By Kristin Varela on February 14, 2012
With more and more feature-rich cars packed with heated and cooled seats, backup cameras and refrigerated glove boxes, it's hard not to reminisce about some features that have fallen by the wayside. As a newlywed, this Valentine's Day I'm fond of the bench seat. I know, "Aww ... yuck!"
My family and I recently borrowed a 1972 Dodge pickup for a couple of weeks to help with our move into our new home. My husband loved it since it fit in perfectly with his retro John Deere baseball cap and work pants look (don't ask), but I could find few redeeming qualities. It was loud, unsafe, had no heating or cooling, used an unbelievable amount of gas and had dodgy brakes. There also were no cupholders, and the Ram's manual gearshift was temperamental -- to say the least. To add insult to injury, I wasn't tall enough to see over the steering wheel (no adjustable seats!).
There was, however, one feature I loved: the bench seat. What was once the traditional seat installed in the front row of almost all American automobiles is now practically nonexistent. In the truck we borrowed, this expanse of cracked, worn vinyl was oddly inviting. Whether it was the memory of sitting up front "safely" between my mom and dad as a child or more recently being able to snuggle up to my hubby to stay warm when driving a load of furniture to our new home, it gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling.
Today, the front bench seat is on the endangered-species list. It's available on only one 2012 model, the Chevrolet Impala.
It seems that if I want to enjoy the benefits of the bench seat combined with the creature comforts and safety features of 2012, I'm nearly out of options. For the moment, I'll have to reminisce about getting cozy on the bench seat at the drive-in ... good luck finding one of those, as well!
Senior Family Editor Kristin Varela blends work and family life by driving her three tween-teen girls every which way in test cars. Email Kristin