Did you know that driver comfort was once at the very bottom of the list of priorities when it came to automotive manufacturing? There was once a time that cars had open tops, but they also sometimes had open sides and open backs, meaning that you would have been driving away on little more than a slice of metal, an engine and a set of wheels. Even the sunniest of climates would cause a lot of discomfort while driving, wouldn’t it?
Back in 1910, Cadillac had the genius idea of creating the first ‘closed body’ car, which meant that drivers had a far better experience being on the road and getting around than they did during the era of flooded buggies. The driving experience is supposed to be a safe and pleasant one, with people looking forward to getting on the road and driving where they need to go. It should never be one of annoyance or pain, like it was previous to Cadillac taking the reins.
Very simple solutions, such as lighting, heating and softer seats helped drivers to get where they needed to go without freezing along the way. Unlike the cars of today, with integrated air conditioning, powered music systems and AFe floor mats to insulate the car and protect the carpet, cars way back when mostly cared about being able to see and feel warm while they travelled. Once this had been achieved, the need for more kicked in, and power door locks (hello, 1914!), power windshield wipers (1916) and power brakes (1919) were all emerging.
A niche market was born, and the production of cars changed. No more did people just want a way to get from A to B, they wanted to do it in comfort, style and while bragging along the way! The mass market didn’t see much in the way of comfort until almost 20 years later, during the WWII years. The one thing that wasn’t yet ready to offer to the public for their comfort was in-car entertainment. Again, Cadillac stepped up and was the very first to offer an original equipment radio and this was in the late 20s. This step toward the future enabled companies to head for other forms of music radio.
Heading into 1940, the next big innovation in comfort was the ability to change the temperature of the car. This meant that despite the carpet and floor mats, cars could be temperate and more comfortable to travel in. The luxury features kept coming after that, with other brands designing new climate control features as well as the very first heated seats, which featured in the Fleetwood. In 1998, the Saab-95 introduced ventilated seats and then, as with all other comfort features, these trickled down into the mass market.
As with every vehicle, comfort has been key for drivers and brands that have recognized this have had more success than any other over the years. Car comfort has improved massively since the open-sides and open-top varieties that started out, and we should be thankful for that!