In Part Three of this article, we will finish up on the quirky things that old-time drivers had to put up with.
Non-Intermittent Windshield Wipers
On or off. Fast or slow. That’s the total selection of modes that pre-intermittent windshield wipers had. Delayed wipers, which only became common in the 1970s, after Ford, Chrysler, and GM stole the invention and infringed on the inventor’s patents. The inventor, Robert Kearns sued in the 1990s and was awarded nearly $30 million in damages.
Kids today will never lock the brakes in the rain or snow. That’s because anti-lock brakes are mandated to prevent wheel lockup during hard braking, which enables drivers to maintain steering control while turning. It is possibly the single most important driver aid ever invented.
These antennas would pop out of a retracted state when you turned on the car or radio. They were famous for not lasting very long and leaving car owners without any radio reception. Today’s car radios don’t have free-standing antennas. They are thin strips of conductor built into either the windshield or car body itself.
Yes, you’ll have to put your phone down to operate a manual transmission, but remember this: not every car comes with an automatic transmission (you know, the kind with only two pedals).
This popular in-car ventilation system lasted until the late 1960s. Here’s how they worked: The front quarter-windows spun on an up/down axis and the angled glass drove outside air into the cabin while the car was moving. Some people say that these vent windows did a remarkable job of keeping a vehicle cooled before air conditioners became popular. Today, front-quarter windows are long gone from domestic cars.
Boomers will remember this one says Falls Motor City (Cuyahoga Falls, OH). Common in all American cars, velour upholstery was the seating material of the 1970s and ’80s. Sitting on the stuff was comfortable, sort of like an overstuffed couch, but was unusually hot in the summer months.
A few decades ago, we were all basically driving with sealed-beam headlamps. Sealed-beam headlamps are those round or square glass assemblies that presented themselves on the front of every car made. Today’s basic halogen lamps do not require the glass enclosure part and are far brighter.
Invented by General Motors, these removable roof panels were standard on every Corvette coupe from 1968 to 1982 and appeared on countless other GM cars. T-Tops were popular because they represented a hybrid somewhat between a convertible and a car with a sunroof. Eventually, T-tops were copied by Ford and Chrysler and were especially popularized by Bert Reynolds and his Smokey and the Bandit movie franchise.
Track Seat Belts
Here’s another beauty: Track Seat Belts. In the early 1990s, new seatbelt regulations brought us these motorized, three-point beauties. The way they worked was that a manually-buckled lap belt was paired with a motorized shoulder belt that, upon closing the door, slide up a track along the door opening and against your shoulder. Essentially, your car put your seatbelt on for you. The concept fell out of favor when regulations changed in favor of the old system.
Door Rub Strips
Why have unsightly door dings when you can have unsightly moldings that run the length of your car’s doors or even the entire car? Very popular in the 1970s and 1980s, these door protectors became wildly popular and were seen on almost every make and model car.