The first car with an engine made its debut in 1879 on New Year’s Eve thanks to Carl Benz. From that moment, competition began in trying to design marketable cars. Henry Ford made the first production car in 1908, which gained popularity and started the auto industry as we know it. More and more automobile companies started to manufacture and produce cars to sell. Most cars were the same basic designs with only a few variations separating them from one another.
In trying to keep up with each other, car manufacturers have tried to add things to make their brands more interesting. Not only with designs, but also with improvements and features that other cars didn't have. Some of these features were great ideas for safety and aimed to make driving as pleasurable as possible. Some of these features were included when purchasing a car, some features were add-ons if you were interested in them. There have also been some car features that were very strange ideas that make you stop and wonder what some people were thinking at the time they designed them. Even though some of the features were strange, some were pretty cool ideas as well.
Some features included a cold shower outside your car or having water balloon bumpers in case of an accident. Take a look at the 16 strangest features put into cars.
16 GM LIGHTNING RODS SHIFTER (1983)
GM launched the Lightning Rods Shifter for the 15th anniversary of the Oldsmobile Hurst.
The Lightning Rods Shifter was for a 4-speed OD automatic with three gear levers. According to Jalopnik, this shifter allowed the driver to control the one-two and two-three shifts and the third shifter gave access to the OD.
Besides having a hefty price tag to have a Lightning Rods Shifter, it just seems like too much work to use while driving.
Most people today just want to put their keys in the ignition and drive and just use onboard technology. It's no wonder it did not last long.
15 AUTOMATIC SEAT BELTS (1987)
When it comes to having seat belts in cars, we all know the importance of using them. Not all seat belt designs were that great. During the late 80s, automatic seat belts were introduced and were a strange feature. They ran on a track and were door mounted. The automatic seatbelt was controlled by opening and closing the door. It sounded convenient and good for safety because you had no choice but to wear a seat belt. According to The Washington Post, the Transportation Department had required that all vehicles either come equipped with airbags or automatic seat belts in 1986. The combination of airbags and automatic seat belts together could cause injuries to the driver or the passenger in the front seat.
14 FORD WRIST-TWIST STEERING SYSTEM (1965)
Now, this next strange feature came from the Ford Motor Company in 1965. Ford wanted something different for a new car they were developing and hired Robert J. Rumpf. Rumpf had been an aerospace engineer and came up with the Wrist-Twist Steering System for the Ford Mercury Park Lane.
According to 95 Octane, the idea was to change the steering wheel to two five inch wrist-operated rings.
The Wrist-Twist allowed you to turn from the right or left side but it still worked in unison. This strange feature had mix reactions and in the long run, as we can see the regular steering won.
13 CHEVY SWIVEL SEATS (1975)
The Swivel Seat by Chevy has come and gone and has come back depending on what type of car you own. The idea was to make it easier for the driver and the passenger to get into and out of the car. Not only did these seats turn to face the door but they were also able to rotate fully around. This allowed everyone to sit comfortably in the car if it was parked, it also allowed the front passenger to turn around while the car was being driven. According to Core 77, this car was also promoted for women who wore dresses so they could get in and out with ease. You won't see the Swivel Seats into many cars today but this strange feature is good for the elderly and handicapped.
12 HONDA CR-V SHOWER (1995)
The Honda CR-V Shower is another really strange feature for any car. Maybe if you worked outside all day long, played in the mud, camped or owned a dog, this might be for you. To want to stand outside your car and take a cold shower could also be fun and very interesting. According to Auto Express, this shower attachment ran on a 12V socket in the boot and came with a little standing tub to use. The CR-V Shower has been discontinued but there are similar car showers available on the market. One of the nice things about the newer ones is that they can heat up the water if you like.
11 MERCEDES-BENZ PERFUME DISPENSER (2014)
When you own a Mercedes-Benz you can't just use any air freshener for your car. Not only did Mercedes-Benz create a perfume dispenser for their car but they also created their own scent. According to Mercedes-Benz, Sabine Engelhardt and her team developed the scent used in a secret hidden room.
They searched the world to find the perfect scent used for their fragrances.
The perfume dispenser is kept in the glove compartment and is hooked up to the air balance system of the car. The dispenser can be turned on as needed with either the heat or air conditioning unit. The scent travels through the vents.
10 CHRYSLER HIGHWAY HI-FI (1956)
Even though cars came equipped with standard AM radios back in the 1950s having good music to listen to is something most people wanted and still do today. At the time there were limited radio shows. Depending on how far you were and how strong of an antenna you had, the radio sometimes wouldn't stay on. It was common for it to lose the transmission and cause static. According to Mac's Motor City Garage, Chrysler was approached by CBS Laboratories chief Peter Goldmark about a record player for cars and convinced them to give a try. It wasn't really a hit and it's not hard to understand why. People would have to lug their 45 rpm singles records into the car and have to worry about not only scratching their records but also worry about the summer months.
9 TOYOTA VAN ICE MAKER (1984)
The Toyota Van Ice Maker was a standard feature available that came in the Toyota Cargo Van. People must have really loved having ice to have this added to their van.
According to Car and Driver, the ice marker was about the size of a shoebox and the cooling system ran on the air-conditioning refrigerant lines.
This was something you either liked or you didn't. Having an ice maker is something you can see in a full RV or maybe if you went camping and needed ice, but a regular vehicle its hard to imagine. While driving today it is very rare that people drive with open cups, most people use plastic bottles or installed travel cups.
8 ROLLS-ROYCE UMBRELLAS IN THE DOOR (2013)
This next strange feature is not something most people think about, as it's reserved for the rich. Most of us are lucky to remember to bring an umbrella with us even when we know it's going to rain. The idea for an umbrella in the door came from Rolls-Royce. This special umbrella fits inside the door and is not just an ordinary umbrella, why would it be after all. According to Jalopnik, the price tag for a Rolls-Royce umbrella can cost $700- $1000. Not only is the umbrella kept in the door for you or your chauffeur to use, the umbrella holder dries the umbrella within minutes so it isn't dripping wet. Now we couldn't have a wet umbrella like that, could we?
7 JAGUAR LAND ROVER LEVITATING GEAR KNOB
Only Jaguar Land Rover would come up with the idea for a levitating gear knob. Like magic, all you needed to do was hold your hand over the knob and it would float up. Which is pretty futuristic for the time. Once the gear knob levitated out, all the user had to do was turn it to the gear that was needed. According to Autotrader, the levitating gear knob was made of high-quality material and had a nice feel to it. As nice as this gear knob is there were times when it wouldn't work, like if the battery was dead.
6 SUBARU BRAT BOLT IN BED SEATS (1981)
The Subaru Brat’s Bolt-In Bed Seats are a strange feature but a neat one. Theses seats allowed you to sit inside the bed of a pick truck safely. They also gave the opportunity to sit outside the car and enjoy the nice weather or look at the stars at night.
The brat seats let the driver toss passengers out of the cab who were getting on their nerves.
It wouldn't be nice if it was raining or snowing out. According to Roadkill, the Brat seats were developed because of a trade war between the U.S. and Germany during that time. The seats were made out of plastic and had ski pole handles to hold on to.
5 NISSAN S-CARGO SPEED CHIME (1989)
With this car, you do not need to worry about the need for speed. Nissan, for some strange reason, installed a speed chime into the S-Cargo. Anytime this car hits 55 mph the chime starts going off, alerting the driver. The problem with the speed chime is that once it starts going off even after you dropped your speed down, it still goes off. That consistent beeping could make anyone go crazy. According to Autotrader, the Nissan S-Cargo also had other strange features. The mirrors would also need adjustments because every time your window was open they moved, and the radio received more static then stations to listen to.
4 RELIANT THREE WHEELS (1973)
The 73 Reliant Robin had a unique and strange feature for an automobile. This car featured three-wheels which consisted of one wheel in the front and two in the back. This car was not only a hit in England but in some other countries and never caught on with American automakers. According to Car Buzz, because of its design, it was popular because it was treated as a three-wheel motorcycle and owners received different insurance rates. It seems that during the era this car was popular not based on looks but for saving a few dollars.
3 WATER- BALLOON BUMPERS (1960s)
As strange as the last feature seems. John Rich designed these unique bumpers for cars to use in the 1960’s. It doesn't seem all that bad of an idea. Water-balloon bumpers were good for low impact accidents.
The balloons were set in front of the bumpers and would burst if the car was hit, spraying water onto the ground.
According to Jalopnik these bumpers worked very well and were also installed in taxis in New York, San Francisco, and Portland. As good as these were they didn't last very long. To get them fixed after an accident could run up to $1100 back then.
2 HORSE HEAD (1899)
Even as early as 1899, Uriah Smith came up with an idea for engine-powered carriages. One Uriah Smith concept was the Horsey-Horseless. Smith's idea was to add a replica of a horse's head at the front end of the of the engine-powered carriage. According to Weird Historian, at the time of this strange feature, there was a transition of changing from horses to cars. Horses were the only means of basic transportation and were used to pull wagons and carriages. Smith thought if a horse's head was placed on the front of the carriage that horses couldn't get spooked with a car approaching it. Seeing a fake horse coming at you and making mechanical noises, it is hard to imagine a horse not getting spooked. Happy to say that the horse head feature concept was not widely used.
1 HIT AND RUN DISCS (1930s)
This concept feature came from the 1930s. Apparently in the early 20th century, as more people began buying and using cars, it seems many people were not good at driving. Sometimes it was pedestrians who were not paying attention when crossing the street or just plain bad drivers on the road. According to Modern Mechanix, the idea for this feature came from a New Jersey lawyer. This feature was to stop hit and runs drivers and help identify the other fleeing from the scene. This allowed the license number and name to drop down from the bumper in large letters so that it could be seen as the car was getting away. It seems like a ridicule feature with all the modern technology of mobile phones and cameras located on the streets today.
Sources: AutoExpress.co.uk, Jalopnik.com, CarAndDriver.com