The History Behind Cupholders In Modern Cars

History Of Cupholders In Cars

Vehicles on the road may or may not have an airbag, but one thing is for sure they’ll not be missing, that is a ‘Cup Holder’. After all the coffee from an outlet to start your day is necessary then, well, passive safety. So, where did all it start that the cup holders became a part of the vehicles even before forcing airbags in the cars? Let’s have a look.


Let’s Drive back a Little Into Its Quirky History

Probably we millennials will not be a part of the history but it sure is interesting.

  • To begin with, earlier the cupholders were integrated into the tray from the restaurant. And this snack tray used to hook over the car’s window.
  • With time all the drive-throughs and open cinemas insisted carmakers integrate cupholders.
  • Voila, a couple of cupholders were integrated it into the car. These were more of slots or indents rather than deep cupholders.
  • They were fused on the inner side of the glove box compartment on the co-driver’s side. These were okay for when the vehicle was static but failed miserably when the vehicle was in motion.

Minivans and Cupholders in the early 1930s

Plymouth Voyager minivan | History of Cupholders
  • Minivans are still little active in the international market and these vehicles are the flag bearers of the cup holders.
  • These were the vehicles where the manufactures give not one but a myriad of cupholders (maybe 9-10). For you to know it was the 1984 Plymouth Voyager minivan that first came with cupholders.
  • It can be said that this was one of the prime motivations for the carmakers to support the, then cars with a thing called ‘cupholder’.

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The Era of Cupholders

So-called Cupholders | History of Cupholders

Until the 1950s there was no sign of cup holders in cars, neither eating in the car was considered hygienic but still, people used to do it.

  • And, the people used to have their snacks in a pretty unique way. In 1950, the co-driver was considered as the snacks tender.
  • The people sitting next to the driver either used to hold the drinks in between the legs or keeping it on the floor was the way to go.
  • Indeed this was quite adventurous and could have been a nightmare especially on Indian roads. If there were any at that time. (Pun Intended!)
  • The November of the same year a photograph surfaces with a snack tray hanging from the dash via two chords using suction. This tray was designed to set 2 soda bottles on it and could be stored in the glove box when not in use.
  • 1953, was when an inventor in Texas got his design patented. By the looks of it, that cupholder looked very similar to the ones in the cars today.
  • It had a single deep cylinder to hold a small cup and was wedged between the rear seats.
  • But still, the cupholders were far from complete and still required a lot of work. Till then the cupholders were meer prototypes and suggestions for the car manufacturers.

The 1960s | Began the refinement of cupholders

Still, the manufacturers didn’t offer cupholders in their vehicle. Indeed the automotive industry was slow to bring cupholders to the vehicles.

  • The early prototypes of cupholders were an accessory. These cupholders could be attached to the window.
  • Also, this first cupholder was delivered by a history professor Henry Petroski in Duke University of engineering.
  • Watching these plastic cupholders getting popular the designers in the automotive world started designing the interior with the cupholders.
  • Came the Plymouth Voyager minivan in 1984.
  • From then on, car manufacturers made the cupholders a part of the interior in the vehicle.

Modern Cupholders

Heated and Cooled Cupholders | History of Cupholders

Now the cupholders are more than what they were earlier built for.

  • In some vehicles, the cupholders are heated as well as ventilated to keep the drinks in the glasses at the desired temperatures.
  • Also, some cars like MG Hector has integrated lights into it to lift the ambience of the cabin.
  • To utilize the cupholder’s space, some vehicles also come with portable air purifiers.

Indeed the cupholders had an interesting history. Also, in no time these cupholders advanced for many more functions than just storing the drinks.

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