Don’t pour it down the sink either. Not only will it pollute the environment, it might also clog your sink.

Like so many things, the used oil in your car can be recycled. Just pour it into a sealed container and take it to a recycling drop-off point. These can include council waste and transfer stations, as well as auto retailers.