20 Dead or Dying Features That You Can’t Find in Cars Anymore

Today we are going to be taking a look at twenty things that used to be in cars and trucks that have gone the way of the dodo (or Edsel). Let’s get straight to it!

1. Manual Crank Windows (Endangered)

A manual window crank on a tan door panel

Remember the good old days when you had to crank a handle to roll down your car window? Or, reaching across the passenger seat trying not to crash while rolling the window down? It was a mini-workout every time you wanted some fresh air.

Nowadays, a simple push of a button does the trick. Kids today will never know the struggle (or the arm strength) it took to open a window!

2. Cassette Players

A man inserting a tape into his tape deck

Cassette players in cars were the epitome of cool. You’d make mix tapes for road trips, and nothing was more satisfying than flipping a tape to the B-side.

Then CDs took over, and now it’s all about streaming music and Bluetooth. But hey, cassettes had their own unique charm, like the dreaded but somehow endearing tape tangles.

3. Carburetors

An engine with a carb.

Carburetors were the heart and soul of your engine, mixing air and fuel just right to keep your car running smoothly.

Modern cars have swapped them out for fuel injection systems, which are more efficient and reliable. But for classic car enthusiasts, there’s nothing like the hands-on tuning of a carburetor.

There’s also nothing like that fire that happens when a poorly tuned carb belches!

4. Manual Chokes

Choke Manually

Ever had to pull a choke to get your car started on a cold morning? Manual chokes were a staple in older vehicles, giving drivers more control over the engine’s fuel-air mix. With advancements in technology, they’ve gone the way of the dodo, replaced by automatic systems that adjust themselves.

5. Vent Windows

Those little triangular vent windows at the front of car doors were perfect for directing a breeze without blasting you in the face.

They added a touch of class and practicality. Now, advanced air conditioning systems have rendered them obsolete, but they remain a fond memory for many.

Also, a shout out to that floor vent handle. It could really throw some air in the cabin too!

6. Bench Seats (Endangered)

old car bench seat

Ah, the classic bench seat! Perfect for cozying up to your date at the drive-in or packing in more friends for a joyride.

Today, individual bucket seats are the norm, offering better support and safety. Still, bench seats will always hold a special place in automotive history.

7. Full-Sized Spare Tires

old car trunk spare tire in plaid

Once a standard in every trunk, the full-sized spare tire is now a rarity. Space-saver spares and repair kits have taken over to save space and weight. While convenient, they don’t quite offer the same peace of mind as a full-sized spare.

8. Ashtrays

Now smokers have to ash in cups or out the window like savages…

Smoking in cars used to be as common as listening to the radio. Ashtrays were a fixture in every vehicle. As smoking rates declined and societal norms shifted, ashtrays have vanished, making way for more cupholders and storage spaces.

9. Cigarette Lighters

Similar to ashtrays, cigarette lighters have been replaced by power outlets and USB ports. Once used to light up cigarettes, these outlets now power our gadgets, keeping us connected on the go.

Americans smoke way less than they used to, so this isn’t so unusual.

10. Floor-mounted dimmer Switches

Remember when you had to use your foot to switch between high and low beams? Floor-mounted dimmer switches were a quirky feature of older cars.

Modern vehicles have moved this control to the steering column, making it more convenient but a little less cool.

Your author still questions this decision. The current steering column is packed full of so much now. Why not put it back on the floor where it belongs?

11. Pop-Up Headlights

Pontiac Fiero Lights popped out.  It's red and we're looking staight at it.
I know, this is the first car we all think of!

Pop-up headlights were the epitome of cool and sleek design. They added a touch of James Bond flair to any car. Aerodynamic and safety concerns (thanks again, Government) led to their decline, but their legacy lives on in the hearts of car enthusiasts.

12. Tailfins

The 1950s and ‘60s were the golden age of tailfins, with cars sporting extravagant, rocket-inspired designs.

Today’s streamlined aesthetics don’t include tailfins, but they remain iconic symbols of a bygone era of automotive styling.

13. Steel Bumpers

Once a symbol of durability, steel bumpers have largely been replaced by plastic and composite materials designed to absorb impact better.

While modern bumpers are safer, they don’t have the same rugged appeal as their steel predecessors.

14. Hubcaps (Endangered, Still Spotted in the Wild, Mostly on Toyotas)

White Vista Cruiser

Hubcaps, those shiny discs that added a touch of elegance to wheels, have become less common. Alloy wheels, which don’t require hubcaps, have taken over.

Hubcaps could pop off and roll away, creating a unique but now rare roadside spectacle. Remember Bullitt? That Charger lost like 7 hubcaps!

15. Ventilated Bench Seats

Ventilated bench seats were an early attempt at keeping drivers and passengers cool. Modern HVAC systems are much more effective, but those old bench seats with their little holes still evoke a sense of nostalgia.

16. Manual Transmissions (Getting Harder to Find By the Year)

2024 Corvette, white, on the streets of NY, side profile, black rims, traffic in background
Even this guy can’t be had with a true manual anymore

Manual transmissions, once the standard for driving enthusiasts, are becoming rarer. Automatic transmissions now offer superior performance and fuel efficiency.

Still, driving a stick shift remains a rite of passage between many fathers and sons (and the occasional father-daughter, I plan on teaching my daughter).

17. Car Phones

Now that’s luxury!

Before cell phones, car phones were the ultimate status symbol. They were large, clunky, and wired into your vehicle.

Modern smartphones and Bluetooth connectivity have made car phones obsolete, but they were once the pinnacle of mobile communication.

18. Hand Crank Starters

In the early days of motoring, starting your car involved a hand crank. It required muscle and could be quite dangerous. Electric starters made the process much safer and easier, relegating hand cranks to the annals of automotive history.

19. Chrome Trim

Once a staple of car design, chrome trim added a touch of sparkle and elegance. Modern design trends favor a more subdued look, using less chrome. But for those who love the gleam of polished metal, chrome will always be in style.

20. Wing Mirrors

These were way more common in Europe

Wing mirrors, once mounted on the fenders, have moved closer to the driver for better visibility and aerodynamics. They’ve evolved into sleek, integral parts of modern car designs, but the classic wing mirror design still has its fans.

Each of these changes tells a story about how cars have evolved, reflecting advancements in technology, changes in societal norms, and shifts in design trends. While some features are fondly remembered, others are gladly left in the past, making way for safer, more efficient, and more comfortable vehicles.

This article originally appeared on justoldcars.com and will keep its permanent home there after the site is built out all the way.

Did we miss anything? Please feel free to leave a comment below. It is most welcome!
-Jason

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