If you think about it, cars have come a long way over the years. According to the website, I Drive Safely, the first cars were invented back in the 1700s. However, they used steam-powered engines around this time. It was only in 1885 when a man named Karl Benz invented the first gas-powered car. However, it only had three wheels. One year later, gas-powered cars finally adopted a more familiar four-wheel form.
In the beginning, cars barely had any of the familiar features we have all grown accustomed to. In fact, the cars of the past didn't have doors or windshields. At the same time, its steering wheel was anything but round.
As you can guess, a lot of changes were made on the car eventually. When this happened, cars looked a lot more like the cars we drive today. At the same time, a lot more features also got introduced. You've got air conditioning, windshield, seat belts and so much more. As basic as they may seem, the goal of these features is to make a motorist's life easier and safer.
At that same, there were also features added to make motoring life more fun, efficient and relaxing. Some features make driving more comfortable. On the other hand, there are also features designed to increase the reliability of the car.
Over time, however, some of these features were also removed and/or replaced. In fact, we are now nostalgic for some of the 90s car features that we haven't seen in quite some time. Just check these out:
20 Pop-Up Headlights
In today’s cars, headlights can be easily spotted on the exterior of the car. Once you activate them, they immediately switch on and beam for you the rest of the way. As you can see, operating them was quite simple.
Back in the 90s, headlights had a bit more of a dramatic flair. In fact, when you needed them, they would pop up. According to Driving Line, this feature was available in all kinds of cars. These included the Mazda Miata, Nissan 240sx and even the Ferrari F40 supercar.
In a way, pop-lights are helpful. After all, keeping the headlights hidden from various elements may just help maximize its life expectancy.
19 Headlight Wipers
Especially when you are driving through pitch black darkness, having reliable headlights on your car is critically important. At the same time, headlights have also been found to be helpful when it comes to daytime driving. In fact, according to Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC, the use of daytime headlights has reduced two-vehicle crashes by as much as 5.7 percent.
As you can see, headlights are very important in driving. Hence, it only makes sense that car owners would want to keep them clean all the times. Back in the 90s, headlights came with their own wipers. These were really helpful, and we’d love to see them come back.
18 Cloth Seats
During both the 80s and 90s, cloth seats were a big hit in the market. We’re not talking about plain, boring cloth seats. Instead, we are referring to the ones that had crazy patterns and colors. You’ve got plaid. You’ve got floral prints. There are also car seats that featured Chevron patterns.
Today, you might think that patterned cloth seats are a bit weird. Back then, it was a way to celebrate one's individuality. It’s like your personality extends to the car. In all honesty, we appreciate that most cars have an option for sleek leather seats nowadays. Nonetheless, wouldn’t it be great for today's car seats to have a bit more character?
17 Motorized Shoulder Belts
There’s no denying that seat belts are critical to vehicle safety today. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that as many as 226,567 lives have been saved by seat belts from 1975 to 2006.
Today, a seat belt requires minimal manual operation. In contrast, cars in the 90s featured motorized shoulder belts. According to the website BestRide.com, this was a way to encourage car passengers to buckle up for their own safety. Once a person opens the door, the upper shoulder strap of the seat belt would move forward along the roof line. This would immediately remind you that you need to put the belt on.
16 Fender Mounted Mirrors
Imagine if your car today had no side mirrors? Would you still want to drive it? Would you feel safe enough? Well, maybe if you would, that's because your car had fender mounted mirrors.
Several years ago, a lot of car models did not feature any side mirrors. Instead, they had fender mounted mirrors that were arguably cooler. At the same time, they can also be a lot easier to use than a side mirror. If you wanted to know what was going on your side, there is no need to turn your head and briefly turn your eyes away from the road. However, it can also be argued that this type of mirror showed a limited view compared to the side mirror.
15 Dual Fuel Tanks
If you enjoy going on a long road trip or if you like to join car races, this is one feature that you would definitely appreciate.
Back in the 90s, there are cars that came with dual fuel tanks. Cars with this feature also came to be known as bi-fuel vehicles. Basically, when the car is running, the engine would use up one fuel tank before moving on to the other. In doing so, a car is able to travel farther without having to load up right away. Because of that, you would not have to stop constantly just to fill up again. Having a dual fuel tank also means you are prepared to deal with long hours of traffic wherever you may go.
14 Floor Mounted Dimmer Switch
As you may know, a highly attentive driver is a safer driver. Hence, in the past, car manufacturers were determined to come out with features that did not detract from a driver’s attention on the road. One of these features was the floor mounted dimmer switch.
Instead of having to fumble a switch, lever or knob to dim the car’s headlight, cars of the past had a switch mounted on the floor. To access it, all the driver had to do was operate it using his foot. Hence, it was so easy to switch from bright to dim. Even better, you never have to keep your eyes away from the road.
13 Car Phone
In today’s world, phones play a critical role in ensuring that we function effectively at work or in the home. Car manufacturers understand this. And so, they have made it possible for both Android and Apple phones to readily sync with various car models. However, the problem with this is that it also encourages driver distraction. That’s because once the phone gets synced up, a driver could also access other communication functions as well as entertainment features.
Several years ago, cars only featured a wired car phone. Unlike mobile phones today, these phones can only be used for calling. And because they are simpler, there is absolutely no reason for you to get incredibly distracted while driving.
12 Window Cranks
Among vehicles today, car windows are motorized. That means, you just need to access a button or any kind of knob to roll a window up and down. Back in the 90s, you had to work harder to operate a car window.
During this time, motorized car windows were not yet widely available. Hence, there were still several car models that came with window cranks. As the term suggests, car windows can be opened by cranking a handle clockwise. On the other hand, cranking the handle counterclockwise would bring the window back up. We understand that window cranks require a bit more work but why not have the option for both?
11 Wing Windows
Believe it or not, air conditioning was not a standard feature on cars before. Instead, some cars would mount fans on their dashboard. Because of this, it was quite a challenge to stay cool inside, especially during hot summer days. That’s why wing windows came in handy.
According to the website Driving Line, wing windows also came to be known as vent windows. It was so-called because they can be easily used to vent out hot air from the car and let cool fresh air in. Even better, these windows were easily accessible from the driver’s seat and/or front passenger seat. Hence, operating them was literally quite a breeze.
10 Branded Accessories
In the past, it’s safe to say that car salesmen were a lot more generous. Back in the 90s, you would get a lot more freebies every time you purchase a new car. According to Driving Line, they would include a number of branded accessories, such as backpacks, water bottles, hats, emergency kits, and reflective triangles. All of these are particularly useful if your car broke down in the middle of the road.
Of course, you always have the option to purchase all of these items on your own. After all, there is a chance that you would need them at some point. Nonetheless, wouldn’t it be better if you can get them for free?
9 Front Bench Seats
Several years ago, having front bench seats were a standard. It didn’t matter what kind of car you had, whether it was a sedan or a big, bold truck.
Today, bench seats are a feature that you can only see in pickup trucks. If you think about it, there’s a practical side to this. For starters, it can readily increase the passenger capacity of any car. For example, a typical sedan can only accommodate up to five occupants. With front bench seats, that capacity goes up to six occupants. At the same time, no one can also deny that front bench seats have a romantic appeal.
8 Glovebox Mini Bar
So, you were in the middle of a long road trip. The next stop is still several miles away and you desperately need a drink. If you were riding a standard car today, that drink may just be whatever you have in your cup holder. Back in the 90s, however, things were a bit more glamorous.
In fact, you had the option of getting a car with its own mini bar in the glovebox. Open the compartment and you are greeted with an array of wine glasses and shot glasses. As you might expect, there is also room to store a bottle (or two) of your favorite drink. Meanwhile, depending on the size, you can also choose to bring along your wine decanter.
To be completely honest, not everyone likes the idea of driving a car that comes with a T-top roof today.
According to Heacock Classic, the T-top car was first used on a prototype back in 1948. Several years later, GM introduced this style into their 1968 Corvette. People liked it so much that Chevy decided to discontinue producing convertible Corvette cars at one point. After that, the T-top style also made its way to the Pontiac Firebird, Chrysler Cordoba, Ford Thunderbird, Suzuki X-90, Chevrolet Camaro and Subaru Brat. If you think about it the T-top car is pretty cool. It’s another way to enjoy an open car without having to buy a convertible.
6 Hood Ornaments
There was a time in car history when cars tend to have a more commanding presence. They do this by mounting hood ornaments in front. Believe or not though, these ornaments also had some practical use.
According to a report from Inside Hook, early cars were designed to have their radiator caps on the exterior of the hood, on top of the grille. Hence the mascot was used to indicate the temperature of the engine coolant. In the past, several cars used these hood ornaments. These included Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Bentley, and Rolls-Royce. In a way, it’s flashy. But honestly, we don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
5 Hood Gauge
Among cars today, there’s a display panel that drivers can always turn to for information. It readily displays the car’s fuel consumption, speed and even the gear that they are currently using. In the past, gauges were still displayed in front of the car. However, they were located outside instead.
According to Driving Line, this trend was made popular by US muscle cars. If you were truly serious about racing (and winning), you would want to know how the car is doing at all times. This was where the hood gauges came in. It didn’t just display your speed. In fact, it could also show your car’s oil and water levels.
4 Rear Steering
In the past, there were several car models that came with a rear wheel steering feature. One can argue that there are some advantages to having this. This has to do with the turning radius.
According to Auto Guide, “Turn the rear wheels the opposite way as the front wheels and the car pivots around the center axis. The rear wheels don’t turn much, less than 15 degrees in most cases and just 3-5 in others. It makes the wheelbase feel shorter. The Cadillac CT6, which is a very large car, trims its turning radius by a full three feet with active rear steering.”
3 Suicide Doors
At one point in recent car history, there was a lot of talk about Tesla’s falcon doors. It was a feature that was supposed to make life simpler. As you may know, however, it really didn’t. Well, back in the 90s, there were car models that featured suicide doors. And as ghastly as the term may sound, these doors made a lot more sense. In fact, we would even argue that they are more practical. After all, when the passenger door in the back is hinged at the rear, it can be easier to get out.
In fact, these doors are so amazing that the Lincoln had just decided to bring this feature back in its 2019 Lincoln Continental.
2 Wood Side Panels
In the beginning, it was expensive to create vehicles with steel stamping. Hence, many turned to wood. In fact, according to Popular Mechanics, the world’s first ever mass-produced car that came out in 1901 featured a wooden body. Several years later, however, wood was out, and steel was in. During this time, carmakers started using steel for the car’s hood, fenders, and frames. Nonetheless, these companies didn’t forget about wood altogether. After all, wood had a certain appeal.
Around this time, carmakers started using wooden panels on the side of the cars. These came to be known as a woodie. And even today, we think these would still be fashionable.
1 Car Tailfin
Several years back, several cars took on a bold and futuristic look. In fact, it was quite normal to spot a car that featured a tailfin.
According to the website Info Galactic, the tailfin is a feature that was introduced back in 1948. Around this time, the public was introduced to rockets, spacecraft and jet-powered aircraft. And somehow, this inspired a new trend in automobile design. Moreover, a tailfin is also supposed to help with aerodynamic stability. The first car to have it was a Cadillac. Needless to say, the tailfin became a hit and over the years, more cars sported it. Several years later, however, the tailfin had disappeared and/or become more subtle, as is the case in the 1992 Cadillac Brougham.
Sources - I Drive Safely, Popular Mechanics, Driving Line & BestRide.com