RAC Cars News


The Good Old Days

By raccars Published

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Like cathode ray tube TV sets and the mullet hair do, some things are best left in the past. Cars are easier to drive now than they've ever been - if you discount the difficulty of getting to grips with modern touchscreen technology, but do you remember tackling these?

Manual chokes

The manual choke knob had to be wrestled with on cold mornings, to enrich your car's oil and petrol mix until the engine had warmed up. These days, it has been replaced by modern fuel injection which helps your car spring to life willingly in any weather.

Double de-clutching

Thanks to the modern synchromesh, you no longer have to worry about rev matching before knocking down a gear. However in the olden days, you had to double de-clutch every time you wanted to change down. You can thank Porsche for developing modern cone synchros in the post WWII period, but they took their time filtering through to mass production - even in the late Seventies you still had to crash through the Fiat 500's non-synchro gearbox.


You may think a 10,000 mile service schedule is a bit demanding, but thank your stars that you don't have to rip your engine apart on a decoking mission every year or so, thanks to carbon build worse than moss on a north facing wall.

Random controls

The mantra of clutch, brake and accelerator may have seemed tedious when you were learning to drive but it's very reassuring to be able to count on standardised controls. Earlier cars were whimsical in their pedal placement and gearbox layout, not to mention the difficulty of finding the headlamp and wiper switches.

Starter handle

We've got so lazy that even turning a key has become too arduous and ignitions now come in the form of a starter button. Can you imagine coping with the clock winder mechanism of the starting handle early drivers had to tackle? Not to mention the danger of backfiring, which could cause the handle to snap off and endanger your thumb.

Cross-ply tyres

Cross-ply tyres made for a plush ride but you needed the muscles of a body builder to keep the car on track, and they were noisier than a pneumatic drill in the street outside your house.

The flag man

The Locomotive Act of 1865 limited early cars to a top speed of 4mph. It also came with the rather ridiculous stipulation that a man with a red flag had to walk ahead of the car, to warn other road users of its approach. Fortunately, the rule was abolished in 1896.

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