Dashboards and instrument panels. Every day we look at the arrangement of speedometer, rev counters, clock and other instruments. Sometimes they’re on, sometimes they aren’t. None of these instrument panels is the same, and 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 we’re sitting in a Ford F-100 pickup from the 70s at night.

Everyone’s talking about ambient lighting, lounge lighting and soft interior illumination. New vehicles offer them more or less ex works, and old ones can be upgraded depending on the country and the regulations to be met. But while today heavily contoured, high-resolution displays compete with colored lighting strips, Americans have had their own ambient lighting in bread and butter cars since the 70s. And while back in the day the average German still looked at the one round speedometer in his Beetle or at least had several instruments next to each other in the Kadett, at Ford they even illuminated the small trucks – the extremely popular pickups – in an epic yet subtle fashion.

Because in North America this truck with a bed doesn’t have the same workhorse status as in Europe. A truck makes you feel alive; that’s always been the case and still is. Sales figures for these fairly inexpensive yet humongous monsters continue to be high; they’re driven by young and old – and certainly not all of them require a truck bed for what they do during the day. But then your average Berlin hipster won’t go off-road either with his two-meter high SUV. And for that reason, across the pond pickups have always been pretty much as comfortable and well equipped as normal sedans. You can see it on the illuminated instrument cluster in Thomas’s truck.

The water temperature and fuel indicators are mandatory. And then there’s – in typical American fashion – the ammeter (telling you whether the alternator provides more power than the car currently needs) and an oil thermometer. That’s particularly important for hilly routes, especially if you’re pulling a trailer full of horses. The instruments on the black dashboard are illuminated in a pleasant bluish green, don’t dazzle and can be read well even in the blackest of nights. A wonderful side effect that wasn’t particularly valued back then is that they’re so subtle that they will definitely not distract you from the road. Not every dashboard can make that claim these days; some are brighter than Times Square.

Didn’t that whet your appetite? Or do you think it’s rather boring from today’s point of view? If you’d like to have different lamps for a change (possibly different colors), you can find out what’s possible and allowed at Osram. Anyone can do tuning and a new paint job. But if you want good lights then we’re the people to talk to.

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