At one time in America, a front bench seat was not only the most popular choice, but the absolute standard. Today they are unheard of to most young people. In fact they are no longer even produced in American cars. Although some American companies still produce models released for foreign markets that have bench seating available.
Ford was the second to last company to maintain them as a standard feature on any of their models, ending in 2011. They were the standard option for the Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town car until 2011, and this is not because the option was changed, but because the three models we discontinued all together.
The Chevrolet Impala was the final American car to offer the bench seat as the standard option. This ended in 2013 with the car being completely redesigned.
Looking back on American automobile history, there is a clear back and forth exchange between the influence of popular culture on cars and vice versa that has transformed the common car with a bench front seat, no arm rests and no cup holders, to the bucket-styled, multi-cup and multi-sized cup, multi-arm rested seats of today’s cars.
Cars became more and more affordable starting in the early 1920s. This is generally attributed to Henry Ford and the Model - T. He reduced the time it took to make the car from 12.5 hours to 93 minutes with a streamlined assembly-line process. By the 1950s, cars were so affordable, there were multiple cars for single households. High school kids were driving them to school, and they became a huge part of American popular culture.
Drive-in Cinemas and drive-in diners became popular because people simply liked to be out and about in their cars. Prior to this, it was uncommon for cars to be associated with food and beverage. But by the late 1950s, some cars were outfitted with a glove compartment that was contained built-in indentations, made to hold cups or cans. The first model to have something of this kind was the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air.
As American culture grew, commutes to work grew for the work force, and in turn, fast food restaurants with drive-through options grew. People needed coffee before work, lunches on the go, and even dinner on the go, all in the car.
Car companies began to incorporate a foldable center console for bench seating. This allowed for either three passengers in the front, or for the backrest of the middle seat to fold down, creating an arm rest, and often cup holders, and a storage area inside. The addition of cup holders grew even more after a 1994 court case in which a woman was severely burned by hot coffee from McDonalds while driving her car.
But for many people, driving their vintage bench front seat cars with no cup holders is a joy, and even a daily occurrence. Without the need for the extra seating, its now easy to
upgrade these vehicles with bench consoles that will fit snuggly and match the interior or exterior of the vehicle.