Search The Virtual Driver
Tagged for Your Convenience
1940 Ford Coupe 1961 F1 season 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 2012 Ford Explorer 2012 Jeep Wrangler 2012 Toyota Camry 2012 VW Beetle 2012 VW Passat 2013 Chevys 2013 Ford Explorer 2013 Ford Focus Electric 2013 Ford Fusion review 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2013 Hyundai Sonata SE 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo 2013 Infiniti JX AWD 2013 Lexus ES 350 2013 Lexus GS 2013 Mercedes GLK350 2013 NAIAS 2013 Nissan Altima 2014 Audi R18 e-tron quattro 2014 Detroit Auto Show 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2014 Kia Forte 2014 Lexus IS 2014 Mazda CX-5 crossover 2014 Mazda3 2014 Mercedes S-Class 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage 2014 NAIAS 2014 Toyota Corolla 2014 Toyota Corolla S 2014 Toyota Highlander 2015 Camaro 2015 Chrysler 200 2015 Ford F-150 2015 Ford Mustang 2015 Hyundai Sonata 2015 Lincoln Navigator 2015 Mini Cooper 2015 Mustang 2015 Porsche Cayenne affordable carbon fiber airbag technology Alan Mulally Alfa Romeo Alfa Romeo 4C ALMS AMG SLS E-Cell AP Racing Radi-CAL ArmorAll AROnline Atlanta Motorsport Park Audi Audi bicycle Audi R18 Austin Powers Autocade automotive porn automotive safety systems Avro Vulcan barn finds Battle of Britain Beverly Rae Kimes Big Bang Theory BMW BMW 2 Series Active Tourer BMW 3 Series BMW i3 BMW i8 BMW i8 luggage BMW X4 BMW1 Series Bob Lutz BorgWarner Breitling watches Brembo British Motor Heritage Bryce Hoffman Buick Regal GS Buick Verano Cadillac ATS Cadillac CTS Cadillac CTS-V Cadillac CUE Cadillac XTS CAFE standards Camaro Z28 Camaro ZL1 Car Spy book Carroll Shelby Cars in Context Television Cars in Context TV Caterham Caterham Seven Center for Automotive Research CES Chevy Cruze diesel Chevy Sonic Chevy Volt Chicago Auto Show China Auto 2012 Chip Foose Chrysler Clarion C-Max Hybrid CNG Cobra Jet Mustang Controlled Power Technologies Corvette C7 Corvette sinkhole Craftsman CTX tractors Dale Jr Dallara GP2 hillclimb Dan Gurney Dan Wheldon De Lorean Derek Warwick Detroit Auto Show Detroit Electric diesel engine Dodge Dodge Avenger Dodge Challenger Dodge Dart GT domestic energy donuts drag racing DRB-Hicom driver alert Ducati 899 Panigale Ducati Monster Ducati Museum Eagle GB Eddie Rickenbacker Edsel Ford electric bike electric vehicles EPA Evanta F-150 SuperCrew federal bureaucracy Federal-Mogul Ferrari Ferrari dog kennels Ferrari F12 FEV Fiat 500 Abarth Fiat 500 furniture Fiat-Chrysler Ford Ford Edge Ford Explorer Sport Ford F-150 EcoBoost Ford F-150 Tremor Ford Fiesta ST Ford Focus ST Ford Fusion Ford Mustang Ford S-Max Ford Transit Connect Formula One Formula One rules Forza Motorsport Fq hybrid braking Frankfurt Motor Show Geneva Motor Show Global RallyCross GM GM recalls Goodwood Festival of Speed Group Lotus HANS device Harley-Davidson Harley-Davidson Breakout Harley-Davidson LiveWire Harley-Davidson Seventy-Two Harley-Davidson SuperLow Harley-Davidson Switchback healthcare Honda ATVs Honda endurance engine Honda motorcycles HondaJet Husqvarna hybrids Hyundai Hyundai Accent Hyundai Elantra Hyundai Elantra GT Hyundai Genesis Hyundai Genesis Coupe Hyundai Veloster Indianapolis Motor Speedway Indy 500 IndyCar Infiniti Infiniti Q50 Infiniti QX56 inflatable child seat J.D. Power and Associates Jabuar Jaguar Jaguar C-X16 Jaguar E-Type Jaguar F-Type Jaguar luggage Jaguar XJL Jeep Cherokee Jeep concepts jet prropulsion Jim Clark John Krafcik Kia Forte Koup SX Kia Rio Kia Sorento Kia Soul Lamborghini Land Rover LR2 Le Mans lead-acid batteries Lexus ES350 Lexus GS350 F Sport Lexus LS LExus LX 570 Lincoln MKC Lincoln MKX Lincoln MKZ Lincoln Motor Company Lingenfelter Lola LMP1 Lotus Lucire Lyonheart K Maserati Tipo 250F replica Mazda Mazda chair Mazda2 McLaren McLaren MP4-12C Spider McLaren P1 McLaren P1 interior Mercedes Mercedes 4Matic Mercedes CLA Mercedes comic book Mercedes GL Mercedes GLA Mercedes pickup trucks Mercedes van Mercedes-Benz furniture metal matrix composite brakes MG wrist watch Michael Schumacher Mike Hawthorn Mini Mini Countryman Mini Coupe Mini Roadster Mini Vision Mitsubishi Mopar shaker hood muscle cars MyFord Touch NAIAS nanoslide coating NASCAR NASCAR heating scandal New York Auto Show Niki Lauda Nissan BladeGlider Nissan Leaf Nissan Pathfinder Nissan Skyline history Nissan Smart mirror Nissan Versa Note Nnissan Quest Nurburgring OnStar FMV Peter Wright Peugeot 108 Pininfarina Pope Benedict XVI Porsche 917 Porsche 918 Spyder Porsche 988 Porsche P1 EV Porsche Panamera powertrain technology Prius c Prius v racing Ram Ram 1500 Ram ProMaster Ram Promaster City Range Rover Renault F1 engine Renault Twingo restomod Ricardo Engineering Roger Penske Rolls Royce Bespoke Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Rush movie Saab safety technology Santa SBU V3 Scion FR-S Sir Malcolm Campbell Siri smart Speed sport sedans Sportster Subaru BRZ Subaru Forester Suzuki SX4 Team Lotus TechShop The Aresenal of Democracy touchpad technology Tour de France Toyota Toyota 4Runner Toyota iRoad Toyota Prius c Toyota Tacoma Toyota Venza Toyota VenzaMcLaren MP4-12C Triumph Speed Triple TRW TRW touchpad U.S. Air Force Museum UAW Udvar-Hazy Center unionization vaporware Vehreo fabric Visteon Volkswagen Volvo Volvo Drive-E Volvo S60 R-Design Volvo XC90 VW VW Beetle Convertible VW Beetle TDI VW Golf VW GTI VW Jetta Hybrid VW MQB VW Passat TDI VW Touareg TDI winter driving XPEL Yamaha anime
« Bareboned Vehicles? Totally Worthless | Main | To Whom It May Concern »
Friday
Feb222013

Instrument Panel Impalement

By Al Vinikour

Oooh, shiny! And deadly...I’m always looking for things that might be fodder for my next column. Generally it’s some jackass weaving in and out of traffic like sewing machine operators at a sweat shop in downtown Bangladesh. Other times its apparent amputees who don’t have a free hand to operate their turn signals. Or even people who insist on ruining my driving cadence by forcing me to slow down so they can make their turns… just because they want to go home. Inconsiderate bastards! But when I was trying to come up with this week’s topic, little did I realize that it was right in front of my face. No, not my nose; I’m talking about automotive dashboards.

I’ve been driving a lot of 2013 and even 2014 vehicles lately and a lot of emphasis seems to be on upscale materials and hand-stitching that manufacturers are concentrating on in crafting dashboards. Some are just plan gorgeous while others, even though they may not be in the Bentley or Mercedes-Benz category, are still trying their best to give the customer the feeling that something nice is being done for them besides lightening their savings account.

Once I had my subject, I started reflecting on dashboards I have known, and since I was the product of automotive junkyard people, I have known more panels than Hugh Hefner knew women (although I guarantee you that he probably had the better deal). Because designers and engineers didn’t know any better, the first half-dozen or so decades of the automobile had dashboards that were made out of steel. Consequently, when the more-often-than-not front-end collisions occurred, there would generally be two outcomes: either the passenger’s and/or driver’s head would reach parity with the dashboard… and by that I mean that BOTH of them would have steel plates; or one or more of the front-seat occupants would “go into real estate” as paramedics are wont to say. 

In the mid-’50s, some of the manufacturers dallied with the idea of constructing instrument panels with external padding to act as a safety buffer between the cold, hard steel underneath and the soft, pink flesh of the potential victims. This was a good idea except for one thing: early materials had some kind of gripe against the sun… and the sun generally wins. It was easy to spot the losers in the contest because some dashboards were as melted as a Yamamoto Peppermint Patty laying on a park bench at Ground Zero in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. For all I know, the early safety dashboards were the inspiration for Silly Putty. But… I digress.

As the years increased the materials and construction of instrument panels, dashboards and even steering wheels were improved to the point that they became selling points for safety in their own right. It still may not have been possible to survive a head-on crash with a Santa Fe Railroad 4-8-8-4 locomotive barreling down the tracks, but it WAS possible to survive the same type of crash against a Buick Roadmaster. Combine the new and improved safety dashes with the advent of airbags, and it almost made drivers want to go out and LOOK for head-on collisions.

Just as there are eight million stories in the Naked City (as opposed to eight million nakeds in the Story City) so, too, must there be a plethora of stories of how safety and technology devices went through their evolutionary process to become the things most take for granted today. For instance, how many people were blinded for life by the reflection of the sun beaming through a rearview mirror, directly on the driver like an early-day laser beam before self-tinting mirrors were invented? Or how many innocents were impaled on a solidly-anchored hood ornament before a breakaway latch ceased such carnage? Or even worse, how many people died looking like Freddie Krueger because fire-retardant materials weren’t used in automotive interiors, and because people would usually become unconscious from smoke inhalation before they could be rescued that they shrunk up like raisins from the horrific flames that did them in?

The sub-point of the last 688 words has been that although innovations aren’t always developed quickly enough to have saved your Uncle Roy, they’ve been updated and refined to the point that they could very well save your future grandchildren and even the grandchildren of people you hate. Just like I can come up with a column idea when colleagues around me are in the midst of writer’s block, so, too, is it possible to develop and improve technologies and devices that make everyday life less dangerous for all of us. If this pattern continues, the most dangerous thing people are apt to encounter is to read my column while drinking coffee and eating a McGriddle at McDonald’s for breakfast.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>