It seems that more and more, modern cars have sat navs, adjustable suspension, LED headlights and even Wifi. A lot of other car features in the past have been and gone however, only to remain in a few select vehicles. Lets get started.

Ashtrays and Cigarette Lighters

There’s nothing quite like promoting an unhealthy habit by providing an ash-tray and cigarette lighter in peoples vehicles, as standard! In a lot of countries, smoking is now illegal in Taxis, Ubers and in a car with kids. Nowadays, most vehicle manufacturers have ditched this feature as a standard option, instead offering ashtrays and lighter plugs as optional accessories, in a “smokers pack” typically dealer-installed. If you’re buying used, this is a good way to tell if the car has been smoked in or not!

Hand Cranked Windows

A very small percentage of new vehicles still have this, although if you’re buying a new car with wind-up windows, perhaps you should evaluate your life choices a little! According to motoring blog Car & Driver, hand cranked windows make it to just 6% of new car purchases. Wind up windows used to be the norm on all but the most exclusive vehicles but economies of scale has made this option available as standard on most new cars. Although manual windows are cheaper and lighter, consumer demand dictates that a slightly higher cost is worth the trade-off.

Pop-up Headlights

This list would not be complete without the controversial elimination of this feature. Believe it or not, popup headlights are still, strictly speaking, legal. The caveat of this is that the motor mechanism has to have a manual override, so that the headlight can be activated without the use of tools. The main cause of the demise of the popup headlight is actually, for the most part, pedestrian safety regulations.

In 2004, European design laws were tightened, requiring that a cars front end should be deformable on impact. This was in order to protect pedestrians should they be hit. This is why modern cars always seem to have a higher hood and a more bulbous shape than older cars.

It is so complicated to create popup headlamps that comply with these regulations that manufacturers just decided to call it quits and move on. Even though this law wasn’t in place worldwide, car makers are always keen to have a global strategy, as it saves a lot of money.

Manual Locks

Power door locks have been around almost as long as the motorcar has although they started to become mainstream in around the 90s. For many vehicles in the past decade, central locking has been an optional extra but these days, just 4% of new cars sold in 2017 have manual locks. This tends to be on the very cheapest economy cars such as the dodge dart and base model SUVs such as the Jeep Patriot.

Opening Vents

Usually fitting in the small triangular area in the gap between the windscreen and the front window, the small air flap was a much-loved feature of cars throughout the 20th century. Of course, not every vehicle had them but for those that did, the small window allowed a small amount of airflow without too much turbulence. Amazingly, vehicles like the Land Rover defender still manage to have the vents, mounted underneath the windscreen. These proved extremely popular on hot days, providing a cool breeze to occupants. Today, the only thing that opens in most vehicles are the windows and sunroof. The flaps are largely unnecessary now, thanks to more effective air conditioning systems and more stringent aero requirements.


It was 2001 when the first electronic Handbrake was introduced into the innovative Renault Vel Satis. Since then, the handbrake, also known as a safety or emergency brake, has been slowly diminishing in number. Luckily, manual transmissions are still not rare enough to be on this list, but obviously with less manuals around, it means that less and less cars require a handbrake to hold the car on hill starts. Even on manual transmissions now, most of them feature a hill hold mode which renders the physical handbrake less necessary.

Bias ply Tyres

Bias-ply tyres are an example of what progress looks like in the automotive industry. These days, everyone uses radial tyres, first patented in 1915 and later developed by Michelin for use in passenger vehicles in 1946. Famously being one of Detroits biggest failures to adopt, Bias Ply tyres were kept on most of their production vehicles until about 1983 when they finally gave in. Radial tyres offered better fuel economy and had less rolling resistance, although they were more expensive to produce. They also had a harsher ride, so more money had to be spent on suspension development.

Car Phones

Car phones have been around since 1946, when Bell introduced the first mobile phone into a vehicle. Of course, it didn’t work like today’s phones and it weighed more than 80 pounds, but since then car phones gathered momentum in more and more vehicles. Peaking in the 1980s, when the car phone was more popular than the mobile phone, most car phones were a large handset attached to a cord. The electronics of the phone were hidden away inside the vehicle due to their size. Although it looks comically stupid today, they were once state of the art and usually a very expensive optional extra!

So there you are. Which features did I forget? Let me know in the comments.