The Old Coot and old cars

Could you drive your car if it didn’t have power steering, power brakes, and power windows? How about windshield washer, air conditioning, and wipers that don’t slow down when you step on the gas to pass a car or go up a hill. Not to mention those frill items; power seats, heated seats, heated steering wheels, GPS, FM radios, and high beam headlights you turn on and off with a switch on the steering wheel, not a foot pedal to the left of the brake pedal. You could do it, but the difficulty and inconvenience would surprise you. Yet, that’s the way cars were in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and into the 60’s. 

Some people, or most people living today, never rolled down a car window using a hand crank. Or experienced that long lean to the right, to reach over and roll down the passenger window, or to get out of the car and into the back seat to crank down those windows. At least back then there were vent windows in the front that would send a blast of air across the driver and passengers. It was better than nothing.  

I walk around looking at those beauties from the 40’s and 50’s at car shows every year. Longing for those good old days, until I get in and take a spin. They aren’t the same as today’s cars. It feels like you are driving a big old dump truck. You almost need to learn to drive all over again. Gas prices weren’t an issue back then, even with cars getting less than ten miles a gallon. Not with a gallon of gas costing 26 cents.  

Everything is so different now. Back then, trucks had a hard time getting up to the speed limit, and on a hill they struggled all the way to the top. You didn’t have to worry about a speeding behemoth barreling by, blowing you off the road like you do today. You did have to be patient, waiting to come to a long straight stretch of road so you could pass one of those slow-moving commercial vehicles. The roads had only two-lanes. The four-lane highways had yet to be constructed. That change started during the Eisenhower Era in the late 1950’s.    

We buzzed along at the 50-mph speed limit with all the windows down on a hot day, and only the three people in the front seat benefiting from the blast from the vent windows. We had to hop out and clear the windshield of slush splatters in the winter and install metal chains on the back tires. Turn signals? Back then you signaled by sticking your arm out the window to indicate you were turning to the right or left. It’s hard to imagine driving in those “good old days.” Even for me! And I was there!  

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