These Retro Car Features Are Long Gone

The world of automobiles is constantly changing. Features that are considered sleek and modern today may be completely outdated and forgotten within just a decade. Who still remembers built-in car phones or remote-operated CD changers?

There’s a great chance that younger drivers will never have to deal with T-tops, curb feelers, or stick-shift transmissions. Some of these features never made it to the mainstream, either.

Old headlight Bulbs

Driving an old car was a joyful experience unlike anything else. As long as it was bright outside, that is. The second that dusk fell, it would turn into an absolute nightmare.

Old vintage American blue car in action at night. The...
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Old bulbs found in classic cars are nowhere near as bright as their modern counterparts. Many could even think that old cars’ headlights were more of a stylistic touch, rather than a feature that was actually meant to improve visibility. Thankfully, drivers don’t have to deal with that issue anymore.

Bench Seats

Most old automobiles would come equipped with a bench seat in the front row. It was a lot more comfortable than regular seats and increased the number of occupants that could ride in the car.

GettyImages-530193791
GraphicaArtis/Getty Images
GraphicaArtis/Getty Images

Don’t forget this was a trend long before seatbelts became a thing, and safety wasn’t exactly a top priority back then. As the years went by, automakers began replacing front bench seats with individual ones. The Chevy Impala was the last vehicle offered with a bench seat. The $195 extra option was discontinued after 2012.

Curb feelers

Curb feelers can rightfully be considered to be the grandparents of modern parking sensors. These metal wires were installed low on the body of the car, near the wheels, to make parking easier and avoid scratching your shiny chrome rims.

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drburtoni/Flickr
drburtoni/Flickr

Curb feelers would screech loudly when in contact with the curb, alerting the driver that there isn’t any space left. The solution was genius at the time, though it was quickly replaced with more sophisticated systems that didn’t bother passersby as much.

CB Radios

CB radios rose to fame in the early 70s. At first, many people were amazed by the vision of having a device similar to a police radio installed in their vehicles. Thankfully, these radios disappeared within just a few decades.

Woman Using CB Radio in Her Car
Getty Images
Getty Images

CB radios were the go-to way of socializing with other drivers, way before phones were a thing. People loved communicating with strangers on the road so much that some vehicles even came with a factory-fitted CB radio!

Choke

Your car certainly does not come with a choke button on the dashboard, unless it was made before the 1980s. In fact, choke is a feature that can only be found in automobiles that have a carburetor.

1965 Chevrolet Corvette
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

Starting a classic car on a cold winter day is anything but easy. Drivers had to skillfully use the choke button to start a carbureted motor. Really old cars made before the 60s came with a fully manual choke, while slightly newer models featured a slightly more automated system.

Pop-up Headlights

It is no secret that many petrolheads would love to see pop-up headlights make a comeback. Although the first production car with pop-ups was the Lotus Elan back in the early 60s, the feature became a symbol of the 70s and the 80s.

General Motors' Media Challenge At Auto Show In Motion With Eduardo Verastegui
Albert L. Ortega/WireImage
Albert L. Ortega/WireImage

Developments in pedestrian safety regulations, as well as the high manufacturing cost, effectively destroyed pop-up headlights in the late 90s. The fifth-gen Corvette is the last production car that came with pop-up headlights.

Manual Brakes

The younger generation of today will never know the struggle of manual brakes. Similar to manual steering, pushing down the brake pedal with no booster did require quite a workout, to say the least.

Toyota Prius Recall In Europe
Jochen Eckel/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Jochen Eckel/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Brake boosters were invented all the way back in 1927. For some reason, they only became common decades later. In fact, many cars built in the 70s still came without brake boosters.

Velour seats

The majority of people who are under 30 never experienced sitting in a velour car seat. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience, to say the least.

Holy Cow! The Batmobile On 44-Inch Wheels
Adam Gray / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Adam Gray / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Velour car seats were awful, especially in high temperatures. Anyone sitting in a velour seat would start sweating within minutes. In addition, velour aged horribly when exposed to sunlight. It’s no surprise that this horrible feature started disappearing from cars after the 1980s.

Car Phone

Car phones aren’t around for a variety of reasons. Talking on the phone while driving is extremely distracting. After all, it’s illegal to do so in most countries around the globe. Not to mention that built-in car phones would be completely useless in the age of smartphones.

Man Driving Whilst Using Built-In Car Telephone 1990. Creator: Unknown.
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images

Built-in car phones started appearing in cars around the late 80s. They quickly became the ideal way to show off just how luxurious your vehicle was. A car couldn’t possibly be considered upscale unless it came with a built-in phone that didn’t work most of the time.

Basic Tires

It’s surprisingly easy to overlook how much tires have improved over the years. Run-flat tires, which can be used even after a puncture, weren’t around just 40 years ago. In fact, tires used to be pretty basic. They allowed for a bit of traction, as long as the weather conditions were absolutely perfect.

Classic cars dissappearing from roads.
NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images
NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Versatile all-season tires or those with a speed rating of nearly 200 miles per hour were unheard of in the past. Tire manufacturers deserve a lot more credit, that’s for sure!

Cassette Players

The first car to ever come equipped with a cassette player debuted back in 1968. The in-dash car radio was manufactured by Philips, and other companies quickly followed. Cassette players were a lavish feature found only on the most expensive cars– at least at first.

1969 Jensen Interceptor
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images

Cassette players continued dominating the world through the 70s and 80s. It wasn’t until the early 90s that they became surpassed by CDs. Cassette players were pretty much gone from the market by the early 2000s. The last car with a factory-equipped cassette player rolled off the assembly line in 2011.

T-Tops

Most petrolheads believe that T-tops were invented by General Motors. After all, they were a standard feature on every third-gen Corvette, as well as some variants of the Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird.

1968 Chevrolet Corvette T-Top
Bob D’Olivo/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images
Bob D’Olivo/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images

Contrary to popular belief, the T-Top was actually first unveiled on a 1948 sports car prototype by Tasco. A removable T-Top used to be the ideal compromise back when drop-tops weren’t as safe as they are today.

CD Changer

Sony revolutionized the car audio industry multiple times throughout the years. However, the introduction of the CD changer may have been the manufacturer’s significant achievement to date.

car cd player
Unsplash/Mhpo Mojapelo
Unsplash/Mhpo Mojapelo

The first car to ever come with a multi-track CD changer was the BMW 6-Series back in 1986. It featured a remote-operated disc changer mounted in the trunk. It was connected to the head unit and could store up to 10 discs. Back in the mid-80s, the Sony Discjockey was pretty much a sci-fi movie in real life.

Vent windows

Vent windows were originally a great way to cool off, long before A/C became as common as it is today. Vent windows were a hit throughout the first half of the 20th century for loads of different reasons.

at the Canadian International Auto Show
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Within the next years, automakers began rolling out changes to improve the fuel economy of their vehicles. It quickly turned out that vent windows dramatically reduced fuel efficiency. These small windows also became passé in terms of design.

Separate keys for doors and ignition

Many old vehicles came with two separate keys, one for the ignition and a different one to unlock the doors. This was especially common in cars built by Ford and General Motors.

Keys lay on the seat of a car in the showroom of Byers Chevr
Jay Laprete/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Jay Laprete/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Having to carry around two different car keys is unheard of today. In fact, many modern vehicles come with a push-to-start. That way, no key is required apart from the keyless entry fob.

Crash pads

It is no secret that safety wasn’t exactly the priority when developing early automobiles. In fact, airbags didn’t become common up until the 80s. General Motors briefly introduced an “Air Cushion Restraint System” in the 70s but ended up discontinuing it due to a lack of customer interest.

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Wouter82/Wikimedia Commons/Wikipedia
Wouter82/Wikimedia Commons/Wikipedia

The fourth generation of the Chevy Corvette has one of the most unique airbag-like safety features in automotive history. The model debuted for the ’84 model year and featured a crash pad on the passenger side of the dashboard. Unsurprisingly, it was removed and replaced with a proper airbag after the ’89 facelift.

Landau Tops

Car design was completely different just a few decades ago. Landau tops are a prime example. Though it was cool at the time, this stylistic touch would look totally out of place on modern cars.

1973 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Landau
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Automakers began covering their vehicles in the fabric in the second half of the 60s. This trend lasted for roughly two decades, although some models featured landau roofs all the way through the 1990s.

Air-cooled Engines

Air-cooled engines were never mainstream. The idea behind cooling an engine with natural airflow was simple. It all boiled down to cutting costs and ensuring maintenance was as easy as possible.

1977 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.0
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The Porsche 911 is hands-down the legendary automobile that once came with an air-cooled engine. The German manufacturer eventually switched to water cooling for the 996 generation in the late 90s.

Manual Steering

The ’51 Chrysler Imperial was the first automobile to come with power steering. Every car built before that only featured manual steering, which was an absolute pain when parking and maneuvering at slow speeds.

Goodwood Revival 2018 - Day Two
Michael Cole/Getty Images
Michael Cole/Getty Images

By the early 1960s, power steering was available on new vehicles built in America, either as standard or as an extra option. The only way to experience manual steering today is if your power steering pump breaks. Driving a car with manual steering was quite the workout!

CD Player

It’s fair to say that CDs revolutionized the world. They instantly proved to be a more convenient and high-tech alternative to cassette players. It only made sense for automakers to start fitting CD players in vehicles. The first car that came with an OEM CD player was the 1987 Lincoln Town Car.

IFA-Messeneuheit 1983 :CD-Player für das Auto
Chris Hoffmann/picture alliance via Getty Images
Chris Hoffmann/picture alliance via Getty Images

In the 21st century, CDs started being overtaken by thumb drives, MP3 players, and smartphones. Despite the fact that CDs plummeted in popularity, automakers continue fitting their vehicles with CD players.

Manual Windows

The younger generations probably don’t realize how tricky operating car windows was just a couple of decades ago. Rolling down the passenger window as the driver was virtually impossible unless you were flexible enough to reach the handle.

Custom $280,000 Franken-Dodge Pickup Pilfers Parts From Rolls
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Patrick Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Most cars sold today come with powered windows, a feature that was considered an absolute luxury just 30 years ago. Although not completely extinct, manual windows are hard to come by today.

Physically Unlocking Car Doors With a Key

The introduction of remote control systems, followed by more sophisticated keyless entry, has made accessing your car easier than ever before. What’s more, many modern vehicles can be unlocked via the driver’s smartphone.

Using a key to unlock car door
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Back in the day, we physically had to stick a key in the door to unlock the vehicle. Some cars sold today still come with this feature, though it’s meant to be used only if the keyless entry system fails.

Power Antenna

Car antennas date all the way back to the 1930s. In the early days of automobiles, manufacturers didn’t really care about hiding the antennas. At least until buyers started being bothered by them, that is.

1994 Mercedes Benz 500E.
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images

Power antennas were first introduced on luxury cars, and have never really become as mainstream as you may expect. Incorporating antennas into the car’s rear windows proved to be more clever, and cheaper to manufacture, than a power antenna.

Non-Intermittent Wipers

Light rain has got to be one of the most annoying conditions to drive in. Imagine how inconvenient it would be if the windshield wipers only had two modes: on and off. That’s exactly what every driver had to deal with before the 1970s.

Rain in Bavaria
Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images
Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images

Believe it or not, delayed wipers were only invented in the late 60s. It took a few more years for this ingenious feature to become standard. Today, it’s tough to imagine driving without them.

Non-adjustable Steering Columns

Before the 1950s, drivers weren’t able to adjust the steering column to their liking. In fact, they were completely fixed in place. Around seven decades ago, automakers began introducing steering columns with minor telescoping adjustments.

1959 Ausin Mini Seven
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Early versions of adjustable steering columns could only be moved away or closer to the driver. More advanced columns with tilt adjustments didn’t appear until the 1960s!

Carburetors

If you look under the hood of a classic muscle car, you’ll see a bulky part on top of the engine, hidden right under the air filter. That’s the carburetor, which is responsible for delivering fuel and air to the motor.

1969 Dodge Charger Daytona
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

Most automakers began phasing out carburetors in the early 1980s. They were replaced in favor of more modern technology, such as fuel injection systems. Carburetors were simply becoming too outdated, limiting the vehicle’s power as well as fuel efficiency.

No central lock

This is yet another feature that was common just a few decades ago. Today, it is unimaginable for a carmaker to release an automobile without a central lock.

1960s BUSINESSMAN CARRYING...
Camerique/ClassicStock/Getty Images
Camerique/ClassicStock/Getty Images

In practice, having no central lock meant that each door of the car could only be opened individually. The driver would have to unlock their door first, and then go over to the passenger side and unlock the other door. The same went for trunks!

Hideaway headlights

Hideaway headlights are a bit different than the previously mentioned pop-up headlights. Quite frankly, they’re also quite overshadowed by pop-ups. Rather than being lifted up and down, hideaway lights are often hidden within the grill of the car. A simple push of a button will reveal them gracefully.

1968 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

The RS trim of the Chevrolet Camaro sold between ’67 and ’69 came with hideaway headlights. Fitting this unique type of headlights created a distinctive and aggressive front end.

Drum Brakes

To be honest, drum brakes haven’t completely vanished from the surface of the Earth. In fact, rear drum brakes can still be found in modern heavy-duty pickup trucks and utility vehicles. Some electric cars even come equipped with drum brakes!

Ferrari 246 F1 Front drum brake detail.
GP Library/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
GP Library/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Roughly half a century ago, however, cars would come fitted with drum brakes in the front and rear. After the 60s, most automakers began switching to disc brakes, at least on the front axle.

Handbrakes

Most petrolheads have played around with their car’s handbrake at least once. All of us were inspired by rally drivers who perform impressive handbrake turns virtually non-stop. The sound of pulling an old-school handbrake is extremely satisfying, too.

1994 Toyota Celica GT Four 2 Door
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

Sadly, the younger generation will miss out on manual handbrakes. The first electronic parking brake was fitted on the BMW 7-Series in the early 2000s. A parking brake button has become more common than ever before, for better or worse.

Brakes Without ABS

All production cars sold today come with anti-lock brakes. Frankly speaking, ABS has become so common that it’s difficult to imagine a vehicle without this crucial safety system. After all, it has been around ever since its debut on a Mercedes-Benz S-Class back in 1978.

Aust Grand Prix.jpg
Mark Thompson/ALLSPORT
Mark Thompson/ALLSPORT

ABS has helped to dramatically reduce the braking distance on high-traction surfaces. However, the same system is believed to increase the stopping distance on gravel, sand, and other low-traction surfaces.

AM Radio

The first OEM radios began appearing in cars in 1930. The radio produced by Galvin Brothers was sold for a whopping $130. In comparison, a brand new automobile would set you back roughly $600 that same year.

Orange County Register Archive
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Leonard Ortiz/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Major radios stations began streaming in the FM broadcast band shortly after its debut in the 60s. It quickly became more popular than the outdated AM band.

Manual Seats

You may be surprised to hear that power seats have been around for well over half a century. In fact, automakers began fitting cars with power seats all the way back in the 1940s. The controls were basic at first, they could only be moved back and forth. Four-way power seats didn’t arrive until the 50s.

1957 Chevy 210 Custom
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images
Barrett-Jackson via Getty Images

Despite the fact that four-way power seats have been around for over 7 decades, the vast majority of old cars would come with manual seats. Although you can still come by manual seats today, they’re hardly as common as they used to be.

Manual side mirrors

Most drivers have definitely forgotten about manual side-view mirrors, regardless of how old they are. Back in the day, you would have to roll down your windows and adjust your mirrors by hand.

GettyImages-1076755530
Raymond Gehman/Corbis via Getty Images
Raymond Gehman/Corbis via Getty Images

Going through the hassle of adjusting your mirrors manually is a problem of the past, for better or for worse. The introduction of digital side mirrors may mean that side-view mirrors will be gone altogether.

Manual Transmission

Oh, the joy of driving a stick shift. Driving a manual may seem a little overwhelming at first. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a truly unbeatable experience. Especially in a lightweight sports car.

The London Classic Car Show
John Keeble/Getty Images
John Keeble/Getty Images

As fun as manual transmissions are, they’re not exactly convenient. After getting stuck in traffic with a stick shift, it’s easy to see why most drivers prefer automatics. Modern automatic transmissions can change gears a lot quicker than any human, too.