With the exception of some luxury vehicles and optional “smoker’s packages,” you’d be hard pressed to find any new car equipped with an ashtray. However, things weren’t always that way. In fact, for most of automotive history, ashtrays (and lighters) were standard fare in vehicle cabins. Some automakers and aftermarket manufacturers even went to great lengths to come up with new and innovative ways to hide them in plain view.
Case in point, check out this ashtray hidden in the knob of a gear shifter. It was written about in the December 1929 issue of Popular Mechanics.
The article reads:
An ash receiver at the driver’s finger tips has been invented by an automotive manufacturer to be attached to the gear shift lever, replacing the gear shift ball. The receiver is made of heavy brass and nickel and enameled in assorted colors. The novelty is constructed to withstand hard usage, be useful, and add a colorful touch to the car equipment.
Below is a copy of the original article, dug up by history blog Modern Mechanix:
The shift knob ashtray looked cool, but whether or not it was practical is up for debate. It was certainly too small to accommodate chain smokers, and its awkward placement likely caused many drivers to burn their hands on smoldering cigarette butts while shifting gears.
It’s also unlikely that any automaker will revive in-car ashtrays, as smoking rates have significantly declined since the 1920s and there’s no longer a high demand for them. In fact, some auto trimmers have taken to repurposing old ashtrays in classic cars to mask modern devices, such as radio controls.
For more cool articles about old interior features, check out The Hog Ring‘s “Industry History” section.