The Editor Dashes Off an Intro
The first car dashboard to be noted was, probably, the eponymous one used in the Curved Dash Oldsmobile of 1901. However this simply referred to the low barrier at the front of the car that stopped dirt and stones being ‘dashed’ up against the occupants, and which had been inherited entirely from the world of horses and carriages.
As motoring progressed, the position of the dashboard rose literally and it became the natural place to position controls and gauges. Bearing in mind the importance of ensuring safe progress, it might be thought that dashboard design would be pursued with technical rigour, but this has seldom been the case.
Both the term ‘ergonomics’ and its practice seemed unknown to car design until the 1960s, and my first memory of its being used in such a context was for the David Bache designed Rover P6 of 1963. Its implementation in this instance might seem rather rudimentary to today’s eyes but, at the time, it was very impressive compared to the usual random hotch potch layout.
I can’t say that the car world took much interest and, to a degree, has continued to go its merry way to this day with no end of impractical layouts, difficult to identify switches and instruments tucked safely out of the driver’s sight line. Of course much more is known about ergonomics, but this is often negated by stylists who want to impose their lines and marketing folk who insist on squeezing as many functions into the car as possible.
Of course, to an interested driver, part of the lure of an unknown car is getting to know a completely new dashboard geography but there is, perhaps, a case for suggesting that, as the number of functions increase, so does the chance of driver error.
Also there is the fact that, when you purchase a car, the dashboard is the thing you will be looking at most. This is where you see the results of the many thousands of pounds you have frittered away and, quite often, it is a disappointingly compromised sight.
So this month we give our opinions on The Dashboard. The successes, the classics, the disasters and the plain dull.