In the competitive struggle, automakers have always strived to come up with something innovative and exclusive. Sometimes they find gold, but other times they offer bizarre car options with dubious usefulness. Let’s talk of such ones.
In the early 2000s, Volvo offered an in-vehicle sensor to detect the presence of a heartbeat and transmit the signal to the car’s key fob. This feature allowed the driver to know of potential danger from car intruders, that is to be informed about attackers hidden in your vehicle before you reach it. Let us doubt its practical value: the option is good for James Bond, but hardly useful for the common man.
Mercedes offers a perfume dispenser kept in the glove compartment as an option for its higher-end models. The driver can choose from various custom scents, including Mercedes-Benz’s own scent, control intensities, or fill his/her own favorite aroma to an empty vile provided.
The perfume dispenser is hooked up to the car’s air balance system, and you can turn it on with either heating or air conditioning when the scent passes through the vents.
The Pontiac Aztek midsize crossover produced in the 2001-2005 model year had a unique feature that was a hit with outdoor enthusiasts. It’s about a pop-up tent with straps to attach it to the wheel, as well as roof railing, and stakes for the ground. Pontiac also offered an inflatable bed that fitted perfectly in the car’s back.
It seems to be useful things, but…I would prefer a regular camping tent and not a pile-up behind the vehicle. Of course, tastes differ.
Umbrella, Starlight Headliner
The rich have their quirks, and Rolls Royce made sure to cater to those quirks. This is how the idea for an umbrella in the door came (with a holder that dries the umbrella within minutes), or the idea of a starlight headliner (upper picture) – the ceiling filled with artificial stars to enjoy a stellar scene above you.
The 1984 Toyota Van was a family 7-seater, and its developers saw fit to include an ice maker into the list of its standard features. The shoebox-sized device came with spill-proof ice trays.
Well, that was a good thing for special occasions… but a strange one from the point of view of a modern driver.
Wrist Twist Steering System
In 1965, Ford came up with a weirdo contraption created by aerospace engineer Robert J. Rumpf. It was a Wrist Twist steering system for the Ford Mercury Park Lane: a two-spoked column with a pair of small wheels working in unison.
Although the system was innovative for the time and had advantages like increased visibility or height adjustment, it was purely power-operated and overly responsive, so the regular steering won.
Swivel seats were available in a number of models of the past like GM’s Chevelle, Cutlass, Monte Carlo, or Laguna made between 1973-1977. The Chrysler Corporation was the first to offer such an option in the 1950s, with the idea to make ingress and egress easier for passengers.
This feature may seem strange, but we must admit it is good for the handicapped, elderly, and women who wear dresses.
Welded-in, rear-facing jump seats in the bed of the first-generation Subaru BRAT allowed classify the model as a passenger car and helped circumvent the Chicken tax. The seats were neat and functional and had ski pole handles to hold on to. Subaru discontinued the jump seats after the 1985 model year, but the BRAT is remembered largely thanks to this option.
Lighting Rods Shifter
General Motors launched the Lightning Rods Shifter for the 15th anniversary of the Oldsmobile Hurst in 1983. The 80s were a crazy time for fashion, including automotive fashion. The gadget was set up to operate like any ordinary automatic gear selector and had a conventional PRND shift pattern. The difference was in 3 shift levers which made the work a single lever could fulfill.
A right lever and release button performed the 1-2 upshift, while a middle lever and button performed the 2-3 upshift. The driver could simply leave the lever in D for Drive or OD for Overdrive and drive normally.
Today’s drivers prefer simplicity to complexity. So, predictably, the Lightning Rods Shifter, though a unique one, did not last long.
Seatbelts are surely important for safety, but automatic ones were…a weird thing. Before they were relegated to being a misstep in safety technology and phased out, automatic seatbelts had been used in cars in the 1990s. In the mid-80s, the Transportation Department required all vehicles to come with either airbags or automatic seatbelts.
By 1998, the legislation required that all new vehicles in production would be equipped with operational airbags on both the front and passenger sides, and it was the beginning of the end for automatic seatbelts. Today’s young drivers might not even know about them.