When I was a little kid, the two cars my family had were a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle (Semi-Auto! And I’ve written about how important it was to me before) and a 1973 Ford LTD Country Squire, a massive, fake-wood-paneled station wagon. I liked that big-arse Squire, but there’s three things I remember about it most vividly: the surprising number of little trios of cats on it, the way the power windows never seemed to work, and, what I’m thinking about now, the fantastic rear bumper guards that were also useful little steps.
I remember these bumper guards well because, as a tiny kid, I think they were usually around eye level, and they proved useful for climbing up that slick chrome bumper and into the cavernous void of the Way Back.
The Country Squire’s guards were the then common chrome-and-rubber combo. A stout and stylish design, and I remember how durable that dense black rubber was. Even in the rain, when the chrome body of the rain-slicked bumper would offer no purchase for a foot, that ribbed little step would not let you down.
I’m also pretty certain that a number of other cars had similar rear bumper guard designs for their wagons, low-profile rear bumper guards that accommodated the swing-out doors common to wagons of the era and had rubbery, ribbed grippy surfaces for shoes to step onto.
Dodge was unusually gifted in this arena, with the early 1970s Monaco wagons (on the right there) having truly amazing versions of these:
Look at those wide, meaty beauties! Fantastic, useful steps and potent bumper protectors! I love them!
By the 1980s Ford seems to have forgotten how to do it at all, and these are effectively gone from modern cars, replaced, sometimes, by a sort of long upper bumper/step area, as you can see in early form on that Peugeot 505 wagon. Some SUVs and wagons still accomodate a bumper-step, though there’s something about the chunky bolt-on ones I miss.
Help me think of others who did this! I have in my mind images of an all black-rubber version, but I can’t quite place which car used that. Jeep Wagoneers? There were others, I’m sure of it. Let’s see what you come up with!
This article was originally published in May 2020.