10 features old-school motorists wistfully miss in modern cars today

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Car owners who have been behind the wheel since the 1970s, the 1980s or even the 1990s can surely notice the great differences of the “modern” cars sold today compared to those from decades ago. From styling, engine and features, the cars of today are vastly improved, thanks to intense competition among vehicle manufacturers.

But it looks like the love of the “old school” never dies among motorists who are not new to cars. Some of these car lovers (funds permitting) even have cars from decades ago preserved when most people would sell them off or deposit them in junkyards.

Here, we list down 10 features found in older cars that not-so-young drivers surely miss and reminisce about.

Carmakers helped their customers get lung cancer.

Carmakers helped their customers get lung cancer.

1. LIGHTER. The driving environment in the Philippines (and some parts of the world) from the ’70s to the ’80s was very pleasant compared today, where heavy traffic has become the norm. And since climate change had not yet reared its ugly head back then, driving with windows down in the city was a pleasure. And it was still cool for motorists to drive while smoking, given that there was no need to keep the window fully rolled up. So carmakers made lighters standard in almost all their vehicle models. Later, lighters doubled as sockets to power direct-current gadgets like mobile phone chargers and auxiliary lights. Then as “connectivity” became the trend in cars, the lighter socket had to give way to USB ports.


2. ASHTRAY. Like we said, smoking while driving was cool back then. Hence, the need for a receptacle to stash away cigarette ash and butts. We’re sure just the thought is already making hygiene-conscious folks cringe. Today, cigarette packs come with photos of lung cancer victims to warn users. Back then? Smoking inside the car was a joy many would have risked cancer for.

3. CRANK-UP WINDOWS. Strange as it may seem, carmakers have made electrically powered windows standard when there is very little need to open the windows given the hotter climate and worsening pollution. But in the yesteryears, with less pollution and cooler weather, auto companies installed crank-up windows in vehicles perhaps to keep costs down and certainly because they hadn’t stumbled upon the simple technology to operate them with push buttons. There was an advantage to crank-up windows: They could be lowered even if a vehicle ran out of electric power.

4. MANUAL TRANSMISSION. With the worsening traffic situation, cars with automatic transmission have become the choice even among buyers on a budget. The reason is simple: It is less taxing to drive an AT vehicle in traffic. But those who have experienced a manual transmission will surely agree that an automatic shifter doesn’t cut it for spirited driving. An online article titled “Driving A Stick Shift? Pros And Cons Of Cars With Manual Transmissions” said it best: “Driving a stick shift car gives you a better sense of control over your vehicle. Without the torque converter constantly pushing you forward, you’ll have an easier time with braking. You’ll also have a much easier time with engine-braking or using the momentum of the engine itself to slow yourself down.”

Best of luck if you get hit by these steel bumpers, popular back when people weren’t soft.

Best of luck if you get hit by these steel bumpers, popular back when people weren’t soft.

5. STEEL BUMPERS. With vehicles of today being designed to have crumple zones, the need for “steel protection” at the front and the back is no longer needed. Steel bumpers started to disappear from vehicles in the ’80s. But there is a certain allure to steel bumpers: They look intimidating and those that are chrome-plated appear very masculine. Even so, owners of SUVs now ditch the stock bumpers of their vehicles and replace them with aftermarket bumpers made of very thick steel. Some even install “bull bars” made of metal. Good luck with the poor pedestrian who comes into contact with them.

6. CARBURETOR. When fuel was still cheaper, carmakers installed carburetors in most of their vehicles. Fuel injection was found only in high-performance cars bearing Lamborghini and Ferrari badges, among others. Old-school car enthusiasts found carburetors a joy to tinker with, with the simplest adjustment of the jetting enough to make a staid vehicle into a widow-maker.

7. CABLE LINK BETWEEN ACCELERATOR AND THROTTLE. Modern vehicles already have drive-by-wire technology in which the opening and the closing of the throttle is triggered by electronic actuators that get input from how the accelerator pedal is depressed. But to traditional drivers, nothing can duplicate the direct feel and feedback provided by a throttle that is directly linked by cable to the accelerator pedal. It is also easy to make adjustments to how direct the feel between the throttle and the pedal should be—just by adjusting the cable’s tightness.

8. FOAM-PADDED DASHBOARD. Tap the dashboard of every vehicle today and you will most likely feel something hollow. This is so because carmakers no longer install foam inside the dashboard molding, perhaps in the name of cost-cutting or environment protection (foam is not biodegradable). But foam inside the dashboard used to somehow help in the deadening of vibrations from the engine and not having that hollow feel when the dashboard was knocked on.

9. REVERSING WARNING TUNE. Almost all modern cars now have some feature that guides the driver when backing up the vehicle, like parking sensors or even rear-mounted cameras. In the past, reversing drivers were assisted by a melody. The loud tune was designed to warn loitering pedestrians about a backing-up car, basically telling them to get the hell out of the way.

Featuring seven songs on either side, the cassette is museum-worthy.

Featuring seven songs on either side, the cassette is museum-worthy.

10. CASSETTE AND CD PLAYER. Some audiophiles claim to derive more satisfaction listening to music from cassette tapes and compact discs instead of tunes played from digital files. Even assuming they’re right, we don’t know if the infinitesimal edge in sound quality is worth the trouble of stacking up dozens of cartridges or CD jewel cases inside the car. Today, even a sleek mobile phone can contain thousands upon thousands of your favorite songs. How do you beat that?

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