Sometimes good ideas fall into disuse. Many older cars, despite their obsolescence, have clever little details and design features that could still be useful and clever today. Here are some ideas that are ripe to make a comeback.
1) The center rear-mounted fuel filler/gas cap.
Why? For one, it makes for a cool little styling feature on specialty cars like Gremlins and old Mustangs. In fact, the 2005-14 S197 Mustangs used a dummy cap as a nod to the original Mustangs.
But on cars that wouldn't wear that styling feature well, you could just tuck it behind the license plate (above) or a clever little blend-in door (below). And that way, the styling along the body sides wouldn't be interrupted by a potentially ill-fitting fuel door.
It's also much more convenient when you go to fill up because you can pull up next to any available pump. No waiting in line and no having to remember (or mis-remember) which side the filler door is on. And for those embarrassing moments where you might drive away with the nozzle still in the filler, it should fall straight out when you pull away instead of breaking away at the handle and potentially spilling fuel everywhere.
Why not? The only reason I can think of is that, with low lift-over decklids, the filler neck would have to be mounted in the bumper fascia. And that might affect rear crash safety.
2) Rim-blow steering wheels.
Why? In this day and age of steering wheel hub-mounted airbags, the horn buttons have been shifted all over the place. Years ago, some companies turned the horn buttons into tiny chiclets on the steering wheel spokes, which made them hard to find in an emergency situation.
Today, engineers have solved the problem by turning the airbag cover, itself, into a horn button. The problem? Say you're using your horn in an emergency situation to help you avoid an accident. Now, say that that accident is unavoidable and you crash. Your airbag explodes out of the steering wheel while your hand is still in front of you, on the horn button. With the explosive force of the airbag deploying, and/or the force of your body hurtling toward the airbag, your hand and arm will get blown off the wheel and into your face, or across the cabin. The potential for facial, or hand/wrist/arm injury is considerable in a situation like this.
With a rim-blow steering wheel, you don't have to go searching for a button. Just press the underside of the rim with your thumb while keeping the rest of your hand firmly on the rim. In an accident, your hands aren't in the way of an exploding airbag. They're exactly where they should be. On the wheel.
Why not? Education and reflexes, maybe? People are used to pounding the middle of their steering wheels to express anger or panic. If this feature wasn't adopted en masse, people might get preoccupied trying to figure out how to work the horn in a panic situation instead of driving the car.
3) HVAC vents in more useful places.
Why? One of the few redeeming features of the 1997-03 Malibu, 1997-99 Cutlass, and 2004-05 Chevy Classic were clever, fully adjustable HVAC vents mounted on the A-pillars, just above the dash. The tasks they accomplished were two-fold. They would deliver warm, cold, or just plain fresh air right to your face (and hands, if they were on the steering wheel). Or they could swivel and deliver warm air to de-fog your side windows right there you'd look through to your mirrors. They also freed up space higher in the dash for more convenient, line-of-sight, placement of accessory switches and cup holders.
Many cars in the '70s featured (an AMC Pacer is pictured) HVAC vents located below the steering column. Less commonly known as "crotch coolers/warmers," they had the effect of keeping your most sensitive bits cool and ventilated when it was hot, and warm when it was cool out.
Why not? It probably wasn't the easiest thing in the world to route HVAC ducts through the A-pillar. And if it wasn't easy, it probably wasn't cheap, either. And those low-mounted crotch vents might get in the way of knee bolster airbags on today's cars. But I'm sure that issue could be resolved, as well.
What other old-time features do you think present viable solutions today? What quirks do you think should make a comeback?