Hooniverse Asks- What’a the Coolest Antiquated Automotive Term?


Think about the use of the phrase dial a phone number. Or, relatedly, the dial tone. The simple fact of the matter is that for the most, part phones haven’t had dials for decades, and an entire generation has grown up possibly never seeing one outside of an old movie. 

The world’s automotive lexicon is also filled with obsolete – or soon to be – terms, and names for things we simply no longer use any more. Curb feelers? Sealed Beams? Whitewalls? Do any of these mean anything to you? Hello? Bueller, Bueller. . . Well, of course they mean something to you, after all you’re Hoons, and some of you probably own or have intimate knowledge of cars or trucks that possess one or more of these antiquated features. 

But for many, these – and even things that are still as seemingly commonplace as window winders and clutch pedals – will soon have no meaning for a new generation of drivers. That of course doesn’t mean that there haven’t been some cool brand and common names for automotive features. Dual-quad, Positraction. . . lake pipes, these are all vestiges of an automotive past that is sorely fading from the collective knowledge bank. Since we are all keepers of the flame, and probably the most apt to remember, what do you think is the coolest antiquated automotive term?

Image source: Illinois AACA 


  1. Using the term "garage" for a dealership., When I had a Buick-Pontiac-GMC store (that had been at the location for years) the locals all referred to it as "The Buick Garage". Always thought that was pretty cool.

    1. My dad always referred to his job as "the Garage." Never "work", never "the dealership".

    2. In all my dealings with dealerships, including as an employee, the insider term has always been "store."
      "Head on over to the Acura store, get us some oil filters."
      "I used to work for the BMW store, then I moved across the street to the Infiniti store."

  2. Here's a few: Choke, Prime, Flood, Double Clutch ….oooooSix Volt…Maybe not so much a term as a system..

    1. My '04 Silverado 2500HD with an NV4500 5-speed does indeed have a "granny" first gear—even the owner's manual recommends starting out in 2nd gear. In 4WD, 4LO + 1st gear = SUPER GRANNY!
      I agree that nothing on today's market has a granny low.

    2. How about 'bull gear'? Same idea, but it came from when gearboxes were newfangled wizardry.
      To pull a heavily loaded wagon up the ramp from a loading dock, they'd hook up an extra-beefy bull.
      Or so the legend goes.

    3. While my new 1990 Honda Civic S 5 door 4WD wasn't a pickup truck, it did indeed have a "granny low gear" within it's six speed transmission.

    1. I was corrected many times on my recent trip down-under (NZ and Australia) for saying "better get some Gas". They thought the rental ran on propane when I said that.
      "Petrol up" just doesn't sound right.

        1. I will live in either Oz or New Zed, someday.
          The month my wife and I spent there was nowhere NEAR long enough.
          Plus, I want a V8 ute.

          1. I think I could easily live in New Zealand. Yeah……….one way to get a Ute.

    1. In a car, I get seriously motion sick if I'm not facing forward with a good view out of the front, so I've come to call this the "vomit bench."

      1. Bench? That implies having parents frivolous enough to spring for a third row, and then *gasp* actually using it. No, the proper way to ride in the way back is to sit directly on the floor. More room to play that way.
        <img src="http://modernkiddo.com/images/stationwagon_back.jpg&quot; width="500">
        EDIT: I just noticed the boy in the original picture is indeed using a side-facing seat. I can't tell about the girl, who appears to be facing rearward. Here is another pic to replace the first one.
        <img src="http://daddytypes.com/archive/station_wagon_living_play.jpg&quot; width=500>

          1. Now that car would be a moving jackpot for a Texas DPS trooper right there. Car seats are required by law for kids until they turn 9, and then it's just the usual mandatory seat belt thing. Which I believe is for every passenger under 15 the driver is responsible for. So in the above picture, mom gets one ticket and pop gets four.

    2. The E350 still has them though, they're not dead yet. That and I guess the Tesla counts too.

  3. I'm quite fond of OverDrive, but in the age of baker's dozen-speed gearboxes, it's not the most common term anymore.

    1. It is actually quite amazing that the manual trans has made such an interesting transformation. I never thought I'd see the day when a rattly little late model econo-box comes standard with an auto trans, and a high-end luxury coupe would be the one to have the now coveted third pedal. Total mind-asplode!

      1. And the manual costs the same as the automatic and maybe in a couple of cases the manual has cost MORE than the automatic (some years C5 Corvettes)

    2. The term manual transmission isn't antiquated, but referring to them as "standard" transmissions might soon be, if it isn't already.

  4. With six, seven, eight, and nine speed automatics the term "overdrive" seems to be going away. I know it is a technical term, but I still remember the first car we had with a 4-speed automatic. I believe it had 1 2 D and D with a circle around it.
    For that matter, Three- speed, Four-speed, and Five-speed seem to be going away. I don't think there is a car sold in the US with a 5-speed manual and maybe only a couple of trucks. Three-speeds and Four-Speeds have been gone for years. Wonder when the last 3 speed and 4 speeds were?

    1. Fiat 500 has a 5-speed. The European model has a 6, but due to the space necessitated by a US crumple zone, they couldn't fit in the 6th gear for the US.

    2. I think that plenty of the cars at the low end of the market still pack 5-speeds into their manuals, even if their automatic counterparts have moved onto 6 speeds.
      Some quick googling indicates at least the following well-known, volume cars:
      – Ford Focus and Fiesta (non-ST versions)
      – Chevy Sonic (1.8L only) and Chevy Spark
      – Honda Civic (all but Si) and Fit

      1. Subaru still makes 5-speeds. My '12 WRX has a 5-speed while STi has a 6-speed. Base Impreza has a 5-speed as well.

        1. Funny you're called synchromesh and mention WRXes.
          My 2002 WRX, with its 5-speed milled from a solid block of 3-month old, pre-chewed Bubble-Yum, had no synchros left on first and second gear when I sold it with ~130k.

        2. Is the 5 speed faster to 60 because of the longer gears?
          I think you have to shift in the 6 speed before getting to 60.

    3. Jeeps were getting 3 speeds into the 21st Century. I know TJs came with them until 2002. That 3 speed auto got replaced with a 4 speed that only got retired a couple years ago. (Looks like it was used until 2012 in the Dodge Ram.)

      1. I was referring to the stick shift versions mainly. There was a time 4-speed and later 5-speed was synonymous with manual transmission.

    4. The first-gen Nissan Versa came with a 6-speed if you opted for the manual. Inexplicably, the current gen is back to a 5-speed.

      1. Maybe they are taking their cue from Oldsmobile. I know in the late 1970s the Cutlass went from a 5-speed stick to a 4-speed stick.

  5. Flame trap, also known as "temporary repair bill inflation / resale value deflation device".

  6. Front bench seat. Is there a 6-passenger car, not SUV/CUV/3-row contraption, still sold in the US? The Crown Vic/Grand Ma is the last one I can think of, unless one of the earlier Maibus or Impalas had them. A front bench is available on most full size trucks, but bucket seats are more common.

    1. On that note, I miss "bucket seats", and they only called them that when there were bench seats to juxtapose against.

  7. I still use the term "tune up" to describe what I do when I perform a 30/60/90k service on a car today, although there is nothing to 'tune' on a stock version of a modern automobile any longer. You remove old parts, and replace it with newer versions of the same parts.

    1. My grandad did too. The "foot feed" itself was an innovation, as early cars controlled the throttle with dash mounted levers.

  8. The oldest automotive terms can usually be found under the HOOD, just in front of the COWL and above the FIREWALL.

    1. Or: Dashboard. Originally the vertical part of a carriage or buggy located in front of the seat to keep hoof-propelled debris out of the passenger compartment.

  9. "Road Head"
    Maybe thats's just obsolete to those of us who have been married more than 10 years.
    More seriously "crash box".

    1. That's fine with me. It means when I finally get around to swapping a manual trans into my Odyssey, there's already a spot for it on the dash!

    1. It was also frequently used by my mom when I was little and leaning back in my chair. So I'm sure the phrase lives on in that regard, too.

  10. I still see really old cars with Washington plates that say "Horseless Carriage" on them. Talk about antiquated; still, I like it.

  11. Breaker points, plus the associated dwell meter (used to measure dwell angle) and the timing light. Also hand cranks for starting, the last example I can think of other than something mdharrell owns is a Series III Landrover which had a crank in the tool kit for emergencies.

    1. I make a special effort to use that as much as possible, despite the confusion it evokes.

  12. "Motivating" as in "motivating down the road."
    "Foot feed," too, though somebody else said it first.

    1. Yeah, I don't miss the days of setting points by 'ear' or 'feel'.
      I have both a timing light and meter in the garage, for when I get an old beast, but it was a pain if you waited too long, then it didn't want to idle worth a damn.
      A thin matchbook cover works well enough as a substitute feeler gauge, but I don't smoke, so that was a problem.
      Carried a small Allen wrench in the ashtray of my '73 Coupe de Ville, as it had an issue with the points needing adjustment every couple of months…seemingly at the worst times. At least GM gave you a metal sliding door on the distributor to access it.

  13. "Glove Box" has just about everything but gloves in it.
    "Passing Lane" seems to have passed away.
    "Roll your window down" really a pre-Y2K thing.
    "Blowout" hardly happens anymore, hell, even flats are rare.

    1. I still keep work gloves in the glove box of my truck, keeps the Glock from sliding around.
      Same truck has roll down windows.

  14. Can we pick fictional antiquated terms?
    "I'm sure the manual will indicate which lever is the velocitator and which is the deceleratrix."

    1. As long as window crank replacements are $10 at O'Reilly, there will be at least one of us still rolling the window down.

    2. Still standard on base model full-size GM pickups. My 2011 Silverado has them. People look at me really strange when they come up to the passenger side and I can't roll down the window.

  15. Postless
    Low-backs (as in seats)
    Fan belt
    White walls
    Wide Whites (sometimes called super 60s)

  16. I love that, amongst the tedious acronyms and neologisms that litter any discussion of modern car design (DRG, DLO, flame surfaces & bone lines), the inset and slope of the glass and bodywork above a car's waistline is still called 'tumblehome'.
    Each time I read that word, it reminds me of Edwardian steam launcheas and teak-decked yachts…

  17. I'm a fan of the old "Trafficator" semaphore-style turn signals — it's fun to say and a real conversation piece at car shows.

  18. "High test" gas
    Implies that "those boys in the lab" are hard at work on The Fuels of Tomorrow.

  19. Over here, in NSW, all the busses / coaches have MO prefix licence plates.
    That means Motorised Omnibus

  20. Unipack Power Team (engine and transaxle form one unit), Super Turbo Air 6 cylinder engine (which doesn't have a turbo by the way), Unistrut body, Ball-Race steering, Quadri-flex independent suspension, self-adjusting Safety-Master brakes, Positraction rear axle, Magic Mirror acrylic lacquer paint (available in 15 solid colors or 11 two-tones), Full-transistor radio, 4-speed Syncro-Mesh transmission, High Level ventilation, Direct Air heater and SoftRay tinted windshield were all fitted in my Corvair at the factory. Not bad for an econobox, eh?
    But being a convertible, it doesn;t have the back seat where the back seat folds down, where according to the Chevy brochure: "In fact many Corvair owners use the fold-down rear seat as a bed for little stow-aways".

  21. White gas from Amoco, motorists motoring through town, replacing king pins on the front end. We still say lug nuts even though we haven't had lugs since wooden spoke days.

  22. Hardtop (coupe or sedan)
    Armstrong steering
    Optical horn
    Vent window
    Riding the hump (rear seat middle passenger)
    Passing gear

  23. Calling the manual transmission a "standard". It has been a while since they were standard on anything (cool) in the US, except maybe a Corvette and Viper. I still use that term occasionally though..

  24. Ah, this one from the age of steam…
    "Lay the wood to 'er!", which translates to floor the gas pedal!
    Of course, there is another more randy colloquialism for that phrase, but this is a family blog, right?

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