It was a welcome divergence from the typical deep discussions around the campfire last night. Some of the “oldies” were recalling old vehicle features that no longer exist or have been modified in recent years. Folks in their 60s, 70s, and 80s seemed to enjoy challenging the “young’uns’” knowledge. I thought perhaps you’d enjoy reminiscing, too.
Old vehicle features from “back in the day”
- Dimmer switch: Today this light switch is built into the turning signal on most vehicles. Not so in days gone by. I remember when the dimmer switch was a button on the floorboard. You used your left foot to tap (dim the lights) and tap again (to bring the bright lights back on).
- Spare tire: No, they weren’t always those mini, trike-sized tires. In days gone by, a spare tire was the same size as all of the other tires on the car. You never had to drive on a “donut” back then. No, siree!
- Speedometers: What’s the highest speed displayed on your speedometer today? Probably not as high as the speedometers on the cars I grew up driving. Back then the highest speed displayed on our car’s speedometer was 120 mph. Oh, and all of the speedometers featured a “needle”—not a digital display.
- Horn: “In the dark ages,” an older camper began, “a car’s horn was sounded by depressing the ‘horn ring.’” I’d almost forgotten about this feature. There was a separate, metal ring or half-ring on the steering wheel. You could find and depress the horn ring quickly and easily—something I have found problematic on some of today’s vehicles. There have been times when I practically break fingers as I poke and punch the horn area on our truck, trying to get it to honk. Maybe they should bring back the horn ring!
- Window wonders: Campers recalled a variety of names for the small, triangle-shaped window, located in the front portion of both front seat windows: wind wing, vent window, window wing, smoker’s wing, triangle wing. This little, three-sided window opened with a small, unique latch. Then, you pushed or pulled the window open to direct the incoming air in many different directions throughout the vehicle’s cab. I miss this little window! (Of course, all windows were hand-operated, “crank” ones.)
- Bench seats: Today’s bench seats are a joke! Try getting some sleep on one. Usually, the middle of the “bench” sits lower than the two on either side, making it extremely uncomfortable. Years ago, bench seats were level—all the way across—with no split benches either. And there were bench seats for the front and well as the back seat of most vehicles, too. (Remember scootching closer to your boyfriend as he drove? Ah … good ol’ days, for sure!)
- Seatbelts: I recognize their life-saving capabilities, but I also remember a time when no car or truck had this feature. We used to take our cousins to school. At one point there were eight little kids in the back seat of our Ford. How did we all fit? One kid sat at the back of the seat. The next kid sat at the front edge of the seat. Up and back. Up and back. It worked. Not the safest idea by today’s standards, but it got us to school and back for eight consecutive years!
- Radio features: One “old-timer” recalled that “Radios had push buttons to choose channels. All radios had just AM frequencies. There were markers on the radio face at 640 and 1240 kHz. These were the designated frequencies for the CONELRAD (Control of Electromagnetic Radiation) system—an early form of what is today’s Emergency Alert System. In the event of a Soviet nuclear attack, all of the other radio stations were to shut down their operations. The emergency stations would take over to tell listeners when and how to “duck and cover.”
- More music memories: Other campers around the fire remembered cassette tape decks, 8-track tapes, and CD slots on the radio systems from which you could listen to your favorite tunes.
- Windshield shading: Vehicles used to feature a strip of tint at the top of the windshield. This darker strip of glass protected the driver from the sun’s glare.
There are probably many more long-lost vehicle features, but the fire was dying, and it was getting late. Maybe next time we gather we can talk about suicide doors, whip antennas, all chrome bumpers, curb finders, fins, and hood ornaments. Can you add more to the list? I’d love to hear them!
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