Toyota’s reputation for solid engineering is well-established. Their engines seem to be unburstable and the controls always smooth and light.
Such sensibleness applies to their ashtray designs too. This late 70s Carina two-door saloon is home to a very nice drawer-type ashtray which you can
easily reach while smoking and driving (in a relaxed and laid-back way). It’s positioned under the main body of the dashboard. Notice how all the important bits of the dashboard are bounded with a small area. There is no centre console. Just carpet. And a wand jutting from the floor. That is sensible.
At one point in time – let’s call it the 1970s – a centre console suggested width and Jaguar-like aristrocacy (but a Silver Shadow has no centre console). A horror vacui means space must be filled, despite the cost. So, since then the centre console has grown, and grown and grown.
Even small cars such as the 208, Clio and Fiesta have complex, ornate and frankly wasteful centre consoles. Do they think this suggests the interior of a Jensen or XJ-6?
Two thoughts lead from this consideration.
The first (number one) is to do with this notion of elaboration I have been chewing at since the early spring. Elaboration refers to the progression from a functional feature to one with a semantic overlay to one where only the semantics remain. An example?
By the end of the classical architecture period (I mean the pre-Modern period) the tropes of classicism had been seemingly exhausted. The simple wooden post had become an Ionic column and then merely a low-relief symbol plastered onto brick. The Baroque period saw corners given smaller corners. And in car design, the need for a bit of extra space for buttons on the upper IP has led to a major construction, an isthmus of plastic between the hand-brake and upper IP, just to house a cup holder and maybe a cranny for mobile ‘phones.
Look back at the simple and useful Toyota IP. Everything you need on a panel near the eye-line. At this point, the centre console needs to be reviewed. I dare a car-maker to do without it. As I said, a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow hasn’t got one and it’s still an okay kind of car:
The second point is more to do with the feeling I have of an evolving understanding of the principles of ashtray design itself. Classified are the types. What I have not done is attempt a general theory of the principles of their deployment. If we can look at enough examples, we ought to be able to see where you would expect each type to be used.
In the days where a dashboard was mostly the horizontal sweep from A-pillar base to A-pillar base, a drawer-type ashtray suited the topology of what was basically an undercroft. As the centre console grew and extended it made more sense to have a flip-up lid or maybe a sliding lid. There is no undercroft ahead of the driver and front passenger, merely leg-space.
So, you might expect this theory to lead to a bold prediction: if you examined cars from 1960 to the present time you would expect to find the number of drawer-type ashtrays to diminish. That is a falsifiable claim and thus it is a claim carrying some significance.
(If you will excuse me, I have to point out that there is no other website that can bridge the subjects of cars, the philosophy of science and fine art.)