May 21, 2022

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10 Bad Car Features From The Past… That We Actually Miss

Automobiles have advanced in numerous ways over the last century, with every aspect reinvented and reimagined to align with the ever-changing standards. As a result, some old features got phased out gradually due to safety concerns, designers butchered some, and others fell out of style. But despite the tech-laden variety of automobiles on the market today, these modern cars are now increasingly similar in most ways.

Related: These Are The 10 Best Luxury Coupes For 2022

With automakers primarily focused on more power, fuel economy, and safety, modern cars don’t live up to the charm, character, and fun that drivers enjoy in classic cars. And for anyone who loves vintage cars, you probably understand that as much joy comes from these seemingly bad classic features as the vehicles. Scroll through to see how many of these features from the past you can remember.

10 Chrome Bumpers


GT350H Rear lights and plaque
Via: Mecum

For longtime automobile enthusiasts, ‘chrome’ brings memories of bumpers instead of the popular web browser. In addition to the character that chrome bumpers added to classic cars, chrome-plated finishing improved durability, hardness, and corrosion resistance, not forgetting how easy they were to clean.


Dynamic Turn Indicators
Via AutoEvolution

Conversely, chrome bumpers were significantly heavy, and better fuel economy called for lighter weight and improved dynamics. From the mid-90s, automakers gradually phased out these aesthetically pleasing chrome bumpers with more mundane plastic bumpers that were less prone to rust, denting, and fading.

9 Full-Sized Spare Tire


2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness' Full-Size Spare Wheel
Via: Pinterest

In the past, suffering a puncture was a minor issue because drivers had a foot pump and a handy toolbox to change the wheel and get going without too much delay. Admittedly, these full-size spare wheels were more relevant in the past because tire trouble was more frequent.

Related: 20 Of The Worst Cars Of All Time


Spare Tire Replacement
Josbert Lonnee via Flickr

However, most modern vehicles’ thin, pathetic-looking space-savers are a slight headache because you are limited to a recommended top speed. And with more cars stashing batteries below the trunk floor, spare wheels altogether may well be on their way out.

8 Classic Manual Parking Brake


Handbrake
via motoringresearch

The manual parking brake and the manual transmission are condemned to the same fate, and it’s not difficult to imagine a period when they disappear entirely. But we love the traditional brake lever because it connects the driver to the vehicle, acts as an effective backup brake, and allows for a bit of hooligan drifting (on spacious private land, of course).


Electronic Parking Brake
via Wikimedia

Although there wasn’t too much wrong with the manual, automatic handbrakes are more sensible. They contribute to dull driving, but they are self-adjusting, occupy less space, and can be integrated with other electric features like hill-hold assist.

7 Hand-Crank Windows


Manual Windows
Via Street Muscle Magazine

Most people refer to the classic hand-crank windows as ‘keep fit’ as though it’s a bad thing. Okay, it can get annoying when you have to walk around to roll them up when everyone leaves, but let’s break things down a bit further.


Power Window
via Pinterest

Electric-powered windows are easy to operate, but they are more prone to failure and arguably harder to fix if they do. The rational argument makes electric windows a hard sell since manual ones are very reliable, durable, and still hold a bit of charm because they instantly place a vehicle in a specific era.


6 The Classic Steering Wheel


1969 Pontiac GTO Judge Ram Air IV With An Iconic Hurst T-Handle
Via: BringaTrailer

Old cars kept things simple and minimalist with a round, often attractive steering wheel design. Driving was easy and enjoyable because drivers only had to hold onto the wheel, focus on the road ahead, and work through the attention-demanding manual gearbox.

Related: 10 Of The Most Powerful Manual-Transmission Cars On The Market


AMG E63 Wagon steering wheel
Via YouTube

The modern steering wheel comes in different designs with several additional functions that allow drivers to change cruise control, answer a call, flick through radio settings, and adjust the volume. While these features make it easy to control modern technology, they are still a slight distraction compared to the simple steering wheel from the past.


5 Thin A-Pillars


1963-cadillac-eldorado-biarritz
via: Mecum

Most classic cars featured thin A-pillars that made room for big windows. This combination helped to maximize visibility and also saved on the overall vehicle weight. However, these came at the expense of safety in case of an accident.


2021 Mercedes Maybach GLS 600's Interior
via mbusa

Nowadays, modern cars have wide A-pillars designed to make the windows and roof stronger to withstand impact. The trade-off is limited visibility that dangerously blocks the driver’s view of cyclists, pedestrians, and sometimes small cars.

4 The T-Top Roof


The T-Top on the 1977 Pontiac Trans Am.
Via: Hemmings

The awesome T-tops were popular options offered on some sports cars like Corvettes and muscle cars like the Pontiac Trans Am before the revolutionary ’90s. The easily-removable panels were so cool because you could own an open-air fun convertible and a hardtop in one.


BMW 7 Series 2022 sunroof
Via BMW

The biggest challenges with T-top roofs were leaks during wet days, panel rust, storage complications, and safety concerns in case of a rollover. Today, gearheads exclusively choose either a convertible or a hardtop with a good sunroof.

3 Bench Seats


1966-1967 Chevrolet Nova (Second Generation) red interior
via Bring a Trailer

It’s not a complete discussion about old car features if front bench seats are not included. Unlike modern bucket seats, these retro bench seats were akin to a couch, and they allowed for a bit of intimacy and proximity between driver and front-seat passenger. In addition, they offered extra space to squeeze in a third person.

Related: Ranking The Ugliest Car Interiors Of The 2000s


2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz front seats
Via Hyundai

But for all the comfort and cheap manufacturing costs, bench seats were a safety hazard because automakers could not effectively fix the mandated seatbelts and airbags. Front bucket seats also afford a center console that now houses storage, control features, and switches.

2 Pop-Up Headlights


2004 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Sports Car With Pop-Up Headlights
Via: BringaTrailer

Pop-up headlights brought a space-age vibe and a sense of occasion and fun when they rose out and rolled back into the hood. These electric lights were also great at maintaining a clean and sleek vehicle design whenever they were completely hidden when not in use.


BMW 7 Series 2022 headlights
Via BMW

Unfortunately, pedestrian safety, increasing production expenses, wind noise, and aerodynamics eventually forced automakers to replace pop-up headlights with modern LED headlights. But try as they might, modern headlights can never be as satisfying to operate nor match the charm that pop-up headlights added to classic cars.


1 Simple Interiors


1954 Packard Panther-Daytona Roadster
via Mecum

With a blend of exposed metal, leather, smooth wood, and plastic, classic car interiors were primarily clutter-free and felt reassuringly solid from the driver’s seat. Physical controls such as switches and knobs controlled everything, and dimly-lit yet clear analog instrument clusters completed the ambiance.


2022 Fiat F595 Abarth Interior
via Fiat

The transition to touchscreens arrived like a tsunami, and all buttons and switches disappeared into the sophisticated menus. Additional features in automobiles have improved functionality and practicality, but they also ensured a notable increase in interior clutter.


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