Cat Stevens once famously sang, “Oh baby, baby, it’s a Wild World, and it’s hard to get by just upon a smile.” Those words are especially true of automobiles, with each manufacturer trying hard to make their offerings of sedans, coupes, minivans, pickup trucks, and SUVs unique, able to stand out from the ones offered by their competitors. If you search for a “used car dealer near me,” you are sure to find that most used vehicles have standard features, with a gas or, in the case of some trucks, diesel engine, seats with fabric or leather upholstery, and some form of infotainment system.
However, sometimes, automakers strive to add a feature or detail that is bizarre, fun, exciting, or just plain weird. These automakers want to offer drivers an added creature comfort or some cutting-edge technology. This was the case when automakers started adding radios to their vehicles. This feature was followed by 8-track players and then complex infotainment systems with audio streaming right from your smartphone. Some novel innovations end up as standard features, like intermittent windshield wipers. Others, like the icemaker on the 1984 Toyota Space Cruiser van, never quite caught on. However, the 2021 Toyota Sienna was originally supposed to include a mini-fridge, so maybe this is an idea whose time has come?
#1 – Honda Odyssey Cleans It Up!
Minivans are often associated with families, especially young, growing families. Few vehicles offer the amount of interior space as a minivan, and few are as easy to get kids into and out of as these models. While the minivan is not as ubiquitous today as it was in the earlier part of the 21st Century, they are still popular with folks who have large families. However, one problem that often happens when you put little kids in cars is that they get hungry, constantly demanding food during long road trips. And when they start eating, the back seat is unavoidably filled with crumbs.
This is why Honda teamed up with Shop-Vac to install an amazing vacuum system right into the Odyssey minivan. With one of these HondaVac systems in your Odyssey, you would no longer have to schlep your home vacuum cleaner out to the driveway and plug it in with an extension cord. Unfortunately, Honda had to discontinue this feature for the 2022 model because Shop-Vac went out of business. Fortunately for you, there are plenty of used Odyssey vans that have this great feature, making your car safe for little tykes with bags full of popcorn and Goldfish crackers.
#2 – Fiat Espresso Anyone?
Little kids aren’t the only ones who get hungry and thirsty on long drives. Their parents also need sustenance as well, with coffee being the drink of choice for many moms and dads who need that little jolt of caffeine to help keep their eyes on the road and their hands upon the wheel, even if they aren’t headed out to Jim Morrison’s roadhouse. Italy’s Fiat thought they had the answer when they included an in-car coffee maker on the 2014 Fiat 500L. The system is from another legendary Italian company, Lavazza, and is one of their A Modo Mio pod coffee makers. You can have your espresso “My Way” while listening to Old Blue Eyes on the Fiat infotainment system. What a way to go!
#3 – Avoiding Spillage in a Cadillac CTS
One problem with drinking coffee in your car is that if you stop short, your hot cup of coffee might spill onto you, your passengers, and your car’s seats. If you have a fine leather interior, this could cause a stain that is difficult, if not impossible, to remove. The 2014 Cadillac CTS might not feature an in-car coffee maker like the Fiat 500L, but it does have motorized cup holder lids in the center console. Simply place your cup of Java in the center console cup holder, push a button, and your problem is solved, as there will be no unfortunate spillage.
#4 – Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes-Benz?
When Janis Joplin sang her Mercedes-Benz song, I’m not sure if she was thinking about aromatherapy. Nevertheless, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG S 65 Coupe includes a cabin atomizer, so you and your passengers won’t be singing “That Smell” by Lynyrd Skynyrd if anyone has an unfortunate issue with intestinal gas. This atomizer comes with a number of distinctive aromas designed by the German automotive legend, with a discreet receptacle located in the Coupe’s glove box.
#5 – Proud to Be an American
Few vehicles are identified as closely with patriotism as pickup trucks, and Ram trucks took that entire concept to a new level with the Ram 1500 Built to Serve edition. Each of these limited-edition trucks features special American flag decals, “Built to Serve” Ram decals, and special seat stitching. Ram offers these models with names like Always Ready, Forever Faithful, Driven for Excellence, Lead the Way, and Commitment to Courage, each of which will show the trucking world that you are a true Red, White, and Blue American.
#6 – Ford Waves a flag
Ford is another truck builder that wants to help you show your patriotism. The 2021 F-150 contains an American flag motif etched into the silver trim on the interior air vents. You can only see it when you open the front doors, but just like the arrow in the FedEx logo, it’s something that once you’ve seen it, you will never forget.
#7 – The Umbrellas of Rolls-Royce
Few things are as associated with the UK as rainy weather. This is why most self-respecting English men and women carry an umbrella around with them wherever they go. The problem is that when you take a wet umbrella into a car, you can damage the interior. When you are talking about the fine leather interior of a Rolls-Royce, that is a considerable problem indeed. The designers at Rolls-Royce came up with a brilliant solution: they placed an umbrella holder inside the doors of the Rolls-Royce that also acts as a dryer. What’s more, when you pay the “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” price for a Rolls-Royce, it comes with a set of equally expensive Rolls-Royce umbrellas, which usually sell for around $800 on the open market.
#8 – Cadillac Escalade Ext: For Those Who Want a Luxury SUV and a Pickup Truck Too!
In 2002, Cadillac decided to address a problem that seemingly few people knew even existed. It seems that this venerable company decided there were people who loved the payload capabilities of a pickup truck but also desired the bling of a full-size luxury SUV. This led to the creation of the Cadillac Escalade EXT. This was sort of the Green Acres of vehicles for you old TV fans, with the Eddie Albert husband wanting a pickup truck and the Eva Gabor wife wanting a luxury vehicle. Unfortunately, Arnold the pig was not included. While this model was eventually discontinued, you can still find a used Cadillac Escalade EXT so you can get the best of both worlds, whatever those worlds may be.
#9 – Taking Your Honda Out for a Picnic
While most SUVs are all about the “sports” and not so much the “utility,” many initial models took the idea of providing novel features quite literally. This was certainly the case with the first-generation Honda CR-V. The 1994 model was marketed as the perfect vehicle for taking the family out to the country for a fun-filled afternoon picnic. Not only did the CR-V feature a fridge and picnic table, there was even an available shower attachment if you wanted to clean yourself up before driving home from the park, forest, or beach.
#10 – Is It a Truck or a Tent?
Have you ever had to fold tents and sleeping bags before you head out for a camping trip? If you have, then you know how that gear can get really bulky. Many vehicles just don’t have the trunk space to carry sleeping bags for five adults as well as a full-size tent, not to mention their clothing and other luggage. Pontiac decided to take a stab at solving this problem with the 2001 Aztek. This SUV contains a foldout tent, giving you the ability to sleep outdoors without having to go through the rigors of pitching a tent! There is even an onboard air compressor that can be used to fill up an air mattress. While the Pontiac Aztek never really caught on and was discontinued in 2005, you can still find some with the optional factory tent package for sale on the used car market.
It’s a Wild World of Car Features
While some of these features proved more successful than others, it is clear that automakers will continue to innovate, coming up with ideas to address the wants and needs of their customers. When you buy one of these on the used market, you get to find out for yourself whether these innovations really worked or not. Also, you will be getting your hands on a piece of automotive history.