Home » What Forgotten Car Features Ought To Make A Comeback? Autopian Asks

What Forgotten Car Features Ought To Make A Comeback? Autopian Asks

Aa Oldsmobile Vent Ts

Usually, when features on cars get phased out, it’s because the world’s moved on. Think about compact cassette players, vacuum-operated wipers, or six-volt electrical systems. The majority of people simply don’t miss those things because what came next was a sizeable improvement. However, every so often, a feature gets discarded for no immediately apparent reason. A feature that we miss. Today, it’s time to talk about gadgets, gizmos, and doo-dads we want to bring back from the automotive graveyard in the sky because not everything leaves when its time is truly up. I’ll start with an example.

This might come as a surprise to anyone more familiar with my premium hooptie tendencies, but my first few cars were all old and American, and most of them came with a delightful component of the HVAC system — a driver-facing vent under the steering column. While frequently referred to as the “ball-chiller vent,” this ingenious solution of ducting and grating will keep your unmentionables cool regardless of what you’re packing, to the point of being more effective than many ventilated seats on modern cars.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Plus, it’s a relatively simple system. There’s a vent set into an interior trim panel, a bit of ducting, and boom — you can stay fresh, even in high humidity. There are no extra electrical components, little additional weight, and it doesn’t require perforated upholstery. It was a great idea, and something sorely missed on new cars.

1988 Chevrolet Monte Carlo 2



So, what car features of the past do you think should make a comeback? Maybe you’re a huge proponent of velour over leather, or found the turn signal-activated cornering lights on old luxury cars immensely helpful, or you just want normal cars to be available in actual colors aside from dark blue. Whatever the case, make your voice heard in the comments below.

(Photo credits: Bring A Trailer)

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Christopher Evert
Christopher Evert
23 days ago

Here’s a radical concept…
Luxury as something that improves your experience, instead of today’s version – paying more for less reliability, less convenience, features that slow you down, aren’t intuitive, have worse ergonomics, – which I can only imagine people their driving experience because they think OTHER people will be occasionally impressed?

Starting with leather… It’s dead cow flesh. It’s hot in the sun. It’s freezing in the winter. It’s slippery (no wonder cars that handle and are fun to drive have been replaced by SUVs that can’t and aren’t). It ages worse than cloth. None of that is luxury.
Even if you go the Rube Goldberg route of seat heaters and seat coolers – now you are paying more just to admit the shortcomings and discomfort, and those items not only work with cloth seats, they work better with cloth seats.

My last three cars, I’ve been stopped from buying the trim level I was originally looking at, because there was no option BUT leather. And when I used the aftermarket to equip the features I wanted into my lower trim car, I got a car that actually has what I want.

Powered hatchbacks. I don’t want to wait for a batch to open – or close. Luxury isn’t something that infuriates you or sets your schedule back. If you need to shut it fast, it needs to be able to do that.

Screens have been beaten to death but it’s an “of course”.
Manufacturers are thankfully mostly to buttons and knobs where they make the most sense – but even on radios, it’s infuriating – my weekend car is a Mini Cooper S convertible, I replaced the stereo with one that has a screen and added a backup camera – but that screen degraded my experience when driving forward: Selecting radio stations. On a head unit with buttons, eyes on the road, you could press a preset, for a second, move your finger over, check the next station, etc. But now, I have to take my eye off the road, find what I want to tap (again, WAIT if the road became rough), poke that preset… Oh, I missed it, it didn’t change… Try again, listen for a second as I glance back up at the road… But people complain about texting and driving? It’s SO inconvenient – it doesn’t improve the in-car experience.

It’s like unnecessary CGI in a movie that not only wasn’t necessary for the story, but crossed the line into the ridiculous. It not only doesn’t help it, it makes you feel like someone is making a sucker of you, insulting your intelligence, and making what could have been a good experience, an ironically cheapened one.

So it’s more of a general request to “return to the 80s and 90s”, when Japanese automakers were focusing on quality and reliability and ergonomics, and even lower option cars provided a simply better EXPERIENCE – and of course Lexus was born and sent shock waves through the luxury car world as well.
Trying to turn the dashboard into a tablet, with leather burning and freezing you, is not improvement.

Ivan Cruz
Ivan Cruz
26 days ago

Crank Windows on entry level cars with 4 cylinder engines that have less than 160hp. I don’t need more than 100-120 for my commute to and from work. Even that is a lot.

Also, actual compact trucks like the old Ford Ranger or Chevy S-10.

Dan Bee
Dan Bee
26 days ago

Thin A pillars and low cowl for stellar outward visibility. Yes, the response is “modern thin pillars are too expensive to make that pass crash test standards.” Figure it out, OEMs.

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