Cars today may be far more sophisticated, computerized, and advanced than they were 50 to 60 years ago, but at least most of the features in today's cars make sense and are practical and applicable to today's world, and they accommodate the needs of the average driver. There were features in the 1960s and 1970s that just seem weird. Maybe some of them made in sense when they were manufactured. Some, however, made just as much sense in context and were just as weird back in their day as they are now.
A few of these features, like vertically sweeping windshield wipers or a steering column, may only seem a little bit out of place. However, other features, such as swivel seats, three wheels, and amphibious cars make drivers wonder what the automobile manufacturing companies were thinking. While weird features existed in the decades before and since, there's no denying that a lot of 1960s and 1970s car features seem out of place, to say the least.
15. Vacuum Ashtray- 1960 GM
Vacuum ashtrays in 1957-60 GM vehicles made sense given the mainstream acceptance of smoking at the time. That said, this feature didn't really save smokers much energy compared to tossing butts out the window. Drivers could shove the end of a cigarette into a chrome funnel, push a button, and watch ash and butt swirl into a mason jar mounted under the dash and powered by the engine vacuum.
14. Spare Tire Windshield Washer System- 1961 Volkswagen Beetle
The 1961 Volkswagen Beetle had an unusual feature. The standard motorized windshield fluid pump was removed in favor of a system that shunted air from the spare tire to pressurize the windshield fluid. Drivers overinflated their spare tire in order to wash their windshields, and a special valve in the washer fluid bottle kept the tire pressure above 26 PSI.
13. Turbine Power- 1963 Chrysler Turbine
Turbines aren't too wild, but Chrysler brought them to the passenger car market with the introduction of the limited-production Chrysler Turbine in 1963. This vehicle was a two-door coupe that was powered by a pair of turbines and could be fueled by anything from perfume to JP-4 jet fuel. Only 50 were made in a year before the project was terminated, with nine surviving today.
12. Three Wheels- 1973 Reliant Robin
via Car Throttle
The '73 Reliant Robin was the tricycle of cars, sporting only three wheels, with one wheel in the front and two in the back. While this car was popular in England and some other overseas countries, it never caught on in America. People would treat the Reliant Robin as a three-wheel motorcycle and owners received different insurance rates, saving a few dollars.
11. Water Balloon Bumpers- 1960s Taxis
10. Twin Stick- 1979 Mitsubishi Champ
via Wikimedia Commons
Two reverse gears were the philosophy behind Mitsubishi’s Twin Stick transmission. Also called Super Shift, this feature split each of its four forward ratios and the reverse gear in two. Positioning the transmission directly below the engine made this possible. However, engineers quickly realized they wouldn’t be able to get the engine to spin in the same direction as the transmission without the second idle shaft, making this feature impractical.
9. Vertically Sweeping Windshield Wipers- 1970 Buick Electra
Back in the early 1960s, engineers decide to create a variation on the standard windshield wipers, where the wipers would go up and down to clear the entire windshield at once. It was accomplished with a long metal arm holding a huge wiper blade would move up and down, brushing everything away. Unfortunately, sometimes debris got caught and the arm jammed, obscuring drivers' vision.
8. Jelly Bean Shape- 1975 AMC Pacer
The American Motors Corporation (AMC) decided to create a super-wide compact car with a jelly bean shape in 1975. From 1975 to 1979, this car was sold in both two-door coupe and four-door station wagon models. Seen as a punchline more than an actual car, it starred as Wayne and Garth’s ride in the 1992 movie Wayne’s World.
7. Steering Column- 1961 Ford Thunderbird
Swinging steering columns are a mark of the 1960s, as both the Ford Galaxie and Thunderbird featured them. The purpose of these was to decrease awkwardness and increase elegance upon entry and exit. The 300 SL Gullwing’s horizontal-tilting steering wheel offered a variation on this theme, keeping drivers' knees in mind more than Ford's design did.
6. Illuminated Tires- Early 1960s By Goodyear
Goodyear decided to sell illuminated tires for vehicles in the early 1960s. At first, it seemed novel, fun, and innovative. Ultimately, having light bulbs set up inside the wheel rim proved to be impractical and borderline dangerous, as many things can go wrong when combining inflatable tires with breakable glass.
5. Rim Blow Steering Wheel- 1960s Detroit Vehicles
A Rim Blow Steering Wheel caught on in a lot of 1960s vehicles in Detroit, MI. Noticing how people had issues locating a car horn, Detroit created the ‘rim blow’ wheel, which featured a band that ran around the entire circumference of the steering wheel that would sound the horn when gripped tightly. Sadly, poor manufacturing quality lead to rim blow wheels vanishing from the market within five years.
4. Amphibious Vehicles- 1961 Amphicar
The Amphicar took features of a boat and applied them to car from 1961 to 1967 in Germany. The Amphicar went from driving on land to cruising through water with twin propellers and rudder front tires. President Lyndon B. Johnson owned one of the 4,000 Amphicars produced, but thanks to a high price tag, average on-road performance, and poor performance on the water, the idea was quickly dropped.
3. Wrist-Twist Steering System- 1965 Ford Mercury Park Lane
The Wrist-Twist Steering System was installed in the 1965 Ford Mercury Park Lane when Ford wanted something different for their new car. Robert J. Rumpf, a former aerospace engineer, came up with the idea. The Wrist-Twist Steering System worked by changing the steering wheel to two five-inch wrist-operated rings. Mixed reactions later led to the comeback of the traditional steering wheel.
2. Swivel Seats- 1975 Chevy Core 77, 1961 Buick Flamingo
Chevy installed Swivel Seats in their 1975 Chevy Core 77 to make it easier for the driver and the passenger to get into and out of the car, featuring 360-degree rotation. This feature even allowed the front passenger to turn around while the car was being driven, as well as facilitating movement for women wearing dresses. However, this feature is considered quite uncomfortable and dangerous while the vehicle is moving.
1. Early Electric Car- 1974 Vanguard-Sebring CitiCar
The electric car was an idea back in 1975 before it caught on. When the Vanguard-Sebring CitiCar was first offered, it was considered awful and had few safety features. It had decent range for the time, of about 40 miles. However, a speed like that made it highway-unfriendly, so future models of the car were upgraded to six horsepower and a top speed of 45 mph.
Sources: hotcars.com, roadkill.com, medium.com, hagerty.com, autopartswarehouse.com,