Classic Cars With Bob Gelber

The other day, during a heavy rain, I opened the door to my house and realized that I had forgotten to lock the car. I was about 50 feet from the car and with just a click of the car key remote I locked the car. I thought to myself, now THAT’S a great invention. Some great thinking has advanced automobile convenience over the past decades coexisting with some really stupid concepts. Here are some random thoughts. [expand]

Remember the “Your door is ajar” recording that would remind you of impending doom. I don’t know about you, but it drove most everyone crazy. Good riddance. Some current cars also have seatbelt warning buzzers and klaxons that drive one crazy. They shout much too loudly “Fasten your seatbelt or die.” I have noticed the more expensive the car, the more tasteful the seat belt warning signs. Isn’t the flashing light on the dash enough? Speaking of seatbelts, remember when they were motorized and would travel around the window frame like a lasso? I remember the old 1980s Mercedes Benz 500 SEC coupe had an electric seatbelt that would reach for you from behind the seat. The first time I encountered this device was on a dark night in a deserted parking lot. It scared the hell outa me!

Deserted parking places remind me of a really silly device Volvo has been touting. It tells you, when entering your car, if a heartbeat has been heard inside the vehicle. If there is a zombie or a vampire hiding in the back seat I guess it’s useless. On second thought, maybe this device should be required for every car, because the way I’ve seen some people drive, I wonder if they’re brain dead.

Speaking of brainpower, what’s with this expensive and complicated new option, “parking assist”? Some manufacturers are starting to offer this parking feature. C’mon, if you can’t park the thing, don’t drive. What next, “drive assist”? The blind spot warning system is also silly. True, it could be a great lifesaver, but it is also an expensive and complicated accessory. I’ve said for years that the driver’s side mirror should be convex (wide angle), just like the passenger’s. Simple and effective. By the way, the driver’s side mirrors on most new cars in Europe are convex. Are the drivers in Europe smarter than us, only they can figure out that the reflected objects are “closer then they appear”?

Here’s some good stuff. I owned a rather radical-for-the-time 1961 Citroen ID19 sedan that would jack itself up if you had a flat. Early 1950s Jaguars had a button on the dash that you pressed to see if oil was needed. Early Porsches and Volkswagens could actually never really run out of gas because they both had a small lever under the dash that you would twist open. It was connected to a small auxiliary tank under the main one. (Quite necessary on the VW because it didn’t have a gas gauge.) New cars being built today have stunning horsepower and fuel economy when compared to cars just built a few years ago. Four-cylinder engines, some supercharged or turbocharged, have the same horsepower or exceed recent six- and eight-cylinder engines. Electric propulsion is also here to stay. The only downside to all this technology is that it will certainly add complexity to all future automobiles. I just hope the good ideas of the future outweigh the poor and annoying ones.

To all you car collectors, hold on tight to your vintage iron. There will never be anything else like them again. Why even the current state-of-the-art Ferrari and Porsche-type legendary motorcars will indeed be primitive vehicles in 30 years. Actually, when you really think about it, a mundane Toyota Prius or Chevrolet Volt are truly probably two of the most exotic cars in the world. Food for thought.

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