1936 dog sack

16 of the Craziest Car Features Throughout Auto History

Let’s dive into a fun part of car history you might not know about. We’re not talking about fast engines or cool designs, but some really strange and clever features that used to be in old cars. These odd and interesting ideas show us how creative and different car making used to be. From weird gadgets to smart solutions, we’re going to check out 25 of the coolest and craziest things that cars used to have.

Revolutionary Steering: The Wrist Twist System

Wrist Twist
Image Credit: Ford Motor Company.

In the 1960s, the Wrist Twist steering system emerged as a radical departure from traditional steering methods. Developed by a missile engineer, it featured two ring controls mounted on a vertical yoke, which could be operated either together or independently. This system promised improved maneuverability, reduced physical strain, and a clearer view of the dashboard, revolutionizing the driving experience. Although it never reached mass production, the Wrist Twist remains a fascinating glimpse into an alternative automotive future.

Vintage Entertainment: Dashboard Record Players

Dashboard Record Players
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The 1950s Chrysler cars introduced an elegant and retro touch with onboard record players. These devices, integrated into the dashboard, played mini-records and epitomized the era’s luxury and innovation in car entertainment. The concept, while captivating, faced practical challenges with the unique record sizes and eventually faded into obscurity, replaced by more convenient music formats.

Luxury On The Go: Glove Box Mini Bars

Cadillac's 1957 Eldorado Brougham model mini bar
Image Credit: Turd_Burglerson/Reddit.

In a move reflecting the 1950s’ lavish lifestyle, Cadillac’s 1957 Eldorado Brougham model featured a mini bar in the glove box. This innovative design included magnetic mounts for decanters and glassware, transforming the car into a mobile lounge. Although intriguing, this feature was short-lived and is unlikely to see a revival due to modern safety and drinking regulations.

Navigational Beginnings: The Iter Avto System

The Iter Avto System
Image Credit: London Media.

Before the advent of GPS, the Iter Avto system attempted to solve the age-old problem of getting lost while driving. Resembling a player piano, it used scrolls of paper maps under a dashboard screen, linked to the drivetrain to reflect the car’s location. This early navigation system, though cumbersome by today’s standards, was a pioneering step in automotive route guidance.

Drowsy Driving Deterrent: The Automatic Chin Alarm

Young man sitting inside car is very upset and stressed
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

The 1930s introduced the automatic chin alarm, a novel solution to prevent drivers from falling asleep at the wheel. The device, attached to the driver’s clothing, would trigger an alarm if the driver’s chin dropped, indicating sleepiness. This early safety invention represents a unique approach to tackling driver fatigue, a concern still relevant today.

Pet Travel Solution: The Dog Sack

1936 dog sack
Image Credit: Reddit.

The 1936 dog sack was an innovative, though controversial, approach to traveling with pets. It offered a solution to keeping cars clean from pet hair and accidents by placing the dog in a canvas sack attached outside the car. While providing air and a view for the pet, the concept raised significant safety and animal welfare concerns and did not gain widespread acceptance.

Voice Recording on the Road: Wire Recorders

Wire Recorders
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The wire recorder, an early voice recording device, was marketed to field professionals like photographers or reporters. Mounted in the vehicle and powered from the trunk, it allowed users to record notes and observations while on the move. This innovative device predated modern digital recorders and represents an early attempt at mobile data management.

Futuristic Motion: Spherical Drive Wheels

Image Credit: WikiCommons.

In 1937, a French automotive designer introduced a vehicle with a motorized semi-sphere as its driving force. This unconventional approach to propulsion, controlling speed by the angle of contact with the road, was a unique experiment in automotive engineering. Although its practicality was questionable, it represents an imaginative approach to vehicle design.

Spacious Travel: 12-Passenger Station Wagon

1950s 21-foot station wagon
Image Credit: CurbsideClassics.

In the 1950s, a colossal 21-foot station wagon, converted from a hearse, could comfortably seat 12 passengers. This vehicle, with luxurious features like leather seating and a beverage cabinet, embodied the era’s fascination with size and comfort. It serves as a symbol of the extravagant automotive designs of the time.

Defensive Driving: Bullet Bouncers

The bullet bouncer was a unique safety feature used by some police departments
Image Credit: Medium.

The bullet bouncer was a unique safety feature used by some police departments, including San Francisco’s. Consisting of steel plates mounted over windshields to deflect bullets, this device was a response to the perceived dangers of law enforcement during high-speed pursuits. The actual usage and effectiveness of bullet bouncers remain largely unknown.

Emergency Response: Roller Safety Devices

Roller Safety Devices
Image Credit: ModernMechanix.

In 1931, roller safety devices were designed as a preemptive measure to prevent pedestrian injuries in accidents. Mounted on the front of vehicles, these rollers aimed to sweep pedestrians away from the path of oncoming cars. While intended to save lives, this early safety innovation highlights the evolving understanding of vehicle safety and pedestrian protection.

Innovative Mobility: Front and Rear Steering

1948 Gordon-Diamond
Image Credit: Flickr.

The innovative diamond-shaped wheel arrangement, with wheels in the middle for drive and steering wheels at the front and rear, was a bold departure from traditional car designs. This layout promised enhanced control and tighter cornering, demonstrating the adventurous spirit of early automotive engineers. Although it didn’t become mainstream, it showcased an early exploration of improving vehicle maneuverability.

Electrifying Innovation: Radio-Powered Automobiles

Radio-Powered Automobiles
Image Credit: ModernMechanix.

The Marmon Motor Car Company’s ambitious vision for radio-powered cars epitomized the optimistic spirit of the pre-Great Depression era. This concept aimed to replace gasoline engines with cleaner, radio-transmitted electric power. While ahead of its time and ultimately unrealized, it reflected an early understanding of the need for sustainable and green automotive technology.

Unique Cleaning Solution: Vertically Sweeping Windshield Wipers

car back windshield
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The idea of vertically sweeping windshield wipers in the 1960s was a novel approach to a common problem. Although it promised to clean the entire windshield in one motion, practical challenges and potential safety risks led to the continuation of the traditional horizontal wiper design. This concept, however, shows the ongoing efforts to improve even the most mundane aspects of car design.

Alternative Fuels: Beer-Powered Cars

1940 Ford coupe
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

In 1956, Vernon G. Eisel’s modification of his Oldsmobile to run on beer and whiskey represented an imaginative, though unconventional, approach to alternative fuel sources. His invention, the cavitator, aimed to reduce engine carbon buildup and promote cleaner driving. Though not practical, it showcased the era’s experimental attitude toward automotive engineering.

Law Enforcement Innovation: Trunk-Mounted Jailhouses

1925 Studebaker Patrol Wagon
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The 1936 invention of a trunk-mounted portable prison cell, while controversial and ethically questionable, represented a unique, albeit archaic, solution to law enforcement transportation challenges in its time. Although the concept undeniably raises significant modern concerns about humane treatment and rights of detainees, it vividly illustrates the historical context of policing methods and prisoner transport, reflecting the evolving standards of law enforcement practices and ethics.

Author: Abbie Clark

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