Friday 19 February 2010
Four Wheeled Fragrances - Beyond the Magic Tree Air Freshener
I have been much preoccupied with my car this week - a royal blue Mini One, for any fumeheads out there who are also petrolheads! On Tuesday it had an oil change and on Wednesday I renewed its insurance. I have been busy calculating my average mileage, the length of my no claims bonus, and generally immersing myself in all manner of vehicular facts and figures.
The recent discovery of ylang ylang in Cuir de Russie prompted me to sample it again yesterday. Of all the leather scents I have tried, I find it the most feminine and wearable. It conjures up visions of petal strewn leather upholstery in the back of a white Bentley - the sort often favoured as a vintage bridal car. So Cuir de Russie seemed entirely appropriate to the automotive theme of this week's "to do" list.
This also got me thinking back to a project I did last year in the car industry. The topic was actually interior paint techniques used on "driver control interfaces" - that's "knobs" and "buttons" to you and me - but in my interviews with designers at the major manufacturers I sometimes found myself shooting the breeze in a more general way.
It was on that job that I learnt of the perfume dispenser system in the Maybach Zeppelin, a snip at 406,000 euros for the entry level model. : - ) I didn't glean much about the nuts and bolts of this gizmo, but it seems to be a souped up version of the Glade plug-in air freshener, with interchangeable flacons that sit inside a sort of snow globe on the central console. The other bottles are stored in a recess in the rear seat assembly. I'm sure my respondent said you could have up to seven different scents, but if you watch this video there seem to be only three on board. As I understood it, there are "factory fit" perfumes that come with the car - wouldn't you love to know what those are! - or you can supply your own, presumably decanting them into empty flacons that fit the dispenser. I found this video - the lady starts demonstrating the perfume system at around 6 mins 40 seconds.
If you are not in the market for a Zeppelin, the Citroen Picasso offers a dash-mounted perfume dispenser (situated just below the hazard lights). Here too you can apparently swap scents over / supply your own, but I know even less about the mecanism behind that particular system.
And for those of you who are not thinking of buying a new car any time soon, with or without in-car fragrancing appliances, there is always the new car scent from the RAC (the UK-based motoring organisation). This claims to give even the most tired interior back its "new car smell"! A spokesman for the RAC, Prakesh Patel, said that many old cars can harbour "nasty scents such as tobacco, dog, stale milk and the 'ancient whiff of kebab'".
Jokily entitled "Eau de Voiture ~ Car Perfume", and with the proceeds going to charity, the scent is described as "an alluring blend of rich leather tones and dashboard walnut (my italics) created specially for your car", giving off "the aroma of a fresh forecourt purchase".
Yes, Eau de Voiture claims to put back not just any new car smell, but that of a more luxurious model than you probably own...For these days, the only leather trim in your average car is likely to be the sporty steering wheel and gear stick cover - if that.
I have squirted some of this ingenious fragrance at my work station and would say it smells more like a "just valeted" smell, ie a fruity sweet, chemically, freshly shampooed sort of scent, but NOT a NEW car scent as such. I get no leather and no walnut dashboard - not even the merest sliver of a veneer... I don't think I am getting box fresh polyurethane or PC/ABS either. That said, I will concede that it is a heck of a lot classier than those dangly Magic Tree air fresheners beloved by taxi drivers.
The fact that Eau de Voiture misses the mark is probably just as well, for one of the reasons why people buy new cars, apart from the smug glow conferred by the latest registration plate and - for the moment at least - the financial incentive of the scrappage subsidy, is this indefinable "new car smell". A cheap bottle of scent, had it smelled more authentic, could have done serious damage to the economies of our major car-producing countries, destroying at a squirt the recent volume growth attributable to the scrappage scheme that the industry so desperately needed. It's a sobering thought.
Meanwhile, if you want to kid leather yourself that you own a new Maybach or a vintage Bentley, may I recommend applying Cuir de Russie to the pulse points on your person before dabbing it liberally on all your driver control interfaces. Then lean back, close your eyes, and smell the magic...