Running a classic car hire company can feel, at times, like living in an automotive parallel universe. While the rest of the world is ogling parking cameras and connectivity, at Great Escape Cars we’re amazed to discover that nowadays windows can be lowered by switches.
On one of my rare encounters with modern motoring it got me thinking about the modern car features that we take for granted. Here goes…
1. Central Locking
Believe it or not there was a time when dad – because mum wasn’t trusted to drive back then – had to reach back and lock or unlock the doors whenever back seat passengers got in or out. The impact of central locking on the reduction in shoulder injuries has, sadly, gone unrecorded.
2. In-car entertainment
Forget ipod connections and built in satnav, remarkably there was a time within living history when a simple mw/fm radio was a luxury extra. Opt for the humble Popular Plus and your in-car entertainment was restricted to looking at the blank space where a radio should be. ‘Extra storage space’ hailed the brochure. ‘Ho hum’ responded a despondent world.
3. Climate control
Today’s modern motorist can brave climatic extremes safe and secure in their insulated air conditioned dream. For drivers of yesteryear it was not so simple. Until the late 90s air conditioning was restricted to the luxurious few, Major Cowley’s world rather than that of mere Bodie and Doyle. The upside was that we all drove around with the windows down, waving and chatting to our fellow bipeds. Not so now, but we are more comfortable.
4. Front wheel drive
Believe it or not there was a time when rear wheel drive wasn’t for sporty BMW drivers, it was for everyone. It was just How Things Were. Because, for most drivers, RWD is a scary, slippy-slidey roundabout experience, manufacturers invented FWD, which had the added benefit of being cheaper to manufacture. 4WD? Reserved for farmers. Driving may be safer now but it’s a little bit less fun. Unless you drive a BMW, which of course you wouldn’t.
5. Power Steering
Every modern car has power assisted steering. That’s a relatively new invention. As cars have got heavier and more complicated drivers have needed electricity to help them turn the wheel. That isn’t to say cars of the 60s and 70s were lightweights – try parking a Mk2 Jaguar to see what luxury motoring meant 1963. Power steering is A Good Thing, but it’s no longer a Luxury Thing
The world of car safety moves swiftly and nowadays airbags are just there. Olden day car makers were also bothered about safety, the trouble is that for them it meant ‘impact resistant’ padded rolls on dash tops, which were as effective as they sound. Cars are safer now, but perhaps that safety net encourages us to drive less safely.
7. Seat belts
Astonishingly – if you’re under 40 – there was a time when it was perfectly acceptable to drive your car ‘unrestrained.’ Before 1968 seat belts were an optional extra. It took another 15 years before anyone was actually required to wear them. Which, when yoi think about it, is quite shocking. Now not wearing a seatbelt is pretty much a crime against morality, ably enforced by our own chiming, flashing and bleeping cars.
8. Automatic chokes
Modern drivers miss out on the joys of jiggling the choke lever – that’s not a euphemism – wedging it in position with a handy clothes peg. Old cars needed manual intervention to start from cold, a black art perfected by shivering motorists of yesteryear, grappling with minute adjustments through woollen gloves. Some may miss the passing of this morning ritual, less masochistic people won’t.
9. Alloy wheels
In a bygone era – ie the 1990s – alloy wheels were the preserve of posh cars and sports cars. Not so now – every car from the Kia Picanto upwards sports shiny alloys. What was once a weight-saving device for sports cars has become a modern staple. Before all this happened the buyers of humbler models made do with wheel trims in various guises. For afficionados this was a quick way to assess how rich the owner was, as trims got more stylish as you ascended the range. Alloys are a good thing therefore, more egalitarian, easier to clean and our road verges are no longer littered with cracked and cast off trims. Hoorah.
10. Car keys
Who’da thought that one day something so essential would become so redundant? Keyless entry and push start cars have pushed the humble car key to the outer reaches of motoring. In some ways this is a shame – it makes replaying a popular 70s party game a little harder – but in others it’s A Good Thing. Trouser pockets now last longer.