The evolution of the car has been in the mix since the early days of internal combustion engine technology when the horseless carriage replaced Old Paint on the road.

Automotive improvements have been added at a relentlessly rapid pace since the dawn of 20th century and this trend shows no sign of weakening for the foreseeable future.


Sadly, even the internal combustion engine’s days may be numbered if green fanatics push their agenda and pressure domestic car builders to replace gas and diesel jobs with an electric motor in their vehicles by the mid-2030s. The grim reality? The current electrical grid under maximum load cannot handle 2021 consumption — let alone a future grid based upon current renewable green energy production and battery storage ability — not to mention the strip mining needed to provide materials for batteries.

However, the automotive past reveals legitimate advancements so MyStarCollectorCar will list five of the more notable changes since the dawn of the automobile. Just not the electric engine since it was already a proven failure during the dawn of the automobile.  

The first item on our list is the hand crank internal combustion engine starter, an adventure that likely added ‘Lefty’ to many unlucky right-handed car owners’ nickname choices when the engine kicked back during the hand crank start and broke their right arm.

The dawn of the electric starter on domestic cars began in 1912 when the elegant Cadillac Model 30 sported one, but the average income car buyer had to wait until the 1920s before the hand crank was phased out of the car starter game.     

The second notable item on our list is the windshield wiper system. Initially the driver operated a hand crank to wipe the windshield during rain or snow, but eventually the vacuum wiper system was replaced by electric wipers, although vacuum wipers were still available on some vehicles until 1972.

Just for the record, the vacuum wiper system was based upon engine RPM and stopped working under heavy acceleration, consequently vacuum wipers were not a great way to pass other cars during a monsoon.

The third member of our obsolete car part list is the vent window. Vent windows were a mainstay on domestic vehicles for several decades and offered a cheap form of air-conditioning for passengers. A typical vent window deflected outside air into the vehicle’s interior to cool its occupants.

Vent windows started to disappear during the back nine of the 1960s and were eventually phased out during the 1980s, presumably due to cheaper auto AC costs and pampered car occupants who would never get to experience 100-degree temperatures inside a car jammed with many other kids.

The fourth addition to our gone-but-not-forgotten list is the famous three-on-the-tree manual transmission. Barebones vehicles from the past were equipped with a three-on-the-tree manual transmission (but not a radio in many cases) just to prove its owner had not really made it in life-or was too cheap to buy a vehicle equipped with an automatic transmission in the first place.

Either way, a basic three-on-the-tree transmission eventually bit the dust as a choice and has become a conversation piece and puzzle for many younger drivers who are also mystified by the rotary dial phone.

The fifth and final addition to our list is the floor-mounted headlight dimmer switch. Dimmer switches are now located in the steering columns of modern cars, but they were a metal button on the vehicle’s floor for about 50 years after the floor-mounted versions replaced the column mounted switches in 1927.

The death of the floor-mounted dimmer switch occurred several decades years ago, so now they are included in any automotive meme that features obsolete automotive equipment and poses a “What’s it?” question for younger generations who are already confused by the rotary dial phone.

There are many other deceased retro automotive features so MyStarCollectorCar will revisit this topic at a future date. Stay tuned. 

Jim Sutherland

BY: Jim Sutherland

Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.