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Saw this today. Went *SQUEE*

Well, this isn’t the one I saw. I nicked this picture off the Wikipedia article, which is curiously vague about whether they were ever used in US cars. I’ve never seen one, even in the movies, but Uncle B thinks they must’ve.

It’s called a trafficator. It’s an old fashioned turn signal. It’s a little semaphore dingus that pops out the side of the car and lights up. It’s adorable.

I’ve seen semiphore-style traffic signals in cartoons — placards that pop out the side of a pole — though I’ve never seen one in real life. But never seen a trafficator. You?

Oh, btw, we’re going to London for the day tomorrow. I’ll post if we’re back in time. If not — have a good weekend!


Comment from Uncle Al
Time: September 25, 2014, 10:16 pm

Yes, I’ve seen both the stationary signals and the ones on motor vehicles. I lived in Buenos Aires for a while in the late 1950s and early 60s, and saw them there as well as in Montevideo and Rio.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d still see some in Cuba!

Have fun in London, if possible. I just read it’s the most expensive city on Earth. Do they still let you breathe for free?

Comment from J.S.Bridges
Time: September 25, 2014, 10:28 pm

I’ve never seen Trafficators in use in the U.S. myself – although, I have seen vehicles here equipped with them (though rarely); most notably, a pre-W.W.II Rolls-Royce limo, and also an early-1920s Mercedes Benz sedan – both of them, quite a few years ago.

My own first car was an already-rather-elderly 1949 Plymouth sedan (gifted to me by my grandparents), which had no turn signal equipment other than my own left arm (and no, I will not bore you further with just when that was), and so I used to be quite interested in such vehicular details.

I don’t know if the Trafficator system was ever a feature of U.S.-made cars, though I tend to doubt it – it was never mentioned, to my knowledge, in Driver Education literature or teaching here, to the best of my knowledge and recollection. Also, I’ve never seen it mentioned in U.S. car company ads, etc., and I’ve seen a whole lot of that kind of stuff over the years (Yes, I’m officially an Olde Pharte).

Comment from CrabbyOldBat
Time: September 25, 2014, 10:58 pm

According to an editor with the Antique Automobile Club of America, “Only American cars destined for Europe had trafficators.” Other people report having seen them, although some note that they were on European models imported to America.


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 25, 2014, 11:15 pm

When I learned to drive, learning hand signals was still an ordinary part of the process. I was born in 1960, so I reckon I’m on the young end of the spectrum here. Why am I always the youngest person in my peer group? I’m’a have to live long enough to be a wise elder some day.

Al, London is *hella* expensive. We were there…last week? Week before? If we’re careful about timing, though, we can get a pretty cheap train in. And a lot of the shit we like to do is free cultural shit, like museums.

I wouldn’t get on the Underground on a bet at the moment, though.

Comment from Mrs Compton
Time: September 25, 2014, 11:46 pm

We don’t use the underground much any more. Seems we can get to where we want to go quicker by walking. My first car had this little knob you turned in the direction you wanted for the blinkers to work, it was on a timer so turned off if your light was long. But I used hand signals a lot since I hated to keep turning that durn knob.

Comment from Bobby Fissure
Time: September 26, 2014, 1:23 am

I have never seen a trafficator. The closest thing was a trafficant.

Comment from P2
Time: September 26, 2014, 1:55 am

My landlord in Orford, Suffolk had a 38 Rolls-Royce he was restoring…it had those. And just for the record, that radiator is flippin’ heavy!

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: September 26, 2014, 2:17 am

The earliest VW Beetles imported into the US had semaphore turn signals, IIRC.

Also, I was born in 1974, so you’re the old one here, Weasel.

Comment from Nina
Time: September 26, 2014, 3:54 am

Nobody better die tonight, with you and the Mister up to London tomorrow, jes’ sayin’, Stoaty.

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: September 26, 2014, 8:31 am

I saw them on a restored just post war Coke truck. The truck had turn signals, but the Coke body had them at the left and right top front corners of the box.

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: September 26, 2014, 8:38 am

I had a ’47 IH KB-1 pickup, and that had flashing light turn signals.

Comment from John SF
Time: September 26, 2014, 9:21 am

I remember one of my father’s cars having them. Can’t remember the make or model though. Sometimes I think I must have been an annoyingly inattentive child. That would have been early to mid ’60’s in England.

Comment from Mike C.
Time: September 26, 2014, 9:45 am

They weren’t required, but cars imported into the US had them.

Comment from Eddie Spaghetti
Time: September 26, 2014, 2:44 pm

The technology is the bane of pommie Britisher.
I am certain there are holdouts somewhere who signal turns using yew staves with woad-dipped bulrush pendant.

Comment from Bikeboy
Time: September 26, 2014, 3:50 pm

I blogged about turn signals, and trafficators, a couple years ago.

(Since nowadays people have to hold their coffee with one hand and their cellphone with the other, and steer with their knees, I expect that the little turn-signal wand on the side of your steering column is also relegated to become a curiosity of the past.)

Comment from technochitlin
Time: September 26, 2014, 8:32 pm

Born ’52. Durn younguns, get off my lawn! (And no I’ve never seen a trafficator, here in the South I normally saw an arm with an upraised middle finger.)

Comment from mojo
Time: September 26, 2014, 10:40 pm

Yep. Yanks use their hands, not some sissified euro-peon contraption.

Comment from unkawill
Time: September 27, 2014, 1:11 am

Born in 61. I believe that qualifies as a “Peer”

Comment from Frit
Time: September 27, 2014, 1:24 am

Born in ’62. Can I be a ‘Peer’ too? 🙂

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: September 27, 2014, 5:23 am

Recent vintage car sightings.

In Chicago, across from Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant, at the beginning of Route 66: a ’56 station wagon, a ’57 sedan, and a ’65 sedan. They were the equipage of some Gig Harbor Cruisers from Seattle, Washington, who breakfasted at the next table before heading out for L.A.

In Evanston, in the physicians’ section of a hospital parking garage: a Model A Ford.

On TV, in a 2013 episode of Crime Stories, a German series on PBS: a ’57 Cadillac. It was the vehicle of a vicious bookmaker who mutilates recalcitrant debtors in the back seat.

Comment from drew458
Time: September 27, 2014, 7:23 pm

Weasel comes from 1960? Me too! And I was almost always the youngest kid in class, having been born on Veteran’s Day (Armistice Day). The only kid younger than me in the whole town was Steve A., who was born the day before the Thanksgiving cut off date.

I’ve never seen a trafficator anywhere, not even on railroad tracks. Those all use lights these days.

Comment from Dan Patterson
Time: September 29, 2014, 12:56 pm

Humber. One version or other of the Snipe, methinks.
Jeebus people…

Comment from .
Time: September 29, 2014, 2:35 pm

That car even has a window sticker “Beware Trafficators In Use”.

I suppose the faux decoy “lights” above the bumper were salvaged from French shipwrecks in XVIIth century… Just like The Badger House timber.

Comment from HMS Grrifon
Time: September 29, 2014, 3:21 pm

Here’s a classic old islander loon in pretty blue socks with brown sandals.

Britannia Rules The Waves!
Contraption probably built from Hispano Suiza and Breguet parts.

Comment from Formerly known as Skeptic
Time: September 29, 2014, 8:58 pm

First and only at my daughter’s wedding. Hired a classic Rolls Royce Silver Wraith (IIRC) to take her and I to the church and then the couple to the reception. I thought they were a cool little device (but I’m a geek!). Mounted between the front and rear doors.

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