There was a time when a chap named Richard Grant could make all your motoring dreams come true. Admittedly, this statement is only true if your motoring dreams centred on adding plastic spoilers and side skirts to your common or garden hatchback or saloon, but nevertheless, Richard Grant was there for you.
And business must have been good. Full page colour ads in Autocar wouldn’t have come cheap, suggesting there were more than a few punters willing to splash the cash on some go-faster accessories. If you thought car designers and engineers had missed a trick, Richard Grant could put things right. For a price, of course.
Motorists were encouraged to send a small fee to Moor End, Eaton Bray, near Dunstable (no online payments in those days, kids), and in return they’d receive a colour catalogue showcasing everything from boot mats to wheel arch protectors. Of course, over time it soon became clear that, far from protecting wheel arches, they’d do little more than trap salt and dirt, accelerating the inevitable rust issues. Still, at least you couldn’t see the corrosion, until the plastic fell off a few years later.
These were different times. Motorists were more hands-on in the 70s and 80s, so when Richard Grant claimed most accessories were easy to fit, they probably were. Armed with a cup of tea and to the sound of Tommy Vance on the radio, you could add a plastic rear spoiler to your Ford Capri in a matter of minutes.
Richard Grant claimed its accessories added style, improved aerodynamics and protected a car’s appearance. In truth, the results were a bit hit and miss, but RGA was the go-to place for adventures in plastic. The boot lid spoilers on the Mk1 Fiesta and E21 3 Series – pretty good; front spoiler on the ‘Leyland Metro’ and rear spoiler on the Fiat Strada – not so great.
The company also developed the brilliantly named TurboVane, designed to ‘prevent dirt settling on rear windscreen by diverting the air flow’. The kit comprised a pair of ‘instant snap-fit’ flaps for either side of the rear window, fitted in 60 seconds and available from all good accessory shops and garages. We suspect it was available from some dodgy accessory shops and garages, too.
Was TurboVane a good use of £7.75 + VAT? Answers on a postcard; usual address.
You might be thinking that Richard Grant disappeared along with Reebok Pumps and video rental stores. And you’d be right, of sorts. It turns out the Richard Grant name lives on in the form of Rearguards, specialising in bumper top paint protectors. Who knew? PetrolBlog certainly didn’t.
On its website, the company says ‘today’s car accessory market is totally different from the market of 50 years ago – having started with styling kits and numerous accessories, today’s car manufacturers have improved the specification of their vehicles and it is now more difficult to bring new accessories to the market.’
That’s as maybe, but there’s also the small matter of changing tastes and the fact that carmakers offer more in the way of personalisation options than they did in the 1980s.
We’re unable to forgive Richard Grant for a number of sins. Adding the equivalent of soffits and fascias to a car rarely enhanced its appearance, while using product names ending in a ‘z’ isn’t going to curry favour around these parts. ‘Front skirtz’ and ‘Sideskirtz’ – shudder.
But – grabbing a pair of rose-tinted glasses from the MFI sideboard – time has been kind to Richard Grant Motor Accessories. Its products enabled the man in the street to add a touch of ‘glamour’ to his humdrum vehicle, helping it to stand out amongst the other cars on Acacia Avenue.
And Richard Grant never offered a line of aftermarket daytime running lights or Lexus-style rear lenses. So for that, we must applaud the company.
Did you own a car that was ‘enhanced’ by Richard Grant? Did you ever buy anything from the exclusive Richard Grant Accessories catalogue? Let us know via telex or by sending a letter, being sure to enclose £1.50 if you want a reply.