For lots of people today, the most important features in car aren’t about driving at all—they’re about technology. From bluetooth for phones and tablets, to augmented-reality navigation systems that overlay images from your car’s cameras with extra information, to sensors that use the flick of your wrist to open your sunroof, it seems like the days of flying cars might not be too far off.
But many young drivers today, some of them born after 2000, probably wouldn’t recognize most of what came standard in cars just 30 or 40 years ago. Today, we have some photos of strange-looking accessories from cars of yesteryear. If you are a relatively new driver or if you know one, test them with these!
First of all, we can see that it’s a Lincoln luxury sedan from the insignia, leather, and wood. There’s a silver-looking door handle and automatic window button. So nothing too strange thus far. But then if we look a bit closer at the side panel, we see a strange little silver push button.
What could that be? It almost looks like something from one of James Bond’s cars. You feel like if you push it, a parachute might shoot out of the back of your car.
Next to the odd push button, there’s a weird compartment in metal. It’s nowhere near big enough for a cup or a thermos. Maybe you could put gum or mints in there? But what about the weird indentation with a hole at one end? What on earth could that be for? No clue. What if we look at the modern version instead?
Still not much help? This just looks like a cup that you can take in and out of the console. Maybe it’s for your spare change, in case you need quarters for the laundromat or a few cents for the drive thru?
Nope, that’s not it. In fact, the reason that this object is so hard to identify these days is that fewer and fewer people do it every year. To give you a hint, over two-fifths of all Americans did this in 1965, when the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) started tracking this figure. Now, only 14 percent of Americans do it and the number keeps declining every year.
You guessed it; the old-fashioned technology you saw above was a cigarette lighter and ashtray!
While in the 1980s and even the 1990s, ashtrays and cigarette lighters automatically came with cars, sometimes even in the back seats, which is somewhat ironic given that kids would mostly be the ones sitting back there. After the monumental settlement between the big tobacco companies and the U.S. government in 1998, there was a lot of pressure to get rid of smoking in public places.
Car makers quickly moved to save money on the extra parts and create more storage space for other things. These days, few people would think about smoking in their cars, and many people would also wonder why you would want a lighter that could potentially catch some of the upholstery on fire!
In the United Kingdom, it’s even become against the law to smoke inside a car when there are people under 18 present in order to protect minors from secondhand smoke. Both the driver and the smoker can be individually fined. Similar bans are being tested across the United States.
So it seems likely that cigarette lighters and ashtrays won’t be coming back anytime soon, especially since we need the space for USB plugs and phone stands.