Earlier this week, I was at the pump getting gas when a mid-'80s Somethingorother pulled up to the next pump. The driver came around back and popped back the license plate and started filling up. Wow....I'm amazed that I had forgotten all the cars I owned that also had the fuel intake hidden behind the license plate. It was pretty common at one time. When exactly did they disappear? Although it was a little tough to use one handed--due to a spring the size of an anaconda--it was a pretty nifty idea and it didn't matter to which side of the pump you pulled up. It got me to thinking: so what other things about my first car, a 1972 Chevy Impala Convertible, have been made quietly obsolete by automakers?
Well, I still really miss the reliable little high-beam switch on the floorboard. The "click-click" sound and sensation made high-beam headlights fun and gave the left foot something to do. Remember playing "gotcha" with cars in the opposite lane?
While my Chev didn't have them, my mom's '71 Plymouth had cozy-wings on the side windows. Those seemed to make a lot of sense--letting in just enough air without disrupting conversation or the radio. Not sure why the cozy-wing was ever dropped other than expense, I guess.
My Chevy did have fender skirts, which gave it an elegant appearance that far exceeded its actual luxury. They were easy to take on and off, just a discretely hidden lever underneath. I did not have curb feelers, but considered them one time. Ask an older person about curb-feelers.
I did have white walled tires, though, and my dad showed me how to make them sparkle using Comet and warm water and a stiff scrub brush. I remember getting tires in the 1990s, when white-walls were out of "style" and telling the guy to mount them backwards to hide the stripes--I kinda regret that now, since white walls have completely vanished.
Overall, I miss chrome...that Chevy had a lot of chrome and it was a part-time job to keep it waxed and polished. Today's paint is so much better, I admit, and I haven't waxed a car in years, but back then it was a constant battle with rust, particularly around the fenders, and despite monthly waxings, rust usually won out. But buff the dried wax off of chrome on a sunny, summer day, revealing your distorted reflection, and it was truly a spiritual experience.
I don't miss the frequency and difficulty in changing headlamps; the constant replacement of master cylinders, starters and generators; floorboards that rusted though to the point where you could see the ground; and terrible sounding radios.
I DO miss full sized spare tires, the concept of a real 2 or 4-bbl carburetor, scouring junk yards looking for parts and, alas, the days before strict seat-belt laws.
My old Chevy was probably crushed in a junk yard years ago, sadly, but I'd love to drive her one more time--and pull up to a gas pump to fill 'er up behind the license plate!