Modern cars are much safer than the automobiles of yesteryear. They’re also more powerful and faster.
But cars are still cars. Even the most advanced 21st-century vehicle still has four wheels and a motor. The basic principles have remained unchanged for a long time.
Except in one area: on the dashboard.
We got a vivid demonstration of this recently when Business Insider’s Ben Zhang and I went up the Hudson River to check out some vintage cars that are being auctioned this coming weekend in Hershey, PA by a new operation called The Finest Automobile Auctions.
One of the rides we sampled was a 1952 Siata 300 BC Spider, a nifty little red “barchetta” sportster that could sell for between $350,000 and $425,000.
This car is about the joy of driving. It isn’t about Apple CarPlay. Study the instrument panel:
That’s right, there are exactly three analog gauges.
Now have a gander at the most advanced modern instrument cluster available: the “Virtual Cockpit” on the Audi R8 supercar — a screen that can be customized and reconfigured based on driver preferences, and that can pipe in all the infotainment features in the car:
This is the biggest single difference between cars of old and new cars: in old cars, you are distracted by pretty much nothing, while in modern cars, even inexpensive mass-market rides, you’re distracted by … everything.
I’ll leave it up to you to judge which is better. And of course, the Siata is basically a race car. Who needs the extras?
However, I once owned a very simple car, a first-generation Mazda Miata, which lacked any infotainment tech and had a grand total of five gauges.
It was fine by me.