Tech moves so fast in todays world, it’s easy to miss how much things change. New gadgets arrive and old ones disappear, often faster than we can keep track. Before we know it, the thing we used on a daily basis is gone! Here is my list of car features we dont see anymore. Lets get started.
1. Bench Seats
The most recent American production car to offer a bench seat in the front was the Chevy Impala, which, believe it or not, Chevrolet only stopped making in 2015, just two years ago! For most vehicles, the bench seat was phased out during the dawn of the seatbelt, as to fit a belt on a bench seat was an awkward affair.
Back in the days that seat belts were even included in cars, and of course not a legal requirement to wear, three passengers could happily sit next to each other in the front of most vehicles! These days, doing that is highly illegal in most developed countries, although a lot of 3rd world countries still do it. In the event of an accident, the bench seat is a disaster, offering the occupant very little support and the chairs often folded in on themselves.
Cars designed inspired by planes seems to be a bit dated these days, but it was once all the rage. Saab sold themselves pretty much on the fact they made fighter jets in their spare time, but I can’t honestly think of any examples like that these days. In the past century, however, it was all the rage, especially tailfins. General Motors design chief Harley Earl is thought to have been the brainchild of tailfins, making the 1942 Cadillac Series 62 sedan feature them. It’s said he was inspired by the famous world war two plane, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning.
Five years or so later, most people had had enough of the war style, with fins becoming more and more space-age instead. Tail fins became larger and larger, leading to some really bizarre vehicles until they fell out of fashion in the 60s. In 2017, I couldn’t find any examples of cars that still have them, although the Cadillac XTS from 2012 does hark back to the design somewhat.
Seriously, when was the last time you saw a modern car with a folding antenna. It seemed to be something to be proud of, the longer the antenna, the better. Pioneered mainly with Japanese brands obsessed with technology on cars, having an electric folding antenna on a car, demonstrated how high tech you were.
Nowadays, cars still have antennas, but they look completely different, often embedded into car windscreens or routed to the back of the vehicle through via a shark fin or bee sting type Ariel, which the SAT-NAV can use too. To be honest, it’s not such a great loss that these things are gone. Most of the automatic telescoping antennas made an awful noise when you turned your radio on, and just caused extra drag when driving. Still, it was fun to see them go up and down on their own.
4. Split Front Windscreens
The split windscreen was thought to have been made for cost reasons, probably because it’s cheaper and easier to make a split windscreen than one piece of glass. General Motors introduced this on most of their vehicles in 1936.
These days, the split-screen has become an iconic must-have item on classic cars, notably the VW camper. Split screens are no longer legal for production, and even if they were, glass manufacturing technology has come on a long way.
5. Full Sized Spare Tires
Although some cars still have this feature, the majority of every day, road-going vehicles don’t bother any longer. The point of the full-size spare was so that you could put it on, stow the flat tire in your trunk, and carry on driving for as long as you want. Unlike spares of today, many of which are designed to be used for limited distances at speeds under 50 miles per hour.
Most, being forgetful or lazy, didn’t quite do this correctly though, leaving on their spare for months or even years without replacing it. That being said until they get their next puncture and realize they’ve got a flat tire in the boot. Still, it tends to be tough or offroad type vehicles that have these, mainly due to the wear and tear that a 4by4 could experience on the trails.
6. Fender Mirrors
Fender mirrors are actually a cool idea, allowing drivers to keep their eyes looking forward on the road when driving. There are a few issues with this design, however, such as the lack of adjustment when moving, or the considerable viewing distance from the eyes of the driver.
This feature was especially popular with Japanese automakers, such as Honda and Datsun until the late 1970s, when a side mirror became more suitable. Passenger cars only required one mirror on the passenger side, until new legislation came in in 1986 that said cars must have two. It would be interesting to see a modern vehicle with these mirrors though, perhaps electronically controlled for easy adjustment, although slightly pointless!
7. Steel Wheels
Alloy wheels are ubiquitous these days. However, in the year 2000, it was still seen as somewhat of a luxury. On today’s vehicles, alloy wheels feature on all but the cheapest of cars, with a lot of mid-range cars throwing out the steel wheel option altogether. Many Audi and BMW vehicles don’t bother with them, although they are still popular with business fleet vehicles in poverty spec.
Steel wheels with hubcaps were fitted to everything until the early ’90s, as alloy wheels were an attractive but expensive option during that time. Today, lightweight alloy wheels help boost fuel economy, and most people are happy to pay for an improved appearance. The one thing that can be said for steelies is that if you bend one, replacing a set will cost no more than a good night out!
Which features did I forget? 7 car features we dont see anymore. Do you have any of these features in your car? Let me know in the comments!