I made the mistake of reading some article the other day that had a list of 10 new technologies that made new cars great…and it boiled my blood. I’m not a diehard Luddite, but I feel that connected mobile apps, Apple CarPlay, and lane departure warning buzzers are just things that I would disable after they buzzed at me enough times. I don’t need it, and I don’t want it. And, yes I have driven a car with lane departure and auto cruise control etc…and it was interesting, and I played with the controls until I almost crashed into someone else and I turned them off and listened to AM radio. Because I don’t need magnetic ride control or GPS dependent ride height. I couldn’t find the exact article I was reading about the new tech, but here is R&T’s list of fancy-pants tech, and here is KBB’s Best Auto Tech of 2019…and the following is DailyTurismo’s best tech of 2020…also known as the 10 Things I Need In A Car in 2020. The future is now.
1. Manual transmission. Yes, modern dual clutch flappy paddle things are great, CVTs & 9-speed autos can gain fuel economy, and slushboxes save your left leg…but a 6-speed gearbox is still better. 5-Speed boxes are okay…and even a 4-speed is better than a slushbox…and I’ll even accept 3-on-the-tree if it gets me a clutch pedal and the ability to precisely select my own gear. “8 Speeds good, 6 Speeds better” — Napoleon.
2. Rack and Pinion Steering. The old steering box system is great in a truck or a 69 Mustang, but cars with rack & pinion systems are so much better driver, there is no comparison. No amount of adjusting your steering box end play or adding caster can replace the feel of a good rack. Does this mean that all old cars handle terribly…no…but it means that certain 1990s/2000s cars that didn’t adopt rack-n-pinion (ahem Mercedes-Benz..) are very rubbery in steering feel.
3. Disc Brakes. The old drum brake was great for a horse and buggy setup, but once you get more than 200 horsepower into a vehicle, the drum brake just doesn’t cut it anymore. Sorry 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR …if I owned one today, I would disc it. Maybe put some 20’s some o’ dat stance…ahahah, just kidding. I would sell it and buy 1000 Pontiac Fieros and re-body each for a different look.
4. Unibody Construction. Body on frame is great for a Model T, a Freightliner, or a Farm Truck…but the weight/rigidity of a unibody setup is superior to all aspects of the horseless carriage. Technically I guess a race car has a body-on-frame setup when you’ve got a flimsy plastic body on a steel tube frame, but when it comes to a “car” that needs to be mostly waterproof and driven on the street, I want something that doesn’t creak over speed bumps or weight a millionty lbs.
5. Manual Rollup Driver’s Window. I know what you are thinking…but power windows make it easy to get some ventilation into my car since the AC bust…but you aren’t listening. Manual for the driver’s window ONLY. Power elsewhere…but the driver is always next to his window and the ability to get the correct and appropriate roll up/down speed and amount of window crackedness is only achievable with a crank. Yes, I want to be able to one-touch my kid’s windows when they leave them down…but that driver’s window should be manual crank operated.
6. Full sized spare. I know that tire technology has gotten better in the last few decades, but the spare of shame only pushes you into stopping at the first tireshop you find and spending too much to get new shoes. And don’t get me started on the can of compressed air and goo that has replaced even the smallest spares. So instead of a spare tire, we get “run flats” that cost twice as much and tire pressure sensors that function about as well as a power tool from Harbor Freight. No thanks. Give me my full sized spare, an analog tire gauge, and shove your TPMS where the sun don’t shine. My wife once called me up and told me there was a light on her dash that looked like a person doing a head stand inside of a giant fish bowl…I told her we needed to get her an older car and a tire gauge.
7. Rear Wheel Drive. I get it when people buy a front-drive car for their kids as a first car…yes…they are slower and safer. Or the people who need 4X4 because they live down a 10 mile dirt road. Sure. But for the rest of us, we need rear-wheel-drive cars that allow the back end to be driven around a bend with some degree of gusto. You don’t need much more power than a Nissan 240SX to demonstrate that rear-wheel-drive trumps any other wheel drive in any situation short of an ice rally in Finland. I’ve never been to Finland…so I need rear wheel drive.
8. Defeatable traction control. Look, I get it…traction control helps people who have no idea what they are doing behind the wheel stay on the road. It has certainly saved countless lives, but if I press the TCS button I expect every single stinkin nanny device to be completely and irrevocably disabled…not just for the next 30 seconds or until I shift gears (on my own, thank you). I also don’t need the sequence to disable it to involve a derivation of the secret masonic handshake or plugging in a laptop. Just turn it off and let the traction be uncontrolled.
9. Limited Slip Differential. This goes hand-in-hand with defeated traction control and is essential for safe travel in limited grip conditions like snow, rain, slimy crosswalk paint, etc. Limited slip means that I won’t do peg-leg burnouts in the rain…and there is zero downside. And don’t give me some “e-diff” baloney — I don’t want my brakes or a traction control system to have any part of limiting slip in my diff.
10. Cloth Seats. I know, everybody loves leather, suede, pleather, alcantara…just stop. Stop right there…because leather looks and smells wonderful when it is fresh from the factory, but it becomes a pruney dumpster fire of wrinkles and rips and just…just…look at how well basic cloth survives in the demands of seating needs and stop killing cows so that people buy a new Mercedes after 5 years because their seats look like a 3 week old taco bell burrito. Yuck. No thanks. Give me a set of cloth seats from a high mile car before a new set of leather because no amount of leather conditioner will stop the inevitable need for a seat face lift. It’s skin, cow skin. Why would you expect it to last for 20 years of sitting on it alternating with hot sun and cold nights?
That’s it. I don’t need a heads-up display or satellite radio or on-star or a plug-in device that reports my driving style to my insurance company. I just want to drive the nicest car you can buy from a showroom in 1995 and some open road in front of me. -Vince DT E-i-C and Chief Grump.
Featured image from this 70 VW Concept Car, colorized by Kaibeezy.