Automotive technology is always making progress. Electric cars may be the most exciting innovation at the moment, but it won’t be long before self-driving cars are a common sight on our roads – and maybe even flying cars in a few years’ time!
Throughout the 20th century, there were seismic changes in the kinds of cars that people drove. From vehicles which needed to be cranked by hand in order to get started to cars that were stocked full of technology to help you find your way, keep in touch with family and, perhaps most importantly, keep the kids entertained.
Some changes may only have seemed small at the time, but looking back they ensure that cars from the '70s are almost unrecognizable when compared to modern vehicles.
15. Rear Fuel Cap
Drivers today are all too familiar with the stress of trying to remember on which side of their car the fuel cap is fitted when they pull into the gas station. A few decades ago that wasn’t such an issue, as many vehicles had a rear-fitted fuel cap, sometimes hidden away under the rear license plate.
14. Pillow-Topped Seats
Everyone wants to be comfortable in their cars, especially if they are planning a long road trip. However, car designers in the '70s took this need for comfort too far, fitting vehicles with plush, pillow-topped seating which looked more like the kind of furniture you would find in the living room of your home.
13. Vent Windows
Vent windows were a common feature on cars a few years ago, but they have mysteriously disappeared. Located at either the front or rear of the car, next to the normal side windows which slide down, these vent windows could be opened at an angle to improve airflow in the days before air conditioning.
12. 85 mph Speedometers
Given that the fastest speed limit in the US is 85 mph (on Texas State Highway 130) it does seem odd that modern cars are often able to travel twice that speed, and have speedometers which go well over 100 mph. Older cars had speedometers that only went as high as 85 mph to try and keep speeding drivers in check.
11. Hand-Cranked Windows
One older car feature which is remembered somewhat fondly is the old handle for winding down the windows. Electric windows may be easier to control, especially for the driver, but for many people of a certain age, nothing can replace those old handles, and the elbow grease you had to deploy to get the window up or down quickly…
Technically speaking, 21st century cars still have carpets, but they are much more functional than they used to be. Easy to remove and easy to clean, they are ideal for muddy feet coming in from outside. Like the pillow seats, however, car carpets in the '70s used to be a lot more plush, and took some serious cleaning in the event that they got muddy.
9. Radio Antennas
In-car entertainment has changed beyond all recognition since the 1970s, with many modern cars fitted with hi-tech infotainment systems that can access digital radio stations from around the country, TV screens for kids to watch DVDs and even video game consoles. There is simply no need for the humble radio antenna anymore.
8. Floor-Mounted Dimmer Switches
Driving etiquette requires that drivers dip their headlights when there is a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction so that the other motorist doesn’t end up blinded. Not that everyone is so polite! It might be easier to remember this unofficial rule of the road if the dimmer switches for headlights were still mounted on the floor, as they used to be.
7. Pop-Up Headlights
Pop-up headlights are one of those design features which really date a car. They may be associated with cars from the '70s and '80s, but the first vehicles to be fitted with hidden headlamps were the Cord 810 and the Alfa Romeo 8C. After their peak, pop-up headlights all but disappeared during the 1990s.
6. Bench Seats
Modern automotive design dictates that there are always two distinct and separate seats in the front of a vehicle – partly for comfort and partly for safety. It wasn’t all that long ago that bench seats were the norm, however, with drivers able to fit three passengers in the front seat if they needed to.
5. Porthole Windows
Also known as opera windows, porthole windows were somewhat decorative items. Usually round or oval in shape, and located at the rear of the vehicle, they didn’t seem to serve any practical purpose (unlike vent windows) so it is hardly surprising that modern automotive designers have consigned them to the scrapheap.
4. Hood Ornaments
It wasn’t just cars that were bigger in the 1970s; hood ornaments were also substantially larger! These days, you might only expect to see ostentatious hood decorations on a Rolls-Royce or a Jaguar, but back in the day, they were all it. Styles change, however, and as time went on, “less is more” became the watchword for designers.
3. Rear-Hinged Doors
Nicknamed “suicide doors” because of their poor safety record, the disappearance of rear-hinged doors is definitely a positive step forward for the auto industry. Although there are some high-performance concept vehicles that have reintroduced the style, where the rear doors are hinged at the back of the vehicle rather than in the middle.
2. Key-Operated Locks
Young drivers think nothing of simply pressing their key fob to open car doors, with many vehicles operating with a push-button ignition, which only requires the fob to be close by. It wasn’t all that long ago that car doors were opened by actual keys, which were also needed to start the vehicle.
1. Car Phones
Given that 96% of the population owns a cell phone, there is simply no demand for car phones anymore, but in the 1970s they were the height of technological achievement. More associated with the yuppie years of the 1980s, it was during the 1970s that many high fliers got their first car phone, which used what became known as the Zero G network.
Sources: Techradar, Torque News, Fortune, Drive Tribe, CNBC