There’s a sort of inverse relationship between automotive development over time and amount and density of fascinating details on cars. As cars developed and advanced, they became more and more like coherent, unified wholes instead of assemblages of parts. And while the unification of form and hiding complex parts underneath protective and aerodynamic sheaths is undoubtedly a better idea for efficiency and speed and all that, there’s something about a car that is just slathered with interesting, complex detail that’s hard not to love. Like this early 1900s National Indy racing car, and especially this delightfully clunky exposed speedometer setup.
I love how it kind of looks like a 1930s robot head, or maybe an archaic diver’s helmet, or the helmet of some experimental Civil War anti-mine suit. It’s a drum-type of speedometer, which is already pretty cool in itself, though knowing what the NVH is on cars of this era, I have my doubts that the number scrolling by in that little window would be even remotely legible to someone driving this at any sort of speed.
The vibrations, bouncing, and the distance to that speedo from the driver’s eyes makes me bet this thing provided less information about your speed than all the stuff whizzing past you in that completely open body. I mean, look at the whole setup here:
After you finish marveling at that very thick, serpentine speedometer cable connected to that wheel, note how far from the driving position that thing is; it’s just like a foot above the pedals there. But it’s so cool looking!
Also worth noting is that I think that engine there, which made about 50 horsepower or so, is a four cylinder that displaces over seven liters. Each of those cylinders is like the size of a wastebasket! Two spark plugs per cylinder, too, because why not, there’s plenty of room.
It’s barely on that dashboard, too, which is kind of funny, because it’s not like that instrument panel was starved for open real estate:
Plenty of room there! It’s like the headboard of a bed! Also, when are glass oil-drip observation bulbs going to come back on dashboards? Look how cool that looks! Who wants another touchscreen when you can watch oil drip under a glass dome?
Another great detail: this massive exhaust setup. In menacing, blacksmith-metal black. Look at that thing – it’s like what I imagine the main engines of a steampunk spaceship would look like, as they belched absolutely opaque mountains of steam and ferried Lady Gearspedrille and Lord Crankenflaps off to their erotic liaisons with the libertines of the Moon Commune, or whatever.