From Crook Locks to travel games: the sights we rarely see on our roads anymore


Nostalgia is a funny thing – it seems to paint everything in a rosy hue, to the extent that if you talk to someone about an automotive era where one had to wind down the window to kick-start the air conditioning, they'll likely sigh and mumble something about the "good old days".

The modern car has certainly made life on the road a lot easier - and a damn sight more comfortable - thanks to the advent of reliable engines, heated steering wheels and massaging seats, but it has also committed a handful of motoring memories to the history books.

We've collected some of our warmest automotive memoirs below but feel free to add more in the comments section...
>Frozen locks

The widespread use of remote central locking and the advancement of car security has undoubtedly reduced the amount of car crime in this country but it also means we no longer have to panic when the mercury plummets. Cast your mind back a few decades and it wasn't uncommon to see someone rushing out of the house with boiling water in an old milk bottle on a frosty morning, desperately trying to de-ice the keyhole to an old Ford Sierra. If boiling water wasn't an option, a gentleman could turn to a more personal warm fluid to ensure a prompt arrival to work.

Snow covered cars in Sevenoaks, Kent, as a fresh flurry of snow overnight brought renewed misery for travellers. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday January 6, 2010. After striking Scotland and the north of England, the heavy snowfall moved south to the home counties and London, paralysing roads, trains and airports. See PA story WEATHER Snow. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Temporary fuel filler caps

Scour the car maintenance shelf of your local petrol station and you're sure to stumble across one of those green, plastic fuel filler caps, but there was a time when plenty of cars sported a screw-in appendage on their flanks. The flimsy lockable caps offered by the likes of Ford, Rover and Skoda often broke, leaving a gaping hole where the petrol went. This served to attract opportunistic fuel thieves, wannabe arsonists and anyone with litter to dispose of. The answer? A cheap plastic cap that did absolutely nothing to deter the individuals mentioned above.

Road atlases

There is bound to be a few readers out there who insist on using a map rather than admitting defeat and letting a computer do the hard work. The sat-nav system may have revolutionised the way we now plan a journey – as well as leading a select few into rivers – but it has also rendered a chunky road atlas pointless. That's a shame, because a beefy road map also served as a handy booster seat for smaller rear passengers.

Crook Locks

A bright yellow steel bar across the steering wheel, another that straddled the wheel and the accelerator, plus a metal contraption that clamped around the gearstick – unlocking the array of anti-theft devices in an old car could take an absolute age. Long before tracking devices, motion sensor security and cutting edge alarm systems, thieves could break into and drive away a car in a matter of minutes. The sight of various mustard-coloured Crook Locks was enough to put off any have-a-go bandit or at least ensure they only smashed a window and stole the car radio.

Travel games

A couple of Great British pounds could secure a miniature version of Snakes and Ladders, a portable variety of Battleships or a clever concoction of the two in one neat package. It usually took around 30 seconds before important pieces went missing or were inadvertently swallowed but nonetheless, they entertained. Nowadays, children can gawp at the latest Pixar movie on headrest-mounted LCD screens, listen to a Harry Potter audiobook using the car's Bluetooth audio system or furiously slice fruit on an iPad that's charging via a built-in USB port. We know which one we prefer.

Beaded seat covers

We're not sure who discovered that by placing an intricate array of wooden beads over a seat would instantly make it more comfortable, but they did, and thousands bought into it. Usually the reserve of the mini-cab driver, the humble beaded seat cover aimed to aid circulation and prevent the dreaded 'sweaty back' syndrome, but it usually just cheapened the image of a car and smelt a bit weird. Manufacturers now invest a huge amount of time and money into seat design – Infiniti even roped in NASA to help create ultra-comfortable seats for the new Q50 – so there's no longer a need for the wooden covers. Still, in the words of David Brent when quizzed about his Cuban heels in The Office, "you can still get 'em".