Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Cruise control, then and now

Cruise control maintains the speed it’s set at… even if you fall asleep and drift off the pavement.

Anyone remember cars in the past that had a speed control type of device like this: you pressed the gas pedal against a resistance. Holding it against that (maybe varying, with terrain) resistance held your speed. You could let up on the gas and the car slowed down normally. Is this feature still out there on present models?

I am unaware this type of cruise control ever existed…What would be the point? The idea behind CC is so you can relax your right foot…

The point was to avoid going past a speed you set - but with extra pressure on the gas, you could still accelerate normally.

Maybe it was sold as a speeding ticket preventer… I agree it does not do what we expect from cruise control… but isn’t it safer than something that keeps you going at a set speed unless you intervene?

In your second paragraph, you mention:

  1. Pressing the pedal, against resistance, held speed.
  2. The need to vary the pedal-pressing, due to terrain.
  3. Letting up on the gas slowed the car down.

It seems to me you are describing a gas pedal. In fact, when I first read this, I assumed this post to be tongue-in-cheek. If not, be advised most cruise controls allow for acceleration over the “set” speed, to re-capture set speed by just letting off the gas pedal. Usually only pressing the brake and/or clutch (as equipped) would cancel the cruise.

Your description sounds just like a car WITHOUT cruise control.

Any cruise control system will accelerate normally if you punch the gas, and slow back down normally to the “set” speed and stay there when you take your foot off.

Am I missing something in your description?

It sounded to me like you just held the pedal in one spot - contstanly - and the car maintained speed no matter what. So w/out cruise you have to press down on the pedal to maintain speed while you climb a hill and let up on the pedal to maintain speed down a hill. It sounded to me like you just peg the pedal in one spot, never move your foot and the car handles the hills automatically.

I’ve never heard of it - but I’m just a little bit of a thing not even born until the late 60s.

The way it worked: you set it for the speed you wanted to hold and not exceed; pressed the gas pedal to whatever extent you wanted; when that speed was reached, an extra resistance was felt at the gas pedal.

If terrain called for accel or decel, you still held the gas pedal against this resistance. The mechanism would cause the pedal to move to a less-throttle or more-throttle position. You just kept your foot on the pedal as its position varied with terrain.

If you wanted to decelerate, you let up on the pedal. No need to brake or clutch or push a button on your steering wheel. Easy and simple! If you wanted to accelerate beyond the speed you had set, you just pushed harder than usual on the gas pedal, against that resistance, and the car accelerated. No need to push a button multiple times to speed up, and a different button multiple times to slow down or a still different button to resume speed.

All the while, if you let up on the gas pedal, the car slowed down.

I remember this feature as being on some GM car(s) of the 1960s.

I was born in 1940, have been interested in cars since a child and have never heard of this.

Never heard of this one.

My Grandfather had a 1973 Buick Riviera that he bought new. It had a speed warning—you set it and when you exceeded the set speed, it buzzed at you.

My Dad had a 1967 Oldsmobile Toronado (front wheel drive BTW) when I was a kid. It had a cruise control where you set a little thumbwheel to the desired speed and the car would do that. I remember you could move the wheel and the car would speed up or slow down. I think it DID disengage if you hit the brake though. The car also had vacuum-operated power locks, and a mechanical seek function on the AM/FM radio. It think it was called “Wonderbar”

That sounds more like a self-setting governor than cruise control.