Dashboards and instrument panels. Every day we look at the arrangement of our instruments. Sometimes they’re on, sometimes they aren’t. During the past 50 years true marvels of more or less tasteful dashboard lighting and designs have emerged. In this short series we will introduce some of them to you. Today it’s another round. Literally round – and analog. How much information do you actually really need?
When Germany stormed into the Wirtschaftswunder – a period of West German economic recovery after World War II – with the iconic Beetle, it was the epitome of freedom and independence. A round instrument provided information about the speed and the content of the tank, other than that you could enjoy the landscape and whiz along happily with the wind blowing in through the open windows. When cars became technically more sophisticated, more useful indicators were added. From the 60s it became trendy to arrange as many indicators as possible next to and below one other on the dashboard, culminating in airplane-like cockpits in the 90s. And then came the displays. Somewhere in between there was a time when a handful of instruments provided information about the time, the current progress and the health of the engine. That was enough. What were we actually looking at?
A clock for the time; didn’t go without saying in automobiles before 1970. Time was important. Next to it the speedometer with a total mileage counter and a daily mileage counter, both mechanically driven by a shaft. How fast am I driving and how far did I go today? The rev counter can be sporty or fancy, depending on the trim. After a few days everyone knows their car, the revs for individual speeds, and when to shift gears. But ever since Steve McQueen it’s just great if a red pointer jerks up when accelerating. Difficult to read somewhere in the central console, there were often indicators for fuel level, the flow of current between the generator and the battery, the water temperature and the oil pressure. Everything else is pure entertainment.
If I want to replace a lamp in such an instrument cluster, I can do so by removing four hidden screws. All I need to do is unhook the speedo cable, unclip the connector from the cable harness, and out it goes. The 3W lamps (actually from Osram, I’m excited) are in a small base which sits in a conductor foil at the rear of the instrument panel. It doesn’t get much easier or much more robust; this principle was used for decades. Simple is best. Well, for me at least. But that’s not enough for many of you, which is also understandable.
Today a car is not so much a status symbol or an object that takes you from A to B; no, it’s a lifestyle. Because of maintenance flat rates and all-in leasing contracts you no longer look after the engine yourself; it’s under the hood and can hardly be seen or heard anyway. The speed is still relevant; everything else is convenience and entertainment. Ambient lighting, lounge feeling, sound systems and smartphone connectivity have replaced the oil pressure gage and clock. But that’s okay. That’s the way the world is going; requirements change and the automobile is currently experiencing its biggest change since its invention. What do you think about cars in the year 2017? What do they mean to you? Let’s hope they’re well lit and you’re adequately entertained. Osram provides the right lamps for them. As far as I’m concerned … well, I’m probably getting old.