As the automobile has progressed through the pages of history it’s lost features that at one time seemed indispensable.
As it stands, we may soon see the dispensability of one aspect we could never have imagined, the driver, as cars go autonomous. That’s gonna be a tough day.
Think, therefore, for a moment about the once great bench seat or the car lighter. When did we get to hear their swan songs? Along with the ashtray and the horn ring, these automotive features subsided into obscurity long ago, only remembered on blogs like this.
Here are five gems we’ll not see again in our cars.
Although the back seats of most cars still enjoy a bench seat of sorts, the true front seat bench seat once a prize feature of teenage boys hoping for a makeup session.
The bench allowed one to slide across when parked or better, allowed the passenger to slide over while the car was in motion. For full loads, one could fit three people in the front seat, more with a bench seat.
There were only a few problems with the design. The bench seat not only caused safety issues, with no shoulder harness, as cars developed center consoles, there wasn’t room.
Chevy attempted to revive the bench seat with their Impala line a few years, but even that version had to go away.
The good news? Bucket seats work for making out too. And, they’re safer.
The automobile lighter was once a sign of a prestige.
In the book “Babbitt,” by George Sinclair, the title character celebrates his purchase of a fancy electric car lighter. He marvels at his ability to use the lighter to light a cigarette while driving.
If Sinclair only knew what would one day distract drivers via the empty socket where the lighter once rested… When smoking stopped being cool, so did paying for putting a lighter in every car.
The cost may not have been much in each car, but across a line of cars or a car brand, ending the lighter meant savings. Also, it opened car makers to more possibilities with multiple outlets for charging several devices.
That way drivers are able to ensure maximum distraction today.
Some cars today offer vestigial versions of the ashtray, little plastic buckets for catching change or whatever. What those little buckets won’t capture is cigarette ashes.
Most smokers prefer to ash out the window, anyway, keeping their car from smelling like an ashtray or so they believe. (Your car still reeks, smoker.)
Also, there are no resting places in the vestigial leftovers of automotive ashtrays. There used to be a place to hang one’s partially smoked cig.
This one is gone with the cigarette lighter.
Floor Dimmer Switch
Once upon a time, automobiles had a slick way to toggle on the brights without taking one’s hands off the wheel.
To the left of the brake, there was a little round peg. Drivers stepped on it to make the lights brighter, then again to make them normal.
The last car to offer this feature was the Ford E-series in 1991. Almost no foreign cars had it. Also, as footwells shrank, the space for an extra pedal became less available.
Since the trend was going to the steering column, the floor switch stepped out of existence.
If the horn is in reach, as the theory goes, drivers will be able to sound it without taking their hands off the wheel. The horn ring provided just that convenience. It was a large ring, since to the horn at the middle of the wheel.
As cars developed, and the steering wheel became home to more than the horn, the horn ring had no room. In fact, in some of the first cars to have air bags, there was barely room for the horn anymore.
Car horns moved to the spokes of the steering wheel, a real problem when the driver would slam down on the center of the wheel with no result. The car horn is one we should bring back.
If you miss these parts of the car, don’t despair. As a soon-to-be obsolete feature yourself, you may see them again someday in obsolete car feature heaven.