Do you remember seeing those gray bumper inserts during the ’80s? Well, there was actually a good reason for that. Safety regulations around this period pushed automakers to get creative. One such method was to add an impact bumper onto the front and rear of the vehicle. The problem with impact bumpers is that no matter what you did, the design still looked tacky.
Automakers came up with several solutions. Chrysler was notable for creating crumple zones on the sides of their minivans. Crumple zones became the norm for the industry and impact bumpers were replaced during the ’90s. Thank goodness too, because they would be hideous on today’s vehicle designs.
Heavily influenced by the movie ‘Smokey & The Bandit’ and the fact that cellphones were nonexistent, cars from the ’80s had the option to come with a CB Radio. These are great for two-way contact but they are also difficult to use. The CB Radio fad seemed to die off quickly as cellphones became universally accepted.
Interestingly enough, CB radios made a sort of resurgence in the last couple of years, becoming popular with outdoor enthusiasts who go off-roading a lot. A CB Radio can be a cost-effective method for communication in an emergency or bad weather. Seems that some technology goes away and comes back again.
While General Motors was responsible for creating the removable roof design, a lot of other automakers adopted it. T-Tops were an almost iconic part of the ’80s and sort of a badge of honor if you had a sports car. The problem was that there were a lot of safety problems that T-Tops had. The first and foremost was the structural safety of the car, which was compromised by T-Tops.
Then you had the problem with leaking roofs and even damage to the T-Tops caused by accidental storage. In the end, automakers dropped this concept although GM kept T-Tops as an option on their F-Body cars until the 2002 model year. You can get a 2002 Camaro and still ride around like the ’80s.
As automakers worked to improve the interior quality of their vehicles, velour seats became more popular. These seating arrangements were meant to be a more comfortable option. You found velour seating on all kinds of cars from Honda’s to Cadillac models. The problem was that these seats would make you sweat in several minutes. For long summer trips, velour seating was just a nightmare.
Not to mention the fact the seating would break down after a couple of years. You’d routinely find velour seating that was flat and out of place. Chrysler used Velour seating up until the mid-’90s on their K-Cars and the new cab-forward sedans. Needless to say, velour seating has fallen out of favor with most consumers.
Consumers were always complaining about their antennas getting either stolen or damaged in the carwash. So automakers decided to create a solution for this and implemented power antennas. These were used on cars well into the early 2000s and there were a lot of benefits to a power antenna. But the drawback was that the antenna was difficult to repair.
In the case of some cars such as the 2002 Infiniti G20, it could cost potentially hundreds of dollars to fix a retractable antenna. Fortunately, as time progressed automakers have figured out how to incorporate the antenna into the design of the vehicle. Thus, you seldom see a vehicle’s antenna anymore.
Before crossover vehicles took over, there was an evolving segment of minivans. Toyota had the Toyota Van, which was more of a full-size van wrapped in a compact body. Some of the conversion van features included a retractable table in the backseat and a footwell icemaker. Yes, that’s right. If you had a Toyota Van in the ’80s. then you had an icemaker built right in.
There were other features that automakers adopted later on such as built-in coolers and even drink warmers. None of wthem managed to catch on with consumers. But the ’80s were a time of automotive innovation for better or worse and the footwell icemaker was a great feature for camping or long road trips.
Do you remember those black strips that were always on the sides of cars in the ’80s? They were an ugly addition that was meant to stop pesky door dings. This concept never caught on with consumers. Much like the body cladding phase of the early 2000s, these rubber door strips just looked better removed.
As with the ’80s Fox Body Mustang, the rubber strips didn’t add anything to the style. Most consumers just decided to remove the strips or paint over them. Door dings aren’t a big enough problem for a consumer to put up with an ugly rubber strip. The Chrysler K-Cars were some of the last vehicles to feature this hideous rubber strip.
At the time, Landau roofs were considered the ultimate pinnacle of American luxury, but most consumers weren’t looking at the long-term negatives. For starters, these roofs would deteriorate and fall apart with age. This is the case with many different types of vinyl which includes convertible tops. Thus, most of the cars that had a Landau roof didn’t last the test of time.
Replacing a vinyl roof can be an expensive proposition and not something that many people want to deal with. Unless you were a grandma, these roofs fell out of style by the ’90s, although you’ll still see a Landau roof on a modern Cadillac from time to time. But the style is something that went out a long time ago.
Most notable on Swedish and German luxury cars from this period, headlight wipers were an odd little feature that we’ve all seen at least once. You might wonder what good a headlight wiper would do, and it could be construed that these were intended for dirt. A lot of the German cars were also AWD and thus a headlight wiper would be a useful feature to have.
Fortunately, by the ’90s this feature had all but gone away. Volvo and Mercedes were the last two companies to offer headlight wipers on their vehicles. Other than that this feature went extinct as newer safety options were incorporated. We don’t think there were many who enjoyed the use of headlight wipers.
If you were a kid in the ’70s and ’80s, you probably rode around on a bench seat. Every grandma and family had a car that had a bench seat, which was great because most coupes and sedans could seat six people. A feat that most modern sedans were never able to incorporate. Fortunately, bench seating went the way of the mammoth and the 1990s saw the end of it.
Turns out that consumers fancied having a center console as opposed to another passenger. The Crown Victoria was one of the last modern sedans to offer a bench seat for consumers. Other than that, bench seats in sedans are all but a relic from a bygone era that left the automotive industry quite some time ago.
Remember car seats that had button tufting? Those were quite the comfortable seats and they offered a fair bit of luxury as well. While you might think that button tufting was only relegated to luxury interiors it was not. Many lower trim levels also had this interior feature. GM was notorious for doing this to their interior pieces. Chrysler was one of the last automakers to offer this inside of their K-Car interiors.
Car interiors have changed a lot over the years and button tufting was one of those ’80s fads we’d like to forget. There was nothing remotely decent about having an interior that had tufting in the seats unless of course, you were a lowrider. Nowadays seating is more comfortable than ever with leather being the go-to upholstery choice.
If you remember, there was a period in between the carburetor and fuel injection in the ’80s. Throttle-body injection was that in-between period that was seen as a better form of technology. Unfortunately, there were a lot of drawbacks, and new technology was quickly adapted for getting fuel into the combustion chambers. GM was the most vocal company lauding the benefits of throttle-body injection.
The Camaro IROC was famously one of the first sports cars to get this. The C4 Corvette also had a throttle-body injection system for a short period. These cars are a lot easier to work on than their carbureted counterparts, but for the most part, this technology went away. Fuel injection was just a better and more cost-effective option for automakers.
Back before a life where we had a cellular phone on us at all times, only the elite could afford to chat on the go. This was done by having a hard-wired carphone installed in your vehicle. Service was connected through satellites and only the elite could afford this feature. The Porsche 930 Slantnose and Mercedes 560SEL were two of the first cars to have this feature.
One of the last cars that incorporated a built-in phone was the Lexus SC400 sports car. Having a car phone was a nice feature but cellphones advanced so quickly that automakers didn’t see a need to include them anymore. Still, if you had a carphone back in the ’80s you had something major.
There was a time when car seats were not the most comfortable thing in the world. Those who lived and worked in their vehicles coveted the wooden beaded seat covers. You’ve probably seen these a time or two and you might have even used one. Fortunately, the classic seat covers went out of style once automotive interiors became more lively. There was a lot to be offered in the way of back support that these seat covers just didn’t do.
You’ll still see these classic seat covers from time to time. But for the most part, car owners don’t go for seat covers much anymore. There were much better options for back support than these old wooden seat covers.
There was a period during the ’80s where musical car horns were popular. We’re not sure why someone would want an obscene horn like this. Nevertheless, there was an abundance of musical car horns in existence. For the short period that they were popular consumers went for the standard tunes that you’d expect. There was nothing like sounding like an ice cream truck coming down the block.
Musical horns went away quietly although from time to time you’ll still see a music horn. Generally, these are reserved for parade vehicles and floats. Still, it’s cool to look back and reminisce on a time when the automotive industry was changing. There were so many unique options during the ’80s that cars were truly personalized.
Plastic wheel covers aka hub caps were the norm during the ’80s. With compact cars the norm, automakers needed a way to dress the wheels up. The problem with plastic hubcaps is that they would become damaged quite easily. The cost to replace them was high if you were going for an OEM option. Automakers eventually switched to alloy rims which is what we have today.
Having an actual wheel has a lot of advantages over the old plastic wheel covers. The quality is a lot better and you can take a corner without worrying about the hub caps flying off. Automakers have come a long way when it comes to wheel design, even though the ’80s were a time of innovation and creativity.
‘Back To The Future’ gave us the first glimpse of a mainstream car with Gullwing doors. Although this type of vehicle design has always been hailed as futuristic, Gullwing doors are just not a suitable option for everyday driving. These doors are more problematic than anything and tend to get in the way of a tall driver. Still, automakers tried the whole Gullwing thing for some time in the ’80s.
More recently, Tesla has attempted to bring Gullwing doors back into the mainstream. We’re not sure if this will be a short fad or something new again. Nevertheless, gullwing doors have been around since the ’80s and they didn’t catch on too well. It might just be too futuristic for what most drivers are looking for.
As computer synthesizer technology advanced in the ’80s, so did car interiors. Nissan was the first to offer a talking car with the 1981 Datsun Maxima. The car would give you certain bulletins for service as well as letting you know if the door was ajar. Talking car interiors never managed to catch on with the consumer. Although the concept might seem neat, there was just no need for it.
The interesting thing about talking about car interiors is that the technology has made somewhat of a return. Today’s smart cars utilize Apple Siri and Google Assistant technology to take commands from the driver. While not the same thing, it was a similar concept that is making cars more interactive with the driver.
In the ’80s, pretty much every standard model car came with a manual transmission. An automatic was considered a luxury item around this time. But for a lot of consumers, the task of driving a manual transmission was a pain. This is why a few automakers got together and tried to develop a clutchless manual transmission. The problem was that these transmissions were expensive to repair and time-consuming.
Clutchless manuals faded into obscurity pretty quickly. However, in recent years there have been a few enthusiast cars that are being designed to use a clutchless manual. Hyundai is at the forefront of this trying to bring that obscure technology back into the mainstream. Time will tell if the clutchless manual can see the light of day again.
Another quirky feature that you might not have realized started in the ’80s was the Targa top. Prominently featured on Porsche models of the period the Chevrolet Corvette also managed to get a Targa top as well. The great thing about Targa tops was that they didn’t sacrifice the ride quality as with a convertible. Nevertheless, Targa tops never became immensely popular.
Although you can still find Targa tops for modern-day sports cars, they aren’t the norm. A Targa top is often very heavy and tough to remove. Most average consumers would rather just go for the convertible body style instead of dealing with removing the Targa top. Still, an interesting fad from the ’80s nonetheless.
One thing drivers remember about the ’80s it was the dashboards. The digital dashboards of this era were meant to represent the future. Unfortunately, all that happened was expensive dashboard replacements. The Camaro Berlinetta was one such vehicle that tried to take advantage of the digital design. Consumers didn’t adapt to this at all and by the turn of the ’90s, dashboards were analog again.
The Cadillac brand was another home to way too many digital dashboards. There are some benefits to a digital dashboard but they weren’t major. Most consumers just preferred the regular style of analog gauges as opposed to the digital dash. Still, the digital dash is a pretty notable part of ’80s automotive culture.
throughout the ’80s, automakers were experimenting with all kinds of new fuel management technologies. The Cylinder Deactivation was among one of the most controversial. On most of the cars that featured this technology the reliability suffered. As such, most automakers ended up moving away from Cylinder Deactivation not long after it was introduced.
Cylinder deactivation has returned in some sense of the word almost 30 years later. Most modern engines have some type of deactivation, especially on pickup trucks. It’s questionable how much fuel the technology saves. Most consumers went to have a reliable vehicle and with cylinder deactivation, this isn’t always the case.
Remember the Baja-themed trucks of the ’80s? Probably not unless you lived through it. But there was a period where automakers were going a bit over the top with paint schemes. The paint jobs of this era were notoriously flashy and most of the automakers were following with this. The problem is that 10 years down the road, most of these paint jobs had peeled or faded.
Automakers are notorious when it comes to cost-cutting and it would appear that this fad was part of that. Nevertheless, if you’ve ever seen a pickup truck or car from the ’80s, you probably remember these wild paint jobs. One of the last prominent vehicles to feature this was the Ford Ranger Splash.