Cars technology has changed a lot in the last few decades – a real lot, in fact. If you’ve been alive on this planet for less than 30 years, some of what you are about to read may surprise you. Here’s a list of a few of the automotive features that older folk had to deal with. In some cases, these features were a bit annoying but, in others, older generations may actually miss them.
Radios began creeping into cars in the 1930s, but there was no FM band until the late 1960s. Back then, everyone listened to AM disc jockeys through static and a single, low-fidelity speaker. Now you know why we were all so excited by cassette tapes.
Long before radial tires appeared in the early 1970s, cars and trucks were outfitted with bias-ply tires. Bias-Ply tires had a higher profile and low rolling resistance but provide a fraction of the cornering traction that radial tires do today. Today a very small number of bias-ply tires are still made for the heavy truck industry.
OK, it was quite a while ago but words and phrases that used to be commonplace among the gearhead set were things like: Holley, Carter, Stromberg, Quadrajet, dual quads, Tri-Power, single barrel, two-barrel, four-barrel, etc, etc. These were all words and phrases that described carburetors. These relatively crude devices engine fuel delivery devices weren’t as frugal on gas as today’s fuel injection systems but they were ultra-reliable and cheap to produce. Carburetors are all but extinct on today’s automobiles due to emission regulations.
Breaker one-nine! The folks at Lustine Dodge of Woodbridge, VA tell us that say CBs, or citizens-band radios, became a major cultural phenomenon in the late 1970s. Although this must be hard to imagine, it was just amazing that one could talk to another vehicle “just like a telephone was installed.” And they were popular – wow were they popular. Today, It’s been theorized that CBs were an early form of social media. Well, we’re clear. Ten-four, as the “Bandit” would say.
The industry’s last gasp of physical music formats before the digital revolution was compact discs. These small round aluminum discs were considered remarkable by the drivers of the day because they were so compact and you could skip from song to song at will. No more winding and rewinding needed. Although their heyday is long over, some vehicles still come with CD players installed today.
This device, which took the form of a button pulled from the dashboard, enriched a carburetor’s air/fuel mixture for a better hope of starting cold internal-combustion engines. They worked just fine but disappeared when carburetors were phased out. Early examples of classic chokes were manually operated (with the button thing) while later carburetors had automatic chokes installed.
Drum brakes are an old fashioned way to build an automotive braking system. Basically, you have a large cast-iron drum attached to each of the car’s wheels and inside each drum, a set of curved presses against the drum when you want the car to slow down. You can still find a few new cars with drum brakes on their rear axle, but four-wheel drum brakes faded from the norm in the late 1960s. By the early 1970s, nearly every car had discs upfront. Discs have much better resistance to fade—the erosion of braking power due to heat after repeated hard stops.
Eight Track Players
In 1966, Ford Motor Company offered a cutting edge audio technology on certain select models of cars. Called “Eight Tracks,” these audio players used a plastic cassette about the size of a paperback book. Playing a continuous 45 minutes, drivers were finally freed to listen to the music they wanted to instead of what the local disc jockeys offered. Eight track players were eclipsed by Cassette Players in the mid-1970s mainly because their media size (the size of the cassettes themselves) was so much smaller.