Extinct Car Features We Wish Would Return

black 1915 dodge with suicide doors
Reed BrothersDodge History 1915

There’s no denying that car features have come a long way in the last few years. Modern cars have multiple TVs in the back seats, they have Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to access any information on your phone hands-free, they even have windshield displays that look like something out of a futuristic movie! However, there are certainly some car features that have gone extinct that have some value all their own. 

One of the features on our list could end up saving your life if you get stranded in the woods, and another one could save you from having to take a trip to the auto repair shop. Let’s blast back into the past and check out the extinct car features we wish would return!

Suicide Doors

classic lincoln continental with suicide doors

You’ve probably become familiar with the term “suicide doors” even if you aren’t into cars. You know, since Kanye rhymes about them on the regular. And if you don’t know exactly what he’s talking about, “suicide doors” are a set of front-hinged and rear-hinged car doors that open in opposite directions. This kind of door configuration was popular back in the first half of the 20th century, especially amongst gangsters in the 30’s because suicide doors made it easy to push people out of a moving car…

Unfortunately, this was the exact reason that these doors went out of style. There were numerous reports of them opening up at speed, leaving passengers holding on for dear life. The other problem was that passengers would often bump into each other if they were trying to get out at the same time. But even with the obvious design flaws in old suicide doors, you’ve got to admit they look pretty damn fly. 

If they could just make it so they’d always stay shut when you’re cruising down the interstate, I think the suicide door could make a major comeback. Might want to give them a friendlier name though… 

Gated Shifters

Ferrari 308 Gated Shifter

If you’re a fan of the manual gearbox, which you know we are (check out our video on why we need to save the manual), then you might remember the gated shifters they threw into older molders. I mean, sure, the pretty color coding on modern manuals makes it easy enough to switch gears without stalling out and destroying your engine, but gated shifter plates probably cost pocket change to produce, and they really made all the difference. 

Despite the fact that throws on a gated shifter just felt nicer, they also made it a whole lot easier not to miss shifts if you’re out there pulling aggressive moves on the road. The super-precise linkage forks and cables on newer manuals have made the gates pretty much unnecessary, but there’s no denying it was pretty awesome to shift up and feel the stick just slam against the gate. 

Plus, if you ask me, gated shifters looked pretty sleek too. 

Full-Size Spare Tires

Full-Size Spare Tire in trunk of car

Who was the genius who decided that spare tires should be limited-use? If you ask me, that makes about as much sense as a screen door on a submarine. Until recently, cars would come standard with a full-size spare tire, one that was exactly the same as the four you were driving on. So, if one of your tires popped, you could slap the spare on and drive on it until kingdom come. 

With these flimsy limited-use spares now, you’ve got no choice but to drive straight to an auto repair shop so you can get a new tire. And if that auto repair shop happens to be very far away, that could end up being a treacherous journey. It seems like the main reason car companies have decided to do away with full-size spare tires is to save costs. While a full-size spare takes up more space and and adds more weight to the vehicle than a limited-use spare, the difference is negligible. 

It seems to me that the auto industry is just cutting corners at the expense of people’s safety. Enough of these trash heap tires sitting in our spare compartments, bring back the wheel that works. 

Bench Seats

True Red Leather Bench Seat in 1955 Chevy

You’re probably most familiar with the concept of bench seats from old movies from the 70’s and 80’s like Grease. Instead of having two separate seats in the front of the car, it was one long bench that extended across the entire car. And while it could be argued that the newer individual seats are more comfortable, and probably safer, I would argue that they lack the classic feel that bench seats offered. 

With bench seats, it was easy to put your arm around your date at the drive-in movie theatre with all the style and swagger of Danny Zuko. If you wanted to roll to a party with your 5 best friends, you could easily squish 3 people in the front seat. Plus, let’s just establish that bench seats definitely had some stylistic value all their own. They give an interior a classic feel that says, “Throw on a leather jacket and go flirt with the girls down at the milkshake spot.” 

Bench seats were replaced by bucket seats because car manufacturers thought they gave a sleeker appearance to the interior, and because it makes airbags more effective. But if you’re like me, you’d be willing to sacrifice a little safety to get that classic style back.

Hood Ornaments

Swan Hood Ornament
Minnesota Prairie Roots

Sure, hood ornaments aren’t completely extinct, but back in the era of classic cars, they used to be everywhere. These days, you really only see them on Rolls-Royces, but we think they should be put back on the common man’s car! Back in the day, you had hood ornaments on Chevys, like this super cool Impala ornament on this Chevy, or this airplane ornament from the ’55 Belair!

Hood ornaments were just a great way to add a little classic flair to your car, and we’re sad to see them go. Even Jaguar, who held onto the hood ornament almost longer than anyone, has dropped their signature Leaper from recent models. Okay, sure, maybe they were easy targets for amateur vandals trying to ruin your nice ride, but they had so much style, I’d still take the risk. And don’t even try to say they made a difference in terms of drag. C’mon. 

If you really want a hood ornament, there are a ton of classic ones trading online, but don’t superglue a Chief Pontiac ornament onto your Honda Fit. That’s just silly. How about you automakers just bring back the hood ornament? 

Audible Turn Signals

Car Turn Signal Switch

Have you ever felt like a total jackass because you realize that you’ve been driving for several miles in the left lane of the highway with your left turn signal blinking the whole way? There was once a car feature that could help save you this embarrassment. Audible turn signals, which were a standard feature in most cars until recently, made a clicking sound when you flicked on your turn signal. 

The reason they did away with this feature was that people complained that it was unbearably annoying. But if you think about the amount of time that you really have your turn signal on, it’s not all that much. Alright, alright, I know sometimes you’re stuck at a light waiting for it to turn green and you have to keep your signal on the whole time. But if you can’t handle listening to a clicking noise for 2 to 3 minutes, then maybe you need to consider getting into Zen meditation

Plus, if that’s the price we all have to pay to keep drivers from getting confused by errant turn signals, I’d say it’s worth it. So, let’s do ourselves a favor and bring back that audible turn signal.

Pop-up Headlights

Pop-Up Headlights on Mazda RX-7
Diecast Cars Forums

Now, here’s an exterior feature that I miss seeing on the streets. It is truly an unforgivable tragedy that car manufacturers don’t install pop-up headlights anymore. I mean, c’mon, these things are the epitome of style! Pull up to the club in a Lotus Esprit with those pop-up lights, and everyone waiting in line is going to think you’re a Hollywood celebrity. 

Pop-up lights are basically like having a VIP pass anywhere you go. Unfortunately, in 2004, the European Union tightened the guidelines for car designs, forcing manufacturers to create front ends that were more deformable on impact. This made it extremely difficult to install pop-up headlights, and thus, we don’t really see them on the European market anymore. And while, no, there was no such restriction in the USA, a good deal of our cars come from Europe, especially the trend-setting ones. This super-cool light configuration has pretty much gone missing. 

But, whenever I see a car with pop-up lamps today, it immediately draws my attention, and I think, Damn, there’s nothing more pimpin’ than some pop-up headlights.

Car Phones

Man in an Old Low Tech Car with a Car Phone
Business Insider

Try to imagine a world where there weren’t iPhones readily available in everyone’s pockets. Difficult, right? But, believe it or not, such a world once existed. And what was their solution to making calls while on the go? Car phones!

This feature was introduced to the car market in 1946, and remained somewhat prevalent until pocket-sized cell phones made them completely obsolete. Car phones would consist of a rather large handset and a cord, and up to 80 pounds of additional mechanisms hidden away in the hull of the car. Of course, there is no practical reason to put car phones back in cars. In fact, there are several practical reasons not to! But you’ve got to admit, the novelty of having one of these in your whip might be worth it alone. 

There’s a certain James Bond factor to picking up a phone that’s installed in your car and conducting highly confidential secret agent business. And I think we all want to feel like a secret agent every once in a while. Maybe bringing back car phones isn’t the answer, all I’m asking is that we give it some thought.

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