As technology evolves, some features that were standard equipment in the cars of yesteryears are now things of the past. Many of these features have quietly died without much fanfare. Yet, we really don’t miss them. Take a look at some of the features that were considered essential equipment in early day cars, which have now disappeared.
Earlier cars used to have fixed ash trays. Not just in the front, but also at the rear. This feature continued in cars right up to the mid 2000s, but as the anti-smoking campaign gathered pace and air-conditioning became common place, the ash tray was considered a non-essential piece of equipment. It first became a removable one and is now more or less dead (some still offer removable ash trays as accessories). Also many car makers have stopped offering cigarette lighters in the car – offering only a 12 volt power socket instead.
The choke died along with the demise of the carburettor in petrol cars, as emission norms and fuel efficiency standards were raised. With multi-point fuel injection and gasoline direct injection now coming in, cars no longer use carburettors. The manual choke that one needed to use for a cold start is no longer needed.
Ammeter / Voltmeter
There is a steady decline in essential instrumentation as well. These days hardly any regular cars come with ammeters or voltmeters that tell you battery health. With improvements in battery technology, one does not need to keep a constant check on battery voltage or current draw. However, rallyists and enthusiasts do often get these gauges installed as accessories, along with others such as oil pressure and boost pressure / vacuum gauges. Many cars these days are even doing away with the temperature gauge. (Royal Enfield 350 cc motorcycle owners will be very familiar with an ammeter.)
The advent of the AC current alternator to charge the battery put paid to the humble DC current dynamo. Earlier most cars were equipped with dynamos. The issue with dynamos was that they provided direct current, but not constant voltage. Hence charging was erratic. Earlier you would have seen truckers and cabbies rev the engine for a while before switching off to charge the battery.
Glow plug resistor
A simple little lamp in the instrument cluster has replaced this clunky metal resistor that glowed red when the glow plugs operated in indirect injection diesel engines. In cold weather one had to turn the key and/or press a button to operate the “heater” for about 30 seconds to a minute before starting a diesel engine. It would be ready to start when this little device glowed red.
Steering column mounted gear shifter
Steering column mounted gear shifters for manual transmissions have more or less completely disappeared. There are still some column shifts though for automatic transmissions – such as the one in the Mercedes range of vehicles. Column mounted gear shifters offered the shoulders quite a work out, but they did free up space on the floor.
Single bench front seat
Bench seats in the front, especially the single bench seat are now things of the past. You still get bench seats in some MUVs and low end hatches, but the driver and passenger’s seat is split, unlike the old bench, where the passenger had no choice but to sit at the same position that the driver was sitting at – even if he/she was a much taller person.
Wind scoop / openable quarter glass
When one did not have air-conditioning, the openable quarter glass or “windscoop” was quite a blessing, as it would divert air from outside into the cabin, offering some cooling to the occupants – but only when the car was moving. With the advent of air-conditioning, this openable quarter glass was rendered redundant.
Right up to the time of the Hindustan Ambassador Mark III, the front bumper of the car had a curious hole in it. Wonder what it was for? The starting handle – a legacy that continued even after the advent of the self-starter. The starting handle came in handy in case the battery died. One could hand crank the engine to life, by spinning the crank shaft pulley using the handle.
Before airbags became a norm in passenger cars, steering wheels had pretty creative designs, and most were fairly large, owing to the lack of power steering. So for the driver to easily access the horn, a horn ring was designed, so that the driver’s thumb could easily reach it from any position.
Foot operated dip-switch
Before steering column mounted light and wiper controls became the norm, many cars such as the old Ambassadors came with a foot-operated dip switch. This little click type switch was situated to the left of the clutch to switch between low beam and high beam when the headlamps were on.
Share any other features you recall are not present in cars todays. Happy reminiscing!