Not too long ago, automotive interior designers had to integrate certain features into dashboards that would seem strange today: A keyed ignition switch, a cigarette lighter, an ashtray. They also didn't need to make space for modern mainstays like airbags and touchscreens, which gave them more real estate to play with.
That wasn't necessarily a good thing; in the '80s, everyone became infatuated with flashy "digital" displays, led by the Japanese and the Italians, as well as the production designers of the 1982 hit show "Knight Rider." The purpose of these dashboards was apparently to dazzle rather than design a manageable user experience. Here are some examples, in no particular order:
It is so strange to see how much negative space there is in the steering wheel. Not that you would, but there's enough space to reach through the wheel to get the key.
Are there enough buttons on the lower-center console?
The cigarette lighter's right next to the steering wheel, and just past it is the ashtray. The dream car for a chain smoker.
How hilarious is it to see the "hi-tech" dash up top, and at the lower left, just above the clutch, a choke lever.
The layout of the switches doesn't bother me, as it at least seems rational. What seems wildly irrational is the assymetrical steering wheel. It seems ideal for the driver who makes primarily right turns.
This is tied with the Citroen up top for "most negative steering wheel space."
Maybe Mazda fell a little too in love with K.I.T.T., as they went with a yoke here. I do wonder what the thumb buttons were meant to do; Turbo Boost?
The weird trend of reminding you, via branding on the steering wheel, about a mechanical feature of the engine.
The first in this line-up to go back to actual dials, but they tried to jazz them up by adding reticles and an ill-fitting digital readout on the right-hand dial.
What can I say, except that cocaine was a very popular drug in the '80s.
As close to K.I.T.T. as they could get.
The dragon everyone was chasing.
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A functional benefit of a “digital dash” is the opportunity for color illuminated tachometer bar graph like in my buddy’s Nissan 200SX. The bar graph grows with revs and the last few bars are yellow and red, so you can see it change color in the corner of your eye and shift at just the right moment without having to actually look down.
Great post. My personal favorite is the Aston Martin Lagonda. CRT TV screen in the center (probably B&W), LED segmented number readouts just like a cash register, all surrounded by hand polished walnut burl. And another single spoke steering wheel...
I like the Oldsmobile Incas concept - looks like the control of a space fighter. Probably not too practical for a car though.
What about the Vector W8? I think that started production around 1989...
What about the Vector W8? I believe it start production in 1989..