From espresso machines to record players, if you can dream it, it's probably been offered in a car.
Some features on this list will make you wonder what the creator was thinking, and some may appeal to your sense of humor. Here’s an interesting look at some of the strangest car features ever offered.
Vinyl Record Player
In 1956, Chrysler introduced the world’s first in-car music system: a vinyl record player equipped in the Highway Hi-Fi. Constructed in a proprietary format, the larger discs could hold about twice what a typical record could play at the time. Chrysler achieved this by slowing down the play speed. But the carmaker failed to make inroads with record labels and media companies, which limited the selection of music available to Highway Hi-Fi drivers. Even after RCA perfected the in-car record player and drivers could finally spin what they wanted, the records were gouged by bumps in the road, and a return to standard format meant frequently turning over the record (talk about distracted driving!). For these reasons and more, the vinyl record player never went mainstream and by the 1960s, the 8-track tape took over.
Fiat introduced the first in-car coffee machine in 2013. This feature was named the ‘Coffee Experience’ and included an espresso maker, cups, a spoon holder, and a sugar container. The unit boiled grounds in a pod that clipped into a console cup holder. The heating element boiled the water, steeping the coffee-filled pod and, seconds later, voila! If you’ve never seen this feature in the U.S., you’re not alone. This unique package was never intended for U.S. markets but was trendy in Fiat’s home country of Italy and throughout Europe.
In 1954, Italian designer Alfredo Vignale built only one Rolls-Royce: the Silver Wraith—a custom car ordered by an eccentric American who requested several features including a unique paint finish, a built-in television, and a gold-rimmed toilet. The toilet under the backseat was functional, just without the plumbing. This toilet was rigged to dump onto the road as the car rolled down the road. Joseph Maschuch, the owner of this Rolls-Royce, denied ever using the toilet and insisted the bowl was for chilling champagne…at least, that’s what he told curious fans.
Today, some luxury cars (like Bentley and Mercedes-Benz) come with small refrigerator boxes; a fancy feature hard to find in an economy vehicle. But Toyota did it back in the 1980s when it put an ice maker in a van. From 1984 to 1989, The Toyota Van came with an optional cooler box and icemaker located in the center console just in front of the shifter. It was cooled with air-conditioning refrigerant and came with spill-proof trays.
If you prefer your cabin air-cleaned and scented, then you won’t want to pass on the Mercedes-Benz Air Balance System. Available on select models, the Air Balance System cleans the air in your vehicle with a combination of charcoal filters and an ionizer. Then a fragrance atomizer allows you to personalize the ambiance of the cabin through the choice of exclusive aromas.
Water-filled bumpers showed up in the 1960s and proved highly effective (they were also much cheaper and easier to replace following an accident). Driving enthusiasts, however, didn’t like the look of these bumpers, which were bulky and added significant weight to the vehicle. Within a few years, newer safety technologies would replace hydraulic bumpers.
While this list is in no way exhaustive, it shows just how far some car makers will go to improve a driver’s experience. Extra gadgets, bells, and whistles can certainly be interesting, but they can also take your attention away from the road. Having fewer features may be a good thing after all. Please keep your eyes on the road and avoid distractions!