In-car entertainment systems have come a loooooong way since I was a child in the 1990s. Vehicles on sale today have an assortment of rear-seat multimedia systems. From iPads in headrests, flip-down BlueRay DVD players and minivans with two separate displays; if you want to stare at a screen while on the road, it’s easier than ever. Heck, you can buy aftermarket entertainment systems that can be had and installed for under $300.
My family had a big, green 1995 Ford Windstar LX when I was growing up. “Godzilla” took us on countless road trips and vacations, when it ran properly. With two full rows of bench seats, there was more than enough room for all three DeGraff boys to claim our own corners of the van, and sprawl out for hours. Ford didn’t offer an in-car TV back then, so my parents got creative and found a solution. Buy a 9-inch television with a built in VCR, connect it to AC household outlet adapter, tighten it around the front armrests with two bungee cords; and you’ve got yourself a movie theatre on wheels. Wedged between the front passenger and driver’s seat sat that little color tube TV, that would move around anytime we made a quick turn or stop. My two brothers and I would sit cramped three-deep in the second row bench seat, while mom and dad overheard every goofy child’s movie that played off that VHS tape. I thought this was awesome.
Then a friend of mine’s parents bought a late 1990s Dodge Grand Caravan with a “real” TV, that cleanly sat on the floor between the two front seats. Right before the millennium however, Chevrolet blew everyone out of the pond with their Venture “Warner Brothers” super-cool, Hollywood-themed minivan. It had…wait for it…a FLIP DOWN SCREEN! Wow, I’m too excited over this. Most of these vans had VHS players but a lucky few could play those high-tech DVDs. There were even RCA inputs so you could hookup a Nintendo 64 and play Goldeneye on the go. They (Chevy) even used the cheesy tag line “Goes from zero to fun in two shakes of a rabbit’s tail,” to help pitch the sale.
The DVD era took off and our family replaced the old, boxy in-car tube TV set up with three portable DVD players and miles of headphone cables. Battery issues, scratched discs, spilled drinks and bumpy roads fought hard to disturb our movie watching during drives. In-car entertainment systems continued to evolve, becoming more mainstream, affordable and reliable. Xzibit “Yo Dawged,” everyone by taking televisions in vehicles to the next level, and proudly letting America know about it. Why wouldn’t you need a TV in yo’ side view mirror or under yo’ car so when you’re changing the oil you can watch South Park?
Mobile devices starting with “i” took over once the mid 2000s rolled around. Want to watch movies, podcasts or the latest sports game? You can do it all on the go thanks to windshield mounts, dashboard head-unit kits and Aux ports.
One of the best forms of “rear seat entertainment,” took place in the rear of the car. Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about the flip-up, rear-facing jump seats found in station wagons. Countless Volvo V70s and Mercedes-Benz E320 wagons cruised around my neighborhood. No one called “Shotgun” for those, rather we darted for the rear hatch, hoped it was unlocked and proudly sat like pre-pubescent bosses –eagerly awaiting to get moving. Oh the shrieks and angry screams we got from our moms, every time we made “friendly distracting gestures” to drivers behind us. Long live the wagons!
Whether it be past or present, what’s your favorite form of rear seat entertainment?