Cars back in the ‘50s were certainly different compared to today’s vehicles. Pay attention younger drivers as I will be talking about things that you will not find in or on today’s cars.
Remember the fender skirts? Nearly all models back then had this option available. It was a medal plate made to fit in the rear wheel well of the car. It made the car look much more streamlined. Most of the fender skirts attached to the car with a metal clamping device that held the skirt in place. I bought a pair of “cruiser skirts” from the J.T. Whitney Catalog for my first car, a 1951 Ford hardtop. The “cruiser skirt” ran from the front of the wheel well all the way back to the rear bumper. I thought the car looked longer and “cooler” with the skirts.
Quite a few of my friends in high school had steering knobs on the steering wheel. They were most often called “suicide knobs.”
Remember the “continental kit”? The kit attached to the back of the car. A hard cover encased the spare tire. I had a “continental kit” on my 1957 retractible hard top. In my opinion that was the most beautiful car I have ever owned.
Back then the parking brake was called the “emergency brake.” They are both the same part but “emergency brake” sounds much more dramatic.
The floor board on the driver’s side used to have extra buttons and quite often one more pedal than today’s cars. There were two buttons of the floorboards of the older cars. You pressed one button to start the car and the other button was the dimmer switch for the headlights.
The accelerator pedal was quite often referred to as the “foot feed.” Besides the brake pedal the car had a pedal next to it called the “clutch.” Most cars years ago had regular transmissions, so beginning drivers had to master how to coordinate the “foot feed” and the clutch so you could achieve a smooth transfer of gears. This to me was the hardest part of learning to drive. If you did not give car enough gas it would cough and sputter and sometimes die. If you gave it too much gas it would shoot ahead with a jerk and quite often squeal the tires. The only way to master this was to repeat shifting the gears until you got it right. My wife, Molly, was a good driver although she did not start driving until she was in her twenties and got her license on a car with automatic transmission. She was an accomplished driver when we inherited her dad’s Nash station wagon with regular transmission. I admit that car was difficult to shift and after about three tries she gave up on trying to drive the Nash. A few years later I bought a second car with regular transmission, a Ford Escort, and she could not master the shifting of gears on that car either. She admitted she was a “shiftless person” when it came to driving and we always bought automatic transmission cars after her bad expieriences with those two cars.
Cars used to have outside running boards until the 1950’s models. I remember our family had a car with running boards. Dad was trimming trees along the shoreline at our cottage when he fell in. He did not have a change of clothes with him but he knew his brother Warren might have some dry clothes that he could borrow. Warren lived about a mile of two away from our cottage, so mom drove and dad stood on the running board for the trip over to Warren’s. I thought it was pretty exciting seeing dad hanging on to the car and my sister thought it looked pretty funny and she was laughing. My younger brother Al didn’t understand it all and he was crying. Warren was at his cottage and he gave dad a change of clothes. Dad said he was glad Warren did not live further from us as he was getting pretty weary from riding on the outside of the car.
Whenever I go to a car show and I see some of the older model cars it brings back memories of cars that I rode in and drove over the years.