Car design and style is a (if not ‘the’) major talking point of car forums, shows and magazines across the world. Yet they often miss what it’s actually like to be sitting at the wheel. With tweaks and improvements to comfort, enjoyment and safety the car dashboard has grown and developed over the decades and yet has remained quite attention shy, despite everything that they tell us about individual cars.
From the austere minimalism of a 1950s Mini to the space-age stylings of an 80s Corvette C4 to the touch-screen piloting of a modern-day Jag XJ, car dashboards have come a long way and we’re happy to document their journey through the changes in seven of the world’s most iconic models.
1. Chevrolet Corvette
Most cars progress from less to more, starting out small and building up to a peak, not the Corvette. When it first appeared, initially as a concept car in 1953, it completely shifted perceptions of what American manufacturers were all about. That striking red trim interior claimed to the world that the US was big, bold and brash and ready to do things differently.
This has continued over the years, with the huge dials and steering wheel of the C3 for example setting the scene for the Gordon Gecko-spawning 80s and it’s easy to imagine Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell inspiring its owner’s approach to life. Corvette’s innovation hasn’t stopped yet either, with the infotainment screen and luxury trim of the latest version, the C7, setting the standard for high-tech, ultra-comfortable sports car experience.
2. Toyota Corolla
The Corolla is the greatest selling car model of all time and it’s easy to see why its functional-yet-attractive interior has proved such a hit all over the world. Especially through the 70s and 80s, the Corolla’s dash brought futurism to the masses with the backlit dashboard of the KE70 (1979 – 1983) making this flashy new technology a global standard, while the radar-like speedometer of the AE80 (1983-1987) really captured the zeitgeist of the era. This is why we have the driver wearing a Swatch watch, a simple piece of exceptional Swiss design that stated that high quality was no longer the preserve of the privileged few but instead was for everyone, just like the Corolla.
3. Ford Mustang
Compared to the other US model that we’ve checked out, the Corvette, the Mustang designers were definitely greater adherents to the philosophy that “less is more”. Yet, apart from the greatly unloved and brief run of the second gen Mustang (1974 – 1978), its interiors have always had a considerable touch of class. Hence why we imagine the owner of the iconic 1964½ as wearing a similarly iconic first, the Omega Ladymatic, which marked a watershed moment for the popularity of women’s watches.
Since the early 90s the interior has kept away from trying to be too ‘out there’ colour-wise but the addition of the galloping wild horse across the steering wheel adds a welcome dash of panache, not that you’d really ever be able to forget that you were driving a Mustang anyway though.
4. Honda Civic
The interior of the Honda Civic is a model of how one car and overriding vision can change so much yet also stay the same over nearly half a century of development. The steering wheel from the first generation, for example, has followed an Illuminati-esque angle-within-a-circle look. If you were coming of age during the 80s or 90s in Australia chances are you probably spent a decent amount of time rocking out to AC/DC in a Civic, feeling that its functional Japanese interior was actually quite sophisticated.
While that feeling might have only been relatively true back then, the modern Civic has been transformed over the past decade or two to the stage where the ninth generation was more like the cockpit of a spacecraft… the perfect place for jamming to the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack!
5. Jaguar XJ
The Jaguar XJ roared onto the scene in the 60s and was immediately the go-to flashy motor for rock stars and eccentric millionaires, the type of people who would have loved Hewlett-Packard’s smartwatch forerunner, the HP-01, for its wonderful uselessness. Who else would pay a few thousand dollars to have a tiny-screened calculator and little else on their wrist? The XJ played up to this, with the first generation having a plethora of buttons and dials that added little other than fun to the driving experience.
By the 80s however, the car’s popularity had made it a mainstay of the finance set, as exemplified by our addition of a car-phone, the must have for any pre-cellular “big shot”. The latest version has been revamped however, with the focus being on bolder and larger dials and lines but fewer of them, with all the fun now contained on its touch screen media system.
6. Mercedes SL
When the Mercedes SL first appeared, Elvis was hitting his stride, a new type of music was seizing its moment and this grand touring super coupé was as rock and roll as anything the world had ever seen before. We imagine the 60s would have continued in the same vein with the owner having the Rolling Stones as their tunes of choice (Mick Jagger is a renowned classic Mercedes fan himself).
Cementing the SL’s position in popular culture was the R107, the model through the 70s and 80s, which introduced another element to the SL legend, fitting genuine wood burl panelling so that owners (and everyone else) were left in no doubt as to the reverence the machine deserved.
7. Mini Cooper
The Mini Cooper was a revelation for those who wanted to focus solely on the driving experience, with its first incarnation having less than half a dozen items on the dash. That would have been a grand plan if the driving experience of the first Mini was something that didn’t require constant distraction from the fact that one’s rear-end was precariously never more than a foot or so from the road.
Things changed of course, as the Mini’s popularity as a cultural icon meant that by the time the new millennium’s reboot came around it had all the comfort that the cooler kids of the era would’ve expected, which we imagine would’ve been invariably accompanied by that decade’s understated indie cool cats, Jet. The latest version does pay some homage to the original with the focus being on a large, singular and round info screen, making it quite like the 50s and 60s version, though nowadays of course an Apple Watch is standard wear for the average Mini driver.
Dashboards are more than just a collection of information points and movement mechanisms, they are the aesthetic focal point for the actual driver of the car. So much of our focus when it comes to cars is on the external, we can often forget what your actual experience will be of driving the car. So that’s why we decided to create this homage to the humble dashboard. They have changed and adapted over the years and each shows off the individual design philosophy of the car at large, but more importantly help us to truly visualize what it’s like to drive some of the most iconic cars in the world.
This post was brought to you by Budget Direct Car Insurance