Which of These '80s & '90s Auto Trends Do You Want to Make a Comeback?
The '80s and '90s was a time far different from today as far as automotive regulations and trends. As designs and technology advanced, automakers rushed to be ahead of the time. See if you remember any of these sometimes forgotten automotive design trends. Which ones do you want to see come back?
Possibly the most beautiful way to present a manual transmission is the gated shifter. Each shift throw, finished with a satisfying click. If there's one thing from these decades that will be missed, it will be the gated shifter. Not to mention the manual transmission itself, as that seems to be sunsetting now as well.
Landau Tops & Wood Paneling
Nothing says the '80s like tacked-on body decorations from the factory. Though originally a design feature from the car's early times, landau tops and wood side panels still had popularity in the '80s. Not seen on new cars since the '90s, we're not sure this trend will ever make a comeback.
With modern design direction, it would be difficult to make wood trim and landau tops without them looking tacky… probably a good thing for us.
Rear Window Louvers
We've never been sure what these were actually for, but man they looked like the coolest things when we were kids. Privacy and helping to keep the interior of a car with a huge rear window cool? Window tint accomplishes both of these tasks far better now, but we still see some modern cars (Mustangs and GT86s, we're talking about you) rocking aftermarket window louvres for the cool factor.
In the '80s, car interiors drowned in browns, maroons and blue materials—top to bottom. The above 1st-gen CRX is a perfect example of this—with blue interior as far as the eye could see. Period correct touches like the tape deck holder, short-lived Domino's Pizza mascot "The Noid" and other touches, complement this interior.
These days, interior choices are much more muted—generally we're limited to black, beige, grey and some red if you're lucky. Good?
2-Door SUV & Utility Coupe
Long gone are the days of the 2-door SUV. As consumers demanded more space (while also having smaller families,) every 2-door SUV, like this Dodge Raider/Mitsubishi Montero, was eventually phased out by 4-door variants. Even "coupes" such as the BMW X6 and Mercedes Benz GLC are 4-door SUVs.
America's love for big trucks has also deemed the utility coupe extinct in North America. Cars with pickup beds, like the Chevy El Camino and Ford Ranchero, have disappeared from the American market since the mid-'80s. If you want a car-based truck, they're still popular on other continents such as South America and Australia (where they call it an Ute).
Government requirements demand certain safety features on cars sold in America, one of those active in the '90s had to do with bumpers. Foreign automakers met this requirement by adding thicker bumpers to meet U.S. safety regulations. What resulted were ugly, tugboat-like bumpers that stuck out like an under-bite to the front and rear of imported cars sold in America. While European and Japanese market cars got skinny metal bumpers like those on the W126 S-Class below.
Thankfully, modern engineering and the use of plastic have done away with the impact bumper.
In the quest to create more aerodynamic designs, cars evolved from the traditional 3-box layout to more wedge-shaped designs. Unfortunately, lighting design and packaging didn’t evolve quite as fast. One way around this hangup was the pop-up headlight. When the lights were off, they would tuck away and fold down to maximize aerodynamics. When the headlights were needed, they would pop up—similar to frog eyes.
With modern technology, lights can be designed around almost any design while still providing ample lighting in the dark.
Back when halogen lights ruled, fog lights were designed to provide additional light, especially in inclement conditions. For many, they were an easy first-mod due to cost, ease of installation and sporty look that they added to the exterior.
Due to HID and LED lighting technology, most sports cars no longer use fog lights. LED light bars have replaced big fog lights in the off-road world, but that’s a topic for another time…
As fashion trends go, what goes around comes around.