|By Larry LeMasters
There were three accessory items that made cars in the late 1950s “cool” rides — rear view mirror dice, suicide knobs, and dashboard Hula Girls.
One of the hottest accessories on the dashboard of an original 1959 Chevy Nomad wagon was a hula girl nodder. A ceramic hula girl magnetically attached to the metal dashboard. Her legs and upper body were attached by a spring hidden beneath her hula skirt, so she wiggled and danced the hula as the car drove down the street. Wearing chenille lei around her neck, a grass skirt, and a silk flower in her hair, a 6-inch tall Hawaiian Hula Girl is a hot collectible today.
These carefree nodders symbolized exotic lands and young men’s fantasies, setting off 1950’s dashboards with a whimsy that shouted “Aloha!”
Hula girl nodders were created in the 1940s to supply the market place for visiting service men during WWII and, later in the 1950s, the throngs of visiting tourists eager for an inexpensive Hawaiian souvenir.
The Hula Girl craze lasted from the ’40s through the ’60s, and original Hula Girl nodders, in good condition, cost in the range of $50 - $80 if you are lucky enough to find one. But watch for reproductions since manufacturers have begun making new reproductions due to the resurgence of interest in the Hawaiian Hula Girl doll.
Often the bottom of the nodder tells its age best. On the one pictured, not only is there a “Japan” label, but there is also a partial label from a Kresge Department Store (a five and dime store that developed into K-Mart). It is labels such as these that help to “date” a dashboard Hula Girl.
Whether you collect Hula Girls or simply want a kitschy Hula Girl swaying to an island breeze on your hot rod (make it an oldie since new cars don’t have metal dashboards or use double sided tape), a dancing Hula Girl will bring a sparkle to your eye and joy to your heart, which is the best reason to collect anything.