Great moments in trunk-kit options, real and imagined.
By Jack Baruth, Jan 26, 2016
I'd like to think that we're responsible for this. Two years ago, I took a Focus ST shod with winter tires to the Putnam Park road course outside Indianapolis to show that "snow tires" can handle a bit of summer heat if necessary. Now Ford has introduced a rather unusual option for the upcoming and highly-anticipated Focus RS: a winter tire and wheel package, priced at $1,995, that will be delivered in addition to the summer tires fitted as standard. In other words, it's a "trunk kit", so-called because you'll drive home with your winter tires in the trunk. Unless you take delivery next January, in which case you'll drive home with the winter wheels bolted on and the summer tires in the trunk. But you get the idea.
I'm really stoked about the Ford winter-tire package because it shows how much thought is being put into the Focus RS. My brother has one of the super-hatches on order, as does my pal Matt Farah. But as cool as this "trunk kit" is, it's not even the coolest trunk kit of all time, and it's definitely not the coolest trunk kit I could possibly imagine. As Han Solo once said, I can imagine quite a bit.
My favorite "trunk kits" are the ones that are designed to adhere to the letter, but not the spirit, of SCCA road-racing or autocross regulations. The first-generation Neon ACR so utterly dominated Showroom Stock racing, thanks to its "trunk kit," that the competing manufacturers asked for, and received, permission to put racing shocks and springs in the trunks of their new cars sold directly to race teams. Chrysler fought back with a new trunk kit containing larger wheels.
There was a trunk-kit arms race. At one point, GM simply lost their minds and created the Solstice Z0K, which was a kind of super-trunk-kit combined with all sorts of special equipment designed to make sure the bathtubby Pontiac won every SCCA Solo autocross it entered by intergalactic margins. Things were really hectic for a while. We're lucky it ended before the kits started including special engines. Or maybe we aren't.
Trunk kits are different from "factory accessories" in the sense that trunk kits are useful equipment engineered by the manufacturer to improve a car's performance in specific conditions. Most factory accessories, by contrast, are actually utter garbage designed to boost a dealer's bottom line and allow a customer to finance stuff that really should not be finance-able. Backlit running boards. Useless spoilers. Chrome covers that get glued onto things that aren't chrome to begin with. That sort of thing. No sir, I don't like it.
I do, however, like trunk kits. I only wish there were more of them. For instance: If you can get a Focus RS with an extra winter-tire package, why can't you get it with an extra track-tire package? Come to think of it, why can't you get a Corvette with a box in the trunk containing everything you need for a recreational trackday, from a lightweight aluminum jack to a set of track-only brake pads, and instructions for installing said pads?
Volkswagen came up with a few fascinating "trunk kits" during the past few decades. First, there was the Jetta Trek, a car that came with a bike rack and a bicycle. As I recall, the bike in question was a cheaped-out version of the Trek 850 "Antelope," and it was primarily notable for being even less durable than the Jetta to which it was bolted. There was also a Beetle "Fender Edition" that was supposed to come with a built-in guitar amp and possibly a new Fender Stratocaster, but that got nixed from the production version, and probably for the best since it would have led to a lot of kids playing "Wonderwall" in high-school parking lots at ear-splitting volume.
As it was, the primary contribution of the Jetta Trek to the national conversation was a lot of awkward misunderstandings about whether or not the bike was included when the car was sold to its second and third owners. I'm serious. In my capacity as a new-car salesman years ago, I saw a deal unwind because a customer had his Jetta appraised by the used-car department with the bike, said bike mysteriously disappearing later on in the day when he drove off in his new Explorer. The fact that the bike couldn't have been worth more than two hundred bucks didn't matter to the used-car manager, who found himself talking about "the principle of the thing" for the first, and probably last, time in his life.
Bikes and tires and amplifiers, oh my! But the best trunk kits have yet to appear, largely because few of us have any ability to imagine something until they see it. Or how else can you explain how nobody thought to invent the Rav4 until the Rav4 appeared, at which point every carmaker in the free world from Audi to Renault promptly built a Rav4 of their own? Never fear, dear reader: I'm here to dream up Trunk Kits Of The Future. Like the Showroom Stock trunk kits, these will all be super-sneaky ways for the owners of a given vehicle to do what they were really going to do with the car anyway. Are you ready?
• For the Lexus GX470, the trunk kit will include a lifetime supply of Xanax and a book, written by me, entitled "What To Do When You Spent Two Hundred Grand On A Prep School And Your Kid Didn't Even Get Accepted To State."
• The Porsche Macan will have a trunk kit containing a semi-rigid car cover that, when expanded, looks like a 1972 911 Carrera RS but is in fact much larger than said '73 Carrera. The purpose of this car cover is to place over your Macan, at which point you stand in front of it, have your photo taken, and then upload the photo to Facebook with the true but misleading caption, "Finally bought a Porsche!"
• Lucky purchasers of the Aston Martin Vantage trunk kit will receive slightly-janky versions of all the other stuff a James Bond wanna-be needs, from a quartz Omega Seamaster to one of those stainless-steel, American-made Walther PPKs from the Nineties that jam all the time.
• My idea for the F-150 Platinum trunk kit is actually a second bedliner to put on top of your first bedliner so dust or pollen doesn't get onto your first bedliner and ruin its spotless mall-truck appearance.
• For my fellow motorcyclists, next year's Suzuki Hayabusa will come with an optional trunk kit consisting of the entire Wu-Tang Clan discography, excepting of course the one that Martin what's-his-name owns.
• The trunk kit for the Challenger Hellcat is just six more sets of rear tires and a very nicely embossed card that says "Calm your ass down already."
• Buying a Ford Mustang convertible? You'll definitely want the trunk kit, which is an actual trunk that can hold all the things that you thought were going to fit in the Mustang's standard trunk but which don't even come close to fitting. You tow it behind you.
Will any of these trunk kits become as legendary as the MSR C-Stock autocross kit for the NC Miata? Obviously, since none of you have ever heard of the MSR C-Stock autocross kit for the NC Miata. If you have heard of it, then hang onto your Tilley hat, my autocrossing friend, because the era of brilliant trunk kits is just beginning. Of course, none of these kits can match what Tesla has already managed to do. The Model S has optional jump seats that are mounted backwards in the area covered by the rear hatch. That's right: you can now safely lock your children in the trunk. It's the first trunk kit to do for your marriage what the Focus RS's winter-tire trunk kit does for the Focus RS: keep it on the straight and narrow despite the most dangerous conditions.
The Best Car Options Come in the Trunk