Top 10: Lost car accessories
We’ve been lamenting the demise of the standard spare wheel lately, which is gradually disappearing in favour of the tyre repair kit. So, here are nine other things that used to come with new cars, but no longer do. You might even miss some of them.
Spare wheels are clearly not a thing of the past, but as a standard issue item, they soon will be. Where once virtually every boot floor concealed a spare tyre wrapped around a steel wheel, these days over two-thirds of cars have a little tyre repair kit there instead. The manufacturers' claim it’s to do with making the car lighter and saving fuel, but they’ll still let you have a spare if you’re willing to pay extra for it.
“Pulling the choke in the car” probably means nothing to someone under 30 – or something that’s not for discussion here. However, it wasn’t that long ago that cars came with a little lever that, when pulled, basically fed a free flow of fuel into the engine when the engine started. The death of the carburetor in favour of fuel injection has pretty much killed the choke – and with it taken all the tension and excitement out of starting a car on a cold morning. Shame.
Thanks to the blasted ‘elf ‘n’ safety brigade it’s no longer acceptable to fill a car with fuel that can cause brain, nerve, heart and kidney damage. As recently as the late ‘90s it was possible to go to a garage and fill your banger with ‘four-star’ leaded petrol, until it was banned in the EU in 2000. Amazingly, NASCAR was using leaded fuel until 2008. Those crazy Americans, eh? Older cars now require a lead replacement additive to run.
Wing mirrors are so called because they were once mounted much further forward on the car then they are today – on the wing, funnily enough, above the front wheel arch. Today that’s not the case, of course, as most are placed at the bottom of the A-pillar. Notable exceptions are the SEAT Leon’s, which are mounted on the doors, and the Pagani Huayra’s, which are actually wing mirrors in the traditional sense.
In ten years’ time it’s very likely that an equivalent list to this one will feature analogue radio, when DAB takes over properly. Be thankful, though, that we no longer have to tune in our car radios like granddad did. People say that modern infotainment systems are distracting, but you try to find the exact tuning for Atlantic 252 while bouncing up and down the A66 with no seatbelt on in a Vauxhall Viva. That is true distraction.
Once upon a time, car manufacturers expected that you might like to change your air filter on your driveway, or renew your spark plugs yourself rather than taking the car into their dealership. To that end they provided a full, proper tool kit with all the right spanners to do home maintenance. Now you’re lucky to get a wheel brace.
Ashtrays and cigarette lighter
The trend for frowning upon people that smoke in public places has seen the once ubiquitous car ashtray and cigarette lighter re-branded as the ‘oddments compartment’ and ‘charging socket’ respectively. So, now you have somewhere to both charge and store your e-cigarette.
It’s still possible to buy bull bars, and they’re very useful if you’re the sort whose job entails winching stuff out of other stuff using a Land Rover. However, the enormous alpha dog hard case bull bars that we’re referring to, made from a unique blend of steel and testosterone and usually fitted to the biggest 4x4s and pickup trucks available, were banned in the UK after it was discovered that they were very good at hurting pedestrians at especially low speeds.
Like Livestrong bracelets, Crocs and Push Pops, mud flaps were born from a noble concept but died just because tastes changed. Designed with a basic dirt- and stone-repelling function, the mud flap gradually and inexplicably became a must-have sporty, rally-style car accessory for the humble runabout, until one day we all realised that they looked absolutely rubbish, and we moved on. Good.
In 1997, the rumour swirling around school that Dave’s dad’s Escort had a 200-CD changer in the boot made Dave’s dad the coolest dad in the whole school. What Dave didn’t tell us, however, was that his dad spent three hours on the street, in the rain, with a stack of CDs and his head in the boot, loading up said CD changer. Not so cool. Also, it took him a further 45 minutes to locate and retrieve Dave’s mum’s copy of Stars by Simply Red, when she needed it for her Pilates class. Dave’s dad has an MP3 player these days.