What it was like to own and drive a 'no-tech' car


DeBord Saab Slob

  • Cars in 2019 are marvels of technology and connectedness.
  • But just a few decades ago, there was very little connected tech in vehicles, prior to the advent of cellphones and the internet.
  • Everything is easier — and safer! — now. But I miss the old days, when you could hit the road and disappear.

These days, it’s nearly impossible to get into a car and disconnect from the internet. New vehicles typically have some sort of smartphone interface (Apple CarPlay or Android Auto) or enable a certain degree of smartphone integration with a car’s infotainment system.

Even if all that’s lacking, you can still remain connected via your phone.

That’s just the reality of driving a car in 2019. However, back in the early 2000s, it was still possible to find new and used cars that were pretty much no-tech. It was particularly easy on the used front, as the mid-to-late 1990s were the period just before infotainment tech started to take off, first with GPS navigation and later with more elaborate systems.

I owned several vehicles from the 1990s — a 1992 Mazda 323 and a 1993 Mazda Miata, as well as a 1998 Saab 900S — and a few cars from the 2000s, including a 2000 Volvo V40. I even had a Volvo 240 from 1987. Prior to all that, I drove a 1989 Honda Accord and a 1983 Buick Regal. Even my 2007 Honda Odyssey was fairly barebones — it was a base model with just a radio and CD player.

If it sounds like torture to lack all 21st tech in a vehicle … well, it actually wasn’t. But obviously, if you were to buy a pre-tech car today, it would take some getting used to. Here’s why:

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Up front, I should note that “no-tech” doesn’t mean an antique with a carburetor, no airbags, and lap-belt seat belts. I’m talking mainly about cars from the 1990s.

Here I am with the 1998 Saab — my most recent no-tech vehicle.

I sold it in 2014 and now own a 2011 Toyota Prius, whose tech is outdated but at least 21st-century caliber.

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