This Isn't Really A Bumper

I know it sure looks like one, but don't be fooled. It's not.

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Image for article titled This Isn't Really A Bumper
Image: Citroën

Even though most of my leisure time is spent hanging out at various taillight enthusiast bars/social clubs/bathhouses/etc., I am happy to say I’m also welcome at most community’s bumper-focused subcultural hangouts, thanks to the generous amount of attention I’ve given to bumpers over the years. Recently, I was having a drink at the Overrider, the Southeast’s seventh-best bumper-themed bar, when a pair of Five-Milers approached me, aggressively.

Five-Milers are bumper-culture slang for a sect of hardcore bumper enthusiasts who feel only the 1974-mandated 5 mph bumpers are worthy, as their sect finds beauty in bumper functionality, and feels over-reliance on aesthetics is heretical to bumper culture.

They tend to have distinctive dress, wearing thick, dense black rubber breastplates and greeting one another with chest-bumps. The two that approached me were ones I’ve met before, a brother-and-sister team I only know as the Impact Twins, even though the sister was about 10 years older.

Advertisement

These two like to make trouble, especially with the Chromers (who value bumper aesthetics more) and the Melders (who think body-colored and integrated bumpers are the way) and I think they see me as a sort of outsider they can try to manipulate to spread their gospel.

They sandwiched me between their metal-and-rubber tunics, made from discarded black rubber MGB bumpers. They compressed me, breathing heavy, trying to get a reaction, until I spit out my drink.

Advertisement

“Okay, okay, I see you,” I said. “What do you want?”

“You need to see this,” said Sister Impact. Brother Impact never spoke, at least not that I’ve ever seen. Brother Impact unrolled a large, tattered poster that had what looked like an early-to-mid-1970s Citroën GS.

Advertisement

“What’s this?” Sister Impact said, pointing at the picture.

Image for article titled This Isn't Really A Bumper
Image: Citroën
Advertisement

“A Citroën GS? I like those.” I told her, calmly, determined not to let these two idiots ruin my night.

“No, fucko; this!” and as she said “this,” in clear italics, she jabbed her finger at the bumper of the GS, right in the middle, at the chrome bar between the black rubber bumper guards.

Advertisement

“It’s a bumper. I get you two are into those big, rubber things, but later versions of the GS had those. Here, look,” and with that I reached into my otter-fur valise and pulled out a rolled-up poster, displaying a later GS with black, rubberized bumpers:

Image for article titled This Isn't Really A Bumper
Image: Flickr
Advertisement

Brother Impact tore the poster out of my hands. Sister Impact looked at me with undisguised disgust.

“No, idiot. This. This part in the middle that looks like a bumper. It’s not. It’s not a bumper. It’s a lie. It’s a filthy lie, a bit of trim masquerading as a bumper.”

Advertisement

Brother Impact flipped the poster around to reveal an image on the other side showing a pair of GSes, a wagon and the trunk’d one, both with their luggage areas open:

Image for article titled This Isn't Really A Bumper
Image: Citroën
Advertisement

Sister Impact gripped my face and turned it to look closely at the image. At that moment, she didn’t feel as aggressive, more desperate, almost pleading for someone to see and understand what she was talking about.

I saw. I understood.

That middle section of the GS bumper is just mounted to the tailgate of the wagon, or the trunk lid of the sedan.

Advertisement

Sure, this means that the load height is fantastic on these cars, as there is zero lip or anything to lift your cargo or luggage over, and you can just slide on in any big things. From the perspective of trunk loading, it’s wonderful.

But from a bumper perspective? It’s dismal. And deceptive.

I immediately saw why the Impact Twins were so bothered by this; it’s the illusion of a stout bumper, but it’s just mounted to a thin bit of sheet metal, with a vulnerable latch behind it.

Advertisement

It’s the outer face of a bumper, and that’s it. It’s inherently deceptive, and while it may provide some minor protection from barely-moving parking knocks, lacking any sort of real mounting or struts or anything, it’s effectively useless as an actual bumper.

Those little corner bits have to handle all of the protective work there, leaving the whole middle vulnerable, and, worse, too ashamed to admit it.

Advertisement
Image for article titled This Isn't Really A Bumper
Image: Barn Finds

I mean, look at that. It’s like they expect the rubber weather stripping to help out. One misjudged reversing out of a spot and hitting a post could be catastrophic to your trunk. This is an unforgiving and deceptive design, and I get the betrayal the Impact Twins must feel.

Advertisement

The rest of the night was spent consoling the Twins, helping them to see that they can’t take bumper betrayals so seriously all the time; it’s just not healthy, and it’s not worth it.

Thankfully, I remembered I had a picture of a later version of the GS, the GSA, which had a completely re-worked tailgate and bumper design:

Image for article titled This Isn't Really A Bumper
Image: Citroën
Advertisement

Sure, the lift-over height has expanded dramatically, from none to some, but there’s a real bumper there now, complete with a full-rubber face and just ugly enough to seem actually useful.

I showed this to the Impacts, and they were deeply and profoundly relieved, so much so they both fell into deep, fitful slumbers on either side of me, pinning me in the squeaky leatherette of the booth.

Advertisement

I was able to extract myself just before the bar closed, by dislocating my pelvis and wriggling out under the table.

I left the picture of the GSA with them, though, as a reminder that even deceptive, false bumpers can’t last forever.