Today’s Standard Features Put Classics to Shame

Power steering, power brakes, and power windows are the kinds of features we don’t think much about these days. But, there was a day when each of those things was considered an optional item, not included in the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. Consequently, the purchase price would go up with the addition of each selected item.

A Classic Truck

When I was learning to drive, it was the mid-1980s. I was permitted to use the family pickup truck that my dad purchased new about three years prior. As I recall, the Maroney label (window sticker) of the pickup said the only option the vehicle had was a day/night rearview mirror. There was no package that included extra items lumped in. It was just a standard truck with the bonus of a day/night mirror.

A row of Ford pickup trucks on sales lot.
Ford pickups sit on the sales lot | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

What Is Considered Standard?

If I were to ask a young person today what they consider to be bare-bones standard features in a vehicle today, I have no doubt that they would come up with a very differently equipped vehicle than what I was driving at that time. For example, that day/night mirror has been a standard feature from almost every manufacturer during that young person’s life.

This is what I’m getting at, the automobile industry has included so many things in their standard vehicle offerings, that we take them for granted today. It is only with an eye to the past that we recognize how far the industry has come with the standard offerings to the consumer.

2020 Subaru Forester Touring infotainment
2020 Subaru Forester Touring infotainment | Subaru

No Power Options

For clarity, I will give you an idea of what that family truck was like. It was a 1986 model year regular cab pickup. It had no passenger-side mirror, no rear bumper, no power steering, no power brakes, no power windows, no air conditioning, no radio, and no rear sliding glass. In fact, it did not even have fuel injection. All these things were considered options at that time.

So Much Fun

The truck would become my daily driver, and I loved it! The carbureted engine was easy to work on. In the Summer, I would hand crank the windows up and down as necessary. The manual steering was fun to muscle around the turns, and my calf muscles bulked up from the use of the manual brakes.


I even got to mod it a bit. My dad found an AM/FM cassette radio at the local flea market. So, that was the first mod. The second mod was the addition of a rear bumper. The third mod was a removable sunroof (remember, no air conditioning). The next additions came in the form of a bed mat and wide tires (raised white letter Hoosier’s).

Truck accident with airbags deflated
Truck accident with airbags deflated | Buche and Associates/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

I Wrecked It

I was saddened to wreck it one day. It was a minor wreck. There was no traction control or stability control back then, or even ABS braking systems. I lost control on a dirt road. The truck fishtailed on me faster than I expected. I finally got it straightened out just in time to t-bone a parked van. I was disheartened by the crunched up metal, but grateful everyone was okay.

Enjoy Modern Cars

I said all that to say this, I know what it’s like to have a really, really, really basic vehicle. Although I loved that original pickup truck, it’s a classic now. And, I have gotten older too. I don’t believe that at this point in my life I would enjoy daily driving a vehicle that basic again (unless it was for a track day).

Otherwise, I’m content with what is considered the basic modern vehicle today. I’ll take today’s power steering, power brakes, power windows, air conditioning, and radio. The bonus is, they are all already included in the Maroney label. No extra dollars are required out of my wallet to have them included.