8 Obsolete Car Features We Feel Nostalgic About

The advances in automotive technology over the years have resulted in a driving experience that is safer and more enjoyable. Nevertheless, we often lament the fact that certain car features that remind us of a simpler time are gone forever. Some had to go for safety reasons, while others simply became obsolete. The quirky features that we’re listing in this article might seem weird today, but there was a time when they were commonplace. With that in mind, here are eight car features that make us feel all warm and fuzzy with nostalgia. 

Pop Up Headlights, Automotive parking light, Vehicle, Car, Grille, Hood, Automotive lighting, Wheel, Automotive tire, Automotive design, Motor vehicle

Pop-Up Headlights

Pop-up headlights were all the rage back in the 1970s and 1980s. They added a certain pizazz and character to the classic cars we held so dear. This feature made sports cars more aerodynamically efficient when the headlights were hidden, and then with a simple flick of a switch, presto!, the headlights would make themselves seen again! But once the 1990s arrived, regulatory bodies began banning them as pedestrians unfortunate enough to get hit at a high rate of speed by a pop-up headlight tended to, you know, “go to a better place”.  

Cars With Front Bench Seats, Car, Vehicle, Gear shift, Hood, Motor vehicle, Steering wheel

Front Bench Seats

Once upon a time, most cars were equipped with front bench seats rather than the individual seats and center console that we find in all cars today. We loved front bench seats because they allowed a third person to sit between the driver and left-side passenger, encouraging social engagement rather than relegating that poor, poor individual to a state of lonely loserdom in the backseat. But alas, because of the impracticality of installing a shoulder belt and airbags for the center passenger, the front bench had to go. 

1987 Buick Elecra station wagon at 2019 AACA Hershey meet 1of3

Wood Side Panels

When cars were first introduced, they were made of wood in a nod to their horse-drawn carriage roots. But at the beginning of the 20th century, metalworking technology got better, so automakers switched to metal as the main structural material in cars. However, wood remained popular as a decorative element on body panels through the 1960s. This was because many folks thought wood looked better than metal and associated it with being a monocle- and top hat-wearing swell. However, “Woodies,” as they came to be called, had some drawbacks. They were not as strong as metal cars and were more prone to damage in accidents. Additionally, it turns out that wood doesn’t provide as much protection from the elements as metal, because, duh.

Vehicle Door

Dual Fuel Tanks

Gas stations are all over the place these days. In fact, there are around 145,000 across the US, if the American Petroleum Institute is to be believed. But if you took a time machine back to the 1960s, you would discover that this was not always the case. Sometimes you had to drive pretty far between gas station fuel (and potty!) breaks. Thus, a dual-fuel tank was often a necessity. With a flip of a tank switch, the “E” (which we maintain stands for “Enough”) on the fuel gauge indicator instantly went to “F” (which stands for “gimme a Five”), giving the driver a second chance to tempt fate. 

Full Size Car, Wheel, Car, Vehicle, Tire, Hood, Plant, Sky, Motor vehicle, Automotive lighting

Drop-Down Fifth Wheel For Parallel Parking

Parallel parking has always been a daunting task for even the most experienced drivers. It requires a delicate combination of precision, timing, and spatial awareness. For those who struggled with parallel parking, there was a solution: a retractable fifth wheel installed on the rear of a vehicle. When the driver engaged in the parallel parking mode, the fifth wheel descended from the car and acted as a pivot point, allowing the driver to rotate the vehicle around that wheel, thus making it much easier to parallel park. Even though it worked great, it was too expensive and hard to set up. Not to mention announcing to the world that you’re a dork with lousy parallel parking skills.

Headlamp, Automotive parking light, Grille, Vehicle, Automotive lighting, Automotive side-view mirror, Car, Hood, Motor vehicle, Automotive design, Automotive mirror

Headlight Wipers

Headlight wipers were first made by Saab in 1970. The company already had a reputation for putting unusual features in its cars, so it was not long before other car companies did the same. The idea was for them to serve a practical purpose by ensuring drivers had visibility at all times, but not surprisingly, they evolved into something of a snooty status symbol typically found in Rolls Royces and such. But this feature went out of fashion pretty quickly. Aside from being flimsy and prone to damage, they had a tendency to disperse water and grime across the headlights. In other words, they had only one job to do, and that was the opposite!

Steering Wheel, Vehicle, Gear shift, Car, Steering part, Automotive lighting, Motor vehicle, Automotive design, Steering wheel

Gated Shifters

You may have noticed that new cars with manual transmissions are getting harder and harder to find. Automatic transmission rules the day, and so we bid farewell to the stick shift that we held so dear. But don’t feel too sad; you’ll still find plenty of them in Europe and China. 

1979 Chrysler Lebaron T Top, Wheel, Tire, Car, Vehicle, Automotive parking light, Hood, Plant, Motor vehicle


In the 1960s, carmakers worried that the government and auto safety regulators would ban convertibles because they were not safe. This made T-Tops very popular very quickly. T-Tops were a type of roof that had two panels over each front seat that could be taken off. When the panels were taken off, a big hole would be left in the roof, and a support bar going down the middle of the car would be seen. This gave T-Top cars a convertible-like feel without the drawbacks of a fully convertible car. But when convertibles weren’t given the death penalty, sales of T-Top cars plummeted, which ultimately led to their demise.