Home » The 1984 Camaro Berlinetta Featured An Incredibly Useless ‘Reminder Spool’ Feature. Here’s How It Worked

The 1984 Camaro Berlinetta Featured An Incredibly Useless ‘Reminder Spool’ Feature. Here’s How It Worked

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Camaros have all sorts of cultural connotations and associations, most of them reasonably well-earned. Generally, though, the Camaro has never really been seen as a sort of technological testbed, brimming with all the latest drooling-edge tech. It’s never really needed to be that. And yet once, in the 1980s, there was a Camaro that sort of gave that a try, but did so with some pretty ridiculous – I’d want to say “tech” but the thing I’m thinking of really doesn’t qualify as that. Maybe faux-tech? Whatever you call it, it’s pretty goofy, and it was on the 1984 Chevy Camaro Berlinetta. The only real official-ish name I’ve found for these things are “reminder spools.”

Before we get into these specifically, it’s worth going over why the Camaro Berlinetta would even have something like this. The Berlinetta has always been the sort of sophisticates’ Camaro — a bit more luxurious, a bit more of a GT car than a pony car. Where a mainstream Camaro was engineered to do big, smoky burnouts in a Dairy Queen parking lot, the Berlinetta was engineered to do big, smoky burnouts in front of the valet stand at a golf club or steakhouse. See the difference?

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For 1984, though, someone decided that the Berlinetta should also be the vanguard of the Camaro’s high-tech aspirations, and the Berlinetta got its own special dashboard complete with digital vacuum-fluorescent displays (VFD), numerical for the speedo and a little cool bar graph setup for the tachometer. This sort of high-tech look and feel was clearly a marketing goal, as seen in commercials like this, where a high-tech woman with the high-tech job of what looks like suspension bridge design is sick of her simulations blinking the word PROBLEM over and over, so she takes to her appropriately high-tech Berlinetta to drive those pesky problems away:

Berlinetta Commercial

Other commercials that showed the Berlinetta and it’s advanced dash tried to tie it into GM’s aerospace work:

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1984 Gm

The whole instrument cluster layout was actually really clever and advanced for early-’80s standards. Controls were all push-buttons, placed on these cool little pods on either side of the steering column, a lot like an American take on the Citroën “satellite” style of dashboard that I’ve gushed about before.

Adjust Dash

The Berlinetta version was even a bit cooler in that the individual side pods could be slid fore-and-aft to adjust them, and even the radio and fascinating upright-style cassette player were mounted on a swiveling base so the passenger could get easy access, too, which is cool as hell:

Swivel Radio

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All of that is pretty cool, useful applications of technology and user experience design. GM kept going, adding a ceiling-mounted aircraft-inspired console to the Berlinetta, which included a very airliner-style map light and a little removable flashlight, both of which are pretty handy things.

Flash Maplight

But also in that roof console was another device, one that’s referenced here in the brochure:

Brochure Spools

It took me a while to figure out what those words were, and they seem to be “handy reminder spools.” What the hell is a “reminder spool?” You can see them in action – along with most of the other dash and interior elements – here in this video (if you don’t care about the cool dash, you can skip to 20:30):

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Starship Camaro

So, these seem to be some sort of thumbwheel-controlled…reminders? Honestly, what I think they really are is the absolute cheapest way GM could stick in something that resembled high-tech controls of some sort without having to incorporate anything more advanced than one of those old executive desk calendar things.

Spools1

I mean, what are you supposed to do with these things? There’s two of them, one with four digits, one with five. The top label roller seems to have options for ARRIVE/DEPART, MEDICAL, RECREATION, CELEBRATION, DURATION, and the lower one has TRIP, RANGE, DISTANCE, SERVICE, ENGINE, CHASSIS, MILES, KILOMETERS. Maybe I missed one or two, but you get the idea.

For the SERVICE or ENGINE or CHASSIS one I guess you could put the mileage in of your last oil change or filter change or some upcoming maintenance, or something like that? I guess that’s kind of handy? For TRIP or DISTANCE, what are you supposed to do with that? Increment the mileage manually as the odometer clicks off miles? Or subtract miles manually from a final estimated odometer reading?

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Spools2

And I guess the upper one was to store a single date, like an anniversary or birthday or something? But what the hell is MEDICAL for? It’s too short for a phone number. Is it days until your next planned stroke? And RECREATION? The hell are you going to do with that and four digits?

I can’t imagine anyone actually using these more than, say, once? Maybe someone would thumb those little wheels to CELEBRATION and then put their kid’s birthday in there? Or would they just end up getting their oil changed when the kid was having their party? Were there actually owners painstakingly rolling out a DEPART time on these things, then re-rolling it all to the ARRIVE time when they left? For some reason?

These are some deeply goofy things, almost like the equivalent of toddler toy machines that have satisfying-feeling controls that do little more than flip a picture of a duck into a picture of a sun, or something like that. But this is on the most sophisticated Camaro you’d be paying about $11,000 for (about $32,000 today).

This has to be the most useless and goofy feature ever to be stuck into the inside of a Camaro. Maybe that’s why I want one so bad.

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Disphenoidal
Disphenoidal
8 months ago

On some Boeing airliners this is called a memory device, commonly used for flight numbers or certain speeds used during takeoff. https://www.pprune.org/tech-log/10375-memory-device-b737s.html

Noodles Gargamel
Noodles Gargamel
10 months ago

I would store my PIN there.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
10 months ago

When I was in high school, this is around 94, I knew a girl who bought a Camaro with the Iron Duke. I never actually rode in it though. She did end up doing a photo shoot on the hood in a thong bikini. So there’s that.

Dan1101
Dan1101
10 months ago

GM had so many good ideas but the execution was usually cheap and tacky.

R Hum
R Hum
10 months ago

The youth of today! Back in the day, this would be useful to anyone trying to track a trip, or mileage, or oil changes, etc. Sometimes it is hard to remember times before your phone had unlimited data and your car kept track of things (oil change life anyone?). In the ’80’s I used to keep a note pad and pencil in the glove box of my 84 Firebird just to keep track of those things. To figure MPG, I had to use math.

Dudeoutwest
Dudeoutwest
10 months ago

Once upon a time, we all used to stick little notes to the dash of our cars to remind us to pick up cat food or whatever. I think those reminder things were supposed to work like that.

Jake Wetherill
Jake Wetherill
10 months ago

My old Trans Am GTA had the reminder spool and the pop-out flashlight as well! It also had a pretty slick cassette tape holder in the center console, but unfortunately no digital dash.

Mike B
Mike B
10 months ago
Reply to  Jake Wetherill

I had a 88GTA with the digital dash, it didn’t have the spool. IIRC, the center console had the slots to store cassettes. Mine was a L98, I really miss that car. .

Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
10 months ago

Berlinettas had some really cool color combos, and the “stereo on a stick” thing was kind of fascinating back in the day. Good to see one of Bill’s “Curious Cars” videos show up on here. Been watching him for a few years now, he gets some interesting stuff and I like his style (probably because he’s about the same age as me, and tends to like the same stuff I did/do)

Atszekelyhidi
Atszekelyhidi
10 months ago
Reply to  Pneumatic Tool

Bill is the man, I just love his ramblings and opinions too. 🙂

Mike B
Mike B
10 months ago
Reply to  Pneumatic Tool

When I was in HS in the mod 90’s, a friend had one of these with that weird stereo. We thought it was the craziest thing, and also ridiculed him for buying a V6 Camaro. He ended up wrecking it, then replaced it with a notchback Mustang. He told us it was a 5.0, until we actually heard it and called him out on the lack of sound (and badging), then he then admitted it was a V6. We popped the hood, turns out it was a 2.3! Cue even more merciless ridicule.

Last edited 10 months ago by Mike B
UX Designer
UX Designer
10 months ago

I think you hit the decking nail on the head, Jason: these were meant to teach Camaro drivers how to count!

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
10 months ago
Reply to  UX Designer

4 digits is certainly ambitious.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
10 months ago

I’m surprised they can turn the dials.

Anoos
Anoos
10 months ago

My friend’s mom had one of these. She thought it was the coolest car in the world. Loved it. I remember the reminder spools in her car and I think in other versions of the Camaro (I think hers was the only Berlinetta I had been in). In any case, these things and their Firebird sisters were very available and very cheap in the late 80’s / early 90’s.

Because of the availability I ended up with three 3rd generation 6 cylinder f-bodies (1984 Camaro, 1983 Firebird, 1987 Firebird). Total purchase price (all of them running, driving cars with less than 80k miles) for the three was $2100.

sentinelTk
sentinelTk
10 months ago

Now I so badly want Demuro to review one of these….

Dan1101
Dan1101
10 months ago
Reply to  sentinelTk

Quirks and features indeed!

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