Hooniverse Asks- What Excised Car Feature Do You Miss Most?

The earliest cars came with cranks to get them started. That being more of a burden than a feature, when electric starters became reliable enough, the crank start (for the most part) was abandoned for the ease of electricity. But other features have become either equally redundant due to more modern technologies, or have become passe  in fashion. Which of these do you miss?
Vent wings, ashtrays, full-size spares, bench seats in front; for many reasons we just don’t see these features in cars of today – or even in cars of the past decade or so.
Back in the day, these features were either just how things were done, or they were innovative answers to identified problems or nuisances to which the technology of the time was applied.
But as tech changed, or social mores  shifted, some of these features fell to different priorities and proclivities. As these features are still around on many old cars, we all get the opportunity to sample them from time to time, and frequently, following a trip in one of these codgers we pine for one or more forgotten feature.
Is there one or more that you wish was still common today?
Image source: [Masterdrive.org, Willystech.com]


  1. Just for starters…
    Massive bench seats
    Roll down back windows (a la station wagons and certain Mercs)
    Lightness built in
    Record players
    Single stage paint
    Curb feelers
    Pop up sunroofs
    Manual window cranks
    Coolness (exclusive to GM)

    1. I was with you for most of that but… points? Personally, I'd file that one away with carbs, Lucas electrical components, and hand cranks in the pile of "Things I'd Rather Not Have To Deal With."

      1. Yeah, maintenance free > minor maintenance. I just long for the days when I could impress a gal with my mechanical aptitude, armed only with a fingernail file.

      2. Bah, humbug, points are easy to deal with. Carburetors are no big deal, either, unless you're trying to dick with something like a Garbajet or a Hitachi electrical nightmare emanating vacuum tubes. I've never had a car that you had to hand crank, but every bike I've ever owned had a kickstarter, and I used it over the electric most of the time (when the bike had both). Hey, that's the way it used to be forever, all that old tech, and it worked for years. Yeah, I'm a Luddite, but that's the level of technology that I understand and I do pretty well at that level. Now, excuse me while I go stoke the boiler that runs my steam-powered computer.

    2. how about the bumpers that allowed a hit at aprox 15 -30 with verry minimal to no dammage. The angle of the seats were great for long drives ( no leg cramps or legs going to sleep.) I also liked the fact i could work on my car my self.What hppened to great inventions? I also loved the large area for your legs and in the trunk. With a car like that who needed a truck.

    1. The dimmer switch on the floor, fender skirts, the little red light for bright light, the vacumn windshield wippers.

    1. Agreed, everyone hates the look of the 5mph bumpers but it is really nice for a vehicle to take a light tap and not need $2500 in bodywork.

        1. My reasoning is that they like modern cars. It's instant justification for higher rates, and you're more likely to survive a bad crash and remain a paying customer.

    1. with the current cupholder to occupant ratio of 1.5:1 you should have ample space for your change.
      I have enough cup holders in my F150 that I can sort the change; 1 for copper, 1 for silver.

    2. My Civic has five small bins within my reach (not including the centre console and cupholders) – two on the left on the wheel for my Bluetooth and gas cards, one behind the shifter for change, two in front of the shifter for cds, sunglasses, and other assorted crap. I have no need for ashtrays.

    1. Yup– don't even think of spec'ing your all-new '82 Datsun without one!
      +1, what a pithy name for "those black vent things that go on the back window of your hatchback– you know those things?"

  2. Roof-top door gutters. In Flagstaff the snow is real wet, but as soon as the clouds leave, it gets real cold. If you don't have gutters, your door is now ice-welded shut. It was funny watching the other snow-plow drivers pouring buckets of hot water over the tops of the doors to try and melt the ice joining the roof, moulding and door. Most of the time it would just go down to the sill where it would then re-freeze.
    Then I would get home and find the exact same thing had happened to my wife's Honda and her fighting the door until she saw me and said, "You get it open!" as she walked away disgusted.Not so funny now. As I prepared to pour the bucket of hot water over the top of the door, I remember always thinking, "Although I have just seen this done with very little ill effect, it still strikes me as an incredibly bad idea."

    1. Plus roof-racks (Yakima, Thule, etc.) are almost always universally interchangeable from one vehicle to the next if they both have gutters.

    2. Yeah, I miss the gutters too. They keep out a lot of water if you have to crack a window in the rain. Wind wings were good for that too.

  3. Real, visible bumper colored bumpers and matching rub strips on the doors: I can park and open the doors on my Volvo without having to be so damn worried about things. My in-laws had their truck scratched to hell by a runaway shopping cart, whole thing could have been avoided with a run strip on the door.
    Also, bench seats on automatic cars, straight sixes and cigarette lighters (and I don't even smoke but dammit, they're supposed to be there!).

    1. Heh – that's one feature I don't miss in the least. For me, it belongs in the dustbin of history along with the old twist-to-release umbrella-handle parking brake.

    2. Great for automatics, but kind of a pain for a stick shift. My 88 F-150 has that. There have been a couple of times I have needed to downshift and dim the lights at the same time. Hard to dim the lights when your left foot is on the clutch.

  4. Bench seats – if 95% of North Americans are going to insist on having an automatic transmission, what do we really need a centre console for? Like John McCrea, I'd rather have my baby close to me than some lump of plastic. I'm especially looking in Nissan's direction, who decided the cube didn't need three across when they brought it over here.

    1. Amen. I've always thought console shift automatics to be the ultimate in poseurdom. At least my '88 Tbird had it on the column, where it belonged – all the console in the '97 did was remind me how it should / could have been a manual instead.

      1. Well, you could kinda blame the early T-Bird's for the whole decorative but useless center console trend in the first place.

  5. Kick panel vents FTW!. They would blow tons of fresh air through, much better than the "Vent" position on the A/C control. I even bought a set on non-A/C kick panels with vents, and stuck them on my Vega with A/C, for days when I didn't need A/C.
    Or go even further back, and bring back pop-up cowl vents.

      1. Even the lowly Vega had lap coolers. They were just a little sliding door on the bottom of the under-dash vent boxes on each side, that covered/uncovered a hole. Not as good as actual vents that would blow cold air directly on your lap, though. A great GM thing.

        1. It's been a long-standing feature on 4Runners, right there, on the bottom-side of the column, right where it'll blow cold air up your shorts 🙂
          We've got a 2010 presser coming in shortly. I'll be disappointed if it's not there.

  6. I'm sick of every wagon and SUV having a liftgate. I'd like a setup where the glass goes up, and the gate flips down. Or even better, like the older 4Runner, where the glass rolls down into the tailgate, and the gate flips down like a pickup. Liftgates don't give you any additional length for stuff to hang out, they don't give you a place to sit before/after the ball game/concert/when you're too drunk to go anywhere, and when the support struts go out, it's a hell of a lot heavier and more cumbersome than a piece of glass.

    1. Also, you can't stand on the bumper and get at the contents of your roof rack.
      The _science clan had a 'Burbo with barn doors, which is my preference.

    2. My '87 Crown Vic wagon had the trick tailgate. It would either roll the window down (via the key) into the tailgate and drop down or swing to the side, depending on which way you moved the lever. It was an engineering marvel.

    3. Having the rear glass roll down into the tailgate sounds like a good idea, but if you load and unload lots of heavy stuff they're a real weak point. My dad used to run a small bus line in southern Oregon and used International Travelalls as his main vehicle. They used to come equipped with a roll down backglass, and we were always working on the damn things. The window regulators would jam a lot and break often, and if you weren't careful with freight you would bust the glass. They didn't seal worth a damn either and let in lots of dust.

    4. I used to use the tailgate of my old Civic to get changed on for cricket and soccer. Great for suburban sporting fields where you don't get any benches/sheds (or they would be too full of hypodermic needles to even contemplate taking off your shoes). So yeah, tailgates are much better than hatches.

  7. Throttle cables. I mean, really, is it too much to ask that I can have a direct link from the pedal to the throttle? I don’t need traction control, stability control, or anything else like that. I can drive the damn car myself.

  8. Vent windows, for sure. Back when I still smoked, being able as a lefty to flick ashes out of the driver's vent window was really convenient. Yes, I know about forest fires and all that, but my excuse was the carelessness of youth. Even cooler were the old pre-'69 Cadillac Fleetwoods which had electric vent windows in both the front *and* rear doors. For some strange reason, my '94 Buick has small fixed glass panes in the front doors where vent windows ought to go. If only they opened, but sadly, it wasn't even an option.

    1. Wow! Is that a Kraco? My very first car ('69 Nova, 250 I-6, three-on-the-tree) had a Kraco deck that looked just like that! The car came with AC/DC's "Back in Black" in the deck when I got the car, and it just lived there. When I sold the car a few years later, (so I could get a '77 Celica GT Coupe) I made sure the tape was right back where I found it. It was amazing that it still worked perfectly after thousands of hours at full rack.

      1. Kraco was a kwality brand, although I was more a fan of Realistic. If I was feeling particularly flush, I might spring for Sparkomatic gear.

  9. Multiple carburetors. Six packs, dual quads, even twin 1bbl will do.
    FI may be more economical and more adaptable, but doesn't have the same character.

  10. Seperate buttons/knobs for each of the controls. As it stands save for the climate control I can control everything on the car via a stalk. As I found in the bronco once that stalk gets worn out you're kinda screwed.

    1. YES. My gas struts don't even work, even if they half worked my hood weighs a boatload. Are those really any cheaper than those silly lookin metal coils? You wouldn't think so but yes, they probably are.
      So anywhom, I'm stuck with a 2×2 prop.

    2. I was pissed when we got our 2004 Trailblazer and it used a prop rod. The thing had a sticker price of nearly $35k (did pay near that) and it used a stupid little stick to keep the hood up! First car I had ever had without springs or gas struts. I expect that on a cheap econobox/POS, but a $35k SUV?!? Also there is no light under the hood!

      1. I think when you buy a $35k SUV, most automakers assume you will neither open the hood nor have any use for an underhood light. They are essentially a sealed unit to be opened by factory trained technicians.

        1. That was pretty much true for the 1st 75k miles or so while it was still under the extended warranty, but I still had to add windshield washer fluid myself! Always seemed to be at night too. In 85K+ miles the only mechanical repair it has needed was a new waterpump and fan clutch. Not sure which one went first and caused the other one to go bad. I did that myself, it wasn't too bad, if you don't mind bending a few vanes on the radiator 🙂

  11. I liked the telescopic antenna on my 77 datsun. Kind of a charming little detail old cars had. round head lights are the best.
    Big needle speedometers that were about 10 inches wide with green lighting. three on tree is groovy. Hard top 4 doors. 235/75r15 tires. marker lights. bumper jacks.

    1. The car you show was a pre-production Lincoln that never actually was produced. All of the suicide-door Lincoln sedans had fixed B-pillars. However, the '57-'58 Caddy Eldorado Brougham was a true four-door hardtop with suicide doors.

      1. Hmm… still learning new things. You know as I was searching for Contis I kept thinking to myself "Hmm, seems most of the sedans had pillars, but then if the convertibles didn't have them, who's to say a few sedans weren't so built (or converted)? In my defense, this new clarification would indeed certify the Epicness of said combo.
        I love the Caddies of which you speak, and it seems a few later models went sans pillar as well (without suicides of course).
        Of course pillarless coupes are just as cool in that regard (sans suicides for obvious reasons) as well. Except when the quarter window – like my Mark IV – can't get out of its own stupid way.

      2. Great knowledge Tonyola. (I mentally pronounce that Tonn-Yo-la, I hope you don't mind.)
        For the record, the Lincoln Continental Convertible didn't have a pillar above the beltline. But it did have a stub pillar, which, well, I can't name another car that ever had one.

        • Pic:
        • ” target=”_blank”>http://www.impatientcreations.com/images/customer_pics/67_lincoln/67_lincoln_3.JPG

  12. Cup holders. Man I sure miss the cup holders on my old car. You think I'm kidding but I'm not. My '93 Miata, which got wrecked, had a cup holder, and the '99 Miata I got to replace it doesn't, believe it or not. The '93 also had those too-cool pop-up headlights.
    Plus it had a plastic rear window you could zip down while the top's up, which was great. Oh sure, you can actually see through the glass window on the '99, but who ever needs to see backwards? Actually the reason I miss the zip window the most is because when you lock your keys in the car, you can get in via the zip window in about thirty seconds flat.

    1. Really? Most modern cars are just getting more and more cupholders. That's funny about the Miata, though. I never realized how much of a pain it is to not have cupholders until I got my 924S, which doesn't have any. I feel your pain in that regard, as well as the locking of the keys inside of the car. Something about having manual locks, and not needing the key to lock the door after closing it, means that I'm really prone to turning the car off, opening the door, locking and closing it, before realizing that the keys are still in the ignition.

    2. The cupholder on my car is a convenient place to put my wallet. Because if a cup goes there, then it gets elbowed when you change gear. An unusual lack of thought for a European designed car where manual is the norm and not the exception.

  13. How about a simple rear suspension setup – with period mods
    Leaf Springs with drop shackles and traction bars – Give me some air-shocks while your at it.

  14. For some reason Ford seems to hang on to some of our favorite little features the longest. ie- Foot dimmer switches, RWD platforms, Vent windows, Bench seats etc. Most of these applying to the when-will-it-die Panther platform

    1. Ford killed the gasoline straight six in 1997 with the new at the time F-150. GMs straight six version of the Atlas died with the Trailblazer/Envoy/et al.

      1. The Aus Ford six got a stay of execution when the plans to replace the engine plant with a Focus manufacturing plant got put off. So Ford still makes a straight six, if you live in the correct market.

    2. Jeep no longer has a straight-six, either. The 4.0L died with the Cherokee and the previous-gen Wrangler. The Wrangler now has the 3.8-liter V6 which is also found in the Caravan, Town & Country, and the Pacifica.

    3. Technically speaking the Ford 3-hundo I6 still exists in the form of a diesel and is used in UPS trucks as well as airport tugs. not sure who makes it anymore.
      Yea i realize that about Jeep, i just meant it lasted longer than the Ford.

    4. I think I'm with you– the early 80s F-100/150 with the straight-Six might have been the last vehicle you could buy in the U.S. & A. with a column-shift manual (err, Tres-on-the-tree.) I'll happily stand corrected.
      Any guesses as to what the final vehicle was with the floor-mounted High Beam dimmer switch? I think that's a pretty good trivia question.. I have an idea, but I'm not positive.

      1. Something about the cage and the racing bucket doesn't give the appearance of factory standard. But I take your point. New interiros are either over styled or ugly or both.

    1. You are a lucky guy. It's been 20 years since I piloted three on the tree, a skill I took a lot of pride in, once upon a time.

    2. Mine's not quite that cool, but it DOES have:
      -crank windows
      -14" steel wheels with factory hubcaps
      -roof gutters, yes
      -an aftermarket cassette player
      -a proper throttle cable
      -power steering that's not that strongly powered
      -two ashtrays
      -a working original lighter
      -only one semi-functional cupholder
      -a functional, and repeatedly used, tow hook
      -bumpers that are capable of bumping
      -chrome trim made of metal
      …and, despite Volvo's best efforts:
      -no air conditioning
      -no heater blower (want more heat? drive faster!)
      …on my daily driver.
      I don't think I'm doing too badly, despite the unfortunate automatic gearbox, but your awesome Econoline takes the prize.

  15. Pop Up Head Lamps, revolving head Lamps à la T-Bird/Cougar, sequential turn sgnals…basically anything you could get on a mid 60s to early 70s Ford/Mercury/Lincoln. Thanks.

  16. My timing light has been collecting dust for years but I will never get rid of it. I miss cars that needed timing lights. Also wind wings. My first 5 four-wheeled conveyances all had them and they are the single feature I miss most from those cars (and truck).
    While we as humans often looks back on the "old days" and lament about where progress has taken us, there are developments like the Coyote that give me hope that maybe, just maybe the best is yet to come.

  17. So…my 64 Falcon with manual windows, steering, brakes and transmission; late rocket-age styling, double bench seats, wind wings, and 14" tires does pretty well, then?

  18. Tires that actually have sidewalls, its better for the ride, they are cheaper, way harder to bend a rim, and don't forget F1 cars have sidewalls…
    A roadmap instead of a GPS
    Cigarette lighters instead of an accessory outlet
    Ashtrays front and back, even if you don't smoke
    Front Parcel trays
    Interior space!! New cars are cramped compared to an old car of the same size
    Analog gauges
    A tape speedometer
    A clutch that takes more than finger strength effort to actuate
    Car based pickups (US and Canada)
    Doors with actual locks on them, keyless entry is for the lazy,
    A seat made from the hide of a wild Nauga
    A car with as few computers as possible, not as many as possible, how bad are the electrics on these cars going to be in 10-20 years?
    SU carbs
    A compact hatch that is actually compact and weighs less than 2000lbs.
    I've got more, but you get the idea.

  19. Cherry Bombs
    Chrome Valve Covers – Moroso. A friend had a slant six with one of these.
    Speeding Warning Buzzer – Speedometer Needle Setting That Buzzed When You Hit the Set Speed. Our '72 Buick Electra 225 had this.
    Two Speed Auto Trans
    Three Speed Manual Trans
    Rear Seats Facing Backward
    Rear Speaker In The Center Of The Back Seat
    Trim Rings
    Center Wheel Caps – PMD or Chevrolet Motor Division
    Return Springs For Throttle Body
    Being Able To Flip The Air Cleaner Lid
    Carpeting That Actually Was Carpeting – not some fuzzy material
    Dash Mounted Ignition Key
    Deathtrap – that actually means it, MG and Corvair esp. A Smart 4Two or Toyota Camry has it's problems but you still have a good chance of surviving.

  20. Power oversteer. (In a small, light, cheap car.) I mean: no front wheel drive and no computer–just let the back end walk out please.
    Manual transmissions. I don't care, I'll pay MORE for a standard transmission–call it an optional transmission–call it a minority transmission–just make it available.
    Base models that are basic. No OnStar, no GPS, no power seats, no bluetooth, no A/C, no alloy rims, no ipod hookup, no radio, no nothin'. Just the drivetrain and suspension of a more expensive model. (This would be the one time badge engineering would be okay. Take a great car, take out the expensive plastic and put in the cheap plastic. Take off the expensive badges and put on the cheap badges. Take off the expensive price tag and put on the cheap one. Laugh at your competition as platform volumes go up, costs go down, high end margins go up, and low end prices come down even further.)

  21. Trucks with removable tops like Scouts and Broncos had. I don't want a hard top in the summer, I want a damn bikini top going over my roll bar.

  22. Loved the comments, since my daily driver is a gorgeous 1956 2-door Chevvy BelAir with all the old bells and whistles !

  23. My 49 Plymouth would get better gas mileage than most of the cars today. Flathead 6 cylinder 1 barrel carb. Then my 56 custom crown Victoria to a 60 comet cyclone ,60 triumph , 69 / 440 road runner just to name a few. Wish I had them all back.

  24. Horizontal strip speedometer, seats as soft as clouds, fuel filler behind the license plate, wire wheels, white wall tyres, non-central locking, window winders, drop down tailgates for wagons (wind window into tailgate and drop it down), ram air/cowl induction, overdrive button (my soon-to-be-wife has it on her '94 Corolla, but it's real fun clicking it to get better acceleration, then select overdrive once you reach 80 km/h/50 mph, then taking it out of overdrive when you want more engine braking)

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