Aaron Widmar
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What Is a Car Bra, and Why Do People Cover Car Bumpers?

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Car Bra explanation purpose front-end bumper
What is a car bra used for?
Photo: SoulRider.222 via cc/Flickr

Have you ever seen a beautiful, athletic-looking sports car travelling down the road … only to be baffled to see its dazzling fascia masked by a bumper cover? These unsightly black vinyl coverings — known as a front-end bra or car bra — obscure the glamorous automotive shape underneath. It makes you wonder why an owner would spend so much money on a good-looking car only to cover it up with a gawky, graceless disguise. Are car bras the automotive equivalent of covering up fancy living room furniture with plastic?

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What in the world is a car bra, and why use it?

As you would assume, the canvas cover protects the vehicle from damage done by flying gravel, bugs, precipitation, and debris. Its leather or vinyl material and felt lining slides onto the front of a vehicle, where it secures for prolonged use.

Back in the early 1960s, Billy Colgan designed the first car bra per a request from Lockheed engineers who wanted something to protect their Porsche cars. Till then, Colgan specialized in interior upholstery. But, his production of a handful of exterior covers for luxury cars (check some of them at this car cover store) eventually led him to patent the “Original Car Bra” and focus his business on producing this accessory. Following the fad, other manufacturers began producing similar products that were custom-fitting for popular luxury or sports models.

To those unfamiliar with car bras, it may be surprising to learn that these leather hood masks aren’t just for protection. While the tight black canvas does shelter the car’s front end from scrapes and scratches, many owners equipped their vehicles with car bras as a fashion accessory. At one time, many people did consider the front-end bra an attractive addition to a sports car.

After being inexplicably popular in the 1970s and ’80s, the car bra’s popularity declined during the 1990s, to the point that it’s rarely seen on vehicles today. One of the reasons for its decline is its tendency to do the opposite of its purpose: Instead of protecting the car, it can sometimes damage it. Admittedly, the thick, resistant material does protect from exterior scrapes, but it also traps moisture and dirt, where it festers and rapidly corrodes the paint.

Luckily, the car bra is a fad that gearheads eventually burned. Sports cars look much better uncovered for all to ogle.

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Sources:“A Brief History of the ‘Bra’ by Colgan” via BMW Mania, Auto Anything