Modern car features we take for granted

Despite the title, this isn’t actually a blog about modern cars. We’re taking a look at some of the car features we’ve become used to over the years. Just how far have mod cons come?

Power Steering

It’s easy to forget how heavily old cars steer, especially if you’re used to driving your everyday vehicle. Francis Davis was the first to explore power steering and demonstrated the first practical power steering system in 1926. However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that it became more common or even standard on a lot of cars. This changed our relationship with corners – and parking! – for the better.

Radio

Before the days of car radio, you’d have to listen to your passenger or the rumble of the engine. Depending on the length of your trip this could either be a blessing or a curse. Paul Galvin saw fit to fill the mundanity of car journeys with news and music. Galvin was the first to start mass-producing in-car radios, capitalising on a new trend in the early 1930s and developing Motorola.

classic car radio

Headlights

Early vehicles had to trundle along cobble roads with oil lamps dimly fending off the darkness, struggling to create any sort of focused beam.

Advancements in electric lamps began in the 1900s. In 1908, Pockley Automatic Electric Lighting Syndicate began offering a complete set of electric car lights. These included both rear and head lamps. By 1912 Cadillac had successfully integrated electrical ignition systems with their lighting setup to create the function we take for granted today.

classic headlight
headlight

Headlights that are common in a lot of classics are sealed beam headlights. These were introduced in 1929 and created an intense beam using a curved mirror. Design flaws included high energy consumption and staining on the bulb which dampened the beam.

Modern cars tend to have LEDs. Introduced in 2004 in the Audi A8’s daytime lights, they became popular due to the powerful beam they created without using a lot of energy.

The next evolution of headlights seems to be Lasers, featured in the BMW i8, which work by refracting blue laser beams.

Heating

Freezing morning pose no threat to the modern driver as far as in-car heat is concerned – but early cars were open bodied with no windows or heating whatsoever.

From 1907 enclosed cars kept the elements at bay on a basic level but didn’t produce a lot of internal heat. In 1917, a now-dangerous method of funnelling exhaust gases into the cabin to give off faint heat was introduced.

Ford made advancements in 1929 when the Model A introduced hot air from the engine into the interior. Then, in 1933 Ford invented an in-dash heater that was powered by a small gas-fuelled boiler. The revolutionary water heater was pioneered in the 1920s. This created the standard heater core whose basic design hasn’t been re-invented to this day.

With cars becoming more futuristic every year we can only think what will become standard in cars for the rest of the century. Even though they’re getting a little creaky, we still love our classics!

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