This is the feature of cars that has changed more than any other since the 1950s

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 were being auctioned 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, as well as the challenges of driving (it doesn’t give you a bit of help, as Ben found out when he went for a spin). It isn’t about Apple CarPlay. Study the instrument panel:

That’s right, there are exactly three analogue 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 customised 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.

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