Blast From Past: More than a few car shoppers yearn for T-tops, tape players and other throwbacks gracing their newer vehicles

Joe and Jennifer Mills of West Ashley displayed their 1989 Porsche Targa, which is unusual because it opens halfway but isn't a full convertible. Their vehicle was among more than 200 at the recent Trident Technical College Spring Spin-off car show (Jim Parker/Staff 4-26-2014).

Today's automotive technology gives motorists the capability of storing music in cyberspace and pushing a button to fold up their roof in seconds.

So why do some people want to hear tunes on a cartridge that's practically begging to get entangled and don't mind latching a thin board overhead between driver and passenger seats?

Maybe it's nostalgia, the retro craze or a simple mistake, like guessing that running boards are some new type of exercise equipment.

But for whatever reason, at least a small segment of car shoppers desire gadgets that are seemingly obsolete today or haven't been in vogue since big-hair bands walked the earth.

"Lane departure systems, move out of the way. Some drivers are still looking for cassette decks and vinyl seating when shopping for a vehicle," said John Sternal, of Merit Mile, who handles marketing for auto lease transfer specialist.

Cincinnati-based, which also serves as a car leasing marketplace, said it analyzed more than 20,000 vehicle feature searches to come up with "retro features people still seek in a car." The studied vehicle searches were on the company's "popular car lease marketplace."

After culling through the numbers, the company listed five equipment choices that either are extreme specialty items or had their heydays decades ago. In each case, from 0.2 to 1.9 percent of customers listed these as something they want in a car.

According to the company, "Some items were popular decades ago, while others have traditionally been only for select tastes."

They are a T-top, Targa roof, cassette deck, running boards and "leatherette" or - even more hard-core - vinyl seating. "Yes, there are car shoppers in 2014 that still look for a cassette deck in a vehicle," the company said.

"There are certain features that were once popular that you typically no longer find in a car, nevertheless a car lease no older than 2011," said Scot Hall, executive vice president of

"However, there are a few hardcore fans out there that continue to seek vehicles with these items, even on the marketplace," he said.

The company goes into more detail about the retro choices, which include:

-Cassette Deck. "Remember having to rewind your favorite song a million times until the cassette was ruined? A certain number of shoppers apparently long for those days. This feature is still requested in 0.2 percent of searches."

-Leatherette. "Nothing says luxury like the soft, supple touch of vinyl on your skin as you sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway - during summer. Leatherette, or synthetic leather, is represented in 1.9 percent of searches."

-Running Boards. "These features add muscle to any truck. Perhaps this item is a dying breed because they just don't look right on SUVs and crossovers, but running boards are represented in 1.6 percent of searches."

-Targa Roof. "Known as a semi-convertible body style, a Targa Roof was made popular by Porsche. Targa Tops are different than T-Tops in that it allows for a more open rooftop feel." The roof style represents less than 1 percent of total searched features.

-T-Tops. "If you're old enough to be a fan of 'Smokey and the Bandit,' you'll realize why T-Tops are still a fan favorite for some," the company said. The features are still sought out by shoppers, although they represent less than 1 percent of total searches, according to the company. said its business involves matching people who want to get out of a car lease with shoppers who are looking for short-term lease agreements.

Meanwhile, its online marketplace has vehicles and customers in every state in the continental U.S. and Canada.

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Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or