Old Cars and New Cars or “Hang on Henrietta!”

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Old Cars and New Cars, What a Difference.

As we travel in our RV we see old cars and new cars and what a difference.  Since I’m the ripe old age of 63 now and have messed with some antiques and some classics and a couple of new vehicles, I’ll give you my insight.  Headlights, brakes and tires and more. The change in technology is staggering and it is moving faster every day. Computers and voices drive cars now. I heard the other day that babies born today will never learn to drive, because the cars will be self driving in 16 years. Really? Not drive????

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Hurst 5 speed

How many of you have driven cars with 3 on the Tree?  Or a Hurst 5 speed?  What other great old features can you name about the older cars? Click To Tweet And sometimes you had to double clutch and sometimes you could get away without using the clutch. Did you know that over 90% of automobiles are currently manufactured with an automatic transmission.  Most are variable, so that you don’t even feel the shifting.

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Seat belts, occupant restraint systems and flying kids

Seat belts were new when I was a kid and only those “fancy expensive cars” had them.  Shoulder belts were non existent.  As kids we stood up on the middle of the front seat to see better. Or we laid in the rear window deck to sleep.  No child restraints for us as we headed for town. Our restraint was Mom’s arm slamming across our chest. LOOK OUT! Click To Tweet Our restraint was Mom’s arm slamming across our chest as she dynamited the brakes to stop for the deer in the road. And her extended arm kept us from being those flying kids bouncing off the windshield.

Heaven Forbid You Got Hit Head On!

The first seat belts were lap belts only and had the chrome aircraft type buckles.  No Airbags or side airbags or curtain supplemental systems.  Nope. Steering columns and dashboards were solid metal and not padded.  There were horn rings inside the steering wheel and some had suicide knobs for steering.  Heaven forbid you got hit head on, because there was a good chance your head would smack the inside of the windshield and the steering column (a piece of non collapsible solid pipe) would go through your chest.  Cars did not have “impact crumple zones”.  Cars were big, heavy pieces of solid metal built strong to hold together when they hit something.

image of steering wheel and dashboard of 57 Chevy old cars and new cars happyhour786
Steering wheel and dashboard of ’57 Chevy

 Headlights, Brakes and Tires Were Much Different

Headlights, brakes and tires were much different and will continue to “improve”. Headlights were breakable glass, with a couple of filaments and some 6 or 12 volt electric current.  On an old Chevy truck you could see about 120 feet ahead of you, provided you had sealed beam headlights, which were the newest thing.  Any speed over 45 mph and you were overdriving your stopping ability.  So basically driving blind.  Then halogen headlights took over the world.  All of a sudden you could drive the patrol car at 130 mph and actually (mostly) see where you were going.  But you still couldn’t stop. Now there are various types of Led lights that aim, dim, time on and off, etc.

Are You Old Enough To Remember Pumping The Brakes??

Brakes were hydraulic lines pushing on composite shoes against drums on the inside of the wheel. You basically pushed them hard with your foot.   If they got hot after 2 or 3 applications,(which they always did on an emergency call or pursuit) they just faded away.  Oops, no brakes now, none,  “Hold on Henrietta we’re going for a ride!.”  So you learned to pump them on and off. Take care of them. Dry them out after snow and rain puddles. It’s just what you did when you had old cars.

Now the brake systems are computerized, some new cars brake for you to avoid hazards.  The antilock systems pump and release at the whim of the computer to keep you from locking up or sliding too far.  My Ford F350 truck has towing brakes and an engine brake.  Slow down the engine, slow down the truck and slow down the trailer, all computerized.  Just set the cruise control and watch it happen. Plus I can just talk to the truck and tell it what settings to use.  What happened to the old logging trucks and cattle haulers we had to actually drive and shift and brake when we were coming down the mountain?

Improvements In Tires

Bias Ply tires were a great improvement over the solid rubber tires on old cars before them.  They lasted much longer. When I was a kid, it was very common to see people with a flat tire sitting on the side of the road with the jack and the spare.  Then the racing gods at Goodyear, built the Goodyear Radial T/A tire. Holy cow, now you could go around a corner and actually hold onto the asphalt.  Talk about a great invention for racers and police cars. Wow.  And they didn’t go flat very often.  Plus you could still spin them and make them smoke.

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The term “land yacht” seems applicable here!!

Other Great Treasures from Old Cars and New Cars

Maremont Cherry Bomb Mufflers were the tops.  All of a sudden the V-8 had the sound of power, that particular rumble, remember? Dimmer switch on the floor, vacuum windshield wipers, flow through ventilation from the rear of the hood, one rearview mirror only, hand crank windows and wing windows too, vinyl flooring (no carpets), cigarette lighters and ashtrays, AM radio with one speaker only (we graduated to 8 Track tapes)  , hoods that opened on both sides, vinyl seats with plastic covers, tire chains that were actually metal chains and last but not least huge chrome steel bumpers that were meant to bump into things.  Anyone remember how to file the points? Plus you didn’t need to leave the key in some cars, start it up with the starter pedal on the floor by the gas pedal, and take the key back out and leave it running.

What Other Things Did I Forget To Mention?

What other great old features can you name about the older cars? I’m asking all my friends to post your thoughts and some other features. I guess the next post will talk more about new cars, self-driving vehicles, flying cars, driverless trucks and who knows. Hang on Henrietta, yep the times are changing.


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