I posted on that topic a couple years ago and was roundly beaten about
the head and shoulders for suggesting it. But I still believe that
there has been very little significant change in automobile design
since approximately 1965. Putting aside the essentially meaningless
gadgetry that has nothing to do with the basic functional needs a car
should supply, there was all the basic stuff available in a deluxe
1965 car, you could get stick shift or automatic, air conditioning,
power steering and brakes, windshield washer, two speed ELECTRIC
wipers, radio, carpet, etc. There have been a lot of manufacturing
improvements, better rust proofing, fancier radios (but that has
nothing to do with car design), more speeds in the transmission, and
stuff like that but really there is almost nothing new of significance
to 90% of the people who drive a car. If you want to got to even more
basic functionality, it was all there in the late 40's.
Today's cars all are kinda bland and boring. They all are comfortable,
practical, start up everytime thanks to their many sensors, computers, FI.
So they're great, and I shouldn't be complaining.
But some of the old cars are cool to drive. I was driving along the
Pacific Northwest coast a few summers ago, and in front of some people's
small house was a sea foam green late 50's/early 60's VW bug. Not a full
convertable, but it had the cloth top where most of the top slides all the
way back. The bug wasn't in mint shape. It had a few battle scars, dents,
faded paint in spots but you could tell it was a daily driver. Very cool
car. With the top slid back, probably a blast to drive into the small town
for coffee or errands. I guess I need to get me an old VW now!
There will probably not be any major changes in functionality either.
Improvements of existing systems, yes. Today's cars are more refined, more
efficient and easier driving, but windows going up and down with a motor is
still the same idea.
Yet the idea of an electic motor driving the car along with the engine is a
rather new idea, I think. And it has only been implemented successfully in
the US in the last decade or so.
There is also an all electric car in the works, with a gasoline motor that
drives a generator. This is something different, too.
Better and more reliable crash protection, engines, transmissions, fewer
repairs, better radios and more creature comforts are significant to over
90% of the people who drive a car.
Otherwise, the cars from the late 40s would still be on the road.
That's all true but the basic functionality has not changed. A
plumber in 1949 would have had a panel truck with some tool boxes in
the back and various other tools. A plumber in 2007 has the same
basic vehicle as he goes about his business. If you gave him a brand
new 1949 model to replace his 2007 model he would not miss a beat in
doing his work other then missing the AC in some parts of the country.
No, the basic design of a horse and carriage is fundamentally
different. But you are right that he could get by with the HC albeit
he could not carry nearly the amount of tools or travel quickly, or
"gas up" rapidly. That's the kind of fundamental differences I'm
We hope that tradespeople have the right tools. My wife got suckered
into paying $200 for a duct cleaning from a HVAC company. The kid gets
here in his beat up rusty old GMC van, and he's hooking up some tubing to
a side outlet port of the van. And there's a giant vacuum cleaner inside
the van to suck out the debris from the ventilation system.
There was this gasket thingy to seal the tubing to this inlet thingy to
keep air from being sucked in (which would decrease the vacuum effect and
thus the cleaning effect of the system). Anyway, instead of using bolts
to secure the tubing to the gasket which was how the system was
designed, the kid instead used a couple of those hook thingies that
people screw into the beams in their garage to hang bicycles from. I put
my hand near the gasket, and it was sucking in all kinds of air. I said:
"you need to get some bolts for this to work properly." The idiot
shrugged his shoulders and said he lost the bolts. I suggested he go
down to the hardware store down the street and buy some more. He didn't
reply; I should have thrown him off my property right then and there.
Also, the 200 feet of tubing had many cracks in it that I pointed out,
and he got some masking tape (masking tape! not even duct tape) out of
his truck and taped up the holes. I should have demanded to see the dust
trap in the van to see if his shoddy equipment even sucked any dust out
of my ventilation system. probably not.
Personally, I wish the days when there weren't windshield washers, power
brakes and air conditioning weren't around. Nothing like not being able to
see out the window in the bad weather. It is always fun trying to get warm
before heaters, too.
I suggest that if you leave in the Northeast, you just go in your car. Don't
turn on the windshield washer. Keep the off. And simulate not having power
brakes by stopping real slowly. And just for fun , don't turn on the heat.
Then tell us if they make things better.
The electronic gadgetry doesnt make much better. Electric windshield wipers
great step forward from those manifold vacuum driven Ps.O.S.
We always had heaters in our cars, even back to the 41 Ford we drove.
Air conditioning came later, but was a godsend. It did not have a $600
It had an on/off position and a thermostat. Not bad, really.
The point is not that modern cars are not "better" in that they have
more features, the heaters and wipers work better, the transmissions
are more efficient, etc,. But that's just refinement. The basic
design of the vehicle is the same, the functionality is the same, and
in many ways there's not much different even in the "better" part. A
1960 Caddy didn't have great handling perhaps but it was comfortable
and had all the creature comforts of any significance unless you think
cup holders constitute basic functions of a car.
They've also been around for close to 70 years now. I'm not aware of
any mainstream vehicles that used vacuum wipers past the mid-50's.
I'm guessing that Packard was one of the last; and by the end, most
vehicles used an auxiliary vacuum pump off either the fuel pump or the
oil pump instead of manifold vacuum. I will grant you that there were
some pretty dramatic improvements in vehicles during the first half of
the 20th century; the difference between a "brass era" car and a 50's
car is incredible.
You could pluck anyone off the street today and put them behind the
wheel of a decent 50's car and with a little familiarization they
could drive it safely and comfortably in today's traffic. Which was
the whole point that several people were trying to make earlier in
A case could be made that the American automotive industry peaked
around 1971 and it would be difficult to argue with that; certainly
the period between about 1976 and only a few years ago was witness to
some seriously suckful products put out by once-proud manufacturers.
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