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Hooniverse Asks: What Automotive Experience From Your Youth Do You Think Kids Today Most Miss Out On?

Robert Emslie June 15, 2017 Hooniverse Asks 66 Comments

Whether it be syncing multiple carbs, or even enjoying the breeze afforded by vent wings, there are certain aspects of automobile ownership and enjoyment that are simply relics of the past. We may have gotten to experience the nuances of manual choke control, but it’s unlikely that our kids even know what the hell a choke is.

With consideration to the fact that none of us is THAT old, there’s still a lot of automotive attributes that are simply no longer relevant to the youthful car enthusiast landscape. Which do you think is the greatest loss? 

Image: Wikihow

  • P161911

    Carburetors and all that entails. Car start differently, or not at all, depending on the temperature. The thrill of the secondaries finally opening up. The realization that unlike fuel injection, which 99.999% of the time works or doesn’t work, that there can be many varying degrees of a vehicle “running”.

    • cap’n fast

      oh. yes indeed. MGBs with multiple SU carbs and Prince of Darkness electrical systems. maturity comes with dealing with the misery and despair which ones life is filled with. what better way to learn to cope with it than getting the hands dirty and understanding that doing the same thing over and over expecting different results each time makes you crazy. always a lesson best learned when young.

      • In my experience, doing the same thing over and over to an SU and getting different results is called “operating within specifications.”

        • Don’t worry.
          Batteries are the same way, er, never the same way twice.

    • kogashiwa

      Very closely related: ’70’s emissions controls. Our unfortunate Corona wagon spent most of its life with a mysterious surging that the local mechanic (a very good mechanic) never could fix. I’m reasonably sure removing the rat’s nest and retuning the carb would have sorted it.

    • Maymar

      It’s still pretty easy to get a carb’d motorcycle, but that’s admittedly on the fringe of normal. But yes, I have a greater appreciation for EFI from cold mornings of fiddling with the choke as I ride.

    • Despite 1/2 my (running) fleet having them, carbs join non-synchro transmissions, drum brakes, and points in the Graveyard of Unmissed Technologies.

      A simple (circa early 90s) TBI or MPI system with timing control is SO MUCH better and simpler to work with. Carbs’ only advantage is that they’re cheap and easy to get running poorly.

      The proliferation of retrofit TBI + timing systems for 4-barrel intakes makes me super happy. Can’t wait to run one of those on my Falcon.

      • boxdin

        And throttle bodys are so simple that even I can fix them ! Where as with carbs I am lost to repair.

        • cap’n fast

          carbs suck. i cannot put it any simpler than that.
          and which would you prefer to see in the boot after shredding a tire: a spare wheel and tire ready to go or a can of fix-a-flat?

  • Sjalabais

    Non-AC based cooling. My favourite are foot well vents, that work gloriously at lowish speeds and well enough if you go fast. An HVAC unit can’t really replace that. Also, my kids only recently discovered the joy of holding your hands out of the window at high speeds, because my AC radiator failed (and it will never be replaced; worth 1/3 of the car).
    https://farm4.static.flickr.com/3280/2881048989_a022942465_b.jpg

    • kogashiwa

      Very true. Just like houses now which are designed with the assumption that the air conditioning will always be on, modern cars are designed with no consideration to air flow into and through the cabin.

      • outback_ute

        My theory is that the steeper front ends on modern cars give less ‘natural’ flow, since there is lower pressure built up in the plenum.

    • 0A5599

      Just wait until 1234yf refrigerant becomes common. $100/lb or more to replace.

  • Andrew

    Driving on radial tires with drum brakes and no ABS really made you pay attention to following distances, plan your braking, etc. It seems like everyone drives fearlessly now because cheap tires are relatively sticky, everything has disc brakes on at least the front (which don’t care about rain), and ABS will ensure they can steer when fully braking.

    • Andrew

      Dang it, I meant bias plies.

    • Sjalabais

      I remember my 1971 Volvo 145 devoting a double page in the manual to “drying the brakes in wet weather” and keeping them ready to bite while driving. The irony is, this was the first mass produced car with disc brakes all around and a dual circuit brake system.

  • Alcology

    Break downs. Having them and seeing them.

    In the summer cars used to litter the side of the highway.

    • cap’n fast

      on the first really warm days in summer, i see youthful and carefree groups of people enjoying the view along the more uphill stretches of I-70 in Mt. Vernon canyon west of Denver going up into the Magnificent Rocky Mountains. of course, they forgot to do the simple maintenance items with their car like check the belts, tire pressure, coolant level, oil level, fuel level, windshield wipers, unplug the coffee pot and locking the doors at home. no, i do think they will be missing out on all that….

  • 0A5599
    • P161911

      Pretty much any gas pump without an electronic display and having to go inside the gas station to pay for gas.

      • 0A5599

        Immediately before they went to pay-at-the-pump, a lot of stations still had imprint machines at the island. It was still self serve, but you didn’t need to go inside.

        Of course, back then, gas stations still made their money on gas, and maybe cigarettes, plus whatever they sold from a soft drink vending machine. They wanted you away from the pumps as soon as possible to make room for the next customer. Today they have huge convenience stores attached, and most of the profit comes from the store, not the gas.

        https://www.picclickimg.com/00/s/MTIwMFgxNjAw/z/jGYAAOSwDmBY5IN0/$/Vintage-TEXACO-Farrington-Gas-Station-Credit-Card-Charge-_1.jpg

        • P161911

          I started driving in the late 1980s, well before pay at the pump,and don’t remember anything like that around here.

          • 0A5599
            • P161911

              Yeah, it was pretty much a novelty until the early to mid 1990s. By the late 1990s it was universal. I was shocked a couple of weeks ago when I went to the small Pure Gas Station and lawn mower shop in my hometown for non-ethanol gas for the lawnmower and discovered, not only pumps with mechanical price reels, but they didn’t even take credit or debit cards. I had to borrow $10 from my dad who happened to be with me.

      • crank_case

        I wish the having to go inside the gas station were fully a thing of the past round these parts. Some stations still don’t have pay at pump.

        • P161911

          Where do yo live? Of the dozens or even hundreds of gas stations I go by, I only know of about 3 that don’t have pay at the pump, and two of those are full service only.

          • crank_case

            Dublin, Ireland. The newer stations have them, plenty don’t.

    • LeaksOil

      if I recall correctly, in New Jersey , it’s legally required to have an attendant pump your gas.

      I’m young enough to have never driven without pay at the pump available. But I’m also old enough to remember I used to be able to pump , THEN go in and pay cash/card. I usually liked to walk in and say hello at the very least, so I’d do that even with a card. But that way if you bought a drink or whatever, it’s all on one transaction.

      I used to live in rural mountains of Virginia and there was a station that had ONE island in the middle you had to pay and select which pump and had much or go in and prepaid. The island was in the middle of the pumps, but like pretty much any modern station, the were pumps on 24/7. It didn’t have a card reader at each pump. if I recall correctly it was a local farm co-op because I remember it had off-road only diesel and non-ethanol gas available in addition to the regular stuff.

      Of course nowadays, I just pay at the pump.

      • dead_elvis, inc.

        Oregon doesn’t have self-serve either. It’s certainly not “full service” in sense that it used to be – no one’s ever offered to squeegee my windshield, and most of them seem unwilling to communicate with much more than a grunt. Fortunately, any time I’ve been riding through Oregon, none of the pump jockeys have insisted on filling my motorcycle tank themselves.

  • GTXcellent

    No seat belt laws (although obviously a LOT safer in today’s world)

    I can easily recall being crammed 4 wide into a regular cab pickup – or in summer just riding in the box, or playing Hot Wheels on the floor of Mom’s Bonneville or having a nap laying across the rear bench (and making my little brother lay on the floor).

    • P161911

      Riding in the bed of a pickup truck is definitely one.

      • boxdin

        We actually have an exemption here in New Mexico that allows Indians to ride in pickup beds. Hot air baloon crews are the only others who can ride in pickup beds. If a dog is back there it must be leashed to the cab/bed.

      • dead_elvis, inc.

        The sheer joy of riding in the “way back” of Mom’s station wagon, or folding the rear seats down & laying right out for a nap on road trips: utterly verboten. I know, I know – safety first! – but lying down & watching the clouds or stars cruise by is a simple pleasure that every kid should get to experience on occasion.

      • Vairship

        Riding in the hood-mounted spare tire of a Land Rover 109 was fun too (don’t tell Mom!) http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc163/jscherb/JKHood/SeriesHood_zps4wrw9cx9.jpg

    • bv911

      This. I’ll never forget the day I got to watch my older brother shatter the windshield of our Country Squire. He was kneeling on the back seat, maybe to get a good look at the road ahead. Dad stopped short and there he went, over the bench seatback, crash!

      Me? I was a safe distance away, watching from the “buddy seats” in the way way back…

  • longrooffan

    Not necessarily my youth, but a three on the tree shifter. Actually, any manual transmission.

    • Andrew

      I’m still really into older Audi’s. I’ve got a B2 4000 and a C3 5000. Prior to the V8 quattro, they didn’t put automatics in their AWD cars. It really amuses me that you had to get a standard transmission if you wanted quattro.

      I went looking for a C5 allroad and had a hard time finding one with a manual transmission. I had read somewhere that about 10% of the C5 allroads imported to the US had the manual trans.

    • Kiefmo

      It really upset me the other day when I described driving a manual transmission to my kids and they were baffled. I’ve owned manual cars since they have been alive, but not since they’ve been paying attention.

      My dad had a manual for years, and watching him drive it with a modicum of skill is part of what made me really eager to drive a manual when I turned 16.

      My w126 might shift like a shovel to the back of the head — kind of the opposite of slushy — but it still lacks a third pedal and the everyday fun that entails.

      • dead_elvis, inc.

        Ask them to point out the dial on their phones. For bonus points: explain long-distance charges!

  • Hillman_Hunter

    Driving through a major city at mid-day in light traffic

  • engineerd

    Learning to change a tire or pack wheel bearings. I learned the former from my father and the latter from my grandfather. In fact, my dad wouldn’t let me drive by myself until I could change a tire. We’ve gotten softer and our kids are paying that price.

    On a related note, while thinking about this I was thinking of all the freedom that came before strict baby seat laws. I remember going to the drive in movies (hey! there’s another one!) in the back of my parent’s Dodge Colt with the back seat down and blankets and pillows back there. I was maybe 5 and my sister was 3. My parents would watch the movie and we would play then fall asleep. You’d be thrown in prison for decades for child endangerment if you tried doing that today.

    • Kiefmo

      If I can get around to doing it on a weekend instead of after their bed times, my kids will know all about packing wheel bearings.

      And about how bad I am at it.

    • Maymar

      Call that another argument for snow tires (in applicable climes) – I’m pretty much forced to do 8 tires changes a year (well, not forced, it’s a pleasant enough task, especially with my father-in-law’s air gun).

    • Alff

      No kidding. I cut a tire at a construction site this afternoon. The first question I got was, “Do you have AAA?”. Umm, no I have a jack and a spare.

      • outback_ute

        That is faster too, than waiting!

  • Zentropy

    Three-speed column-shift manuals. Carburetors. Flow-through ventilation. Frameless roll-down/crank windows. Hardtop coupes. Vacuum wipers.

  • My fondest automotive memory from my own youth* was being allowed to step on the starter after my father had turned on the ignition switch.

    *No, I’m not that old, but the vehicles in my family tended to be not particularly new.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f20a4aa2c84a21d49458d882560979f7adb07ab536490e192eaca982148f33f8.jpg

  • tonyola
    • boxdin

      On the old air cooled VWs you could hear when the point block was dry, a little chirp chirp. Knew exactly what it was.

  • Navigation by signs and, eventually, asking. When the task was split, and the offramp missed, character style and class showed.

    • Lokki

      Ah, the joys of trying to navigate from a map book.

      My family still tells this story of my mom navigating for my dad in heavy traffic in an unfamiliar city at rush hour:

      Mom trying to match up the map book with the real world and suddenly succeeding:

      “Turn Left right here!”

      Dad: “Left?”

      Mom: “Right!”

      ….She meant “Correct!”…. we were stuck in that city forever.

  • P161911

    Making sure to put unleaded gas in the “new” car.

  • Maymar

    https://assets.hemmings.com/story_image/159941-500-0.jpg?rev=1
    Riding in the way way back! Unless your parents are wealthy and eccentric enough to buy an E-Class wagon (or slightly less eccentric, but even wealthier, to afford a Tesla), it’s not happening. You might get banished to the seriously cramped third row in your mom’s Dodge Journey or something, but it’s just not the same (also, I don’t know how compatible really cramped third rows are with kids being in booster seats pretty much until puberty now – I think? I don’t know, I don’t have kids).
    Even at 31, I pretty much missed out on it (born post-minivan), except that a friend’s parents in high school still had a Cutlass Ciera wagon, so I made sure to ride in the back at least once.

    • Sean McMillan

      When I was a youngin my sis and I would ride in the back of the family wagon on long trips and goof around. This was earlyish 1980s and one of the silly fads at the time was plastic waving hands in the back window.remember those? Shortly before the baby on board signs popped up everywhere. We thought it was just hilarious to lie down in the back with just our arms up and mimic them. We were easily entertained.
      On one trip, it had started to rain and there was a tr7 behind us and we thought how cool it was that he could make his headlights wink at us, first one, then the other, then both, then neither.it went on for a couple of minutes. Now I know it was most likely dodgy British electricals but it was still a magical moment.

    • boxdin

      As the youngest I had the way back area behind the third seat in our 1962 Mercury Commuter Wagon. I had a blanked, pillow and my little box of raisins. Glad we didn’t get rear ended !
      We had a flat in that wagon and the spare had a pc of chrome skewered in the side when a line worker must have put the “ter” part of commuter w the mounting tab sticking up to pierce the tire as soon as its laid in its well.

  • I suspect stickshifts will be to my kids what carbs are to me: basically obsolete technology that persists only because it’s too expensive to retrofit superior (dual clutch) transmissions. It’s just a matter of time before the technology gets cheap/simple/durable enough for, say, Ford to put it in the Mustang.

    • Zentropy

      Carburetors I can do without. DCTs don’t impress me in the slightest.

      • What examples have you driven?

        • Zentropy

          VW Passat, Volvo S80, and Audi A4 (or A6??) when my wife was car shopping, and more recently Acura ILX that a buddy was test-driving.

  • outback_ute

    How about cassette tapes or 8-tracks? Even CDs now that I think about it… No more having a stack of tapes or cds to keep swapping on a long trip, or the joys of tapes getting stuck.

    • ptschett

      One of my friends managed to roll his early-’80’s Pontiac Parisienne (GM B-body, Chevy Caprice/Impala equivalent) on the way home from school due to icy roads in the mid to late ’90’s. Word of mouth was that his CD player was running but never skipped, which made the event noteworthy at the time.

      • outback_ute

        I can understand that, having heard a mate’s car with a Sony Discman attached to the dash with double sided tape!

  • ptschett

    -Being able to use whatever gas pump was free at a busy gas station, regardless of what side of your car it would be on, because the cap was behind the center-mounted rear license plate so it absolutely didn’t matter.
    -Having cars that had performance / handling / braking limits that could be tested on dry pavement without needing to significantly exceed speed limits or social norms.
    -Turn-by-turn navigation was either you as the driver following a pre-planned route, or someone else in the car reading paper maps. (I remember a college trip for the ASAE, now ASABE 1/4-scale tractor competition where we were traveling from eastern South Dakota to the Quad Cities; we went from Waterloo to Dubuque to Davenport, when apparently we were supposed to go Waterloo -> Cedar Rapids -> Iowa City -> Davenport, and the one professor who was in that Dodge B3500 van who was napping at the critical moment on that decision wasn’t happy. Someone whose nickname might have rhymed with tpschett might have been involved in that decision…)

    • dead_elvis, inc.

      My first car was a ’72 Cutlass, with the filler hidden behind the plate. Southern Vermont still had plenty of full-service stations in the mid 1980s, and some of the younger pump jockeys would ask me to pull around to the other side of the pump when they didn’t spot a flank-mounted filler. One asked me to move a second time, and had a good laugh at his own expense when he realized where he should look.

  • Darren McLellan

    Gapping points.
    Setting choke pull off springs
    Floor mounted dimmer switches

  • crank_case

    I’m going with the answer I went with last time a similar question came up, not quite there yet, but I reckon an entire generation will never know the joy of handbrake turns soon,