Vintage steering wheels: Look at an old Nardi or Momo wheel, they’re just gorgeous. Simple yet elegant, vintage steering wheels have a real charm to them. When looking at the interior of a classic car, the eye is immediately drawn to the centerpiece, the steering wheel. No longer. What ever happened to pretty steering wheels? Airbags rained on their parade.
Hidden headlamps: As of 2004, when the Lotus Espirit and C5 Corvette ceased production, pop-up headlamps are a thing of the past. A shame, really. Pop-ups allow for the sleek, wedge-like front end shape that we all adore; at night, there’s the novelty of flipping that switch. For guys like me that are so fond of ‘80s sports cars, pop-ups hit a real soft spot.
Gated shifter: One of the staples of the classic-car driving experience. It’ll seem insignificant to someone who hasn’t driven one, but the quiet click of selecting the next gear through a gated manual shifter is, in short, what all of us gear-heads love about classic cars. Just that little click reminds the driver of the fact that the car is truly a sum of its parts, all working together to create that experience.
Rubber: Fat sidewalls have quickly fallen into extinction; it seems as though wheels are getting bigger every year. In 1967, when the Porsche 911S debuted, it was fitted with 15×4.5” wheels with 165mm tires. Fifty years later, the 911S comes standard with 21×11.5” wheels, with 305mm rubber. While these larger wheels and low-profile tires are necessary for the car to reach its full handling potential, they can give the car a more flashy appearance, rather than the purposeful look of the earlier cars that we all are so fond of.
Colors: With the exception of the occasional bright pink Chevy Spark, today’s roads are a sea of silver, dark silver, really dark silver, and black. It wasn’t always this way. Hell, my dad’s ‘69 Porsche 911 came from the factory bright yellow with full red interior. And that was about as cool as it got in 1969. However, times are a changing; the “sinister” look is in right now, many owners opting for a dark, often matte paint job and black wheels. Meh. I’m ready for the resurgence of Irish Green, Aubergine, and Tangerine whenever you guys are.
Roof Racks: Yes, Thules make total sense. They’re weatherproof and aerodynamic, and that’s all you could really ask for from a luggage-carrier. However, roof racks were once a key element of a car’s aesthetic. Not only could a tasteful roof rack give your car a very “California” look, but luggage was exposed rather than enclosed, allowing for maximum expression of style.
Fog lamps: With all the LED lights and sensor-tech on today’s cars, there’s no need for additional bumper-mounted lights. Back in the 1960s though, fog lights were an extremely common upgrade. They served their purpose, and from an aesthetic standpoint, paid homage to the rally greats of the era.
Magnesium: In the 1950s and 1960s, auto racing was in the midst of a pivotal era. Engineers were experimenting, at the expense of driver and spectator safety, with ways to shave weight from their racing cars. Magnesium is lightweight, so engineers began to apply it to their racing cars wherever possible. Though the use of magnesium did save weight, it had some drawbacks. Magnesium parts could become weak under high temperatures, were vulnerable to corrosion, and were more flammable than traditional alloys. The most widespread application of magnesium in motorsport was in the wheels. Nowadays, vintage magnesium wheels are sought-after because of their rarity and ties to that developmental period in motorsport history.