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As auto tech continues to advance, it’s easy to overlook the charming quirks that once adorned vintage vehicles. Not unlike midcentury kitchens, these unique features added flair and functionality to cars of yesteryear. Let’s take a nostalgic jaunt back in time to explore some of the most memorable built-ins that defined vintage cars.

Dashboard record players

In the mid-20th century, music lovers could enjoy their favorite tunes on the go thanks to dashboard-mounted record players. The Highway Hi-Fi and the RCA Victor Victrola, for instance, played specially designed records. The Highway Hi-Fi was available in some Chrysler, Plymouth, and Dodge models in the mid-to-late 1950s.

Swiveling front seats with tables

Some vintage cars, such as the 1960s Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet Impala, featured swiveling front seats equipped with built-in tables. These innovative seating arrangements transformed the interior into a “cozy” dining space. Ideal for impromptu picnics or roadside lunches, no?

In-car picnic sets

While we’re on the food front, luxury classics were often equipped with built-in picnic sets. These were complete with folding tables, chairs, and even a miniature stove. Models like the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud and Bentley S2 Continental catered to affluent drivers who appreciated the convenience of dining “alfresco” without compromising on elegance and comfort. Cue the Mad Men scene where the Draper family picnics at the park, then casually tosses their trash on the park lawn before leaving.

Glove compartment bars

What would the 50s and 60s be without alcohol? This one might be the quirkiest on the list. For those who enjoyed a libation on the road, some vintage cars offered glove compartment bars stocked with miniature liquor bottles and glassware. Models like the 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham allowed (hopefully just) passengers to indulge in a “refreshing” bevvy while cruising in style. At the time, the Brougham was known as one of the country’s most expensive cars.

There’s a decent vid featuring the ’58 Eldorado’s original marketing and a walkthrough of an example embedded below. Fair warning: the host mistakenly calls the car a Fleetwood and passes over the bar feature when he opens the glove compartment, probably because the bar equipment is missing.

A 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham parked in right rear side facing view
1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham | Bring a Trailer

Retractable umbrella holders

Unpredictable weather was no match for vintage cars equipped with…retractable umbrella holders! In models like the 1930s Rolls-Royce Phantom II, these clever built-ins ensured drivers and passengers stayed dry during sudden downpours. These days, RR enthusiasts will already know that there’s an active market for the brand’s logoed black umbrellas, with prices ranging from $400 to $800 for the accessory.

Modern cars may boast advanced technology, higher performance, and better safety, but the whimsical features of vintage models continue to captivate us. The charm! The nostalgia! It’s swell, isn’t it?