Rear facing seats
Back in the wild old days, station wagons used to come with rearward facing seats. Unfortunately, my parents never had one, but I wish they had. As a kid, sitting in the way back had to be remarkable. There weren’t any seatbelts, and you were in your little world back there. You could make faces as drivers behind your or play games. Never mind that a rear-end collision was less than ideal. The trend lasted from the 1960s until the 2000s. Fortunately for us all, it’s back! The Tesla Model X features two rear-facing seats! Of course, now kids are just staring at screens all day, but maybe some nostalgic adults can hop back there!
Man, weren’t car phones so cool? Depending on your age, you may be asking, what the hell is a car phone? Well, we didn’t have cell phones back in the day, so significant people had to make calls from their car phones. Are you a super important Wall Street guy who needs to trade horse futures? Then you probably need a car phone. Hell, the Buick Park Avenue above came with two! It turns out this trend was telling since now it is unthinkable to get a new car that doesn’t easily pair with your phone. After getting a car with Apple Carplay, it is tough to go back. I also have a ‘72 GMC, and I might have to see if I can create something in there. I would chalk this up as a remarkable trend.
Pop-up headlights might be my favorite past trend. There was a time when everyone had popup headlights from the cheapest Miata to the mighty Ferrari F40. Something was satisfying about flipping the switch and watching the lights reveal themselves. There was one big downside, the wink. If you had a car with pop-up headlights, chances are at some point the motor goes out. They never go out at the same time, so you end up with one light stuck up and one down — the wink. The pop-up headlight died after the 2004 Chevy Corvette, which is a shame. But you can take solace in watching The 9 Best Pop-Up Headlights. Maybe this will inspire some future or current automakers to bring them back.
When done correctly, wood paneling is an excellent automotive trend. Wood paneling on a Grand Wagoneer = yes!. On a PT Cruiser = No! It may be a trend that only works in the day and age in which it appeared. I’m not sure there would be a modern car that would look good with it now. The last production car to wear wood paneling was the 1996 Chevy Caprice. The PT Cruiser did not come from the factory with wood paneling, that was an aftermarket trend. If you’re keeping track, that’s at least twice that Chevy was the last to give something up. I would also add wood truck beds to this section, as those are also awesome. There is a rendering of a modern Jeep with wood paneling, but I don’t like it. Check it out and tell me what you think.
The Not so Awesome
Automatic seat belts
Let’s start with one I hate, the dreaded automatic seatbelt. The automatic seat belt first reared its ugly head in the 1970s with the VW Golf. I could assume it was some retaliation to the world for losing WWII. Automakers and safety advocates believed that by automating the seat belt, it would make cars safer. Unfortunately for everyone, they were right. According to a USDOT study, the fatality rate dropped from 2.34 deaths per million road miles down to .78. Luckily for us, the introduction of the less intrusive dual front airbags eventually displaced the dreaded automatic seatbelt. With 90’s cars becoming collectibles, I’m sure we will see some of these automatic menaces on the road again.
The color brown dominated the seventies. Everything was brown from the clothes to the graphics and the cars. Just so much brown. I can’t think of a single car that looks good in brown. There are several that look good in tan but not in the 70s brown. It’s the shade of poop. What’s even better is sometimes cars would be brown with another color brown stripe or maybe also yellow lines. I wasn’t alive in the 70s, so I’m not sure why the world was so brown. There is only one vehicle that should ever be brown, a UPS truck. Hell, that’s their slogan, “What can Brown do for you?” I tell you what it can’t do for me, ever grace another car as long as I live.
What moron thought vinyl roofs were a good idea? Oh, I know, let’s cover the most exposed part of the car with something almost impossible to maintain. I have a car that used to have a vinyl roof, and I can promise you, it will never have another one again. It’s not that it looks incredibly bad, they didn’t. The problem was the roof of your car is exposed to the elements like the sun. The sun does a number on vinyl and leads to substantial cracks and discoloration. Luckily they’re only about $150 to replace, but still, why not just have the roof be standard? Damn them!
Honorable mentions: factory velour interior, fake vents, fake exhaust noise, too many speeds (7-,9-,10-), performance cars without a manual transmission option.