Today’s cars sure aren’t like your Grandpa’s

Today’s cars sure aren’t like your Grandpa’s
ROAD-READY, ALMOST - With some scrounging, improvisation and a lot of effort, the Cubans manage to keep cars of years ago on the road. Check out the extras this car has that today's don't. (Photo : Nick Wolochatiuk)

From stem to stern, (or I should say ‘bumper to bumper), today’s cars are a whole lot different than what your father drove when he was a kid. Let me show you what I mean, just in case you were born after the Cuban Missile Crisis or before cell phones replaced the rotary dial ones.

Bumpers were functional. They were strong enough to be used to push start another car that had a dead battery. (Batteries were scrawny 6-Volts then. Now they’re 12s) Bumpers were made of steel girders and angle iron, not cosmetic plastic or Fiberglas. During the winter, a power cord for the block heater draped over the bumper was de rigueur. Bumperettes were the chrome predecessors of the very functional pushers that today’s police cruisers are equipped with.

Next, the gaping maw of the distinctive grille. Each car manufacturer’s make (or ‘marque’ to be more correct) would help car spotters distinguish a Ford from a Chevy from a Dodge. Only the VW ‘Bug’ didn’t have, or need, a grille. Some of today’s cars, such as Tesla, don’t have one either, but for a different reason: no engine.

Some drivers mounted a pair of small cylinders on the front bumper. The shrieks they emitted (the cylinders, not the drivers) were effective in scaring away deer and moose. Were they?

Above the grille would be an equally distinctive logo or crest, or coat of arms – whatever you wish to call it.

Above that, was something that was pointed enough to impale a whale, or an unfortunate pedestrian who got in the way. It was called the hood ornament. For safety reasons, they’re a rarity today. Back then, bug deflectors were also in that location. Supposedly, they were effective in keeping the windshield free of splatters. Were they?

Driving into the Sun, there was something more useful that today’s drop-down interior sun visors. Back then, an exterior windshield-wide sun visor was permanently mounted above the windshield. They caused aerodynamic drag – but they looked cool.

We continue our backward tour, arriving at the side windows. First to appear would be the fold-out triangular ones, which could even be rotated facing forward, bringing outside air in. No air conditioning in those days.   

On the rear of the front windowsills was a button with a knob on top. Push it down to lock the door. Why a knob on top? To snag the loop on the coat hanger that you somehow snaked onto it from the outside, to unlock the car that was accidentally locked. Forgetful drivers and car thieves found that knob to be quite handy.  

Due to lack of space, today’s tour ends, less than a third of the way through the cars of the 1950s. A la prochain!    

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