Quick Question: Car Detailing Tool Or Suicide Device?

Take a look at that picture up there. It’s from an old ad for a car accessory, and, yes, it’s a hose that connects right to your car’s exhaust pipe. So, what’s this thing for? Quietly ending all the pain of existence or getting shreds of errant taco cheese out of the seats?

I’ve been seeing this old ad pop up a bunch in various social media recently, so I figured I may as well talk about it a bit, because it is fascinating. As you likely guessed, it’s not a suicide machine. It’s a car vacuum cleaner!

This one is called the Dust-Ex, made by Staub-Ex, and it’s pretty fascinating. I’ve actually written about these sorts of devices before, a number of years ago, in an earlier 1930s form. This one (based on that oval-window Beetle there) is from the mid-1950s.

These devices worked on Bernoulli’s principle, which means, basically, that if you restrict the flow of a fluid or gas (via a constriction, like a venturi in a carburetor) then the velocity of that gas will increase, but the pressure of the gas will decrease.

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That means if we flow exhaust through the tube on the exhaust pipe, and that tube gets constricted, and there’s another outlet 90 degrees from the exhaust flow tube, we’ll get a low pressure situation happening in there, which, when connected to that hose, will have the effect of sucking up air into the hose to flow out the extended/restricted exhaust pipe.

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Now, there’s some things I don’t fully understand, here—do all of the Cheeto crumbs and fragments of 5-Hour Energy cap wrappers and other bits of dust and detritus just go through the hose and get blown out the back of the car via the fitting on the exhaust? I don’t really see how it would work, otherwise.

So, you’re just blowing crap out the back? That’s not really ideal for anything but the most inoffensive dust.

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They also mention a rubber cap to plug the other exhaust pipe (on 1955 and up Beetles that had that) which I feel like would just melt after a few minutes of usage?

This is just a strange, unsettling device. Any hose from the exhaust pipe into your car just feels wrong, as it is, and I’m not convinced this would even do that good a job. Wouldn’t it get clogged easily? And are you really saving much money by effectively running a vacuum cleaner on gasoline instead of electricity?

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Maybe I’ll try to make one. If anyone sees me try this and I don’t look responsive, please drag my ass out of the exhaust-filled car.

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)