In this article I examine the change-over from metal and glass to all-plastic interiors that occurred in the mid 70s.
This thread looks at a period of transition as injection moulding, safety legislation and changing taste in colours acted to markedly alter how car interiors looked. The late 70s was the period when the dashboard became seen as an integrated whole rather than a set of items screwed to a bulkhead. Of course, Citroen’s SM got there in 1971 but did it without injection moulding on the scale possible in 1981.
This little corner of DTW shows photos of unusual colour-ways and comparison photos showing the old-school and new school interiors. Car which straddle the period such as the R20/30, R18 and Volvo 300 series (shown in posts below) are of especial interest as the designers had to retrofit a new aesthetic to an old architecture whereas the 1981 Ford Sierra had simultaneously a new body in white and the latest interior concepts (form and production methods).
We’ll start with a car from 1972, the Triumph Dolomite, our reference “old school dashboard”. Note the flat shape of the dashboard and how much of it is made from that familiar black, slightly squashy plastic that was an industry norm for a decade or more. The doors are flat too and cloth and wood seem to predominate.
The construction involved wooden or pulp-board panels which were covered in trim and clipped to the door. It’s worth taking a look at the dashboard of the 1971 Austin Marina. While it can be jeered at for its odd radio placement (facing away from the dashboard), the construction concept is about a decade ahead of most of the competition. Only Citroen were doing anything so different at the time. But we’ll stay with the main thrust of the chronology here and I’ll leave such outliers for another time.
Next we turn to an Opel interior (the Commodore) which represents the zenith of the pre-injection moulding dashboard concept. Most of the mains parts do use this material, but in service of the older concept of the dash as several distinct entities attached to the bulkhead rather than an as a unified free-form unit of architecture.
Then it’s time for a slightly later car. Time has been unkind to the memory of some of Adam Opel AG’s earlier work. In the early 80s CAR rated the 2.5 liter Vauxhall Senator higher than the the BMW 525 and, no surprises, Alfa Six. Georg Kacher considered the 1981 Opel Monza better value than a BMW635.
Here is a pair of Ford interiors (a Granada and a Scorpio) and a 1979 Renault 30 TX interior. Of the three 70s cars the Renault is the most obviously loser.
My search reveals an an apparently lower survival rate for the Fords than the Opels. The Renaults are even rarer but it has long been my contention that Renault have never built cars to be kept.
To put things in perspective, here is a Lancia Gamma dashboard. The design is perhaps from 79. And the eagle-eyed will note the cloth is after-market.
Peugeot unusually retained the large and medium scale forms of the (1976) 604 dashboard when revising it for the second series in c.1980. The black interior shown is the 1976 and the brown one is the 1982 version. One of the sustained criticisms of the car was the layout and overall form of the dashboard and it was odd that Peugeot didn’t bother to revise it more thoroughly.
What they actually did was as little as possible: all they wanted to do was use a different type of plastic in the series 2. But they still had to produce new tools for this. Although superficially similar, the 1982 dashboard is a different moulding. It’s an object lesson that material is as much a design choice as overall form and that the two are inseparable. The material you choose will affect the form and vice versa.
Photos in The “Peugeot 604 Of My Father” show a very modern digital dash was briefly considered.
Volvo carried over their 300-series bodies from the 70s to the 80s. So here we get to see their 70s interior design and early 80s interior design in the one body. Notice the whole form has increased in size, filling a bit more of the space between the gear stick and the radio/hvac. The blue interior is from 1978. The grey one is dated 1986 but was introduced in 1982. You could tell from the colours which was the most recent!
The 340/360 is a contender for forgotten cars. I don’t recall seeing one around here for ages, where I imagine they were very popular (I’m in Denmark). Also, there are very, very few images of the interiors of these cars. There is one for sale at the moment in Denmark (listed on-line) and mobile.de has 21 for sale in its European-wide listing.
In 1978 Ford were offering two very different trims for their Escort, one a Rally Pack (with the brown leather) and one not. And here is the Granada in full-on Ghia trim from 1979
You’d have to agree it looks fine but try finding one.