Odd things that made you go "ooh" when you were younger.


When you’re very young, the smallest things can make a huge impression. You would occasionally assign rather more value or significance to something than it might realistically merit. Such it was when I was growing up. My Dad was a Ford man for much of the ’80s, and I spend the latter portion of that decade cruising in the back of his top-of-the range Sierra Ghia.
I recognised – and felt smug – that it had features that were absent in the lesser cars my friends would trundle around in at the time. It had head rests for rear seat passengers, a true sign of luxury and refinement. There were adjustable map-reading lights in the front, too, and few cars could match the Sierra’s ‘graphic information module’ that warned of low temperatures, unclosed doors and failed bulbs, and looked awesome lit up at night. There was one feature notably absent, though – one that I first spotted in 1987 while perusing a Ford brochure. The Granada Scorpio had red door edge-illuminators.
My little mind was blown.


The Scorpio was a POSH car. I was pretty much unexposed to any of the premium brands at that point, and even if I had been, few had more standard features than the Scorpio, anyway. Little me looked at the specification list with wide eyes – electrically operated front and rear seats. Reading lights for those in the back. Air conditioning! There was nothing more exotic to me, age six, than a Ford Granada Scorpio.
But all these features were in plain sight. Those red door-edge illuminators were hidden away, waiting for their chance to shine. What a thing!

I was reminded of this for the first time in years, upon dropping something underneath my own car when I got out. My ’98 Audi A4, like dozens of other cars out there, have red warning lights that show other road users when a door is wide open (and yeah, check out my strange combination of leather seats and manual rear windows!). I know there are far cleverer types out there – the ’80s Taurus had a lamp that doubled as a puddle-light and a door edge marker, with both clear and red lens sections. A neat solution, but somehow not as awesome as the “now you see it, now you don’t” nature of mine and the Scorpio’s.
Yes, I know it’s weird, but I’ve always thought door edge markers were cool, and six-year old me of the past is delighted that thirty-six year old me of the present has driven a car thus equipped since he was twenty six.
What entirely ordinary piece of humdrum car specification have you always, inexplicably, thought to be awesome?
(Images Chris Haining / Hooniverse)
 

About RoadworkUK

RoadworkUK is the online persona of Gianni Hirsch, a tall, awkward gentleman with a home office full of gently decomposing paper and a garage full of worthless scrap metal. He lives in the village of Moistly, which is a safe distance from London and is surrounded by enough water and scenery to be interesting. In another life, he has designed, sold, worked on and written about cars in exchange for small quantities of money.

33 Comments

  1. You guys here on Hoon always make me smile. Thanks for the reminder of what would open our young eyes.

  2. Lights always did it for me when I was a pup. Inside or out.
    I once brought a 1964 Olds 98 sedan home, festooned with both red and white lights on the bottom of all four door panels. You know, for safety. Of course, one of the first things I did was fix all of the interior lighting, replacing most of the bulbs by the time I was through. Between the door lights, ashtray lights (front and back), under-dash lights, overhead light, makeup mirror and c-pillar lights, there were at least fourteen bulbs in play if you opened all of the doors. Sublime.

  3. I wouldn’t call them humdrum, but my father bought a late model XJ40 Vanden Plas when I was away at college. The tea tables mounted on the back of the rich leather front seats epitomized luxury. I thought it was a wonderful car… until I drove it. What a slug, I couldn’t wait to get back into my first-gen Acura Legend.
    My ’54 Ford came equipped a toggle switch under the dash that triggers footwell lights, affectionately known as “make out lights”. I’m no longer a kid but that does fill me with glee. I’m also a big fan of the foot-pump actuated windshield washer and the vacuum driven wipers.

    1. These sequential indicators are rather new here in Yurp, and strike me as gimmicky, when turning, too much is going on: indicator on (no brand impressed me with a proper timing of the indicator in the mirror yet), DRL off, swing/fog lamp on, DRL on again, fog light off indicator off, all that’s missing is a turning tune to inform who aren’t looking right now.
      As a kid, these are the thing.

      1. I was kind of saddened when I first saw sequential indicators on an Audi. My first experience of seeing them was on an old Thunderbird while on a Florida vacation in ’93. I also saw full-width rear lights for the first time around the same time. Such things were absent in Europe, and those humdrum Fords and Buicks seemed somehow exotic.
        Now the damn things are everywhere they’re just not special any more.

  4. I remember in the 80’s as a kid my father came back from a working trip and travelled in a friend’s Scorpio and he told me how luxury it was. I didn’t know the Scorpio exists. I remind as it was today telling me about the air pump to inflate the seat.
    It was the unknown luxury car of my childhood.

  5. My aunt had an early Saturn with the automatic seatbelts, and those never stopped being a novelty (including ~15 years later, when I got my very used Ford Escort, with the same auto belts). Then again, drunk 20-somethings (not me, for the record, I mean at least not while admiring my seat belts) also found it entertaining.

    1. Until you try to open the door to lean out and pick up the newspaper in the driveway and nearly get asphyxiated by your own car. I hated those things. My 1992 T-Bird S/C had them.

  6. Power seats were a fun novelty. My first time in a power seat equipped vehicle, I may have (definitely) run through the entire range of every adjustment. It was like a really slow roller coaster. Fun. Now, I just see them as a slower and heavier method of accomplishing their task.

    1. Speaking as a very tall person, an electric memory seat is an awesome feature to have when someone shorter than you have driven your car.

      1. Don’t let other people drive your car.
        Seriously though, I see the appeal in that situation, but I’ve never been concerned enough that the seat was in exactly the same position, and it’s still faster to pull a lever and slide back to a comfortable position than it is to wait for the motors to do their thing.

        1. Aargh! Memory seats were the bane of my life when I worked in a service department.
          You’d laboriously slide the seat, slowly, electrically into a position where you could actually fit the helm, and then as soon as you start the car the memory system crushes you against the steering wheel as it adopts the driver’s set position.

        2. Usually when someone else has driven my car I can’t even get in before putting the seat back. Being able to restore everything with the push of a button on the side of the seat is awesome.

    1. I’ve never seen one in person, but it is my understanding that they were literally made from HVAC duct.

  7. Late 60s/early 70s Cadillacs had some interesting details, like the second interior door handle on Eldorados so the rear seat passengers could reach it and the fiber optic thing on the parcel shelf to show you the tail lights were working.
    As a kid in the early 70s the two things that fascinated me most were the the brake status light in our BMW 2000 and the built in jointed map light in a Capri.

    1. First gen Toyota 4runners also had two door handles (at least on the passenger side) for the back seat passengers.

  8. Since the conversation seems to be primarily focused on lighting, I was in awe of the little fender-mounted fiber optic indicators so common to Cadillacs in the ’80s.

  9. We had modestly equipped vehicles growing up so just about any power accessories (aside from steering and brakes) were fancy. Our Citation came with power locks (and a 4 speed and AM radio) and I thought it was a real step up.

  10. Lights, how about the little lights that lit up the key holes on the doors?
    Another flashback from the 80s is the graphic equaliser with sliding controls to adjust the sound, followed by the much easier to ignore sound modes you could cycle through via a menu; concert, theatre, etc.

  11. I have to re-define ‘young’ as mid-20s, and it was something I knew existed, but had never seen in-person, much less owned a vehicle with it.
    Telescoping steering wheel.
    Then I owned a car with it…a 1973 Coupe DeVille, in 1993, or so.
    That car had something else which concerned me, initially, variable-ratio steering.
    I thought there was something very seriously wrong with the steering box.
    Wait, there’s a third thing I just remembered. Being able to remove the ignition key with the engine running. It was not worn out, it was factory, so you could start it, then remove the key and open the trunk, or whatever.
    Thankfully, that car still had the owner’s manual in the glovebox, which is how I learned about the variable-ratio steering and the ignition key.

  12. Sun roofs.
    When I went on a school trip to Germany in the early 1970s, sitting in the coach looking down I realised how many German cars had sun roofs. Not silly aftermarket glass affairs, proper factory fit jobs. They were simply unknown in Britain at the time. They seemed so advanced, so exotic. The bringer of good weather, sunshine and holidays. Boy, did I want a sunroof on any car I had! A proper sun roof. Factory fit, steel or glass but preferably electric.
    I got there eventually and today I still love a sunroof…in fact I’ve sold one of my two Citroen BXs. The one without the sunroof. There was no question which of the two had to go – even if the one I’ve kept perpetually has wet carpets in winter…
    By the way, door markers are a good runner up. Proper ones with bulbs, not just reflectors or worse still reflective tape

  13. I’d have to go with 3 Fords that were prominent elsewhere, yet practically non-existent on my side of the Atlantic: the Matchbox versions of the Sierra XR4i, Escort RS2000, and SuperVan 2.

  14. Power *anything* fascinated me. My dad always had the lower-end models where you had to crank windows, push and pull door locks and worst of all, hold your foot on the accelerator to keep the car at a constant speed. First world problems. My grandfather, though, would always drive a Buick or Oldsmobile that was somewhat “loaded” for the time–I found his 1971 Olds Ninety-Eight to be endlessly fascinating. Except for those clocks, which he never was able to adjust to the correct time.

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