As anyone over 30 can tell you, rear-facing seats were once a staple of trips in the family station wagon. Even modern European wagons are turning away from rear-facing seats, though some luxury automakers are hanging on — Tesla just put third-row jump seats in its Model S.
GLOVE BOX MINI BAR
The 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham became infamous for its magnetic minibar in the glove compartment. Considering that the U.S. didn't actually consider drunken driving all that serious of an offense until the 1970s, the minibar likely wasn't completely absurd in the “Mad Men” era.
FOOT DIMMER SWITCH
Less than 6 percent of cars are made with manual, hand-crank mirrors now, replaced by push-button windows that had been considered a luxury until well into the 1990s.
GLOVE BOX “CUP HOLDERS”
FRONT BENCH SEATS
The T-top dates back to 1948, but really took off when Burt Reynolds and Sally Field went bombing down back roads in a T-top Pontiac Trans-Am in 1977's “Smokey and the Bandit.” While General Motors gave the Pontiac Firebird and Chevrolet Camaro the T-roof option until 2002, that was the last time the notoriously leaky configuration came out of a factory.
First introduced by Ericsson in Sweden in 1910, then by Bell in the U.S. in 1946, the car phone was a bulky piece of technology that allowed drivers to make phone calls over a three-channel radio system. It was clumsy (80 pounds!), expensive and, until the mid-'80s, the only option. As mobile phone networks went digital and became cheaper, the need for large, factory-installed car phones disappeared.
The quarter glassvent window was once the preferred way to cool off a car and suck away cigarette smoke ... and to occasionally break back in after locking your keys inside. But with air conditioning far more prolific, cigarette smoking in continued decline, and keys yielding to fobs and even apps, those hinged vent windows have disappearedas designers go for cleaner lines and reduced weight.
DUAL GAS TANKS
If you own an older Ford pickup, you have rust. Why? Part of the issue was the rain gutters meant to keep rain off of side windows and out of the cab, which had a habit of just holding moisture in place and ruining the paint and roof. It's a cool feature that becomes a huge hassle when cars are simply primed and painted instead of completely sealed as they are today.
CHROME FRONT ENDS
Looking at vehicles such as the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air is like looking at works of art, though artwork doesn't typically run much risk of slamming into a pedestrian. As Nader said in “Unsafe at Any Speed,” they featured a front-end design that made it all too easy to just plow over pedestrians. “Bumpers shaped like sled-runners and sloping grille work above the bumpers, which give the effect of 'leaning into the wind,' increase ... the car's potential for exerting down-and-under pressures on the pedestrian.
GAS CAPS UNDER THE LICENSE PLATE
Automakers used to hide gas caps behind just about anything to ensure they didn't interfere with a car's design. Tucking them behind hinged rear license plates was a popular choice, with General Motors and Jeep doing so until the mid-'90s. But when Ralph Nader noted that cars with fuel systems in the rear were fire and safety hazards, automakers began backing away.
AUTOMATIC SEAT BELTS
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration required some sort of passive safety feature in cars of the '90s. Since automakers were reluctant to add airbags, we got these: shoulder straps that moved automatically along the roofline when car doors opened or closed. They resulted occasionally in some embarrassment and were potentially dangerous.
CD CHANGER MAGAZINES
At one time, a spare tire was just that: a spare, full-sized tire. Run-flat tires, with either automatic sealing or reinforced sidewalls, are making headway and automakers have included smaller “doughnut” tires for years, but many automakers just go with patch and inflation kits. With roadside assistance programs more standard and car weight on automakers' minds, the spare tire is getting squeezed out.