Forgotten Features from Old Cars That Still Look Cool

Some forgotten features from old cars totally need to be brought back, am I right?

I may be a young buck, but I still have old fashioned tastes—particularly when it comes to cars. 

Old cars have a lot of features and styles that just really made them unique, beautiful, and downright impressive feats of engineering. New cars just all seem the same, and that's just not cool.

Back in the day, each car was strikingly different. It's why I love to ogle vintage cars from the 30s, wish I drove a wicked muscle car from the 70s, and why I'd still be willing to drive a car from a now-defunct auto brand. (Studebaker, anyone?)

Sure, modern cars have "smart" technology, but these forgotten features from old cars still carry way more swag than your built-in GPS does. Don't you agree? 

The “Wrist Twist” Steering Control System

If you wanted to see one of the most unique but somehow fortgotten features from old cars of the 60s, look no further than "Wrist Twist" steering. This (admittedly bizarre and impractical) steering method involves not one, but TWO steering wheels. 

The idea behind the “Wrist Twist” steering system is that it’d be less effort to steer a car if you used two smaller wheels instead of a large wheel. The thing is, you need coordination for that, and actually getting used to it had to have been a pretty big pain in the butt. 

Unsurprisingly, this steering trend never really caught on to the point that it got released on a commercially-sold car. Even so, it’s one of the most retro-futuristic forgotten features from old cars on this list—and that makes it pretty epic. 

Onboard Record Players

Call up your favorite fan of turntablist DJs—onboard record players were, in fact, a thing back in the day. During the 1950s, luxury cars got equipped with mini record players that looked remarkably like the CD players of yesteryear. It’s pretty neat to think that record players were once a feature, right? 

Glove Box Minibars

Of all the forgotten features from old cars you could find, this one had to be one of the most insane. During the 1950s, certain cars actually would have minibars in their glove compartment. Why? Because apparently, everyone drank almost constantly during this decade and no one seemed to think it’d be weird to have a passenger drinking whiskey in your car.

The 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham was the only car to really have this feature and advertise it extremely heavily. While rappers would probably love to have a car that has this option, it’s safe to say that the only way this will come back is as a car mod that’ll turn your car into a police magnet

Hideaway Headlamps (AKA Pop Up Headlights)

Without a doubt, one of the coolest forgotten features from old cars were hideaway headlamps. These were the headlamps that were hidden away behind closed doors. With a flip of the switch, you’d have headlamps that’d pop out. A lot of the later models with these headlamps had extremely sporty looks—think a Corvette body, with those cool “fold effect” headlights from the 70s and 80s, and you’ll understand why these are so stylish.

Retro-chic as they are, it wouldn’t shock me if luxury car designers brought these back. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but that’d be pretty rad. 

Skull License Plates

Not all of the interesting forgotten features from old cars came from car manufacturers. Skull license plates were a “feature” that were invented by the local government in Memphis, Tennessee as a way to publicly shame bad drivers. Anyone who got into multiple accidents or had a particularly bad driving record would get one of these—and probably would also get pulled over as a result.

Nowadays, this feature no longer is applicable as a legal warning. Rather, novelty license plate companies now sell them to teenagers who want to pretend to be badass. So, they kind of lost their meaning along the way. 

Bullet Bouncers

It seems like many of the coolest cars from recent movies took a page from the dystopian-but-smart idea of Bullet Bouncers. These were thick steel shields with small viewing slats that were put up on police car windows during the early 1930s as a way to protect officers from gunshots slung by the people who they were chasing. Obviously, this is one of the forgotten features from old cars on this list that still lives on in a more modern form: bulletproof glass. 

Vertically Sweeping Windshield Wipers

Make no mistake about it, windshield wipers are now a thing we still use. They’re popular as ever, with many cars now even including them standard for the back windows of a car. Most of us still aren’t too happy about the “thump thump” sound we hear when windshield wipers are at work and in the 60s, engineers tried to come up with a solution for that.

They decided to try to make the wipers on certain cars move up and down, rather than side to side. While it definitely looked awesome and ended up being pretty nifty, this usually would cause the wiper arms to jam on debris. As a result of the problems that came with them, vertical wipers slowly ended up being left to in the dust. 

Hubcaps

To the typical car enthusiast, hubcaps aren’t forgotten features from old cars; they are still sold. However, they used to be so much more interesting and had that delightfully retro look that most designers try to emulate from time to time. The reason they stopped being sold as part of car assemblies was because they were so easily stolen. 

Heck, even a monkey could do it. 

Hubcaps are still sold today, though, as options. Some things changed, though. For example, a lot of the hubcaps that are sold are geared towards teens who just got their first car and want to “bling” it out. Well, the ease of stealing didn’t change. They’re still easy to steal, it’s just that no one wants to steal the cheap hubcaps typically seen on a ’97 Honda Civic being driven by Miami’s Most Wanted.

Rear-Facing Third Row Seat

Oh, back when I was a kid, I always would squeal with glee when I got to ride in a car with a rear-facing third row seat. It was so cool to be able to see the drivers behind us and the road seemingly pull away from us. These seats still look cool, but if you ask any younger Millennials, they’ll have no idea what it was like to ride in one of these. Why? Because they’re ancient features most commonly seen on cars that finished their runs before they were born.

Simply put, these were the things that made station wagons fun. However, the fun would probably quickly turn into terror if someone were to rear-end the car. So maybe some kinds of fun were meant to stay in the past?

Wood-Grain Side Paneling

This is one of those forgotten-but-not forgotten features from old cars of the 70s that has basically become synonymous with the era. After all, just about every typical American car made during that era had some kind of wood-grain paneling on the sides. 

At the time, wood was considered to be a fancy treat that had a rustic aspect to it. Nowadays, if you say your car has wood-grain side paneling, people will assume you have the elegance and class of Joe Dirt and a vintage porn star mustache. Oh, how times have changed!

Vent Windows

One of the more subtly forgotten features from old cars you might have seen were vent windows. These were tiny little front-side windows that would only open up just a smidgen. Ever wonder why they were there? Well, aside from air conditioning being rather shoddy and having to worry about people dying of heat stroke in the car, there was another reason why vent windows were so popular.

Much like cigarette lighters (before they became power sources) and built-in ashtrays, vent windows were a smoker’s accessory. This little window was perfect for ashing cigarettes and blowing smoke out the window. Needless to say, with the invention of better AC and the decrease in smoking’s popularity, it’s easy to see why you won’t see this feature on newer cars. 

Ashtrays

If you've ever seen a car ashtray that's been heavily used, you'll understand why I hate these things. This is one of the nastier features vintage cars had—but back in the day, it made sense. 

Around 45 percent of Americans smoked cigarettes at one point, and the fact is, that ash had to go *somewhere* during the winter. Ergo, the ashtray was one of the more popular car features for a while. To sweeten the deal, cars would also come with a pop-up lighter that would be charged by a power source.

Though this is far from one of the more forgotten features from old cars, some car ashtrays really did look cool, especially when they had pop-up lighters. That being said, the “lighter” aspect of this feature kit now lives on as a power source you’ve probably used to charge your phone. 

Full-Sized Spare Tires

Here’s a subtle thing most casual drivers won’t see coming. Bigger tires mean more weight. More weight means less fuel economy. Less fuel economy means bad things for sales and fines. That’s why you don’t see this feature anymore—but dear lord, they used to look so good on the right car. 

Hey, car manufacturers, can we bring this back again? It’d probably be mighty handy in the event of a flat tire on I-95…?

Round Headlights

If you want to see a seriously vintage-looking car, seek out cars that have round headlights. These now-forgotten features from old cars weren’t done for aesthetics most of the time; they were government-mandated features. After a while, standards went to luminosity rather than the shape of the headlight, which meant that people could drive cars with just about any kind of headlight shape. Bucking the old standard, designers quickly called rectangular lights as stylish.

Nowadays, you still see some cars with round headlights, but it’s nowhere near as common as it once was. They were alright, but most of the time, you probably wouldn’t want to drive a car with these. It seems like most rectangular lights seem to give a better range of vision at night, anyway. 

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