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There have been some strange technology features that have made their way into cars over the years. From subwoofers to huge exhaust pipes, and even shag carpeting, there’s no doubt automakers aren’t afraid to think outside of the box. Toyota came up with a rather odd idea in the ’80s that, while now gone, has inspired some rather cool trends.

Would you like ice with that?

The ’80s dawned many unusual trends, and for Toyota, it was the 1984 Van. Rather than giving it a creative name, the Japanese company simply named their van ‘Van’. In Europe, it was called the Space Cruiser.

Things only got stranger from there. According to Popular Mechanics, Toyota included a shoebox-sized refrigerator, which was available on the LE trim. To cool the food, Toyota lined it with air-conditioning refrigerant lines. It was later dubbed the Hot/Cool box.

This tiny refrigerator came with spill-proof ice trays, perfect for freezing water to later add to your drinks. The small size meant that you couldn’t cool much in it, however. 

Sadly, America never got the chance to use the hot/cool box. Like the cooler name, this was only available in Europe.

The 1984 Toyota Van had other quirks

Another oddity of the Toyota Van was the fact that the engine was actually directly under the driver’s seat. To access it, you had to pull the driver’s seat out. For mechanics who had to work on it, this was probably frustrating as they had to turn wrenches while bumping their elbow into the steering wheel.

Thankfully, this didn’t become a trend, and died out quickly. The hot/cool box was also scrapped, but not before it inspired other automakers to add features that many families find useful, including an updated version of the hot/cool box. 

The 1984 Toyota Van inspired automakers

Even though an ice maker would be fun to have, it’s not something most families were interested in. This did make automakers begin to think and wonder what else they could add, however. Thus began a regime of odd, but useful features that can be a selling point for many families.

One example of this is vacuums. The 2023 Honda Odyssey minivan has a built-in vacuum that makes clean up easier than ever. Rather than struggling to find a time to get to the car wash, tear the seats out looking for quarters, and wrangling kids at the same time, Odyssey owners can simply suck up any stray french fries with their vacuum before heading inside.

The fridge has also made a comeback. Many vehicles like the Ford Maverick now allow owners to opt for a mini-fridge. This is perfect for anyone who wants to go camping, and grill out. If you aren’t into hunting, however, you’ll need a way to keep your meat cool, which is where the mini-fridge comes in.

Given the interest in car camping, automakers are beginning to take things to the next level. Jeep may be one step ahead of this latest trend.

Jeep has always been known for adding accessories to the Wrangler like camper beds, so that drivers can make their vehicle unique. In 2020, it did the same with the Gladiator by adding the “Top Dog.”

The truck bed was replaced with a modular camper-top. Inside, there were a range of useful items that families would find very useful, such as pull-out drawers for storage, a gas stove, and an electric hot dog roller.

There’s also a mini-fridge available where you can store the hot dogs before cooking them. While it remains to be seen if the hot dog roller will become a new trend, it’s certainly one that could be useful.


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