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Question of the Week: What’s the weirdest automotive feature you’ve ever seen?

The right features can make all the difference in a new car purchase. For many enthusiasts, that means the right power level with the right transmission from the right engine layout. For other shoppers, the wrong entertainment system could be a deal-breaker. To cast a wide net and snag as many potential buyers as possible, automakers have come up with features and options that vary from innovative and useful to truly bizarre.

For example, in the 1980s, Honda offered the Motocompo, a foldable 50-cc “trunk bike” that could fit into the Honda City hatchback, a miniscule subcompact car. Today there are not one, but two different minivans from two completely different companies that offer built-in vacuum cleaners.

What odd automotive features have stood out to you? Comment below and let us know.

In no certain order, most of these are “what I’ve heard of, not witnessed personally”

ALTHOUGH, one of the oldest features in this list I have witnessed personally.

Semaphores on a VW beetle (these are pop-out turn signals that blink during a turning sequence.) Nifty and cool, a lot of people retrofitted this into later model VW beetles.

Citroen 2CV crank-powered windshield wipers. Nifty, but kind of a pain for the driver to manage that, shifting, and the wheel all during the rain at the same time.

PTO (Power Take Off)
basically, tying into the engine’s crankshaft and running some sort of agricultural equipment off of it.

So, that’s 3. And of the 3, I’ve only ever seen the last one utilized in person.

Kyle

I have never seen this, but read that in the 50s or 60s record players in vehicles were a thing. I cannot imagine driving over the roads of Missouri trying to listen to a record and not having it skip…

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The record player in the GTO. The flower vase in the VW Beetle. Champagne cooler/flutes in a Bentley (and I am sure other makes). A ‘Falconry’ setup in a Bentley Bentayga.

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How about the mason jar ash tray vacuum in the 57 Chevy

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I ordered a 1972 Pontiac Grand Prix. One of the items I checked off was a 8 track tape player. I assumed it would be in the dash. Nope, it was mounted in the rear floorboard, on the hump at the rear of the console! I never knew if that was a one off OR that was just the way it came.

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I remember one in a friends 55 mercury. Called it a “butt sucker”. Think it came from a JC Whitney catalog. Mounted just under the dashboard and used the engine vacuum to suck the ashes and butt into a glass jar in the engine compartment. Had a lever on the side that opened it to the vacuum. Almost enough to make a sixteen year old start smoking :shushing_face:

I always thought the Tent option on the Pontiac Aztec was weird, as well as a Shower attachment on the Honda CR-V. How about an espresso machine in a Fiat?

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For me it is the oscillating center dash vent on late 80’s early 90’s Mazda’s. Press a button in the middle of the dual vent and instead of the vent being fixed directional, it would slowly move the vanes left to right blowing heat/ac on both driver and passenger. So many passengers thought it was cool, was disappointed that they did away with it.

Comments in this link are gold:
http://playswithcars.com/?p=941

Liquid tire chains: https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2017/11/08/liquid-tire-chain

I always thought the Aztec was a weird mistake in general

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The old VWs used the pressure from the spare tire to pressuring the windshield fluid reservoir, preventing the need for a “pricey” pump. There was a valve that would supposed not let the tire pressure go below a specific point. In my experience, it was a cost cutting idea that only kind of worked and left you constantly wondering if it was worth the risk of deflating your spare in order to clear the windshield.

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I hate to say it, but I think it was just ahead of its time. I mean, sure, it is pretty goofy looking, but it wasn’t panned for its looks, it was panned for being an all-wheel drive vehicle that was large and yet incapable of off-road performance… the segment we now call cross-overs. That said, I do recall reading that the person in charge of design was retiring and just phoning it in…

Now, if you wanted to call out that TENT that was an optional accessory for the Aztek as a weird feature… I’m game. :slight_smile:

I recall that some versions of the Toyota Previa had the ability to make ice in the center console. Several car makers placed a hole in the A/C ducting that send cold air into the glove box so it could be used as a cooler.

But yeah the cars with record players have to rank as the oddest and unpractical features of all. No one has mentioned this but the records for those players were made to play on those record players, you couldn’t just pop down to the local record store and buy any old 45 to play on them.

Cadillac with it’s first heated seats that were only in the rear of the car for passenger comfort only.

Trunk mounted CD changers, that was a good idea.

I’m sure there are plenty more.

The 1956 Lincoln had a option that you could push a button on the dash & it would grease the front of the front of the car. Plastic tubes ran from a can mounted on the firewall to each location. It was powered by vacuum.

I agree. I always gave them a wide birth on the road. I figured anyone who would buy one was blind.

As for features, I always thought that what people considered extra-cost options on my early 50’s Chevrolet was interesting given what we consider standard today. Just having a radio was optional, then step up to one with push-buttons for pre-set channels. Oil filters and back-up lights were options. IIRC there were not one but three progressively more fancy steering wheels. And of course optional trim to include such things as bumper tips.

Ford had a good one back in the 60’s. How about a steering column that swings out the way when you enter the vehicle?? My Dad had 24 cars when he passed and one was a 1963 Ford Thunderbird, pink in color (sierra rose to be exact) and a steering column that moves…

1961 Buick Mirromagic Instrument Panel.

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The beer cooler in the rear of the BMW 635’s and M6’s run by diverting your AC

The Tucker, all 50 of them, had a third “Cyclops” headlight that
followed the turning of the front wheels

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