What goes around comes around


A very kind tire dealer was helping me locate a 195-75R x 14 tire for my 1978 Oldmsobile Cutlass. Vehicles now wear 16" and 17" wheels. I remember back in 1961 trying to find 6.50 x 16" tires for my 1947 Pontiac. Most cars had switched to 14" wheels. Later, I had a really difficult time locating 17" tires for my 1950 Chevrolet 1 ton pick-up. I began to think about features that appeared on cars, then disappeared only to reappear. For example:

1949-50 Nash AirFlytes had the controls (headlights, wipers, ignition switch) on the steering column. This feature lay domant for years. Now most cars have these controls on the steering column.

In 1949, General Motors had two types of automatic transmissions: the 4 speed hydramatic and the single speed Buick Dynaflo that continuously varied the speed through the torque converter. Now automobile manufacturers offer multispeed automatic transmissions and the CTV (continuously variable transmissions).

I can remember my father updating the headlights on his 1939 Chevrolet to sealed beam from the old bulb type headlights. The old lights were so dim you had to light a match to see if they were on. Now we again have replaceable bulbs, and in many cases the headlights get so cloudy or yellowed that you again have to check with a match or flashlight to see if your headlights are on.

I remember that Fords through the late 1930’s through 1946 had locking steering columns. This feature disappeared only to reappear years later.

I drove a Toyota Prius a while back. I pushed a button to get everything started. My 1948 Dodge started the same way–had a pushbutton on the dashboard to actuate the starter and get things underway.

I read where some vehicles are shifted manually without a clutch by moving a paddle. Well, on the Model T Ford, one shifted without a clutch–push a pedal all the way down for low and let it out for high.

Today’s cars control the fuel rate and ignition timing with a computer. Well, the Model T Ford did the same thing: one stalk on the steering wheel was the throttle and the other advanced or retarded the spark. These were controlled by the best computer of all–the human brain.

Anyone else besides me find it interesting that “the more things change, the more they stay the same?”


I’m still waiting for the push button transmission from my 1963 Dodge Dart to return. Back then it was mechanical. I’m sure todays electronics could do the same thing.


Yea…reintroduce a old feature as new and people willl pay dearly for that feature.

We went shopping for a new car for my wife this weekend. Looked at the Lexus ES350…The salesman is telling us about this really neat new feature…Telescopic steeringwheel…He didn’t believe me when I told him I had that feature on my 66 Fleetwood.


Same thing when Subaru introduced their “new” Hillholder feature that prevents a manual transmission car from rolling backwards when facing uphill and the trans in neutral.

Go back 40 years to Studebaker for that idea.


My 1949 Cadillac has an internal hood release, but these disappeared for many years–my 1962 Cadillac doesn’t have one and the '60’s cars my parents had while I was growing up didn’t either. They seemed to come back in the early 1970’s, as a new 1972 Buick my dad bought had one (the 1970 Buick he traded in lacked it). Most all the post-1972 cars I’ve seen have had this feature.


I drove a friend’s Edsel and the pushbuttons for the transmission were in the center of the steering column! When you turned the wheel the center hub remained stationary. I doubt this setup will ever return thanks to airbags.


I liked reading your post. We have a lot in common.

If you ever get to Chicago, I’d enjoy having a beer with you.


Today’s cars control the fuel rate and ignition timing with a computer. Well, the Model T Ford did the same thing: one stalk on the steering wheel was the throttle and the other advanced or retarded the spark. These were controlled by the best computer of all–the human brain

Best is a relative term. A human brain is very good at many tasks. It is not so good at repetitive tasks where boredom is an issue. Also, it is currently not feasible to directly interface the feedback sensors, necessary to control an internal combustion engine at today’s expected efficiencies, to the body of the person operating the vehicle. In the old days, you were far less removed from the engine and overall driving experience. Vibrations and sound were more tightly coupled to the body due to the less refined nature of the cabin, seating, engine mounting techniques and overall smoothness of engine operation. You could hear and feel how the engine was running. They weren’t concerned about exhaust emissions either so as long as you got from point A to B, life was good.


Various features keep coming back and failing in the marketplace. 4 wheel steering has made appearances off and on since the 1920s. Auto-stick transmissions keep popping back up since at least the 1960s, but never seem to be popular with the driving public for long. CVTs make periodic appearances as well. Maybe this time they’ll stick around, but I’m not convinced yet.

Some stuff just seems really cool to engineers, but doesn’t really cut it with the rest of the public, and even engineers tire of the novelty after a while.


I forgot about this one. My '66 Sunbeam Alpine had a telescopic steering wheel. Everything old is new again!


Yup! The CVT that most people seem to think is a new concept was actually used for many years in the '60s (and perhaps the '70s) by the DAF automobile company in The Netherlands. And, the DAF system which employed cogged rubber belts with variable diameter pulleys was far less complex (read–far easier and cheaper to repair) than the new CVTs. Of course, the DAF also had less than 50 horsepower, so there was much less strain on the CVT system, but still, it was much less complex.


I’m also seeing a lot of cars going back to having the ignition on the dash instead of the steering column. Hard top convertibles seem to be making a comeback(1950s Fairlane?). Posi-traction = limited slip today.


Yup interesting post. I remember when I was in 8th grade our first year science teacher had just bought a new Buick convertible (must have been a 62 model). The reason he bought it was that it had the constant velocity transmission.

Our neighbor had a 49 Desoto that had the automatic clutch in it. I don’t think Plymouth had it but was reserved for the more upscale Desoto and Chrysler.

Forgot all about the hardtop convertible coming back with Pontiac but that was quite a deal in 1957 when Ford came out with it.

I just kind of figured the designers had limited ideas and needed to keep recycling the old ones


BTW, there are quite a few 195/75-14 tires available, even if your local store doesn’t carry them:



Quote: “I remember when I was in 8th grade our first year science teacher had just bought a new Buick convertible (must have been a 62 model). The reason he bought it was that it had the constant velocity transmission.”

I’m sorry, but your memory has to be a bit faulty here. The only make of car that had a CVT back in those days was the DAF from the Netherlands. Buick did not have a CVT then, or now.


Also, CVT stands for Continuously Variable Transmission, not constant velocity transmission. But, either way, this technology has never been associated with any Buicks, especially from that era when GM utilized the notoriously inefficient Dynaflow transmission.

While it was improved over the years, the Dynaflow had such an incredible amount of slippage that both the acceleration and the fuel economy of the vehicle were very negatively affected. By 1964, GM realized that there was just no way to further tweak this bad design and they adapated a Turbo-Hydromatic to the Buick powertrain, but this transmission was still not a CVT.


That sounds good. We’ll make it a Burghoff beer. I was in mourning for a month when I read that Burghoff’s restaurant had closed.


You are correct about the recent return of the hardtop convertible. And, while many people are familiar with the one produced by Ford during the 50s ('57, '58, and possibly '59), Ford’s hardtop convertible was not the first.

To the best of my knowledge, the originator of the hardtop convertible concept was Peugeot of France. Back in the '30s, Peugeot produced a hardtop convertible version of their “402” sedan. With an aerodynamic body design and a 1.9 liter OHV engine, it was a fairly advanced design for its time. Then, with the addition of the disappearing hard top, it became a landmark of sorts in automotive history.

If anyone knows of an earlier hardtop convertible than the '30s Peugeot 402, I would be interested in hearing about it.


I miss having the high beam switch as a button on the floor. Also, Cadilacs in the mid-1960s, had a so-called “electric eye” that automatically shut off the high beams when an oncoming car approached or when you got close to the car in front of you. --Steve


Now here is a feature (automtic light dimmer) that disappeared and returned, only to disappear again. On one Jack Benny radio show, Jack was hunting for a new car. The salesman told him about this feature. Jack claimed to have this feature on his Maxwell. Mary Livingston said, “Yes, the passing cars blow the lights out!” My 1947 Pontiac had interval wipers–they were vacuum operated and only worked during the interval when I would let up on the accelerator pedal.
I do agree with you about having the high beam switch on the floor. Another floor button that I had on my 1954 Buick would advance the radio to the next station. I think it would be great if this feature came back. The Buick also had a heater under the seat as well as under the dashboard. This feature disappeared from cars for a long time. Now, cars do have heating ducts to the back seat. If we wait long enough, maybe our floor mounted dimmer switch will come back.