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A Brief History of the Car Flower Vase

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Car flower vases (or bud vases) are popping up in quite a lot of non-VW cars at the moment. I’ve spotted one attached to the inside window of a Citroen Berlingo via a suction cup, and seen a fair few air vent vases in the new Mini. Here’s a pic of one in the very pink new Fiat 500…

If you’ve seen the new Beetle then you will very likely have seen a flower near to the steering wheel. You may have thought (particularly if you live in Europe) that car flower vases are the exclusive domain of the VW community; but this is far from the case. Contrary to popular belief, VW did not invent the car flower vase.

The original Beetle did not have a bud vase moulded into the space near the steering wheel like the new Beetles of today. The old Beetles were air-cooled and didn’t have air vents, so it became a tradition to fix a suction-cup vase to the window or dash of the car to give the vehicle some extra ‘flower power’ in line with the hippy philosophy of the time and the groovy decor of these vehicles.

Kamei produced these suction cup vases in the 1950s and others followed suit. Some dubbers made their own with suction cup hooks attached to plastic stem vases via hair scrunchies. But many, many years before the flower power era the car vase existed in a different form and for different functional reasons.

The first car vase is said to have been in existence around 1895 according to a website that charts the American history of car vases. These vases were made of hand-blown glass and were intricate, beautiful objects. I personally love the tiny violin shape in cobalt blue.

Today these vases would likely be subject to the moulding restrictions of mass production, and as a result would not be as individual or as intricate in design; hence their high antique resale value on sites such as eBay.

Modern vases are still a lovely item, but the antique car vases were special because of their variety, colour, and quality of the workmanship. Here in Europe you could say the same for our old buildings versus the boxy, flimsy quality of some new-builds.

So why did people start to put these vases in their cars, and why do they now put them in? The reasons are a little bit different.

Originally the vases were screwed into one of the car’s hard internal surfaces (dashboard, A or B pillars) using a small u-shaped bracket. A small sprig or single stem fresh flower was added with the intention of freshening up the aroma in the car. Cars of this period had no air-conditioning or sunroofs and there were no ‘magic trees’ or fluffy dice available to add an artificial aroma. So the original car flower vases were the first air fresheners for cars.

Now I have never really needed an air freshener in my car, and never found a scent that I wanted to linger with me for more than a day. I don’t even like smelling a perfume for more than a couple of hours (although the exception to this is a men’s fragrance – Castile, by Penhaligon’s), so I can’t help wonder what that first person was experiencing (smell-wise) to make him or her think of doing this. What smell were they trying to get rid of?

Some forums say it was the smell of the chauffeur. People didn’t have access to modern deodorants or anti-perspirants back then and the inside of the car got pretty stuffy and humid during those hot summer days!

The first cars to have the car flower vase in were electric cars (Isn’t it funny how things come back around if you wait long enough!). The Model T Ford was a popular car at the time and a fair few of them had a car flower vase in as well.

In the 1950s the famous Rosenthal pottery company made some beautiful vases. One rare shape designed by Hutschenreuther fetches up to 750USD today. These fine objects were seen in the even finer Rolls Royces and Porsches of the time.

Today, car vases are for decoration and personalisation. The colour and type of flower is more important than the vase, and the flowers are mainly artificial and as a result unscented.

Gerbera daisies are by far the most popular flower to have in the car vase today and they are common in the new Beetle which has its own custom-made vase and mount.

Some owners have even remodelled the vase to make it a phone holder
It is rare to see a modern car with a bracket-style antique car vase and this is mainly thanks to the ubiquitous and much needed air vent. Nearly every car has one or more of these and many of us use the air vent as an attachment point for one or more accessories such as phone-holders, air fresheners, mini-bags to hold our pens and lipsticks, and of course, car flower vases.
It begs the question really, what would we do without our air vents?

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About donnamaria

  • jeannie danna


    What a delightful article…and the most beautiful flower that I have ever seen Gerbera daisy…now I want a car vase! :)

  • lanzarutia

    Hi Jeannie
    Thank you, yes I love these little things – helps make the inside of the car a bit more interesting! and gerberas as just gorgeous perfect flowers. If you do want a car vase have a look at fluffy auto boutique. For more history have a look at the site mentioned in the article (I have no affiliation with them and don’t know them) but they have worked hard to chart the history so might be interesting to have a look at what they’ve written. Bye for now, L

  • Ethan Mark

    What a great idea!! What a beautiful car flower vase!! I love your creative ideas and and now one of your big fans.

  • kmcarlock

    One of the reasons for flower vases in cars was that in the early days of the automobile, cars shared the streets with horses and the occasional oxen. The smell of horse excrement could be problematic particularly in large, dense cities during the summer. The scent of odiferous flowers helped mask the stench. Smart drivers back in those days also carried more than one spare tire on long trips as most flats were caused by nails from horseshoes or from horse-drawn wagons.