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The difference between the cars used in televised racing and those on the street has never been greater. In the sixties, seventies and prior...the vehicles executing the most daring racing maneuvers were very similar to their street brethren beneath the skin. This isn't a bad thing for racers, but certainly used to be more relatable to the car buying public of the past.
CHANGED: Marketing/ads with burnouts etc.
Now, it's not unusual to see cars (even non-performance cars) in advertising media that are being drifted or engaging in reckless behavior. Even in the wild sixties, muscle car marketers used more subtle methods to convey the power of the vehicles being sold. This change is certainly more entertaining, but the controversial imagery likely does more harm than good for the average buyer.
CHANGED: Sexist marketing
The concept of gender in automotive marketing has definitely changed over the years. Gender neutrality in marketing cars is undoubtedly a good thing. It reflects a progressive culture which doesn't stigmatize cars or skew buyers.
HASN'T CHANGED: Unibody bodies/chassis
Unfortunately, the cheapest and fastest method to build car chassis still dominates the marketplace. With origins dating back to the "horseless carriage", it's a truly antiquated method. Manufacturers have previously combined unibody cabins with separately constructed frames. With the exception of pickup trucks and SUVs, a vast majority of automakers integrated the two elements. With few exceptions, most carmakers still utilize this inferior process.
CHANGED: 3D printing
The biggest surprise within the industry during the 21st century is 3D printing. The potential of this technology is limitless for prototyping, manufacturing and design. 3D printing will continue to revolutionize as the technology develops.
HASN'T CHANGED: Carburetors
They still exist in abundance in the aftermarket. This tried and true method of fuel delivery has sustained itself for over one hundred years.
HASN'T CHANGED: The expense of fuel injection
In spite of being offered in production vehicles for over half a century, the systems remain inexplicably disproportionate to the overall cost of an engine. Tuning and electronic components have improved, but the advancements unfortunately buoy the cost of the systems.
HASN'T CHANGED: The design process...drawing then clay
Clay modeling cars in clay was pioneered by Harley Earl decades ago, but the models always followed the initial sketches primarily due to cost and the nature of the process. With the advent of 3D printing (and lower price of clay), would it be advantageous to design in three-dimensions immediately? In fact, car designers are the preeminent sculptors of the commercial design world, yet everything still starts in two dimensions.
Some manufacturers and startups have ventured into unfamiliar territory with crowdsourcing design and engineering tasks. Overall, this experimentation is a good thing, but the somewhat altruistic method leaves many overworked and underpaid. Surely, in the coming years, there will be a viable and sustainable process.
CHANGED: Overall vehicle design has seemingly become more restrained and less dynamic. Technically, actual vehicle SURFACING (stamping, fit, finish, etc) is unparalleled due to today's manufacturing processes and capabilities. However, the overall visual statements have become more conservative. It's easy to assume that there's more riding on the success of a car than ever before. A failure in the auto industry sends shockwaves through the economy and are difficult to recover from. Unfortunately, designs often reflect that paradigm. If there's a solution, it'll likely be due to reduced production costs and therefore reduced risk.
HASN'T CHANGED: Straight axles for 4WD vehicles
Transmission technology has advanced to the point where it's now possible to mass-produce a vehicle with upwards of 650 lb/ft of torque...with a warranty. Shouldn't it be possible to produce a differential/axle combination with the greater articulation an independent setup could offer...without it breaking on a trail?
HASN'T CHANGED: Drum brakes
There's no excuse for standard drum brakes on any mass-produced, passenger vehicle. Yet, many economy cars still come equipped with these archaic components.
HASN'T CHANGED: Muscle cars
For better or worse, the definition of a muscle car has changed little since their introduction. If anything, the power was gone to extreme levels without decreasing vehicle weight. This isn't progress. See the article "Muscle cars are junk...but may save the world".
HASN'T CHANGED: Fast cars are loud and quiet ones are slow
This prompt refers to the perception rather than the reality. Today, many turbocharged cars like the Nissan GTR offer world-class performance. Yet, it proves that performance and the civility of calm, composed levels of NVH aren't mutually exclusive. However, most enthusiasts are still convinced that louder means faster.
CHANGED: The reputation of import performance cars
In the early days, many imports from Japan and Europe were often deemed less poignant than the most brutal Detroit iron. Now, many are beyond reproach by being so fast they're in a completely different realm of performance. A properly modified Mitsubishi Evolution or Subaru STi can beat virtually anything under most conceivable conditions. The capability of their AWD systems combined with rally-proven gumption keeps them far ahead of every curve. However, many enthusiasts like to lump them all in the void of obscurity simply because of the futility of head-on competition.
HASN'T CHANGED: Rust
Rust is the automotive equivalent to smallpox or the measles...or at least it should be. After over 100 years of the automobile, it would be reasonable to expect rust to be eradicated completely. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Conversely, many cars made over eighty years ago were built with vanadium steel. Therefore they've managed to resist cancer over longer periods even with more primitive manufacturing techniques.
While arguably over-hyped and cliched in the eighties...the turbo has made a triumphant return. Turbo cars are better now and live up to their spicy moniker with greater reliability and performance. This is irrefutably a step in the right direction.
In most cases, unfortunately, this change is for the worse. The weight of the car has fluctuated since its introduction. They started out light but seemingly gained and lost weight by each passing decade. With the greatest technologies and access to the most advanced materials EVER...there's no acceptable excuse for massive vehicle weight increases. No excuse.
HASN'T CHANGED: Implementing dent-less panels
This prompt is broad since changes actually have been made to make many common dents less likely. Many manufacturers have become savvy about door dings and therefore have designed doors to resist those minor impacts. Yet, it's still very common for owners to have to experience the anguish and inconvenience of the unsightly (and ever persistent) dent. With automotive history riddled with numerous instances of solving this issue there's no longer an excuse. If there's a space station, there's a way to permanently solve this problem.
Automotive paint has evolved from lacquers and urethanes to water-based. This is both evolution and progress, but there's still room for improvement. Ambitious manufactures have attempted utilizing color-tinted body panels to varying success, but this should be a standard, not the exception, for the majority of mass-produced cars. It benefits everyone involved in the process of vehicle ownership. It can often reduce manufacturing costs and time while maintaining vehicle appearance for owners and resellers. In turn vehicle values are maintained with less expended capital. Many past examples exist, but there's no good reason why the techniques cannot be perfected by now. At this point, even durable vinyl wraps are a viable option.
Today, there are more people that survive car collisions than ever before. This is due to the efforts made by manufacturers as well as the governing bodies that regulate them. This is progress without a doubt. However, there are likely improvements to be made with alternative construction methods.
CHANGED: The visual bumper has nearly disappeared
Despite more demanding safety regulations; the visual bumper has largely disappeared from most production cars. Trucks and SUVs maintain their visual machismo with separate (usually chromed) bumpers, but the contemporary car's front and rear fascias are shockingly well integrated. It's a step in the right direction when there's a conscious effort made to preserve and enhance a vehicle's aesthetics without compromising its safety.
HASN'T CHANGED: Legislation that ruins design
The clumsy integration of safety measures is notoriously difficult for automakers. Thankfully, times have rendered most ungainly steering wheels and dashes (with separate airbag covers) as things from the past. In fact, automotive interiors have consistently become more cohesive and integrated over the past decade or so. The exteriors...aren't always as aesthetically pleasing. Admittedly, this is a compromise most are willing to accept. However, the process of integration has been consistently clumsy. Now, instead of tacked-on bumpers or bumperettes...it's awkwardly wide A-pillars or raised hood lines. Stocky, disproportionate profiles seem to mainly occur on lower-priced models while Aston Martin and Ferrari remain seemingly unscathed. Clearly, higher-priced brands still conform to the nation's strict safety standards, but manage to do it with far more grace.
CHANGED: Adaptive suspensions
In spite of the (in some cases) over-abundance of adjustability, the adaptive suspension systems in cars today is truly remarkable.
CHANGED: Reduction of standalone options
Options, over the years, have been streamlined into option packages or rigid trim levels. While this would seemingly not benefit the consumer, it can help to reduce production costs/time and allows dealers to more effectively manage their inventories. Ultimately, this change is beneficial to the consumer in regards to vehicle prices.
HASN'T CHANGED: Lack of standardization for accessory parts
The reliability of a car can be severely compromised due to parts manufactured by outsourced suppliers. Since this is commonplace, and variances are innumerable; the lack of standardization leads to supply chain problems/shortages as well as increased likelihood of recalls. Would it be unreasonable to standardize accessories like alternators and fuel pumps broadly and even across brands? Surely, it would make everyone's lives easier.
HASN'T CHANGED: Complex vehicle assembly/packaging
Again, this comes down to an increased level of standardization. Even if a change was as radical as multiple platforms and multiple brands (even competitors) agreeing to utilize the same six-piston caliper on all their models...it could become feasible simply due to the lower cost of higher volume. It could become the standard system for the performance car, and simultaneously standard for the economy car. If it's possible for multiple platforms to share semi-standardized parts like seat belts and airbags---it could be done. With the shared parts comes the shared procedures for repair and replacement. This is beneficial to dealers, aftermarket parts suppliers, mechanics, enthusiasts and the consumer.
CHANGED: The bland economy car
Driving an economical car has finally lost most of its stigma. While aesthetics still occasionally suffer from poor proportions, the economy car is much less dismal. This reflects a change in the culture as well. An economy car purchase is more positively viewed as a savvy or intelligent choice rather than one of pure necessity.
CHANGED: Energy/propulsion systems
It's difficult to imagine when the public had just the choice between gas or diesel internal combustion engines. Now, there's gas, diesel, hybrid, and electric...and hydrogen. This is incredible progress.
CHANGED: Cornering/handling performance
Vehicles have become increasingly more capable in the twisties as a direct result of improved tires and suspension engineering. There are OEM cars on the road today that can achieve over 1.0 G on the skidpad. Fifty years ago this would've been inconceivable.
HASN'T CHANGED: Rubber bushings
Despite the aftermarket offering varying choices from polyurethane, delrin and even spherical bearings for decades OEMs are still largely reluctant to utilize anything other than rubber for suspension bushings.
HASN'T CHANGED: Vehicle/enthusiast negative stigma
The negative stigma of hotrodders/car enthusiasts as a social nuisance has continued to be a burden on the subculture for decades. Yet, society's future engineers, designers, artists, etc commonly share a passion for cars. It's absolutely inexcusable to prejudge and even criminalize automotive enthusiasts based on stereotypes and ignorance. In the United States alone, luminaries such as Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld and even Joe Biden are known car enthusiasts. Why is it still widely permissible to ostracize and (unjustly) legally persecute such a unique and often talented segment of the culture?
HASN'T CHANGED: Refusal to acknowledge that SOME people enjoy driving
While a majority of the public may view driving as a chore; there are some people who treasure the experience. This can range from a spirited drive through canyon roads to full-on racing. Yet, there's practically no acknowledgment of this fact. Highway posted speed limits defy logic (and are often ignored), modified vehicles are profiled by law enforcement, and racing facilities are either closing or located on the far outskirts of civilization. In the early 20th century there was Prohibition and alcohol was banned. It didn't work out because people simply liked to drink. It's easy to see that regardless of any, law people will continue to street race. Instead of polluting public perception with concerns of all of the sins of street-racing...why not occasionally close off streets and allow it to occur under supervision? As Prohibition proved, it takes much more effort to "righteously" stop a human impulse than to legalize and moderate it.
HASN'T CHANGED: Misconceptions by law enforcement over lowered cars
Fundamentally, a vehicle handles better and is generally more aerodynamic and stable at high speeds when lowered. Conversely, when raised, all of those factors are oppositional. YET, a lowered vehicle will much more likely result in fines, harassment and wasted human resources due to the current laws. Ironically, a blind eye is cast towards a majority of raised trucks and SUVs. Of course, those vehicles generally have worse handling performance and aerodynamic efficiency than passenger cars.
CHANGED: Profiling of enthusiast by enthusiasts
This efficacy of this change is largely due to the internet. People are influenced on a global scale now more than ever before. Crossing and blending automotive genres is much more en vogue...rather than simply focusing on one. Obviously, there are aesthetics, techniques and lessons to be learned from across the globe. Incidentally, it's broadened the perception of the owners as well. Now, a Porsche fanatic isn't expected to be a clean-cut architect and lowriders have proven to be popular outside of Southern California...and even the United States. This change is the most significant since every individual has done their part achieve it.