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Classic Old-School Car Features That Gen Z Will Never Know

Cameron Eittreim March 15, 2023

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Manual Door Mirrors

Manual door mirrors were once the only option available on cars. They were adjusted by hand from inside the car with a small lever that moved the mirror up, down, left, and right. While they required a bit of effort to adjust, they were reliable and didn’t require any electrical components that could malfunction or break (via Car & Driver).

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One of the downsides of manual door mirrors was that it could be challenging to adjust them while driving. If you needed to change the angle of the mirror, you had to take your hand off the wheel and reach over to adjust it. Additionally, if you had passengers in the car, they couldn’t adjust their side mirrors unless they were in the driver’s seat. Despite these limitations, many people still appreciate the simplicity and durability of manual door mirrors in cars. They may not have all the fancy features of power mirrors, but they got the job done without much fuss.

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Manual Steering

Manual steering was once the only option available in cars. It required the driver to physically turn the steering wheel to control the direction of the car. While it required more effort than power steering, it was also more responsive and provided a greater sense of control. Additionally, manual steering was more affordable to repair and didn’t require any complex electrical or hydraulic systems (via Car & Driver).

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Driving a car with manual steering could be a workout, especially at low speeds or when parking. It required more muscle to turn the wheel, and you had to be careful not to overcorrect or understeer. However, for many people, the added effort was worth it for the feeling of being more connected to the road. Even though power steering has become the norm in modern cars, some drivers still value the sense of connection to the road that manual steering provides in older vehicles.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Cassette Players

Back in the day, cassette players were a common feature in cars. People used them to play their favorite mixtapes or albums on the go. You could easily pop in a cassette and enjoy your tunes while driving. It was simple and convenient. Some people even made their own custom cassette mixes to share with friends (via Car & Driver).

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However, as technology evolved, cassette players became less popular and were eventually replaced by CD players and digital media players. But for those who grew up with cassette players in their cars, they hold a special nostalgic place in their hearts.

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CD Players

In the early 2000s, car manufacturers began installing CD players as a standard feature in most vehicles. It was a popular choice for car buyers who wanted to listen to music without having to rely on the radio. Some car manufacturers even began adding multiple CD changers, allowing drivers to switch between different albums with ease (via Car & Driver).

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However, with the rise of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, CD players have become less common in newer cars. More and more drivers are using their smartphones to stream music through their car’s audio system, making CD players seem outdated. Additionally, many car manufacturers are choosing to remove CD players to make room for newer features like Bluetooth connectivity and USB ports.

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Carburetors

Carburetors were once the go-to technology for mixing fuel and air in a car’s engine. They worked by using a venturi to create a vacuum that drew air into the carburetor. The carburetor then added fuel in the right proportion, creating a mixture that was sent to the engine’s cylinders. This process made cars run smoothly and efficiently (via Car & Driver).

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However, as technology evolved, fuel injection systems became the preferred choice for car manufacturers. Fuel injection systems are more precise and efficient, and they don’t require as much maintenance as carburetors. They work by using sensors to determine the right amount of fuel to add to the air, creating an optimal mixture for the engine. This has led to a decline in the use of carburetors in newer cars, but some car enthusiasts still prefer the simplicity of carburetors and enjoy working on older cars that use them.

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T-Tops

T-Tops were a popular feature in many cars during the 1970s and ’80s. They were removable roof panels that allowed drivers to enjoy the open-air feeling of a convertible without actually owning one. T-Tops were typically made of lightweight materials like acrylic or glass, making them easy to remove and store in the car’s trunk. They were especially popular in sports cars like the Corvette and Firebird (via Car & Driver).

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Today, T-Tops are not common in newer cars. Many car manufacturers have moved towards full convertible roofs or panoramic sunroofs as a way to offer drivers an open-air driving experience. However, T-Tops still hold a special place in the hearts of some car enthusiasts. They are a nostalgic reminder of a bygone era and are often sought after by collectors looking to restore classic cars to their original glory. While T-Tops may not be as practical as some newer technologies, they will always be a beloved feature in many classic cars.

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Vent Windows

Vent windows were once a common feature in cars, especially in the 1950s and ’60s. They were small, triangular windows located at the front of the car’s main windows. Vent windows could be opened to let in fresh air while driving without having to roll down the entire window. They were especially popular before the advent of air conditioning, as they provided a way to cool off on hot days. Some drivers even used them to smoke while driving as they helped ventilate the car (via Car & Driver).

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However, with the widespread adoption of air conditioning in cars, vent windows have become less common. Many modern cars don’t even have them as an option. This is because air conditioning systems are much more efficient at cooling down a car’s interior than vent windows. Additionally, cars today are designed with aerodynamics in mind, and vent windows can disrupt the flow of air over the car, leading to increased drag and reduced fuel efficiency. Despite this, vent windows are still fondly remembered by many car enthusiasts as a nostalgic feature of classic cars.

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Physical Key

Physical keys used to be the only way to start a car, but now key fobs have replaced them in many newer vehicles. A key fob is a small, electronic device that allows drivers to lock, unlock, and start their cars without ever having to insert a physical key. To start the car, the driver simply presses a button on the key fob, and the car’s engine turns on. This technology has made it easier and more convenient for drivers to access their cars (via Car & Driver).

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However, there are some downsides to this technology. Key fobs can be more expensive to replace if lost or damaged compared to traditional keys. Additionally, key fobs require batteries to function and can run out of power unexpectedly. This can leave drivers stranded and unable to start their cars. Despite these drawbacks, key fobs are here to stay and are likely to continue evolving as car manufacturers incorporate new technologies into them, such as proximity sensors that allow drivers to unlock their cars automatically when they approach them.

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Non-Intermittent Windshield Wipers

Non-intermittent windshield wipers, also known as constant-speed wipers, are a feature in many older cars. These wipers operate at a fixed speed, regardless of how much rain or snow is falling. While they may not be as advanced as the variable-speed wipers found in modern cars, they still g0t the job done. They can be especially helpful during heavy rain or snowfall when you need a steady and reliable wiping motion to maintain visibility (via Car & Driver).

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Plus, without the need for complex electronic controls, non-intermittent wipers are often more straightforward to repair if they break down. Overall, while they may seem outdated to some, non-intermittent wipers still have their place in the world of car technology.

Photo Credit: State of Speed

Bias-Ply Tires

Bias-ply tires were once a common type of tire used in cars. They were made of layers of rubber and nylon cords that were crisscrossed to form a diagonal pattern. While they provided good traction and durability, they had some drawbacks. One of the main issues with bias-ply tires was that they tended to produce a lot of heat that could cause them to wear out faster. Additionally, they were often noisy and didn’t offer as smooth a ride as more modern radial tires (via Car & Driver).

Photo Credit: State of Speed

However, some people still prefer bias-ply tires for their vintage cars or classic restoration projects. They offer a unique look and feel that can’t be replicated by more modern tire designs.

Photo Credit: The Drive

Drum Brakes

Drum brakes were the standard braking system used in classic cars before the advent of disc brakes. They were simple in design, consisting of a drum-shaped brake housing and brake shoes that pressed against the drum to slow down the car. While they were effective at stopping the car, they did have some downsides. One of the main issues was that they were prone to overheating and fading during prolonged use, such as during long downhill descents (via Car & Driver).

Photo Credit: The Drive

Additionally, they required more maintenance than modern disc brakes, with regular adjustments and occasional drum resurfacing needed to keep them working properly. Despite these drawbacks, many classic car enthusiasts still prefer drum brakes for their authenticity and period correctness. They offer a unique driving experience that can’t be replicated by more modern braking systems.

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Velour Seats

Velour seats were a popular option in classic cars, especially during the 1970s and ’80s. They were made of a plush fabric that provided a soft and comfortable seating surface. The fabric was often available in a variety of colors, allowing car owners to customize the interior of their vehicle to their liking (via Car & Driver).

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While velour seats may not be as durable or stain-resistant as more modern seat materials, they do offer a unique look and feel that many classic car enthusiasts appreciate. Plus, they can add a touch of nostalgia to the driving experience, bringing back memories of cruising around in a classic car during their younger years.

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Sealed-Beam Headlights

Sealed beam headlights were a common type of headlight used in classic cars. They were made up of a single bulb and lens, which were sealed together as a single unit. This made them easy to replace and maintain since you could simply swap out the entire unit rather than having to replace individual components. However, sealed beam headlights weren’t as bright or efficient as more modern headlight designs, such as halogen or LED headlights (via Car & Driver).

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Plus, they didn’t offer as much customization or variety in terms of beam patterns or brightness levels. Despite these drawbacks, many classic car enthusiasts still prefer sealed beam headlights for their period correctness and authenticity. They offer a unique look and feel that can’t be replicated by more modern headlight designs.

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AM Radio

AM radios were the standard radio option in classic cars before the advent of FM radios and digital media players. They provided a way for drivers to listen to music and news while on the road. However, AM radios had some limitations. They were prone to interference and static, especially in areas with poor reception. Additionally, they only offered a limited range of stations, often limited to local or regional stations (via Car & Driver).

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Despite these drawbacks, many classic car enthusiasts still prefer AM radios for their vintage sound and simplicity. They offer a nostalgic and authentic listening experience that can’t be replicated by more modern audio systems. Plus, with the resurgence of vinyl records and cassette tapes, AM radios have once again become a popular way to listen to music in classic cars.

 

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Hand Brakes

Hand brakes, also known as emergency brakes, were a standard feature in classic cars. They provided a way for drivers to secure their vehicles when parked on an incline or in an emergency. Hand brakes were often operated by a lever or pedal located on the floor of the car. While they were effective at holding the car in place, they weren’t as reliable as modern parking brakes (via Car & Driver).

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They could be prone to rust and wear, which could cause them to fail over time. Additionally, they required more effort to operate than modern parking brakes, which are often operated by a simple button or switch.

Photo Credit: Motorious

Power Antenna

Power antennas were a common option in classic cars, especially in the 1970s and ’80s. They provided a convenient way for drivers to raise and lower their car’s antenna without having to manually crank it up or down. Power antennas were often operated by a switch located on the car’s dashboard or radio. While they were a convenient feature, they did have some drawbacks (via Car & Driver).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Power antennas were prone to failure over time, especially due to exposure to the elements or damage from car washes. Additionally, they could be expensive to replace or repair compared to manual antennas. Despite these drawbacks, some classic car enthusiasts still prefer power antennas for their period correctness and authenticity.

Photo Credit: Motorious

Track Seat Belts

Track seatbelts, also known as racing seatbelts, were a common feature in classic sports cars and racing vehicles. They provided a way for drivers and passengers to secure themselves in their seats during high-speed driving and racing conditions. Track seatbelts were often made of sturdy material such as nylon or polyester, and featured a harness system that wrapped around the driver’s torso and legs (via Car & Driver).

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While they were effective at keeping drivers and passengers safe during extreme driving conditions, they weren’t as comfortable or easy to use as modern seatbelts. They could be cumbersome to put on and take off, and could sometimes feel restrictive during normal driving conditions. Some classic car enthusiasts still prefer track seatbelts for their racing heritage and vintage look.

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Door Rub Strips

Door rub strips were a common feature in classic cars, especially in the 1960s and ’70s. They were strips of plastic or metal located along the edges of the car doors, designed to protect the car’s paint from scratches and dents caused by opening and closing the doors. Door rub strips were often made in contrasting colors to the car’s body paint, creating a visual accent that added to the car’s overall design (via Car & Driver).

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While they were effective at protecting the car’s paint, door rub strips could be prone to damage and wear over time. They could become dislodged or damaged during rough handling or car washes, which could make them less effective at protecting the car’s doors.

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