Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 19th September 2017

 As classic cars have evolved, so have the features used with them. Once upon a time, cars were commonly fitted with ash trays in the dashboard. Non-smokers still had the benefit of using the tray to store coins. You can opt for a smoker’s package in a new car, which is an ash tray in a cup holder. The same can be said with other features, such as tailfins and control knobs. As a  classic car insurer in the UK, we understand nostalgia can be a big factor in car choice. Here are four features that you can’t find in a car anymore.

1. Tailfins

Tailfins were created by Harley Earl, the head of design at General Motors. Fins first appeared on the 1948 Cadillac, and they were inspired by the WW2 Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter plane. They resembled wings, giving cars a futuristic look that made them very popular in the 50s.

2. Horn rings

Horn rings were introduced for safety and convenience. Originally, drivers had to take one hand off the steering wheel to press the button in the centre to honk the horn. Horn rings were convenient because the driver could keep both hands on the wheel and use their fingers to beep a warning noise. Horn activation was changed to a button in the steering wheel spokes when driver side airbags were invented.

3. Bench Seat

Classic bench seats belong to the era of no seat belts and drive-in film dates. The last car to feature the bench seat was the Chevy Impala. Benches have been phased out in favour of sportier upholstery. Benches have also changed for safety reasons, particularly with airbags, as they can offer greater protection for two passengers as opposed to three.


4. ‘Suicide’ Doors

These rear-hinged doors got their colourful name from the pre-seat belt era. If the door wasn’t closed tight enough during a drive, then it could be flung open and the passenger would fall out. Yet these doors remained popular up until the 1960s because of convenience. With the way the doors were designed, there was no pillar separating the front and back seats. So, when the doors were opened there was a lot of room to climb inside.

The last car to have these kind of doors was the 1967 Ford Thunderbird four-door sedan.

Many of these features were removed for safety purposes, but can still be found in certain types of classic cars. Visiting places like automotive museums will allow you to see these features up close, from audible turn signals, to floor-mounted dimmer switch. It makes you wonder what today’s generation will look back on in 20 years time. Perhaps we’ll be waxing nostalgic about petrol prices and portable GPS devices we had to stick to the dashboard.


If there is one constant in the car industry it’s that technology improves on a regular basis. The future’s looking bright for the next phase of automotive features, leading to safer, more efficient cars