Technology is a ruthless beast, and automakers are constantly reimagining and reinventing every aspect of the modern automobile to keep up with it. As such, car features that came short of the ever-changing standards got phased out with time. Whereas some classic car features have made way for safer, more reliable, and more efficient innovations, others just fell by the wayside as people’s lifestyles and tastes changed. We looked back at cars of the past and discovered a wide range of such features, and here are some that you definitely might remember.
10 Manual Hand-Crank Windows
Until recently, every driver understood the non-verbal cue for rolling down the window was to mimic operating a manual crank window. Well, good luck with that today. Sure, the crank-style handles were slow and primarily inconvenient compared to power windows, but it would also be harsh to label them as a glaring problem with classic cars.
Various iterations of the power-window system were available from as early as the 1940s, but it remained a luxury option well into the mid-90s. Today, power windows and locks are a must-have feature that automakers provide standard in almost every vehicle, and only a rare handful still offer the manual hand-crank system.
9 Fender-Mounted Mirrors
Fender-mounted mirrors first made it to the automobile in 1921 through Elmer Berger’s patented “cop spotter,” but Japanese automakers later mastered and popularized them in the ’60s and ’70s. Although we could debate all day about which classic cars rocked these novel mirrors best, we will end up agreeing over their practical shortcomings.
Fender mirrors worked well to eliminate typical C-pillar blind spots and allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road. However, the apparent disadvantages were the microscopic area of view, the difficulty of use at night, and the fact that objects appeared smaller. Door-mounted mirrors solved all these challenges, and no one misses having to get out of the car every time the mirrors need adjustment.
8 Wood-Grain Side Paneling
Numerous styling fads come and go with time, but the Woodie trend baffles young drivers today. Woodies are distinctly American, and we can trace the intrinsic involvement of wood in various automobile aspects. When steel was expensive for most manufacturers, wood was a cumbersome alternative with worrying safety hazards and eyewatering maintenance costs.
When metal stamps became more manageable and cheaper in the 1950s, automakers offered wood grain-like decals on vinyl, metal, and plastic side panels for some mid-century customers. Although the surfing community delayed the retirement of faux-Woodie models in the latter half of the 20th Century, they eventually lost their appeal, and wood now remains a luxurious interior accentuates for high-end vehicles.
7 In-Built Car Phones
Humphrey Bogart’s 1954 film, Sabrina, shocked the American public by featuring one of the first car phones. By the ’70s and early ’80s, car phone service was a status symbol that became popular and mainstream. Automakers connected the in-built phone technology to car batteries for power and relied on external antennas to get signals attached across telephone networks.
The Car Radiophone service network was pivotal in coining the first 1G systems and the Improved Mobile Telephone Service. When digital service eventually sprang up in the 1990s, a personal cell phone boom gradually made car phones an irrelevant purchase.
6 Vent Glass Windows
Unlike the quarter glass in most cars today, vent glass windows were small windows that sat in front of the retractable side windows, both for the shotgun-seat passenger and driver. These vent windows came standard on just about every four-door passenger car in the market.
Vent glass windows served as the preferred way to cool off the cabin, also functioning as an occasional hack to break back in whenever drivers lock the keys inside. Luckily, the internal air conditioning system was a game-changer that later became standard in cars in the 1960s. Vent windows eventually disappeared, with designers going for cleaner lines and weight reduction.
5 Ashtrays And Cigarette Lighters
The ashtray and cigarette lights were complementary accessories popular in cars from the ’50s and ’60s, and these features became a staple across numerous models for many years after that. Whereas the lighter featured on the dashboard for apparent reasons, automakers spread out the ashtrays within the cabin to accommodate every occupant.
But with lifestyle changes due to increased public awareness of smoking-related health hazards and pressure from tighter regulations, car manufacturers have successfully eliminated ashtrays and cigarette lighters in modern cars. After the ’90s, ashtrays, and lights got replaced with accessories such as loose change trays, cup holders, and wireless charging ports.
4 Floor-Mounted Dimmer Switches
Dimmer switches were initially mounted on car steering wheels, allowing drivers to easily toggle headlights from low beams to high. Automakers later concluded that they would be hazardous distractions and moved the switch to the floor, where its size grew significantly for easy foot access.
Cars eventually transitioned from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive, and suddenly the space in the footwell got too cramped to accommodate the light switch. Subsequently, the dimmer switch migrated to the steering column again in the ’90s, this time alongside the windshield wiper lever.
3 Front Bench Seats
Before seat belts became, bench seats were standard for mandatory most family cars. The middle seat was not the most comfortable, but it made the front seat wide enough to sit more than two. The romantic ones put the front bench to good use, maximizing its confines on a date night where a loved one can slide closer to the driver.
The early ’90s marked the beginning of the end for front bench seats, with countable trucks and vehicles like the Toyota Avalon and the Chevrolet Impala retaining them well into the 2000s. The bench seats got relegated in most vehicles because they made it challenging to implement safety equipment such as airbags and hampered the effective use of seat belts.
2 Horn Rings
Older cars required drivers to remove one hand from the steering wheel to press the honk button at the center, and some automakers viewed this as a dangerous distraction. As a result, car manufacturers invented the chrome ring, which they attached to the steering wheel as a safety device.
The horn ring made it easier for drivers to stretch a finger or thumb to honk by tugging the ring, but it ended up becoming a threat as well. Considering it was rigid and somewhat pointy, the horn ring had the potential to impale itself in a driver’s chest during an accident. Automakers later redesigned the steering wheel to have the horn occupying the most considerable portion in the center, with a driver’s airbag secured underneath it.
1 Pop-Up Headlights
Pop-up headlights have popped in and out of various automobile generations over the years. However, these instantly recognizable designs hit their peak in the early ’70s through the ’90s. Part of their popularity stemmed from the US Government mandates that cars have only a certain height for headlights back in the day.
But as government regulations on headlight designs relaxed in the ’90s, technological advancements made it possible for automakers to install different headlights. Besides emerging technology, the pop-up headlights were deemed a safety hazard that affected cyclists and pedestrians. Eventually, more stringent regulations, high compliance costs, and diminishing global desirability forced automakers to abandon the designs.
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