We Bet You Can't Name The Differences Between a 1970s Car and a Car from Today

Becky

What major difference is easily visible?

Cars of the 1970s were much bigger than today's cars. Not only are today's cars lighter and more efficient, but they are also safer, which belies the belief that those huge hunks of Detroit metal were safer than today's models.

What difference means you are more likely to survive in the event of an accident?

Today's cars are full of safety features/ That means you are more likely to survive an accident - provided you actually use these features. As cars were being developed and carmakers were struggling with how to incorporate new safety features, manufacturers actually once gave consumers the choice between airbags and seatbelts. We now know that both, if used properly, work together to save lives.

What obvious difference might earn you a ticket?

Sure, the cars of the 1970s had radios, and some women have always applied their makeup while driving, but today's cars keep us connected to every aspect of our lives while we're on the road. Police vehicles have laptops for access to instant information, and passenger vehicles have Bluetooth that enables the use of cellphones and internet radio. We may also be distracted by our maps application, backup cameras, and dash cams. All this technology is great, but distractions can lead to accidents.

What feature helps your radio's reception?

So, what is that shark fin thingie anyway? That's your car's antenna. Gone are the long spiky sticks that get bent in the car wash. Yay!

What difference makes today's cars go faster?

Our love of muscle cars aside, we know intuitively that today's cars are more powerful. Case in point: Today's 4-cylinder engines are no longer the putt putt cars of the past, but fuel-injected beasts (OK, not really beasts, but you get our point).

What difference saves you money at the pump?

The cars of the '70s had larger gas tanks because they had to. It took a lot of fuel to power those gas guzzlers. Today's cars give you the power you want with the fuel efficiency you need. After all, who wants to work a second job to afford a fill up?

What is another fuel-efficient change?

From the shape of the front end to the shape and placement of the shark fin antenna on most of today's cars, they are all about cutting through the air to reduce drag. Car manufacturers have known for a long time that drag influences fuel consumption and speed, but it's still a little bit sad that we had to say goodbye to the '70s classics for the sake of the planet.

What makes cars less likely to bankrupt you?

Just like most technologies, cars have become less expensive compared to cars of the past. Think about it. Most cars now have air conditioning, Bluetooth, power mirrors, and other features as standard fare. In the 1970s, you had to pay separately for all of these extras, which were only included as standard features in luxury models. Today's cars are just more affordable.

What difference makes all the difference in comfort?

Most 1970s cars weren't exactly built for comfort, but even today's economy models can get you from point A to point B without jarring your back teeth loose. That level of comfort only comes with advances in suspension.

What safety feature is also cheaper?

Not only did the brakes on 1970s cars have to be strong enough to stop a barreling pile of steel hurtling down the highway, they were also expensive to fix. Today's cars feature disc brakes all the way around. Bye, bye drums!

What difference had tubes?

Tube tires were clunky and inefficient. Back in the day, if you lived in a snowy climate, you might have winter tires and regular tires. Sure, some drivers still change out their tires (we're talking to you, Canadians!), but most of us now ride on all-weather tires that last longer and ride better.

What feature is still debated as being "better"?

Yes, your car is a mobile computer. It uses computer technology to help you brake and make it home in snowy weather. We're referring to traction control and anti-lock brakes, here. Computer-controlled features may mean that some things are more difficult to repair on your own, but we think it's worth the trade-off​.

What features cost more to fix?

On the down side of the differences, all this new technology and stuff adds up to what some people, especially those who drove in the '70s, say is unnecessary. All these fancy gadgets mean that there is more to break and more to fix on today's cars. Meh, we kinda like them.

What difference makes cars lighter?

The materials used on today's cars are lighter and, in some cases, stronger than the steel used on 1970s cars. From the materials used on the body to those used to make the engine, today's cars are just made better.

What was once halogen that is now LED?

So, whose idea was it to start putting LED headlights on cars? Halogen headlights were blinding enough, but those LED lights are intense. We get it, they're better, but ouch!

What difference could give you a charge?

Sure, the cars of the 1970s used some electric power, but some of today's cars use ONLY electricity to run. Today's electric cars are not likely to win over the masses any time soon, but we bet they will be the norm in the not-so-distant future.

What difference changes what's under the hood?

A 1970s 450 horsepower engine was just huge. There's no other word to describe one. Today, an engine that produces 450 horsepower is much smaller, lighter, and more fuel efficient. So, stop laughing at that 4-cylinder and put the money you save at the pump toward your next vactation.

What difference is all about entertainment?

Although your dog might find your windshield wipers entertaining (have you seen Facebook?), it's the radio we're looking for here. In the 1970s, car radios were just that... radios. Many of them didn't even receive FM stations. Today's cars have sound systems, so crank it up!

What visibility feature is now standard on all cars?

Believe it or not, many '70s cars did not have a passenger side mirror. These were once optional, but now they're standard.

What don't cars do as much of now?

Cars don't rust out today as much as they did in the 1970s. They are made of materials that are more rust resistant. The underside of your car will still rust though, so keep it clean.

What comfort feature is now standard on most cars?

Unless you lived in the south, your 1970s car probably did not have air conditioning. And if it did, you probably paid a pretty penny for it. In the 1970s, a/c was not standard, but today, most cars have it as an included feature.

True or False? 8-track tape decks were always standard.

This is false. Even if you had an 8-track tape deck in your muscle car, it was probably not standard. These days, many cars don't even have CD players. Bluetooth and/or an Aux cord are all you need to access an entire library of music.

If you need to change a tire, you might find that what has changed since the '70s?

Tire irons in the 1970s were what was referred to as 4-ways. Although the single stem tire iron that cars have today (if they even have that!), are easier to hit someone over the head with, the 4-ways were much better for tightening those bolts.

True or False? Cars can't stop as fast today as they did in the 1970s.

Actually, this is false. It took a lot more to stop a heavy hunk of steel hurtling down the road than it does to stop the cars of today. Braking is much more efficient.

What newer feature might you appreciate if you live in the north?

If you live in the north, you might remember struggling to remove the snow and ice from the back of your car on those freezing mornings before work. And, if you were super cool, you might have purchased one of those glue on de-icer kits. The majority of today's cars have rear window defoggers as part of their standard equipment.

What kind of '70s car doesn't really exist today?

You might argue that an SUV is really a station wagon, and we'll give you that. But the station wagon had a distinct shape and purpose that made it all the more tempting to ride in the back by the window and make faces at the cars behind you.

What modern feature was once the subject of an Ellen Degeneres bit?

If you haven't watched this bit, look it up. You'll love it. Today's car windows no longer require that we crank them down. We merely have to push a button. (Yes, we know that there is still the occasional vehicle that does it old school.)

Unless you drove a luxury car, what feature did you have to struggle with in a '70s car?

Power steering wasn't standard on many cars in the 1970s. And if you don't know how hard it is to steer your car without power steering, imagine that there is a 500-pound weight attached to your steering wheel.

What feature might be a reflection of the times?

Most of today's cars come equipped with a car alarm. Most cars in the '70s did not have alarms. Unfortunately, this may be a reflection of the times in which we live.

What is different about the way you enter and exit your car today?

Some of today's cars have keyless entries and even keyless starts. Either way, you probably just push a button to unlock your car and push another button to lock it. Of course, don't lose those keys. They are extremely expensive to replace.

What safety feature is a reflection of the fact that so many people forget to turn them on?

Today's cars do a lot of thinking for you. In the 1970s, you had to actually remember to turn on your headlights at dusk. Today, your car might be able to sense when it's dark enough for your headlights to be on, and does the work for you.

What bone-jarring accessory was not present in 1970s cars?

Sure, cars had speakers, but most of them were like the ones you found at the drive in... weak. Some of the speakers in today's cars belong in a nightclub. Yes, we're talking about you, boom boom.

What newer type of vehicle would have been found on a battlefield in the 1970s?

The SUV, or Sports Utility Vehicle, was not a staple of 1970s car lots. Although it could be argued that today's SUVs not only replaced the family station wagon, they combined the family car with a small truck. Can you imagine how much they would have cost in the '70s?

If you need to change a tire, what might you find out about your modern-day car?

Many of today's cars not only don't have a "donut," or a temporary spare tire, they don't have spares at all. Many newer vehicles have inflation kits instead of tires. This may be a reflection of the fact that many people carry roadside assistance insurance and that cellphones make help just a quick call away.

Finally, what has come back around since the 1970s?

Many cars from the 1970s have come back around for a reboot, but the Beetle was one of the most iconic and welcomed. Some cars, however, never left, they just got weird looking.

Explore More Quizzes

Image: Alexandre Prévot from Nancy, France

About This Quiz

Do you still have a 1970s model in your garage that you love to tinker with on the weekends but you drive a newer model car to work every day? Why? Is it because there are differences between the two cars that make one better for one use and another better for other uses? Yup, we thought so. So, you know that there are differences, but can you actually name them? We're only asking for 15 here, so it shouldn't be too hard. Are you ready to see how many you can name?

We all know intuitively that there are numerous differences between the cars of the 1970s and the cars of today. Car manufacturers made changes designed to improve driveability, economy, and safety, even if you don't agree that each of these changes makes sense. What's likely the problem is that you are retaining a bit of classic car nostalgia for those iconic models from the 1970s. Don't worry, we are too. But we do have to admit that many of the changes that have taken place in the nearly half century are pretty exciting. Do you agree?

So, the bottom line is, can you name the differences between a 1970s car and a car from today? Can you?

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!