25 Old Car Features We Dearly Miss
Over the last century, cars have evolved in so many ways. From hand cranks to push start buttons, every aspect of the automobile has been reinvented and reimagined in modern vehicles. Over those years, there were a few features that we absolutely loved but were eliminated for one reason or another. Scroll through the list and see how many you can remember.
1. Car Phones
A standard feature in many luxury sedans of the ‘90s, car phones were soon made irrelevant by the rising popularity of mobile phones.
2. Foot Dimmer Switch
Many old cars and trucks from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s had a headlight high-beam switch on the dead pedal in an effort to keep the driver’s hands on the wheel.
3. Dual Fuel Tanks
This is one of our personal favorites. Popular on old Ford trucks, dual fuel tanks extended the range you could go on a fill-up, and watching the fuel gauge go from empty to full with a flip of the tank switch button is super fun.
4. Automatic Seat Belts
Import fans of the ‘90s are still dealing with these quirky seat belts. Open the door and the upper shoulder strap moves forward along the roof line. Close the door and they move back to the normal position.
5. CD Changer Magazines
With the advent of CD players in cars, the market needed to come up with a way to allow drivers to switch through multiple albums safely on the road. Many cars didn’t have the room to put a disc changer behind the dash. Thus, a CD-magazine was placed in the trunk of some cars, allowing you to load your favorite albums and switch through them from the radio controls on the dash.
6. Under License Plate Gas Caps
Filler necks didn’t always go to the quarter panel or bedside of a car or truck. Many old cars had the gas cap located behind the license plate, which was on a spring loaded hinge. Simply flip up the plate, fill the tank and flip it back down when you’re done! Now if we could only have the gas prices of those days…
7. Pop-Up Headlights
‘80s and ‘90s car nostalgia fans will agree, pop-up headlights are just plain cool. From affordable cars like the Nissan 240sx and Mazda Miata to the ultra-rare and expensive Ferrari F40, these headlights remind us of our childhood, and we’re sad to see the trend die.
8. Power Antennas
Yes, this was a thing. In a few years, antennas will be obsolete altogether, replaced by the shark-fin style antennas on modern cars. Back in the day, some cars had buttons to roll your antenna up or down. Some even did this automatically when you turned on the ignition!
9. Wing Windows
Perhaps the next best thing to air conditioning, wing windows or vent windows were popular on many vehicles. Simply flip them out to shoot some cool, fresh air into the cab without much road noise or the annoyance of wind messing up your hairdo.
While this may seem trivial to some, new cars don’t really have ashtrays anymore. Thanks to a decline in smokers in the U.S., most vehicles simply don’t need them (which is a good thing). If you do have one in your older car, chances are that it’s full of loose change and gum wrappers.
11. Cigarette Lighters
Just like the demise of the ashtray, the complimentary push-in style cigarette lighter that came with every new car for decades is now gone. In fact, some of our younger readers may have never known that their phone charger plugs were originally used to light up a smoke!
12. Hood Ornaments
Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Cadillac, Chrysler and many other car manufacturers used to proudly show off their logos with a shiny hood ornament. However, the recent trend of slick, streamlined cars has dropped these logos to the grill for the most part. Only Rolls Royce is holding strong to their hood ornament ways, seen on the 2018 Phantom.
13. Glovebox Mini Bar
Believe it or not, these existed outside of James Bond movies. Some vintage cars had shot glasses and bottles of booze stashed in the glovebox for special occasions. This feature was nixed for obvious reasons.
14. Window Cranks
Ever notice how the universal sign for “roll your window down” when speaking to another driver mimics the act of operating a manual crank window? Power windows were a luxury option on many cars up until the mid ‘90s.
Is there anything cooler than a T-top Trans Am roaring down the highway blasting some Skynyrd? These tops were popular options on some muscle cars and sports cars from the ‘70s up to the ‘90s, and we really wish they’d come back.
16. Front Bench Seats
Although bench seats still exist in the front of single cab trucks, back in the day, many 4-door cars had them as a standard seat. What’s not to love about being able to fit 6 people in your car, or sitting close to your significant other on a romantic drive through the country?
17. Headlight Wipers
Popular on European cars that saw lots of inclement weather, headlight wipers and washer nozzles kept your forward vision nice and clear. Although effective (when they worked), the idea was phased out with form taking over function as the models progressed over the years.
19. Branded Accessories
While some of these items may be dealership perks, gone are the days of freebie emergency kits, reflective triangles, backpacks, water bottles and hats in the back seat of your new car. The simple truth is that the automotive industry has become so competitive that these items have become unnecessary expenses.
18. Suicide Doors
While a popular aftermarket option for flashy, customized cars featured in rap videos, suicide doors came from the factory on a number of classic cars. Before it was a trend, it was the norm on cars like the 1967 Lincoln Continental.
20. Rain Gutters
Although we’re not sure exactly why this feature was phased out (possibly due to rust issues), we can’t help but reminisce about driving old Ford trucks with rain gutters running down the length of the cab on both sides.
21. Fender Mounted Mirrors
Another trend that became popular among sports cars, and later restorations, was the fender mounted mirror. You can often find this styling still present on classic Datsuns and European roadsters.
22. Manual Choke Cable
Ah, the days of old manual choke carburetors. Anyone who’s driven one knows all too well about the manual choke cable, and how to use it to start the car when it's cold. Simply pull the cable to close the choke, start the engine and release the choke cable when the engine gets idling. Piece of cake!
23. Wood Side Panels
Griswold fans rejoice. “Woodies” were a popular fad among American cars starting the 1930s, continuing (although in smaller numbers) up until the early 1990s. Often found on old station wagons and beach cruisers, woodies remain an icon of American automobile culture.
24. Gauges on the Hood
This one comes straight from the muscle car era. Although not a factory option on any vehicle, we felt it was necessary to add to our list. When America’s first pony cars were being hopped up for the drag strip, gauges poking up through the hood were common due to their ease of installation, not requiring anything to be fed through the firewall.
25. Rear Steering
You read that correctly. Rear steering was a feature found on several GM trucks and SUVs in the early 2000s. The aptly named “Quadrasteer” system was intended to assist in maneuvering while towing (especially fifth-wheel trailers), and getting into tighter parking spaces. Although this option used to cost about $5,600, the cost was justified in the eyes of many drivers who frequently towed large trailers.