Modern cars are becoming more and more advanced as time goes on, and the list of features and "bells and whistles" that you can find in them continues to grow and grow.  I love technology, and think that modern engineering is fantastic.  Nothing against new vehicles.

That being said, everyone has a bit of nostalgia within them, and especially so when it's something you spend as much time in as your car.  These are a few features that you won't find on new vehicles but are readily available on the older, used market.

Hand Crank Windows

Nowadays we have power windows which are great for an assortment of reasons.  All can be controlled at once with the flick of the button, and you don't have to walk around to each door and roll them up when you want to go park somewhere and lock your car.

Hand Crank Windows

That being said, power windows break.  Often.  It's pretty unheard of for a car to go its entire life and never have an issue with one of the windows failing to perform its intended function of moving up and down.  This was never an issue with hand cranks!  Even on the off chance that your handle broke, auto parts stores would sell you universal replacements with all sorts of interesting designs.

Power windows are definitely the superior technology, but you can't help but miss a hand crank when you are forced to cover your open window with a garbage bag to avoid rain and mold damage during a thunderstorm.

Physical Knobs and Buttons

Have a look inside most new modern cars, base models excluded.  What do you see?  Touch screens.  And also a notable lack of any buttons.  Functions such as climate control, music volume and radio station, are all controlled by this one screen in the center console.

This is a situation where personally, I feel the old way was better.  And there are a few reasons why:

  • Touchscreens are more complicated and expensive to fix when they break.
  • Knobs can be adjusted without taking your eyes off the road.  Assuming you are familiar with the vehicle, you can change the volume or the heat/air conditioning without looking.  This is nearly impossible with a touch screen.
  • Touchscreens become outdated fast.  Have a look at GPS or center console units in a Mercedes S Class or Audi A8 from around 2007.  These are less than 10 years old and already look horrible in comparison to modern units.  Two years after buying a new car, your phone's GPS will blow the doors off of whatever was included from the factory, so you'll want to use that instead.

And just think about it... when the knob broke on your old car in high school, you could still adjust it, albeit with greater difficulty.  Try doing that with a bad screen.

Bench Seats

While some new base model pickups may still have bench seats, for the most part they are now a thing of the past.  And that's a bit sad.  While bucket seats are of course better for sports cars, and offer greater grip when cornering, bench seats were pretty cool.

Anyone who went to the drive-in theater (also quickly becoming a thing of the past) as a child probably remembers front row bench seats.  And while I recognize the safety concerns of having them in modern cars, it's hard to miss them in vehicles that are really meant for long stretches of highway cruising.  After all, who doesn't want a couch on wheels for the long cruises?  Sure beats being crammed next to the sweaty guy with heavy breathing when flying coach.

 Pop Up Headlights

Here's a feature that is impractical and less efficient... but we all still miss.  Everyone who grew up in the 1980s probably either had a car with pop up headlights, or knew somebody who did.  And they were cool, really cool.


All of the classic 80s sports cars had lights like these- the C4 Chevy Corvette, the Porsche 944, the Mazda RX-7, the Toyota MR2, and the coveted Ferrari F355.  And while not everyone owned one of these sports cars, the feature expanded to even little economy cars of the time, like the Honda Accord.

Nowadays, we don't have pop up headlights for an assortment of reasons.  First, they are considered to dangerous for pedestrian safety standards, with many 80s cars having a "piercing" effect on impact.  Second, they were worse for fuel economy and speed as they were not exactly aerodynamic.  And lastly, they had a tendency to always fail, or at least one of the two lights would, which created a winking effect.  The winking was cute for about 7 seconds, at which point you realized you were now driving around with only 1 single 1980s headlight which was very ineffective in terms of actually seeing down the road.

Electronic Dashboards

This feels like a great way to round off the list, because it's actually coming back now!  Many new cars come equipped with electronic dashboards, but this is by no means a new technology.  Back in the good old days of the late 80s, you could buy a cheap car like an Oldsmobile Cutlass, and it would come equipped with a dashboard with text resembling a microwave.

Electronic Dashboard

Of course, these screens were considered cutting edge when they came out, but soon began to age poorly.  For one, auto manufacturers decided they really had no need to make these more expensive dashboards.  Consumers on the other hand, found them more difficult to read and also unreliable.

At the time, the technology didn't exist to make these types of dashes viable.  Nowadays though, auto makers are back to making them, but this time they actually have a reason.  New cars offer all sorts of different information from computers and sensors, and the car needs a way of communicating it.  A static dashboard cannot deliver this, so electronic is used such that information can by cycled through.  Also, in some high end sports cars, such as the Lexus LFA, electronic dashes are necessary because the car accelerates so fast, traditional needles on a speedometer just can't keep up!  And while new electronic dashboards are very different from the 1980s ones they are succeeding, it's still interesting to think that a feature often lauded as new was actually around 30+ years ago.