Old car interior

what is it in the old cloth interior cars of the 40’s and 50’s that gives them that same peculiar old car smell that everyone is familiar with?

It may be the horse-hair padding.

Mold and mildew, perhaps?

All of the above, coupled with a lack of ventilation. Almost all car heaters in those days (Nash being the exception) used recirculated air, rather than outside air.

Additionally, the only ventilation in the car on “fair-weather” days when the windows were closed was from a non-powered vent. The air flow from these non-powered vents was pathetic–at best. The result of all this was “dead air” in the car whenever the windows were closed–which was most of the time.

They used mohair a lot. Plus the stuffing was the cotton stuff and that stuff that looked like wood hairs to form padding. Also they didn’t have the same adhesives and sealers that they use today that adds to the plastic outgassing today.

Naahhh, even my Nashes smell like old car should. Horse hair of hog hair may be the answer, but they are both 1950s, and have foam rubber padding. Of course the old broadcloth had an odor of its own too.

Did you know that the 1950 Nash was the first production car to have a factory installed seat belt? It was on the passenger’s front seat, and closed with adjustable lift dots like an English car’s convertible top. It was supposed to keep the passenger from rolling around when s/he was sleeping on the reclining seat/bed while the car was in motion.

Remember nearly everyone smoked in the 50s, and few cars had air conditioning, so the lack of fresh air, sweat, and smoke made for a powerful cocktail of yucks!

Yabut they did have fresh air vents that would be nice to have today, and side vent windows. Remember the center vents up on the windshield cowl?

When cars became closed vehicles with mohair seats in the 1930’s was about the same time that people began having their dogs travel along in the cars. I think that the dogs began sticking their heads out of the windows because of this smell. This caused a mutation in the genetic make-up of dogs and now almost all dogs want to ride with their heads out the window whether there is an odor in the car or not. At any rate, I’ll bet there is government grant money available to genetically re-engineer dogs to where they were back before the closed cars with the smelly interiors were introduced so that the dogs wouldn’t have to ride along with their heads sticking out the window.

Yes, my 1948 Chevrolet Stylemaster Deluxe had both. Still during the winter, the heater just recirculated the air, and we all smoked. My car smelled like a mohair ashtray.

Ah ha. I think you might be on to something. There were some strange things happening back then.