In today’s market, it’s hard not to ooo and ahh over the abundance of affordable SUVs and luxury EVs available. It’s undeniable how far auto manufacturing has actually come and will continue to impress with future models down the road. With smart park capabilities, adaptive headlights, and keyless technology, it seems like there is no limit to what the cars of the future can do. So much so that we hardly think of front bench seats and pop-up headlights.
But every once in a while we crave a little blast from the past. The nostalgia kicks in.
If only cars still had the iconic bench seat, newer generations would come to appreciate the value of that extra spot. Although a bit quirky, it was practical and convenient, a prerequisite that most families were searching for at the time of its popularity.
With functionality still in the vanguard of most car making decisions, we can only wonder what really led to the demise of the bench seat and how it landed itself in our automotive archives. There is still hope thanks to electric and autonomous vehicles that a redesigned version will make its way back into manufacturing in the years to come.
Back down memory lane
There was a time in automotive history when roads were dominated by sizable sedans like the 1963 Chevrolet Impala and 1972 Cadillac Deville. Those lanky, yet stylish vehicles came equipped with powerful engines, elongated bodies, and plush interiors for added comfort. A commonality between most of these iconic models: the front bench seat.
The bench seat drew its influence from the horse-drawn carriage. It was the perfect solution for drivers who needed to accommodate large families, allowing for a six-person squeeze compared to the standard five passenger vehicle. Back then, drive-in movies were all the rage, and the post-war economic boom pushed carmakers to regulate affordable, family-oriented vehicles.
So what happened to the front bench seat?
A combination of changing tastes and safety precautions led to the decline of the bench seat. As European sports cars started to play an influence on consumer taste, automakers flipped the switch on those long body styles and started producing smaller, sportier vehicles. Enter: the Ford Mustang.
With that said, the real factor contributing to the disappearance of the front bench seat came down to improved safety regulations. Automakers were faced with the task of incorporating airbags in cars and providing better seatbelt safety. This made it increasingly difficult for the front bench seat to remain a “safe” option. The middle seat inevitably lacked the protection that the driver and passenger now had. In no time, the bucket seat was born.
It wasn’t long before the middle seat got replaced with a center console, which inevitably became the hidden junk drawer of the vehicle. It became a place you could stash some extra cash or keep everyday essentials on hand. Today, select trucks are the only vehicles that still carry the nostalgia of the front bench seat, but I wouldn’t go as far to say that it has the same charm as it did back then.
Bringing back the front bench seat
With the direction that auto manufacturing has gone, it’s almost unthinkable to imagine the front bench seat making a triumph return. Safety ratings remain the epitome of what makes a good vehicle in modern production, and the front bench seat was not the paradigm of safety. Yet reinvention has been known to spice up the automotive industry from time to time.
Now, we see the topic of driverless car technology powering automotive news, with the likes of Tesla pioneering the way towards a fully electric future. Maybe that’s exactly what we need in order to bring back the front bench seat or some reinvented version of it. Some insight into self-driving concept designs has given us a glimpse into how passenger seating will be in the future.
From the looks of it, pretty soon every person will be sleeping or working from their car without the responsibility of driving. Even more so, we can expect a new take on passenger seating. Some designs even made way for a table, so don’t be surprised if those bench seats make an appearance too.
Transforming the way we drive (or not drive) with front bench seats and more
Will the front bench seat make a full comeback? I can’t say for sure. But as we look back on this nostalgic trend that once dominated auto manufacturing from the 1930’s to 1970’s, it is clear to see its impact was valued. Families and teenagers alike cherished the capability of fitting as many passengers as possible. Mind you, the nostalgia of classic cars just wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for the front bench seat.
These days, it’s almost a luxury to experience a ride in a classic old-timer with a front bench seat. For car enthusiasts, it’s just another cherished feature of their car memorabilia. In due time, I think we’ll see a little bit of our automotive past make its way back into concept cars, specifically with a new take on passenger seating. Thanks to self-driving vehicles, the possibility of the front bench seat returning is not all that far-fetched.
Do you prefer bench seats or bucket seats? Will the front bench seat make a comeback? Tell us what you think below.