Home » A Daydreaming Designer Envisions Some Car Instruments We Could Really Use

A Daydreaming Designer Envisions Some Car Instruments We Could Really Use

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Do you really need all of the gauges in your car? As an enthusiast, you naturally think that you must have something like a voltmeter, but how often do you really look at it? Likely never; one day the alternator just ceases to make electricity. Can you honestly say that you watch the oil pressure gauge every mile that you drive? Probably not. Many gauges and warnings are superfluous for daily driving, but we’ve seen a few instruments installed in cars that are truly useless.

Last week, Thomas showed us a gauge for the Mini convertible called the Openometer that tracks how much time you’ve spent with the top down.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Mini Openometer Graphic 2 1536x1331

There’s really no point to this gauge beyond being just a cutesy instrument equivalent to a LIVE LAUGH LOVE sign.

2009 Mini Cooper S Cabriolet 2

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sources: Mini via The Autopian

However, as superflous as that Openometer is, I think I might have found a sillier one. This rather absurd gauge exists in an otherwise outstanding car.

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source: Blackhawk Collection

Despite the increased respect shown to the suicide-door Lincoln Continentals, they are still underappreciated in my opinion. Clean, enigmatic designs, and cool in a totally unironic way. Continentals were for buyers that knew the Cadillac offered more flash for your cash and wanted none of that, thank you very much. These beautiful Lincolns were crafted with truly outstanding quality, and arguably represented one of the last times when America built a world class car that honestly put the likes of Rolls Royce and Mercedes to shame. There’s a reason for the quality. Apparently, there were sixteen separate inspectors looking at finished cars, as well as a one hour road test of every car coming off the line on a twelve mile test loop. However, my favorite critical inspection is described below:

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Every electrical accessory was tested, right down to the amount of pressure it took to engage the cigarette lighter. And that cigarette lighter had to heat up and pop out ready to use in a specified amount of time as well (Automotive Mileposts)

So I am guessing that they seriously had a guy with a stopwatch timing the heating cycle of the cigarette lighter (actually, my count has the car with at least three lighters). I mean, it was the sixties, so cigarette lighter performance was paramount!

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source: Ford Motor Company via Automotive Mileposts

Anyway, we’re getting sidetracked- back to the ridiculous gauge on this Lincoln. While most American cars of this era had few instruments beyond the speedometer and fuel level, the 1964 and 1965 model years of this Continental seem to offer plenty of gauges to monitor everything. Take a look below. There is even what looks like a tiny vertical tachometer dead center above the steering column with some weird markings on it. LO to HI? Huh?

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source: Mecum (car for sale)

No, wait, my mistake. That isn’t a tach; it’s a gauge for the steering wheel position. It’s true. Wikipedia confirms it:

A somewhat rare and unusual option for 1964–1965 was the vertically adjustable steering column. Unlike most tilt-adjustable columns that employ a lever-activated locking pivot joint just behind the steering wheel the Lincoln version employed a vacuum-actuated clamp, a dash-mounted height indicator window and a pivot point much further down the column (Wikipedia)

So a ‘dash mounted height indicator window’ for… the steering wheel? I mean, to be honest, do you really need a tach in an automatic-transmissioned car with a 460V8 that probably makes peak power at like 2000RPM? You don’t, but to have an illuminated gauge to tell me the steering wheel is in Position 3 seems a bit, well, unnecessary.

These odd gauges got me thinking about what other strange, ridiculous, but ultimately useful indicators and warnings we could add to a car today. Here’s a few idea starters below:

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Let’s get a closer look:

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1.Depreciation Gauge  This gauge changes based on not just the market value of your vehicle but also how much you hoon it. There are also lights above the gauge wired into your bank to let you know if you are upside down on your loan, and possibly even a second light that blinks if you are late on a payment. Eventually, the value gauge goes to zero or, in the case of older BMWs, it goes negative and tells you how much you need to pay someone to take it off of your hands.

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2. You-Forget-To-Shut-The-Gas-Cap-Again Warning Lamp  Yeah, most cars give the old ‘Door Ajar’ warning, but I’m more concerned about my gas (or electric plug) door sticking open in traffic (and likely the gas cap hanging down from the now-unsealed tank). Most people won’t yell or beep at you these days to tell you, assuming you’ll give the finger or go into road rage mode before realizing they’re trying to help, so this light would do the trick.

3. Roof Objects Warning Lamp  The roof of your car is great place to leave items like your coffee or briefcase while you tie your shoe or talk to a coworker. The roof of your car is not a good place to leave such items once you start driving away. This warning light is wired to sensors that prevent you from not knowing remembering that you left something up there. Sure, cars now tell you to CHECK BACK SEAT to not leave a kid behind, but what about your Grande Macchiato on the roof?

[Editor’s Note: I hope I can get one of these retro-fitted to my car:

— JT]

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4. Ashtray Full Warning Lamp  Even if you don’t smoke, the ashtrays are often stuffed with lollipop sticks and gum wrappers, and you don’t even know it! How embarrassing! This warning light solves that issue by letting you know right away when it’s time to do a dump.

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5. Undesirable Temperature Beverage Warning Lamp  You go to grab that beverage in the cup holder, but don’t realize that’s cold coffee or a bath-water-temp Diet Coke. Worse yet, it’s still-magma-hot tea that will burn you. Thermal sensor wired to this warning light let you know if the drink of choice is not suitable for consumption.

6. Elapsed Time Since Last Call To Mom Gauge  You’re stuck in the car, nowhere to go, and you have Bluetooth on your phone. You know you should call Mom but would just rather chill and listen to your podcast or some banging old skool WuTang shit. This gauge tells you how long it’s been since you last called and if you need to bite the bullet, dial her up, and hear her vent about Aunt Janet and ask again if you got that colonoscopy yet.

7. Available Car Parts Sensor Warning Lamp  Wired into your OBDII system, this light is also connected to the onboard GPS and a real-time Craigslist feed to illuminate whenever you are within half a mile of any used part for sale that you might be in need of. For example, the ECU knows that your rear windows won’t roll down, but there’s a car identical to your make, model, and year available ‘for parts’ within walking distance of your current location. Warning light illuminates! Or, if if the Craigslist monitor senses upgrade parts, like a cool set of M5 wheels available (and you’re rolling on those dull BBS stock things that are impossible to clean), it illuminates.

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I know that there are more lights and gauges like this that could be a great addition to any car- can you Autopians think of some?

Relatedbar

Mini Once Offered A Gauge That Told You How Long Your Top Was Down And My God Was It Ridiculous – The Autopian

Mercury Maurader Owners Figured Out That Their Oil Pressure Gauge Is Lying, And They’re Not Happy – The Autopian

The Way These Oil Pressure Gauges Are Labeled Seems Bonkers – The Autopian

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The VW ID.2all Concept Has Some Retro Fun With Its Instruments But I Have A Very Important Question – The Autopian

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Scott
Scott
1 year ago

GreatGodAlmighty, where else could a reader expect to find such enjoyable content? Nowhere, that’s where! 😀

Fantastic article Mr. The Bishop! 😉 I’d love to have ALL of those instruments in my daily driver. To be sure, some info/notifications could possibly be sourced from a smartphone with the appropriate app (I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t have a cellphone, so not for me of course, but for most other folks) but the idea of having a dedicated meter/indicator/dial of some sort, complete with considerations for the design of icons and fonts, is SO much more appealing.

Along the lines of your #7, I’ve often thought (if I had a GPS-equipped smartphone, data plan, etc…) that it’d be handy to be notified when you’re nearing one of those Little Library book boxes. Better than a chime from a smartphone would be a delightful analogish instrument with (perhaps) a blinking book icon, along with a couple of indicators telling you that it’s 3 blocks to the right (or whatever).

I for one would find such an instrument useful, since I’m also that flavor or weirdo who drives around with a milk crate full of books in the trunk to replenish Little Libraries that I encounter.

Thanks again! 🙂

Jalop Gold
Jalop Gold
1 year ago

The Lincoln always make me think of Entourage.

1961ford
1961ford
1 year ago

That Lincoln was NOT equipped with a 460

W124
W124
1 year ago

Darn, I was totally sure that the number 5 was “Sauna is ready” -light to tell you that your sauna at home is warm and ready. The warning light clearly has a picture of a hot but not too hot thermometer and a sauna bucket (aka löylykiulu) in it.
https://rentosauna.fi/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/206743.jpg

Sean O'Brien
Sean O'Brien
1 year ago

I could use #3. I’m constantly leaving things on the roof. On one memorable occasion, I was reading a book at the gas pump and only noticed that it had been left on the roof after I’d gotten on the interstate and noticed pages flying off a few at a time in my rearview mirror. It took me a good half hour to get off at the next exit, retrace my route, and pick up most of the book from the side of the road. I really wanted to know how it ended!

Brockstar
Brockstar
1 year ago

Shouldn’t we call the Available Car Parts Sensor Warning Lamp the Tracy lamp?

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago

OK I haven’t loved this feature before, but this is genius.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
1 year ago

A Turn Signal Not On Indicator in BMWs – preferably flashing and with a sound too..

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
1 year ago

I would say we also need a Turn Signal Still On Indicator for people who inexplicably drive around with their blinker on. But that … already exists.

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