Do You Remember Cars Before These Items Were Standard?

Do You Remember Cars Before These Items Were Standard?


Automotive technology has changed a lot over the last half-century. Just in the last 10 years, digital technologies have transformed our cars into space-age machines that would have left Henry Ford in stunned amazement. But there is something to be said for the good old days. Cars may not have been as technologically advanced 50 years ago, but they were arguably more interesting.

As technology has advanced and cars have been improved, certain things have been left by the wayside. Take the hand-cranked starter, for example. It hasn’t been around in two generations. The number of people still living who remember hand cranking their cars dwindles a bit more every day.

How about you? Your age pretty much determines what you remember about cars from days gone by. Do you remember cars before the following items were made standard?

1. Automatic Transmissions

The earliest cars were all made with manual transmissions. Even though the automatic transmission was invented in the 1930s, American car manufacturers didn’t start embracing them until the mid-1950s. It was not until the 1980s that they began overtaking manual transmissions on the consumer market. Today, it is nearly impossible to find a new car with a manual transmission in the United States.

Those of us who remember manual transmissions also remember how fun they were. There was something satisfying about perfecting the timing between accelerator, clutch, and gear shift. If you were able to master it, you could win any drag race against a car with an automatic transmission.

2. Steel-Belted Radials

Steel-belted radial tires are now the standard in auto manufacturing. That was not always the case. In the decades before tire manufacturers began using steel belts, bias ply tires with the big thing. Bias ply tires were produced with multiple plies of rubber bonded together and reinforced with rubber chords.

When steel-belted radials first came out, they were not so popular because they didn’t offer such a smooth ride. But tire design eventually caught up and steel-belted tires eventually surpassed bias ply. Today, bias ply tires are like manual transmissions. They are pretty hard to find.

3. Electric Windows

If you are old enough to remember a time before electric windows were standard, you remember the hand crank attached to the side of the door. If you are not old enough to remember, you will have to take our word for it. We used to have to roll down the windows by cranking a handle in a circular motion. There were no buttons to push.

Car Fast Cash, a cash-for-cars business operating in Southern California, says they come across cars with manually operated windows from time to time. It is usually when they are buying older cars in places like San Diego, Ventura, and San Bernardino counties.

4. Electric Locks

Speaking about electric components, the electric locks we take for granted were not always standard. In fact, they are a relatively new feature. As late as the early 2000’s, manufacturers were still building cars with manual locks requiring a key for entry.

Imagine having to walk right up to your car and insert a key to unlock it. Those were the days when you couldn’t unlock your car at 50 yards while exiting the mall. Even in a pouring rain, you had to fumble with your keys to get the door open and get inside. Those were the days.

5. Front Bucket Seats

Another thing CarFastCash doesn’t see too often is the front bench seat. Before front bucket seats were standard, most cars had a single bench seat for driver and passenger. Bench seats were big, bulky, and surprisingly comfortable. They also tended to be big enough to accommodate up to three passengers.

The transition to front bucket seats was most likely a matter of safety. As for rear seats, most modern cars have what would be considered a hybrid design. They are designed with some of the space-saving features of bench seats but the safety features of buckets.

6. Front and Side Airbags

Front and side airbags are a relatively new option as well. They were not standard in most cars until about 20 years ago. Prior to the airbag era, the only thing between you and a dashboard face plant was your seat belt. And before seat belts included shoulder harnesses, you were looking at a single strap across your lap.

These days, airbags are a legal requirement. Even if they weren’t, it’s hard to imagine a car company being willing to build a car without them. They have become the default safety feature to minimize impact damage to the body in a collision.

7. Rear Backup Cameras

Do you rely on a rear backup camera to back out of your driveway? A lot of people do. As late as 10 years ago, rear backup cameras were not standard. They were an extra feature you had to choose at the dealership. Go back 30 years and rear backup cameras didn’t even exist. If you couldn’t safely back out just using your mirrors alone, you weren’t worthy of possessing a driver’s license.

8. Integrated Technology Packages

We round out our list with integrated technology packages that include everything from satellite radio to Bluetooth and on-board GPS. All this technology was little more than science fiction prior to the invention of the smartphone. The only extra technology in the dashboard was the sound system.

What did drivers do before on-board GPS? They used paper maps. What did they do before satellite radio and Bluetooth? They listened to over-the air-radio or their own CDs and cassette tapes. It was an entirely different world before digital technology.

It is fascinating to see just how much automotive technology has changed since Henry Ford’s first model Ts began rolling off the assembly line. It continues to change at a rapid clip. Who knows what cars will look like 50 years from now? It is a safe bet they will look a lot different than they do today.

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