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Disappearing Automotive Features

You probably remember them — maybe fondly, maybe not. The eight-track player. Manual windows. Locks you actually had to lift. As cars get more technically advanced, many of the features we once knew are heading to the dustbin of history.

After reviewing's vast data banks and scouring through automaker press kits, we've come up with a list of once-common features now on the way out.

No. 1: Crank windows

These can still be found in entry-level vehicles, but as soon as you step up from the least-expensive vehicle in an automaker's lineup, they disappear. Holding a button to raise a window is easier — and probably safer — when you're pulling away from a tollbooth or drive-through window.

No. 2: Cassette-tape decks

Yes, you can still find them. Many European carmakers still insist on them, and some people have stuff on tape they can't transfer to a CD for whatever reason. But, really, the car world today is one of CDs and MP3s — and that sounds just fine to us.

No. 3: Keys/locks/any mechanical means of getting into your car

We're a nation of fobs these days. Press the button, unlock the driver's door. Press it again, unlock all the doors. If you're really high-end, you don't even know what a key is because of your fob that talks to the car and unlocks the door as you approach. A start button rids you of the trouble of putting a key in the ignition and turning it.

No. 4: Lap-only seat belts for the center rear seat

This one is a marked improvement as far as safety is concerned. Most cars now provide the person sitting in the most uncomfortable seat in the car the same three-point belt the other passengers enjoy. Sure, you could find a car that still offers a lap-only seat belt back there, but why would you want to?

No. 5: Cars priced less than $13,000

Yes, everything is getting more expensive; that's just how the world works. If you want all the latest safety features and amenities, it's going to cost you. Go shopping and it may appear many automakers offer cars less than $13,000, but it's usually just one stripped-down model.

No. 6: 85-mph speedometers

They say optimism is a virtue, and it shows in the car world. Even econoboxes that could probably only shimmy their way to 100 mph with the help of a hill, a tailwind and a brave driver have speedometers that go to 120. (Sigh.) Just as some drivers should not be allowed to drive, some cars should not be allowed anywhere over the posted speed limit ... in a school zone. Rectangular speedometers that span the entire instrument cluster have also gone away, but you never know; they might still return one day.

No. 7: Motorized antennas

These are so rare you might have to ask your parents about them. In many higher-end cars of the 1970s and '80s, a motor would extend the car's antenna to better receive radio broadcasts, then retract it later. That meant drivers didn't have to either manually extend the antenna or just leave it up. Hmm. This from the generation that walked to school, worked three jobs and taught themselves to read on the back of a shovel. Manually extending an antenna must be tougher than it sounds.

No. 8: Three-speed automatic transmissions

Three on the tree means nothing to kids now, and it's not because carmakers have moved the gearshift from the steering column. Three-speed transmissions are at least one speed too slow for nearly all of today's cars. If the current trend toward five- and six-speed transmissions continues, we'll soon be saying the same thing about four-speed models.

No. 9: True compact pickup trucks

Not only are things getting more expensive, they're getting bigger as well. Just as houses are McMansions and drivers are increasingly — ahem — husky, the small pickup of ages past is expanding to what could legitimately be called midsize.

No. 10: Six-passenger, rear-wheel-drive, body-on-frame cars

This used to be the way all cars were made: You built a frame, attached the engine and transmission, slapped on the body and off you went. There was a front bench to carry Mom, Dad and one child, and a rear bench for Grandma, Grandpa and the other child. No more. Only the Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car meet all these criteria now. Front bench seats in particular are going the way of the dodo; Buick joins Ford and Lincoln as one of few automakers to put them in their cars. Larger SUVs and trucks are the best bet these days if you really want a front bench.

Honorable mention

These didn't make the list because they're either taking a long time to die off or we just don't miss them:

Trunk releases in the glove box

Full-size spare tires

Floor-mounted headlight dimmer switches

Completely manual mirrors

LINK:Disappearing Automotive Features- Yahoo! Autos Article Page
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