Is new auto technology really better?

I don’t have a question, but it’s cold Friday night here in Maryland and I am just sitting here reminissing about my first car. I would like to share those thoughts with you.

It was a 1948 Buick that had mechanical innovations at the time that I believe were better than some of today?s cars but were somehow lost in the dust of technological advancement. For example:

1. It had a hood that you could open from either side, or open both latches and lift the hood completely off.

2. Shocks that were rebuild-able ? somewhat like wheel brake cylinders.

3. A hill holder that would allow you to remove your foot from the foot brake on an up-grade. The clutch pedal would release the holder when starting out.

4. A separate heater core with blower under the front seat for the benefit of rear passengers.

5. Body panels that were simply bolted on.

6. Also, my friend had a 1928 Model A Ford that had a floor shift stick that you could simply rotate up under the dash for the convenience of the middle passenger, after shifting into 3rd. gear.

I?ll bet there are other similar ancient innovations out there that some of you will remember.

You know what I miss? Wing windows!


I like the old cars and pick-ups that had not only fresh air vents at the kick panels, but also that door on the cowl just in front of the windshield that forced one HECK of a lot of air into the cabin. Of course if you were idling at a red light…

“Is new auto technology really better?”

Nope, just more complex and expensive.

The foot operated high beam Switch

What about vacuum windshield wipers, speed controlled by throttle position (not so convenient on long hills).

Yeah, my '62 Falcon. I’d have to say electric wipers are better.

Yeah, now it’s the “optical horn”. (Pull headlight stalk toward you to flash highs.) Before; turning headlights off and on (one cycle, at night); or turning them on and off (one cycle, daytime) meant “hello”; or; "thank you; or; “Go ahead, I’m giving you the courtesy of the road.” Two cycles meant “Slow down- danger ahead.” Three meant “Slow down NOW- imminent danger just ahead”.

(Tree across road, for example) Now no one does this, they just hit the optical horn whether they mean “Go ahead.”; or “Get the hell outtta my way, buddy, I’m comin’ through!” To my mind this this type of ambiguity can be deadly.

Yes, I remember our 1946 Buick roadmaster with the heater under the front seat. Unfortunately, it was not powerful enough for cold regions; there was too much heat loss from the long hoses. But it was a good idea. Some good ideas disappeared due to cost cutting, such as the vent windows, when A/C became commonplace.

Overall, today’s technology is better, I believe; engines last way longer, all those grease nipples are gone, rust protection is better, etc. Fuel mileage for cars of equal weight and horspower is more than doubled.

Things I don’t like are timing belts, mini spares, crowded engine compartments, plastic door handles, other flimsy stuff that should be more durable.

“Things I don’t like are timing belts, mini spares, crowded engine compartments, plastic door handles, other flimsy stuff that should be more durable.”

Fortunately, you only have to go back 20-30 years or so to avoid all that junk.

I used to like rear view mirrors that didn’t fall off. I want tail lights that you can change and glass headlights that you can buy for $5. I want a heater core and motor that you can change from under the hood. I like mechanical heater controls. This crap we have today is terrible. The 72 Cadillac had a perfect heater control. You set the wheel at the temperature you like and forget it for months. Switches that had a distinct function; not a push button in the middle of a knob. In a Yaris, you can’t tell the rear window defroster from the AC.

You just described my wife’s '83 240D almost perfectly, just about as simple as a 60s domestic car (with about 4 times the life expectancy). My '82 300D is slightly more complex, but it has “set it and forget it” climate control (that’s as close to a new car as I ever want to get). IMHO, auto technology probably peeked someplace between the 60s and 80s (depending on make/model). My simple “rule” is not to drive anything new enough to have a check engine light (the beginning of the end).

  1. It had a hood that you could open from either side, or open both latches and lift the hood completely off.

You can still take the hood off your car, but it’s a tight enough fit that getting it back on in precisely the correct position is hard. That’s because of styling, not innovation.

  1. Shocks that were rebuild-able ? somewhat like wheel brake cylinders.

Sure they were rebuildable then. They aren’t any more because they last 20 times longer/farther. It simply isn’t necessary or practical to rebuild an item that cheap.

  1. A hill holder that would allow you to remove your foot from the foot brake on an up-grade. The clutch pedal would release the holder when starting out.

Hill holders have gone by the wayside because they aren’t any more necessary now than they were then. Certainly automatic transmissions make then pointless, but even a manual transmission car doesn’t need one if the driver is experienced. If you’d like a hill holder anyway, I’d bet JC Whitney still carries them.

  1. A separate heater core with blower under the front seat for the benefit of rear passengers.

My 91 4Runner has this very thing. It’s an option on many cars. It’s just not seen as necessary by many.

  1. Body panels that were simply bolted on.

Body panels still bolt on. On older cars the passenger compartment extended to the rear of the car and the rear fenders bolted onto it. Now we’ve eliminated the bolt on rear fenders and have only the all welded passenger compartment.

  1. Also, my friend had a 1928 Model A Ford that had a floor shift stick that you could simply rotate up under the dash for the convenience of the middle passenger, after shifting into 3rd. gear.

We have automatic transmissions and back seats that take care of this one now. It’d be pretty uncomfortable sitting on the console with or without the shifter out of the way.

For my money, auto technology is now so much better that it’s no contest at all. The same equipment that ensures complete combustion to minimize emissions also maximizes fuel mileage and horsepower too. The horsepower wars of the sixties and seventies have nothing on the power wars of today. 600 horsepower with a factory warranty. And how about the warranty itself? The warranty now is for farther than yesteryears cars could ever travel in their entire lifetime.

Is new tech better? Yes and no.

YES in that automobiles need less regular maintenance and are more efficient for the same performance.

NO in that (despite all the money spent engineering reliable engines and other “big ticket” items) most modern cars are hamstrung by spec-ing low-qualtiy OEM parts to cut corners.

Case in point: my '95 Sentra had a strong-running motor that still had factory compression at 150,000 mi. It also had poorly-glued interior trim that fell off regularly, and a trunk “latch-striker” welded to such thin-guage steel that I was constantly having to re-bend it back into place.

Frankly, I don’t think most motorists will care if they have a 250,000 mile engine if they have to take it to the shop monthly to get some plastic POS replaced. Also, reliability (especially of the electrical components, which are maddening to fix) is such that it’s apparent the automakers don’t much care what happens after 5 yrs or so.

We could have wonderfully reliable, enduring cars today if the bean-counters would give the green light to putting the RIGHT parts in the car in the first place!

My 1959 Borgward Isabella had both a foot dimmer switch and a column dimmer switch. I’ve been without a foot dimmer switch for over 40 years now, and I still miss it.

I miss the engine compartments that had enough room to do work without removing components. In fact, my 1961 Rambler Classic had a 6 cylinder engine in a bay that was large enough to house a V-8. There was so much room on both sides of the engine that I could sit on the radiator and put my legs on either side of the engine.

Something that is disappearing today is the sensible sized wheel. Some of the new ultra low profile tires remind me of the old 1915 era truck tires. They were hard rubber. Couldn’t get a flat because there never was air inside.

I must admit, today’s cars are better in many ways. Who doesn’t miss poor heaters, foggy windows, sweaty summer drives (no AC), bias belted tires, drum brakes, and carburetors. The problem with the modern cars is the complexity.

Something else that is disappearing is driver’s common sense. Too many people don’t know how to drive in snow, ice, or other poor conditions. I blame it on the automatic transmission. Up through the 1940’s everyone knew how to drive a stick shift. In the 1950’s the automatic transmission started to get popular. Take away the drivers’ involvement for 50 years and we end up with a bunch of nanny cars and dimwit drivers. I’ve talked to too many folks who only know to put gas in the tank and a key in the ignition.

I miss wing/cowl vents, bench seats with a column shift, and the ability to see daylight when I look upwards into the engine compartment.
What about foot operated starter switches and Tucker’s innovation about the center headlamp that turns with the steering? I thought the latter was a pretty neat idea.

The running joke at one time here in Oklahoma about a foot operated high/low beam switch is that the govenor was going to sign an executive order banning all column mounted high/low beam switches. It appeared that too many overly-enthusiastic OU football fans were getting their feet tangled up in the steering wheel while flashing their lights after a victory. :slight_smile:

Hold your horses buddy… If you think that todays cars are way better then yesterdays, try working on them. Another great point, I had a recent discussion on is the cost of all the computer equipment, accessories & sensors. For the price of a few computer controlled sensors you can find a rebuilt engine that will last longer then the sensor that is merely a couple resistors, capacitors and relays in a box the size of your index finger. GARBAGE

TODAYS CARS ARE GARBAGE!!! Pretty soon you miss one payment 1 uno ONE O-N-E Payment and they stop your car from moving. The dealer can stop your car while your on the road to the hospital with your father in the car having a heart attack GARBAGE… TODAYS CARS ARE GARBAGE!!!

Pretty soon we will have no control over the speed or direction of the cars we drive. We will be forced to input a destination and a computer will only start the vehicle after you are buckled in a secured fashion for the time and it will drive the vehicle GARBAGE… TODAYS CARS ARE GARBAGE!!!

I have worked on cars for years and maybe it hasnt crossed anyones mind but if AMERICANS dont do it someone has to (CHINA) and honestly I dont appreciate having to work on all this CHINESE GARBAGE Americans are bringing into the states. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Hell with it is what I hear most mechanics say. I know because I am still working in the shops. It’s bleak no one wants to touch a car that has more computers in it then moving parts. GARBAGE… TODAYS CARS ARE GARBAGE!!!

Here’s a good one we’ll take the GM HYWIRE or HIGHWIRE or HIWIRE >>?? Who knows who cares? The thing is the whole thing is a computer on wheels. The only engine is the size of a starter moter in the wheel well area. Can you fix that JayWB, I know I sure cant and I’m one of those a–holes that is a good samaritan and tries to help Americans by giving them discounts and deals when they are in a bind or on the side of the road and no one else stops. THE CHINESE ARENT GOING TO COME TO YOUR RESCUE YOU DUMMIES GARBAGE… TODAYS CARS ARE GARBAGE!!!

Doesn’t anyone stop to think S T O P 2 T H I N K MAYBE JUST MAYBE I AM A SLAVE TO MY CAR PAYMENTS. I havent paid a dime in years on my 1989 Chevy Cavalier Z24 5 speed 6 cylinder FWD @ 35-40 mpg AND I hauled a-- past some idiot in a Lexus this morning. So as far as how great the power from the newer cars are is absolutely nothing compared to the power of my freedom from payments. GARBAGE… TODAYS CARS ARE GARBAGE!!!

I have a good idea think about it like buying a computer. Once the car has a glitch of some kind you not only need a mechanic but you will also need a computer geek. Yes this is the stage we are entering. You people who are slaves to your car payments now will more then likely be unable to afford a repair. The part that really s–ks is because of governmental mingling I too will be subject to the same dreaded outcome because of all the other idiots mistakes in America.

Im done with cars, I done being a mechanic, Im going to Bermuda to drink myself to death.

I had a '67 VW Microbus, the last year they had 6V electrical, I think. That damn car was simplicity itself! This was long before I started working in a garage. My brother and I used to try and “fix” our own cars. I bought a book called “Fix Your Volkswagon” by Larry Johnson. The wiring diagram was 2 pages! I was too cheap to buy points so I kept a points file in the glove box. They always seemed to weld themselves together. I’d seperate’em, file’em down and regap them with a piece of cardboard from a matchpack. It was right around .018"! You can’t have this kind of “fun” with today’s cars if you ask me. Yeah, technology’s better, but…

My boss owned a couple of those he had me bring back to life. They must have sat for over 30 years and in no time at all they started up with a little tender love and care

Slightly off topic, but the points were probably being ruined by either a bad condenser or the wrong coil was on the engine.
Using the wrong coil was a common occurrence on VWs. Many people would swap a coil from a whatever onto the VW since they looked the same. However, the VW coil has an internal resistor in it and the other coils do not.