The evolution of car design and engineering is a fast process. Since the popularization of the automobile in the early 21st century, things have changed dramatically. Everything from materials used on the structure of a vehicle, to the technology that makes a vehicle safe and adds convenience, is different.
While almost all of the changes that have been made are an effort to improve a vehicle’s performance and efficiency, there are some cool features from vehicles in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, that were a lot of fun and really unique, but that doesn’t mean those features have entirely vanished. Take a look through some of the unique features on vehicles from previous eras, and see where they still exist on the automobiles of today.
Round headlights used to be a pretty standard headlight design for sedans, sports cars and SUVs, but today only a few vehicles still have round headlights. Since the feature is less common, the few vehicles that have round headlights have a very unique look. Some say the round headlights look like eyes, which function to make the car look happy, and like it is smiling.
One of the vehicles that has never done away with the round headlight look is the Jeep Wrangler. The Wrangler has had round headlights since its creation in 1941. Other cars that also have round headlights are Mini Cooper, BMW and Fiat.
Wood Grain Side Paneling a.k.a. “Woodies”
Wood grain side paneling was a feature that some SUVs had between the ‘30s all the way through the ‘90s. Some of the manufacturers that had the feature were Jeep, Ford, Chevrolet, Honda, Chrysler, and Nissan. However, the look will be making a comeback to the Jeep model lineup by 2018.
Recently, Jeep announced that they will release a new Jeep Grand Wagoneer “Woodie,” the Jeep model that featured the wood grain side paneling, in late 2017 or 2018. In addition to bringing back the wood paneling feature, Jeep will add modern day luxury and technology features to the Grand Wagoneer as well.
Full-Size Spare Tire
The full-size spare tire is nowhere near as common as it once was. Many manufacturers ditched this feature by 2006 because they were trying to reduce extra weight from the tire and wheel due to its affect on fuel economy, and it’s also a way to cut costs.
The most iconic vehicle that features a full-size spare tire into a vehicle’s exterior design is the Jeep Wrangler. Since its beginning and still today, the Jeep Wrangler displays a full-size spare tire on the back of the vehicle. The Dodge Durango and the Toyota Tacoma no longer have the tire on the back, but both vehicles have a storage place for the full-size spare tire within the car.
Racing stripes are a cool feature on today’s cars or classic cars. Back in the ‘60s, racing stripes were popular on sports cars and American muscle cars link to this. As racing stripes became a “thing” certain types of stripes became specific to a certain type of car. For instance, the stripes used on a Chevy Camaro are not the same stripes used on a Ford Mustang.
While the trend has become less popular, there are still several manufacturers that offer racing stripes as an available option to buyers. Manufacturers that offer the option of racing stripes on new vehicles include Ford on the Mustang, Chevrolet on the Camaro and Corvette, and Dodge on the Charger and Challenger.
But, that doesn’t mean those are the only cars that have the stripes. It is still possible to order the stripes online, and add them to your car yourself, just make sure you get the right type and follow the installation instructions.
Hidden Fuel Fills
Back in the day, manufacturers were a little more creative with fuel fill placement. For example, the 1956 Chevy Bel Air had a fuel fill that was hidden behind one of the vehicle’s tail lights, and many muscle cars, like the Chevrolet Chevelle, placed the fuel fill behind the license plate. To fill up in either of those cars, the license plate or tail light would fold down or up and “ah ha!,” there’s the fuel fill. However, this trend largely started phasing out in the late ‘80s and ‘90s because manufacturers realized that putting the fuel cap in the back was very dangerous in the event of a rear end collision!
Today, this trend is almost, if not, entirely gone. But manufacturers have found ways to make the fuel fill, and fuel fill doors a part of a car's design. One car that comes to mind when thinking of stylish fuel fill doors is the 2016 Audi TT. The fuel fill on the TT is a steel bolted cap, that blends in with the sleek look of the vehicle. The Toyota Rav4 also has a interesting fuel fill door design. The door is a steel door as well, with the Toyota Rav4 logo engraved into it.
Additionally, manufacturers have been working on making the fueling process easier by completely removing the fuel cap. Basically, there is still a door covering where the gas link to this gets put in, but when the door opens there is a fuel filler without the cap, and owners or drivers never have to touch anything except the gas pump nozzle to fill up. Brands that have switched over to using this include Ford, Honda, and Cadillac.
Large trunk space in sedans, and even sports cars was popular in the ‘60s because cars in general were much larger. The extra trunk space was very practical, especially for families.
But in the last few decades car engineering has leaned towards more compact cars and trunk space has been compromised. But that doesn’t mean that vehicle’s don’t still have a good amount of cargo storage. A few luxury sedans with large trunk space include the Audi A7 (34.5 cubic feet), and the Tesla Model S (26.3 cubic feet). Affordable vehicles with large trunk space include the Ford Taurus (20.1 cubic feet), Chevrolet Impala (18.8 cubic feet), and the Chrysler 300 (16.3 cubic feet).
Front-Row Bench Seating
Front-row bench seating in both cars and trucks used to be very popular. Many vehicles got rid of the front-row bench seat feature, but if that is a feature you like on your truck, you are in luck. The 2016 Chevy Silverado 1500 and Ford F-150 still offer a front seat bench option.
For better or for worse, there are some car features of the past that don’t exist on new cars any more, like flip headlights and front headlight wipers. The flip lights were very popular amongst sports cars in the past, including but not limited to the Camaro, Corvette, and Challenger. Front headlight wipers no doubt looked silly, but some people swore by them and they were particular practical for snowy and icy environments. Maybe one day they will make a return ...
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