Neglect my ride
October 2, 2008 11:20 AM   Subscribe

How would you make a well-running car or pickup truck look, smell, and/or sound like an eyesore/deathtrap/junker without affecting its real abilities or safety?

The only hard criteria is that anything loud or smelly has to be able to be removed with only hand tools and it can't do permanent damage to the car (i.e. just letting bits rust).
posted by Skorgu to Travel & Transportation (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Don't wash it. Ever. This includes the interior - some trash on the floor would probably be helpful.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:33 AM on October 2, 2008

Best answer: Strategically placed altoids-type tins with [marbles?] inside to clank around? Maybe this could be inside the glove box so the sound would come from the engine area.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:40 AM on October 2, 2008

Best answer: Apply some sort of cosmetic "rust" to the exterior- maybe latex-based "scab" makeup, but coloured more brown/orange to look like rust?

Put trash in it to make it look like the owner has a "cheap" or unhealthy lifestyle: cigarette butts overflowing the ashtray, fast-food wrappers, coffee cups, etc.

Put a gross-looking baby seat from Goodwill in the back, and beside it put stuff babies shouldn't have access to- adult magazines, lite beer, a crossbow

Cover it with promotional materials from organizations you don't agree with politically- bumper stickers, mudflap girls, politicians you don't support, stuff advertising a diet or activities you think the driver of your imaginary wreck would support (that was as tactful as I could be)

Put fake broken glass stickers or bullet hole stickers on it

Cover a window with a trash bag and duct tape as though it was broken
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:43 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here are some stickers meant to simulate rust/damage. This page mentions making a paintable fake rust with "acrylic paint, baby powder, and water," though they don't give the proportions.

I'd also consider stopping by a "you pull it" style scrapyard to look for vehicles of the same model and removing any easily-removable trim, taillights or body pieces. Then you've got some sacrificial parts (hopefully even in mismatched colors) that you can dent and bash with abandon, keeping the nice parts in storage somewhere.

If you decide to leave stuff inside, make sure the car appears to be protected by an alarm. I had a beat-up old Geo Metro that was easily the crappiest car on the (fairly nice) block, and it was broken into multiple times to get at the nearly valueless stuff we left inside, I imagine because it was parked in a dark area and was the only vehicle around without an obvious alarm. Even if nothing nice gets stolen, it's expensive and inconvenient to get windows and door locks repaired.
posted by contraption at 11:51 AM on October 2, 2008

Best answer: Bumper stickers tend to make me think of cars as junky. Could you maybe stick them to a shirt or something first, to get 'em all fuzzy and not very sticky? (Or make 'em magnets?)

Some @#%@%@ at my college campus replaced his muffler with an amplifier or something, so that, anywhere on campus, you could tell when his car was running. Not sure exactly what was involved, but I think you could easily make your car sound like a junker. (Just be careful that you don't go so far that people start trying to sabotage your car... *cough*)

Actually, a lot of the things people do to make their cars seem "cooler" makes them look tacky. Window tint, but make sure it's pretty bubbly. And have you ever seen those people who seem to put blue tint over their headlights, so that they look like HID lamps, but aren't, that look comically pathetic?

Take off the car's antenna, and replace it with a (mangled) coat hanger.

Instead of "not washing" it, you might throw mud on it?

And drive around with the door to your gas tank open. (But the little screw thingy inside still shut!)

Remove your hubcaps. If this is really short-term (like a one-day prank), you could maybe replace one of your tires with the spare? (But heed the associated safety warnings...)

Although... Do pay some attention to local laws— beer cans scattered in the back seat, window tint, and missing mufflers might get your in trouble if you're pulled over?
posted by fogster at 11:57 AM on October 2, 2008

Best answer: Visit a junkyard looking for a same-model in rough shape or that has been in an accident. Things like fenders and bumper covers usually are easy to swap-out with a wrench. So, you'd keep your existing ones in good shape, but do what you want to dent/spraypaint/scratch the donor(s).

Duct-tape 'patches' on the seats.

Rub some grime onto commonly touched surfaces. The engine bay could be a good source. Some degreaser should remove it again once desired.

Go to a fast food joint with outdoor bins like McD's and grab a few empty cups and stuff to litter the carpet. Same idea to fill-up the ashtray with cigarette butts from one of those outdoor smoking ashtray things.

Find a muddy/wet gravel/splattery bug road to get the car nice and dirty.

Stick a foam/ping pong/tennis ball on the antennae.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 12:00 PM on October 2, 2008

Cardboard bodykit.
posted by smitt at 12:01 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Could you maybe stick them to a shirt or something first, to get 'em all fuzzy and not very sticky?"

I suggested that so that they'd come off easily, but just realized an added bonus: you could leave them partially peeled off!
posted by fogster at 12:02 PM on October 2, 2008

Best answer: If you wanted to make the car sound like crap as it drives, you could try making the exhaust blow as near to the manifold as possible - this is the nastiest sounding exhaust blow and very loud. You can either loosen the joint nearest the engine, or (my preferred option) crack the joint and insert a few washers as spacers so that there is no relative movement that will potentially damage the exhaust through vibration. A small gap will be enough to make it sound nasty.

Other than that, sacrificial panels from scrap vehicles seems to be the best solution, and will be surprisingly effective. Depending on the age of the truck, you may even be able to get proper rusty ones, too.
posted by Brockles at 12:03 PM on October 2, 2008

Big duct tape patches on exterior seams, too, to make it look like the fenders etc. have come loose. Layer some crumpled cardboard under the tape to make the surface appear uneven and dented.
posted by contraption at 12:05 PM on October 2, 2008

Best answer: If we knew why you wanted to do this it might help.

Use a belt sander on the finish and then drive it up and down the beach. Be sure not to wash it off afterwards. That'll get it nice and rusty.
Put some smelly cheese, limburger works well, in the ventilation system. It's a pain to get out and will make the interior mighty ripe.
Ball bearings in the hubcaps (if so equipped) and the car/truck will sound like crap going down the road.
As others mentioned, bullet hole stickers on the windows, or just a trashbag ducttaped over one of them.
Scrape the tires on the curb to get the sidewalls messed up - or use paint for the same effect.
Replace the radio antenna with a coat hanger.
Ask my neighbor what he does to get his power steering belt screech like a tortured cat - and do that.
posted by Man with Lantern at 12:05 PM on October 2, 2008

Best answer: Also lots of bailing wire sticking out from the undercarriage.
posted by contraption at 12:06 PM on October 2, 2008

Park it under a tree with lots of birds for a few days.

Although, the internet says droppings may do damage to the paint. My car survives just fine -- but y'know -- the internet is always right.
posted by GPF at 12:07 PM on October 2, 2008

Best answer: unsure if this is more permanent than you're looking for; painting hood/door(s) primer-gray definitely gives it that junker look.

I used to see a station wagon that had been painted with housepaint and a roller. The car may have run perfectly, but it sure looked terrible.
posted by dubold at 12:08 PM on October 2, 2008

Best answer: Instead of just covering a window with duct tape, cardboard, garbage bags or similar, roll it down first. The flapping will add verisimilitude.

For a pickup, throw some crap in the back of it. Filthy old truck parts would probably be ideal.
posted by box at 12:13 PM on October 2, 2008

Response by poster: I'm dying here, these are all fantastic!

To clarify, permanent is fine as long as it's not actively destroying the car. Can you somehow let part of a panel rust without it spreading to the body/frame?

This isn't a prank and I certainly won't use all of these so don't let legality or sanity slow you down.
posted by Skorgu at 12:19 PM on October 2, 2008

Eyesore you say? For the crowning touch, some truck nuts.
posted by Wet Spot at 12:26 PM on October 2, 2008

Plastic modelers love to 'weather' their creations. Here's a good starting point. Just scale up their techniques.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 12:28 PM on October 2, 2008

Best answer: Seconding trashbag/window idea and coat hanger/antenna idea above.

Also, you mentioned that it might be a truck. If it is a truck, you can take the tailgate off, and put some stereotypically redneck stuff into the bed (extra tire, washing machine, 5-gallon buckets . . .) Also a confederate flag and a "calvin pissing on #24 sticker".
posted by milqman at 12:32 PM on October 2, 2008

Small dents. Run into it with a shopping cart, or just kick it.

Scrape up the bumpers--I suppose a belt sander or similar would do the trick, though it probably wouldn't be the most entertaining way to go about it.
posted by box at 12:43 PM on October 2, 2008

Drive out to the Plains states, go storm chasing (best bet is during spring or summer), and park yourself under the biggest hailstorm you can find. Granted, you may have to replace a window, but the car's body will end up nicely pockmarked.
posted by weathergal at 12:56 PM on October 2, 2008

Paint one of the doors, or the tailgate, or the hood in primer grey.
posted by tim_in_oz at 1:17 PM on October 2, 2008


You need to tell us what you are trying to accomplish with this.
Are you trying to offend the driver/owner? -make it clunky and stinky.
Are you trying to offend the neighbors as the car sits? -make it ugly.
Are you trying to offend pedestrians as they walk by? -make it stinky.
Are you trying to draw attention from outsiders as you drive it? -make it loud.

These scenarios call for different acts of temporary vandalism. My all time favorite is to hide one surf clam inside the car somewhere. In about 1 day it will smell awful in two days it will smell like a dead body, in three days you will be unable to get inside the car.
posted by Paleoindian at 1:36 PM on October 2, 2008

Best answer: Pour some used motor oil on the exhaust manifolds. It will burn off. Repeat a few times.

Dab some gasoline in random spots on any carpeted surface.

I've found that the universal 'Junker Smell' is mostly burnt oil and leaky gas.

Loosen bolts/screws in the interior. Seats, door panels, console trim. They will rattle.

Scratch up some of the glass with something sharp and metallic. Since auto glass is now almost always laminated, it doesn't take much to scratch it.

If your car has aluminum wheels, instead of just steel wheels with hubcaps, replace one or two of them with steel wheels without hubcaps. This can also work in reverse. Bonus points for replacing an aluminum wheel with another from a different make/model. Lots of wheels share common bolt patterns, and the web is full of info about what might fit what. Oh, and don't make them match; mix them up side-side and front-back.

Shatter the lens of a taillight without damaging the bulb.

Remove bolts/screws from license plates, so that they hang improperly.

Baseball bats do a remarkable job of denting various body panels.

Your average power drill can put some holes in your muffler(s) in no time.
posted by ninjew at 1:38 PM on October 2, 2008

Best answer: Hubby once had a truck like this for real. His "look": no rear bumper, only 1 hubcap, black grime embedded in steering wheel, upholstery torn, headliner falling down, and boxes of car parts (distributor cap, etc) all over the dashboard. The truck ran fine but it certainly looked like shit.
posted by Quietgal at 2:23 PM on October 2, 2008

I used to see a car once in a while where somebody had bolted posts from chain link fencing to the four corners and run a shortwave antenna around them. Easily the most hideous car I've ever seen.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:23 PM on October 2, 2008

I can't believe nobody has mentioned the Chameleon XLE.

I live in a distressed neighborhood, and nothing says junker like a car driving on a donut spare.
posted by dhartung at 3:28 PM on October 2, 2008

Attack easily replaceable pannels with a baseball bat.
posted by Vindaloo at 4:12 PM on October 2, 2008

To ask again, what are you trying to accomplish?
posted by yclipse at 5:14 PM on October 2, 2008

Consider the Urban camouflage ideas mentioned at Cool Tools.
posted by megatherium at 5:17 PM on October 2, 2008

You might want to review a little-remembered Altman film, OC and Stiggs. They do this to a truck, for reasons of spiteful mischief.

Not a how-to film, but perhaps insprirational.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:04 PM on October 2, 2008

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