7 exhausted car features that are going extinct (or slowly disappearing)

Date Posted 1st December 2021
Read Time 6 min read

It’s impressive to observe the technological progress humans have made over the last 150 years. It’s hard to believe that we advanced from horse drawn carriages to space travel, in less than a century! Today, this technological surge continues. We witness the constant evolution of all modes of transport, including the safety and convenience of motor vehicles. With progress we often have to say goodbye to the old to embrace the new. Here are seven exhausted car features that are going extinct – or slowly disappearing.  

Manual Window Winders

Of the car features that have gone extinct, the window crank is one of the most iconic

Remember winding the windows down on a family road trip back in the 90s? Oh, the nostalgia. It is becoming increasingly rare to find new cars that come with manual window winders. This is a direct correlation to the automotive industry embracing more efficient electric options. However, old-fashioned windows that you must crank open by hand are still available in car models like the Kia Rio, the Nissan Versa S, and the Ford Fiesta S, to name but a few. These beloved manual windows are also common in full-size trucks that provide a low-cost fleet solution for businesses.

Interestingly, despite electrically powered windows being a common feature in today’s cars, they aren’t a particularly new feature. They’ve been around a long time. First featured as far back as 1940 on the US-built Packard 180, electric windows, were initially viewed as a luxury status symbol

Today, they’re a must have feature for most new car owners. The reasoning behind this is obvious. Besides the convenience and child safety factors, it’s almost impossible to look suave whilst manually winding a car window up or down.

Fender Mirrors

Fender mirrors were stylish but impractical

Fender mirrors were embraced by Japan in the 1960s and 70s with a long list of models sporting the style. Featured on the VG30 model Toyota Century, the first-generation Nissan Silvia, as well as the Honda S600 and S800, fender mirrors are currently still in use on Japanese Toyota Crown Comfort taxis. Japan’s cab drivers say there’s less of a blind spot with fender mirrors. So, it’s easier to confirm what is happening at the rear and side of the car, especially on the driver’s side.

These mirrors were also featured on many classic European models including the Jaguar XK120, various Rolls Royce cars and select BMWs. Though they looked great, in most cars a fender mirror only showed a microscopic viewable area. In modern cars, a quick glance at a door mirror, followed by a look out of your side window will clearly show you if another car is in your blind spot. To top that off, the impracticality of having to exit vehicles to adjust these mirrors has contributed towards their replacement by the modern side mirrors we see today.

Manual Handbrakes

More than eight in ten new cars on sale in the UK today come without a manual handbrake. This is according to the third annual instalment of the CarGurus Manual Handbrake Report.

Though manual handbrakes are preferred by those who love to drift and motorists who fear the dreaded hill start, they’re being rapidly phased out. Despite being used successfully for decades, the manual handbrake’s days are now numbered. Car manufacturers race toward the development of electric vehicles.

Already, brands such as Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Volvo no longer sell new models fitted with manual handbrakes in the UK. First appearing in the fourth-generation BMW 7 Series in 2001, electric handbrakes are considered safer and more practical. They’re now being fitted as standard in most modern vehicles. In fact, the fabled car feature was offered in only 17 percent of new cars in 2021. This is in comparison to 24 percent in 2020, and 30 percent in 2019.

Pop Up Headlights

Pop up headlights provided a sporty exterior but little more than that

Who doesn’t love pop up headlights? This sporty feature was initially created by vehicle manufacturers who wanted to produce cars with low beltlines whilst still adhering to government regulations on headlamp heights. Found on classic sports cars such as the FD RX-7 and the first-generation Mazda Miata, this novel feature is a fan favourite amongst classic sports car aficionados.

After the European Union tightened the guidelines for car design in 2004, pop up headlights were considered unnecessarily dangerous in the event of a collision. This led to their immediate decline and disappearance. The final cars to be equipped with these headlights were the 2004 Lotus Esprit and Chevy Corvette.

Vinyl Roofs

Originally used on horse-drawn carriages, vinyl roofs were first added on cars as far back as the 1920s. It was the 1956 Cadillac Eldorado Seville however, that helped the vinyl roof make a comeback in the late 1950s. This led to a massive surge in popularity during the mid-60s and 70s.

Some of the cars that continued to make the vinyl roof popular include the second-generation Dodge Charger (1968 – 1970), the Ford Mustang Ghia (1973 – 1978), and the first-generation Vauxhall Cavalier (1975 – 1981). The feature only served the purpose of vanity by making cars look like they were convertibles when they weren’t. Its use was continued up until the production of the 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood. Certain companies still offer vinyl roofs for a variety of modern sedans including models from Chevrolet and Buick.

Traditional Ignition and Car Keys

Perhaps one of the most misplaced items in human history, the humble car key has been supplying people with a sense of ownership for over a hundred years. Although the first example of a key turning on a car’s ignition dates to the early 20th century, it was in 1949 that Chrysler introduced the modern key and ignition tumbler combination.

Surprisingly, it was all the way back in 1995 that Siemens produced the first smart key. A device originally featured in the 1998 Mercedes-Benz W220 S-Class. Today, the traditional car key and ignition system is going the way of the crank handle. Manufacturers are opting for keyless ignition systems, and keyless car entry. This means even more convenience, safety and, of course, bragging rights, on modern models.

Full-Size Spare Tyres

You could say that the jury is still out on this one! A full-size spare tyre provides a sense of security for all drivers, giving confidence when embarking on a journey. Many manufacturers however are now deciding it is best to replace the full-size spare. They’re opting to provide either a limited-use spare, or in some cases, no spare at all. The former offers a short grace period so that you can travel straight to an auto repair shop. Or to get you home safely.

In fact, almost all modern SUVs, minivans and passenger cars are now fitted with smaller spares. But why are these temporary options, affectionately known as “biscuits”, taking over boots everywhere? The reasons given by most car manufacturers is to reduce weight, save space and lower costs.

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