Today’s world looks very different through the windshield of a vintage ride compared to the first day it left the dealership.

Things have changed in a profound way over the decades and numerous things that were once common have taken the same flight direction as the passenger pigeon. In other words, they have largely disappeared from our 21st century world.

Jim Sutherland

For example, when was the last time you spotted a full-service gas station that had a couple of bays for mechanical repairs and tire changes? The gas station experience is radically different in 2023 because fuel filters and radiator hoses have been replaced by junk food and slushies, while pump jockeys have disappeared faster than Top 40 AM radio stations.  

Did your new car break down? No worries because your cell phone will connect you to a tow service and maybe the bored clerk behind the counter will let you wait in the gas station instead of your disabled modern vehicle-the one with a computer chip malfunction. If you buy a giant slushie and a bag of chips.

Another view through the windshield that has largely disappeared is the old school drive-in movie theater. A handful of vintage drive-in theaters still exist in 2023, but the era when there was one in every town is gone forever.

The drive-in theater was a victim of TV and its subsequent advancements like color television, better channel choices, and video tape players, but it was once a gathering place for young romance in a car and young families on a strict budget that did not include babysitting expenditures- but owned a station wagon for practical reasons. Sometimes a drive-in car romance led to a drive-in station wagon reality. 

Speaking of station wagons, there were plenty of station wagons on the other side of a vintage car’s windshield when it was brand-new. Long roofs were a big part of retro road traffic because they suited the needs of big families during the post-war kid population explosion in North America.

A station wagon was a popular family hauler because it was able to handle herds of sandwich grabbers and plenty of their belongings for any given assignment, including equipment for team sports or long road trips where the rear quarters might become a suitable space for an impromptu sibling boxing ring.

Station wagons may have been very plentiful and practical during a bygone era, but they lacked any sense of coolness during this time frame. These days vintage wagons have largely disappeared from the streets because they were used up and discarded over the years, so their cool factor has rocketed with their price tags in a supply/demand way. As a result, they have become much cooler and more expensive because of their scarcity.

The same attributes could be applied to the humble Volkswagen Beetle because these lovable little cars were also very common on the other side of a retro ride’s windshield when both vehicles were new. The slug-like performance of a Beetle was balanced by its remarkable MPG figures and small size, factors that made it a perfect second car built for the then-new suburbs in North America.

Therefore, a Beetle spent little time in front of the windshield of a more powerful domestic car when both were on a highway, but the little car’s unique front end-quickly dispatched to a rear-view mirror position on the same highway-was cute as a Bug’s ear, so to speak.

There is plenty from the past not found in the present through the windshield of an old car in today’s world. Fortunately, the old car’s hood (as viewed through its windshield) is enough of a time machine feature for most car guys.

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.