Hooniverse Asks: Getting into an Old Car, What's the Common Modern Convenience You Miss Most?

So I recently bought an older car and I must say, the automatic climate control in it is pretty rudimentary. I mean, instead of just selecting the temperature you want and letting it do the rest, you actually have to set two dials to AUT and then pick your desired temp from a third. It’s so much work!
Truth be told, we live in an age of automated miracles when it comes to our cars. Most modern cars have such conveniences as auto-dimming mirrors, adaptive cruise control, and some -for some inexplicable reason – even wifi. Pretty soon in fact, our cars will actually be driving themselves. I wonder where they will go?
Get into any car a decade or more older, and you are most likely denied such contemporary time and effort savers. In fact, some older cars can seem fairly unsophisticated in comparison with their more modern descendants. Considering this fact, what is it that you miss the most when getting into an older car?
Image: Flickr


  1. the small lever under the interior rear view mirror that dims the reflection of headlights behind you at night

          1. I do too, had a bunch of them 142´s 144´s an 145 all of them “71 or “72 models with the diagonal strip on front and the standing tail lights

          2. That’s the best model years…how many did you have? Don’t say you managed to use them up – looks like you put some work into that wagon, too? I was a student at the time and a real bottomfeeder. Curiously, the 40 year old Volvo priced like a laptop was reliable and plain awesome. Having shamelessly posted pictures of the car here before, I effortlessly find new ones for this occasion. Also in company with more…well-kept cars. I am in touch with the new owner, a cool guy (obviously), who has rescued the paint and said the car went through tech inspection without issues when he bought it off me.

          3. I don´t know the exact number I´ve owned somewhere between 12 and 16, a lot of them had the same dark green color. I used to buy them, I´m talking about the mid eighties, for almost scrap prices and fixed them up for tech inspection and sell them for around 1000 euro. I always had at least one for my self to drive in. This was a way I could finance my hobby. BTW the leather seats out the GL where one of the best comfortable seats made ever.

    1. This will sound silly, and it is, but my ‘car befor last’ had a self-dimming rear view mirror, and my last car somehow got through the order process without one. No big deal, I thought, but then I found myself really surprised at how annoying the lights from the cars behind me were. Yeah, you only have to reach up and flip the small lever on the mirror, but that’s AFTER you have already been annoyed. I double-checked to make sure my latest ride had this before accepting delivery.
      Then there’s the rental I got on a business trip where I forgot that you actually have to horrors of primitivism! actually have to remember to turn off the headlights yourself! Yup. dead battery.

      1. Yeah, I love the auto-dimming mirrors. All three of our cars, even though the youngest turned 10 this year, have it.
        My wife’s 1995 Doge Intrepid ES had it, too. My first exposure to it, and I was coming from a ’73 Coupe DeVille which had the lever flip thingy, but that was luxury, compared to what I had, previously.
        I think all three cars, a ’98 Jeep 5.9L ZJ, Princess, the ’02 Lexus tall AWD Camry wagon RX300, and Pearl, my ’05 Cadillac STS (RWD), have an auto-off thing on the lights to prevent dead batteries.
        What’s annoying, however, is if I have the tunes going in the garage while working on Pearl, on a charger, after 20 minutes, the radio will still shut off.
        Damn it! Make it voltage-dependent!

  2. I’d have to say the opposite is true when I get in an old car. While I may miss modern brakes and tires, the first thing I am reminded of is what is lacking in modern cars. Chief example- proper vent windows.

    1. Floor vent channels that slip in fresh air. Sorely missed. Not missed: Another opportunity to post this legendary video.

      1. Do modern cars that aren’t Volvos not have fresh air vents in the footwells? I figured that was a pretty standard thing by now.

        1. As part of the HVAC system? Yes. But these vents were pretty archaic: Just an opening right out, always a strong, steady stream of fresh, cold air. That’s great in summer, might even be enough not to need to open the windows (see: high noise levels).

          1. Good point on vents. The direct vents are always cooler than HVAC vents. Even vents in an old Brit sports car were somewhat effective in the footwells. No modern HVAC on “vent” could equal that.

      2. Hey! That blonde guy at the start used to host “The Next Step” gadget show back in the ’90’s. What be his name??

    1. Even just the ability to listen to anything other than the local radio station. My local radio station suuuucks, but if you’ve just got AM/FM that’s all you get.

  3. For the most part I prefer the simplicity of older cars. I would like to have a working temp gauge in my ’54, though.

  4. Fuel injection – the ability to turn a key and drive off with no warming up, or reduced performance, or anything. I don’t experience many older cars, but my bike is 30 years old and carb’d, so working a choke is still a bit of black magik or witchcraft, especially once fall rolls around and it gets a bit cooler out.

    1. Did bikes not get electric chokes like cars? Once I bought my second car and set up the electric choke properly it fired up first try and ran really well afterwards.

      1. Umm, mine doesn’t, but it’s a Rebel 250 and odds are, even if that was a common bike thing in ’85, it might not have been on something so cheap.
        For what it’s worth, I assume the Chevettes I used to deal with must have had an electric choke, but they were in such rough shape they were pretty much useless until it warmed up. My bike doesn’t really give me any trouble (certainly fires up quickly), but knowing when to turn the choke back is a trial and error process still.

  5. Silence – my “old” rides are both VERY noisy, are VERY windy and have VERY poor cabin sealing. Part of that is simply age and shot felt and rubber seals, but most of it is that in 1968 and 1988, engineers weren’t very good at isolating the cabin from road and engine noise.

    1. …or even in designing door latches that stay in position. I have to constantly adjust mine as over time they migrate outward on the jamb.

    2. I kinda like the noise. I grew up with older cars and could keep a very consistent speed just by keeping my ear tuned to the exhaust/wind noise. My wife gets mad at me now when I don’t use cruise control because I fluctuate wildly.
      On the other hand. . . you have to yell to have a conversation in my Metro. But then that keeps the conversation to a minimum.

        1. While I was thinking more in relation to the noisiness, it *will* be eligible for Classic license plates next year. . .

    3. …but most of it is that in 1968 and 1988, engineers weren’t very good at isolating the cabin from road and engine noise.
      Having had Cadillac from both of those automotive eras, they knew how to do it, but you paid for it dearly.
      In 1968 with initial cost. 1988 with complete lack of performance.
      HT4100…I’m looking at you!

  6. On the other side of the equation… I really enjoy the foot well vents in old cars. Roll down the windows, pull the foot well vent levers and who needs A.C. ?

    1. One of my dad’s old Ford vans had a homemade sliding hatch in the passenger footwell. Previous owner had added it for ice fishing in Minnesota, but in Nevada we’d open it an inch or so and wind would blast through faster than the speed of the van.

  7. Most of the old cars I have driven were behemoths or pickups, so I miss the ability to actually take a corner at reasonable speed without worrying that one of the way to skinny tires is going to slip.
    We’re all spoiled with modern suspension, tires, and such that even today’s minivans can handle more confidently than most of the older cars.

  8. Brakes! I like the tight steering of my Honda, but the huge wheels and lack of servo on old cars is actually preferable. Good HVAC is also high up on the list, and I second GTXcellent’s comment about silence. Just going 80kph in a 40 year old car can be deafening. Apart from that, there’s not much I am used to: I employ keys instead of remotes every day, there is some pride in being my own climate controller (control everything!) and I have no buttons on my steering wheel.

    1. I didn’t own a car with power or disk brakes for my first 5.5 years of driving. I don’t miss having unpowered drums and if I bought another old car that’s the first upgrade it would get.

      1. All my classic cars were Volvos, so they had four massive disks all around. But sudden lockups when you don’t expect them…ugh. Bad surprises. Never sailed off a road, but that was just a good mix of 80% luck and 20% skill in most cases (icy roads, not racing on public ground).

      2. Buzzboy7, it sounds like we had similar early automotive ownership experiences.
        Four wheel drums on my first three, none with assist, then discs, but not assist, on the ’80 F-100 and ‘85.5 Nissan 720 pickup. Still had yet to have power steering at this point.
        After the Nissan, I went to the polar opposite…1973 Coupe deVille. Working climate control, cruise control, 8-track player, PS/PB/PW/PL/PS, power freakin’ everything. Even had both tilt/telescope steering and a variable ratio steering box.
        The last one freaked me out, until I read about it in the manual.
        I loved that car. 8 MPG was rough, but gasoline was still low-$1/gallon.

  9. I’d like to say that I have a chance to experience this every day, as my car rolled off the line in Sindelfingen in 1981, but it’s a Mercedes S-class, so it isn’t really missing much in the way of modern conveniences, apart from the features that were there that are no longer working I have yet to repair, such as thermostat-controlled HVAC, central locking, and the 4-speaker stereo.
    Thankfully, mine is short on options that showed up in higher-end or later W126es, like ABS/traction control (turbo lag is all the traction control needed!) and airbags, so that’s fewer things to break.

    1. I agree. My w116 300SD feels that way to me. I fully understand why it cost 90000 of today’s dollars back in ’79.

    1. Is this in the trunk? MP3 radios are godsend. I rotate 32GB of music and am free of the ten-song-repertoire, pointless babble and endless ads that are commonly referred to as “radio”.

  10. I’ve never owned a car with (working) Cruise Control. I drove my mom’s Forester to school for a few years instead of bringing my ’62 Mercury. I got very accustomed to getting on the interstate and setting cruise. Now I’m driving a ’99 BMW that managed to lose it’s CC during the auto -> manual swap. I just want to stretch my right leg every hour or so.

    1. Very true also for me, the standard situation is either:
      “argh, this (swish) is (swish) too (swish) faa(swish)aast! (swish)”
      “Ugh, I can hardly see the road, could you please wipe once? Look, I’ll sacrifice my concentration and dedicate my dedication to you! (tip the stalk down, swish) Oh thank you, very kind, now I can see perfectly allright, although… would you mind to do it again? I’d even klick down the stalk again..”

          1. Haha, I teached my wife to park with gusto when we had the 40 year old Volvo elegantly mentioned above. Again. Also: We have scratches on all our painted bumpers, and, yes, bumpers have three sides each (front, left and right). The first person to think “Oh, let’s paint those bumpers” should have been thrown out the nearest window.

  11. What are these modern conveniences you speak of? My daily driver is a 2011 Silverado WT (it isn’t THAT old, it isn’t even paid off yet!). It doesn’t have: power windows, power locks, cruise control, autodimming mirrors, automatic climate control, navigation, power mirrors, power seats, or steering wheel audio controls.

    1. Speaking of work vehicles, we ordered an E250 (with a radio as the ONLY option) for our rental fleet that somehow arrived with a chrome grille, upgraded headlights, metallic silver paint, and no radio.

  12. In my old 63 Thunderbird and 72 F350 – FM Radio. It got to the point I had a boombox in the back seat (Hey it was the 90s) of the T-bird and a little hand-held FM radio in the Truck.

  13. Like others have mentioned, the day/night mirror and intermittent wipers. Actually since my old car is a Lotus Elan I’d like a good heater too.

  14. Have to say the exhaust stink. My old Trans Am with an even older engine (428, hence the moniker here) runs a bit on the rich side. What’s that, tune the quadrajet… metering rods you say? The next free month I have to spare learning that AND having the car out of commission while I do makes EFI or a Holley sound perfectly reasonable. Brakes would be a clos second. They are not that bad in absolute terms, they just have that vacuum assist GM mush that lasted from sometime in the 60’s until about 1997.

  15. When I drive my T’bird I miss minor conveniences like heat, windows that go down and a radio.
    Yeah, it needs a little work.
    Conversely, when I’m not driving it I miss the big goofy grin on my face.

  16. Intermittent wipers and inertia reel seatbelts are the only things I would probably miss, since my car is from the 90s and rather basic.

  17. The most elementary thing to miss in old cars is probably central locking. You unlock the car, get into it, and only then you realize that your passenger is still desperately hanging onto their door handle and that you have to do acrobatics across the center console. Even worse in four doors.

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