But there was a simpler time, before buzzwords like lithium-ion and autonomy were a thing. When petrol was an unlimited resource, and if a big block V8 drank gallons of the stuff before leaving a driveway it wasn’t given a second thought. When heavy chrome trumped lightweight composites. When bumpers were for bumping and steering wheels were for nothing but steering.
It’s easy to get caught staring so far into the future that the past is forgotten, but let’s not let slip some of the inventful gadgets fitted to cars of days gone by. Here are five cool classic car features I think would still work well on new cars today.
No offence puffers, but smoking in cars is disgusting. Not only do cabin materials permanently soak up the musty fumage, but millions of ashy tobacco leaf particles accumulate in your interior’s every nook and cranny. Not to mention the inevitable hot cherry burns in seat side bolsters. My father’s otherwise mint first-gen MX-5 is a prime example.
In the late 1950s General Motors offered a factory-fit accessory called the Flame-Out Ashtray to combat the flurry of ash cycloning around a smoker’s car while on the move. This ingenious device linked to an engine’s vacuum system and literally sucked smoke, ash and entire butts right through the dashboard and into a special canister mounted under the hood.
Available for only four years the option was short lived, but we wonder why the idea never took off.
Number plate fuel filler
We’ve all been there. Pulling into a garage to fill up and having to loop around the entire property because your car’s filler flap is on the opposite side as the one available pump. Either that or stretch the pump’s reel to its limits, risking scratches to your roof or bootlid as the hose drapes across your paintwork to reach the other side.
If only there was another way. Well there was, back in the day when fuel fillers were hidden behind rear number plates. This super slick design not only rid a car’s side profile of an unnecessary and unsightly filler door, but also allowed for a driver to pull up at either side of a petrol pump. Convenience at its simplest.
This idea was obviously done away with for safety reasons, as rear impacts and petrol tank openings aren’t a good mix. But we still wish for a comeback.
This one’s so obvious we can’t believe it’s not included in luxury carmakers’ extensive options lists as we speak.
Not that it’s all that difficult to plop yourself down behind the wheel of a car with a static seat, but how cool would it be if those in a new 7 Series or S-Class swivelled to greet a driver a before boarding. Back in the late 1950s and early ‘60s it was all the rage for giant-sized cars like Chrysler’s Imperial and DeSoto’s Adventurer to feature pivoting chairs so that would-be Britney Spears and Paris Hiltons could do the tricky ingress and egress thing without flashing their nether bits. Or, more likely, so that grandpa wouldn’t crick his back as a daily workday occurrence.
The 1961 Buick Flamingo took the idea even further with a front passenger seat that moved 180 degrees so occupants could sit face-to-face with those at the back. Brilliant.
Those familiar with older American land yachts may (or may not) have noticed those tiny metal pimples mounted at the very ends of cars’ front fenders. Not just another excuse to slap on a bit of extra chrome jewellery, these little items - called tattle-tale lights - came with some helpful benefits.
Positioned so that their lenses faced rearwards toward the driver, the tattle-tales would illuminate when headlights were on, or flash when indicators were blinking, so that drivers better knew what signals they were sending other road users. They were much the same as the little green arrows in instrument clusters but usually supplementary to them. We all know some older fuddy-duddy drivers who could use some dash light backup.
The tattle-tales were also helpful when parking, especially at night, as they indicated where the very front of a car was, hopefully preventing some nudges of bumpers into walls or other parked cars.
The Bermuda bell, or foot gong, was a large bowl-sized bell mounted under the floor of early motor carriages operated by a foot plunger, and was a forebear to the traditional electric hooter. Of course, modern hooters need no replacing as the most effective ways of alerting other road users of your presence, but this old-school device could be the perfect solution for the silent nature of current and future electric vehicles.
Instead of blaring a horn at that poor pedestrian or cyclist who didn’t hear your battery-operated lentil-mobile coming, you could offer a far friendlier ‘ding-dong’ chime instead. Happiness for both parties. Tesla, where should I send my bank details?
Follow Jesse Adams on Twitter @PoorBoyLtd