These 2 Car Accessories Got Their Start During World War II

Since people often spend a lot of time in their cars, personalizing them with accessories has always been popular. From yesterday’s charming dashboard ornaments to today’s high-tech electronic dashcams, the accessories you choose often reflect your personality and interests. If you’re a fan of history or retro decor, there are two vintage dashboard ornaments you’ll definitely want to know more about.

Do you know which two iconic dashboard ornaments got their start during WWII? If you guessed fuzzy dice and hula dancers, you’d be right! One started as a good luck token, while the other was a popular souvenir, even before the war.

Fuzzy dice

A pair of fuzzy dice hanging from a rearview mirror in the cabin of a classic car on display in Santa Fe, New Mexico
A pair of fuzzy dice in a classic car | Robert Alexander/Getty Images

According to Erie Insurance, placing dice on the dashboard originated with fighter pilots during WWII. Since hundreds of Allied airmen were lost every day, the dice were a constant reminder that every mission was a “roll of the dice.” Superstitious pilots also looked to the dice as a good luck charm that just might get them home safely. 

Fighter pilots who managed to survive the war brought their lucky charms home with them. Since they no longer had the dash of a fighter plane on which to stash their dice, a car had to do. Additionally, since a car dashboard was large and slippery, the dice got larger, fuzzier, and started dangling from the rearview mirror over time.

Soon, fuzzy dice started symbolizing a different kind of battle. Instead of dogfighting with fighter jets, it was street racing with hotrods. Supposedly, a pair of dice dangling from the mirror signaled that you were ready to race when the light turned green. The dice became a symbol of the hot rod culture of the 1950s and are still popular car accessories today. You’re most likely to see them dangling from the rearview mirrors of classic cars from that era.

Hula dancers

Hawaiian hula dolls have a slightly less morbid origin story. They were already popular souvenirs from the islands even before WWII. Intrepid visitors often brought them back as mementos of their trip to the exotic and still slightly mysterious islands. 

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, thousands of troops started using the islands as a jumping-off point to the war in the Pacific. Homesick troops sent the tiny hand-painted bisque porcelain dolls to loved ones back home before heading off to battle. Many also picked up their own hula dolls as wartime souvenirs to (hopefully) take home with them after the war.

Since porcelain dolls weren’t very dashboard friendly, they were replaced with plastic hula dancers by the 1950s. This modern version had spring-loaded legs that let them wiggle and sway as the car traveled down the road. They were especially popular amongst beachgoers in California, but these tiny dancers soon spread across the country. Nearly everyone wanted a hula dancer of their own.

Choosing your favorite dashboard ornament

From vintage ornaments like these to bobbleheads of your favorite football players, there’s a lot to choose from when decorating your dash. Some people opt for a simple air freshener, while others prefer high-tech gadgets like LED lighting, an aftermarket infotainment system, or a GoPro camera.

Still, others go all out with a themed car interior. If you want your car to look and feel like a tropical island, a dashboard hula dancer swaying down the road will fit right in. Of course, if your vehicle spends a reasonable amount of time in casino parking lots, you might prefer a pair of those “lucky” fuzzy dice. However you choose to decorate your car, it should reflect your personality, tastes, and interests. So go for it!

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