By on July 10, 2015


I woke up yesterday to see that my friend W. Christian “Mental” Ward had taken advantage of me while I was drunk.

My first thought was to make a porn movie in which I played myself, kind of like that nice young lady who recently graduated from Columbia did. (They call her “Mattress Girl”, by the way.) But then I realized that Mental’s violations had been limited to using the column title “No Fixed Abode” for his own opinions. So I calmed down. But then I wondered: what if I just let people use the title for columns of which I particularly approved, either drunk or sober? Eventually I wouldn’t even need to approve them myself. I could use an algorithm, or a Millennial. Perhaps, after fifty or seventy-five years of this, the phrase “no fixed abode” would become brandless, like “kleenex” or “band-aid.”

I can imagine some kid in the year 2210 waxing nostalgic about his steam-powered Kamakiri biosphere-mobile (the first person to get the reference wins the Internet) and saying to his friends, “Man, I’m going to hook up the ‘trodes and bang out a nofixedabode about the time I saw my Daddy mowing the lawn and I was like, ‘Come on Daddy, get in, let’s go!'” At that point, the original reason for the column title, to say nothing of its decidedly nonfamous originator, would be long lost to history.

Which brings us, of course, to the Prius.


But not yet.

Speaking of Mattress Girl and her ilk, maybe the above photo should have a trigger warning preceding it. Only the most traumatized of you will recognize the interior for what it is: the first-generation Toyota “Echo”, known as “Yaris” overseas. I would expect that all of you will recognize that is has a center-dash layout in which the instrument panel is mounted in the middle of the vehicle. Some of you will do better than that and recognize that the two sides of the instrument panel are essentially interchangeable. You could use the same pieces to make a left-hand-drive car or a right-hand-drive car. It’s just a matter of swapping the modules out.

This is a brilliant way to make a cheap car for a truly global market. It simplifies parts inventories, allows you to get some volume-based savings that you wouldn’t have if you had to make two different kinds of dashboards, and it probably makes assembly easier as well. I don’t know just how much money this layout saves, but I’d say that it’s nontrivial. In any event, it’s worth making the driver look over at the center instrument panel. Most of the people who are driving these things barely look at the dashboard anyway, and very few of them are driving quickly enough to need to have the instrument panel right in front of them.


No surprise, then, that the next-generation Yaris that replaced the Echo/Yaris had the same modular layout. You see how it’s still possible to make the same car two different ways here, relatively easily?


And here’s the current car. Better materials, classier design, and (let’s face it) a more flattering photo, but the same concept remains in place. Interchangeable dashes. You can easily see how both sides are identical, right down to the way the glovebox and knee bolster have pretty much the same dimensions on both sides of the console. Toyota’s far from the only company to do this, although most of its competitors don’t do an actual center display but prefer instead to have an instrument panel unit that can live on either side of a symmetrical dashboard.

You get the idea. Let’s look at the first-generation Prius.


The bones of the first Prius probably had a lot to do with the original Echo/Yaris. They were developed around the same time, they shared some dimensions. No wonder that the Prius has the same kind of symmetrical swap-out dashboard. It saves money and it’s part of the Toyota cheap-car DNA at the time. It would have been notable had Toyota not chosen to do this, frankly. Keep in mind that nobody knew how successful the Prius would eventually become. Saving money in design, materials, and production was a nontrivial goal, no matter how much THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT CHIPPED IN ON IT.

I just capitalized the last half of the sentence to give my predecessor at TTAC, Herr Schmitt, heart palpitations. Were he still around, he would no doubt explain to you that Toyota did not need the Japanese government to make the Prius and that he knows more about it than Jim Press does.

Where were we? Oh yes. Cheap car, cheap to make, modular dash. Next photo, please.


And here’s the second Prius we had in this country, the one that made the car famous to people besides Larry David and your local comparative-literature professor. This dashboard is proudly symmetrical and interchangeable. It continues to have a center dash display. Nothing too surprising. Alright, let’s see the last slide in the carousel.


Well, I will be Gosh-damned. This is in no way a cheapo Toyota mirror-image dash, is it? It’s from the current Prius, which is going to replaced in the near future, and which I used to run a few laps around New Jersey Motorsports Park a couple of months back. Looks like the Prius has finally come correct, all the better to match its hugely upscale consumer base and public image. The Tupperware simplicity is gone, replaced by something that looks kind of like what you get in an Avalon.

Except for that center dash display.

This is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night, by the by. Why does the Prius retain a center display when the reason for it — interchangeability between RHD and LHD variants — is gone? After all, you don’t get a center dash in a Camry, or an Avalon, or an LS600hl. Only cheapo Toyotas get a center dash. The Prius is no longer particularly cheap, and Toyota finally cottoned to the fact that many of its buyers don’t give a fig for its purchase or operating costs, so it has a proper interior. But it still has the center dash?

It took me a while to figure out the answer, but here it is: The consumer cannot sense intent. What I mean by that is this: You, the manufacturer, might have all sorts of reasons for doing something, but unless you state those reasons on the front page of the Huffington Post, Fox News, and Reddit’s “Gone Wild” section every day for a year, as well as paying for “in-game placement” in World of Warcraft and Call of Duty, nobody will know what those reasons are. Instead, the consumers will guess at your reasons, and their guesses will be wrong far more often than they are right.

There are more examples of this in the world than there are atoms with which to electronically transmit their descriptions. The Chevy “Pro-Tec” plastic optional pickup box that vastly outperformed steel in all but the coldest conditions? Customers thought it was there to save money and rip them off. The three-piece necks on Gibson guitars of the Seventies? The factory did it to prevent warping and reduce warranty claims. Musicians thought the purpose was to save money and ruin their sound. The unbuttoned lower button on the Duke of Windsor’s suit coat? It was because he had a potbelly. Fashionable men around the world with flat stomachs dutifully unbuttoned the moment they saw a picture of their aristocratic better doing it.

It stands to reason, therefore, that the reason the Prius has a center dash is because people think that is part of the “Prius brand DNA”. What makes that funny is that it reinforces the fact that Prius buyers never shopped any other cheap Toyotas, or any cheap cars, period. If they did, they’d quickly realize that center display means “cheap”. But since they only saw the center dash in the Prius, it says “hybrid” to them. Therefore, the Prius must continue to have a center dash forever and ever, Amen, because any other arrangement would be un-Prius-like.

You are now free to imagine a scene in which natives of a desert island worship a Coke bottle. Or something like that. It’s the same idea. Viewed without context, the Prius dash layout takes on a whole new meaning and therefore it must be retained.

And if you think only stupid-ass Prius buyers feel that way, ask yourself why the Corvette had quad round taillights until last year, just like a ’62 Biscayne. Or why the BMW i8 has twin chrome ovals surrounding black glossy plastic. Or, perhaps, why your automatic-transmission car has a console shift.

What’s the moral of the story? Only this: that despite the best efforts of everybody from Joan Claybrook (look it up, kids) to “Mad Men”, people continue to have a genuine and unashamed emotional investment in their vehicles. It’s 2015, and we were supposed to have flying cars by now, but we’re more than happy to settle for what we’ve got. We all want our cars to reinforce our self-images, confirm our prejudices, reassure our pathetic senses of aesthetic sensibility. Even the buyers of the most rational car money can buy want to know that they’re sitting in a real-deal Prius.

So let’s all agree to keep the existence of the Toyota Echo a secret from them, just to be nice. To do anything else would be like buying someone shots of Tito’s all night and asking them if they mind if you write a nofixedabode.

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81 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: A Vestigial Tale...”

  • avatar

    Do I win a Bug with Monster wheels?

  • avatar

    There’s a Donald Fagen album, ‘Kamakerian’, I think was the spelling. The title tune’s video featured a little car scuttling about. It may have been stop-action. Just operating off recall; didn’t bother to look it up.

    Edit: looked it up. Kamakiriad. Always meant to get that album.

  • avatar

    So the center dash will become visual shorthand for “lame” or “penalty box,” then?

  • avatar

    People are afraid of change and a lot of the old school fleet operators I advise are afraid of the new F150 because of the aluminum bed and how much it might cost them to maintain. Most of the center mount instrument cluster cars are explainable but the one that was always odd to me was the Saturn Ion as I can’t remember that it had an overseas mate.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      You are right – the Ion had no overseas mate, so its center IP was evidence of GM blindly aping Toyota.

      The engineers who designed the original S-series were given the Corolla as a benchmark. What they ended up with was almost as reliable as a Corolla, but uniquely American and fun to drive (in twin-cam trim). They sold 3 million S-series.

      Obviously GM chalked up the S-series’ success to copying Toyota and not to the “uniquely American” and “fun to drive” attributes, because the Ion was neither uniquely American nor much fun to drive, but it did have a center IP – “just like Toyota!” They sold only about 450K Ions, and Saturn died.

      GM needed its mother to say, “If you saw Toyota jump off a bridge, would you do it too?”

      • 0 avatar

        @Matt, GM would – especially if it had been done during the NUMMI hookup that was supposed to give them Toyota’s secret sauce for success.

      • 0 avatar

        GM needed its mother to say, “If you saw Toyota jump off a bridge, would you do it too?”

        So. To. Speak. After the whole Toyota unintended acceleration bridge-jumping kerfuffle, comes GM’s ignition-switch bridge jumper.

  • avatar

    Good stuff. I use ‘vestigial’ to refer to trunks on modern sedans.

    Not sure how it is the same thing, but I like how the Jelly Bean Taurus has the taillights from a 3rd-gen RX-7. Years later, Ford replaced the Mazda 626 based Probe with the Mazda 323 based Escort ZX-2 coupe. They gave the Escort taillights inspired by the Jellybean Taurus. Later they updated the front end of the ZX-2 to more closely resemble the New Edge Mustang.

  • avatar

    Like this paragraph:

    “It took me a while to figure out the answer, but here it is: The consumer cannot sense intent. What I mean by that is this: You, the manufacturer, might have all sorts of reasons for doing something, but unless you state those reasons on the front page of the Huffington Post, Fox News, and Reddit’s “Gone Wild” section every day for a year, as well as paying for “in-game placement” in World of Warcraft and Call of Duty, nobody will know what those reasons are. Instead, the consumers will guess at your reasons, and their guesses will be wrong far more often than they are right.”

  • avatar

    Small correction, your “current Yaris” dash photo is actually of one from 07-11.

    I actually rather liked the first gen Echo dash, it was just so unapologetically utilitarian, and had lots of storage nooks. The whole car had this sort of third world taxi vibe, in a good way. Super spongy/soft rear seat with good leg room for such a small car, trunk had a bunch of exposed cardboard/fiberboard.

  • avatar

    I’m possibly the worst offender of this behavior on all of TTAC…

    … But I don’t care. Buicks need pushrod engines, Cadillacs need V8s, Hondas rev high, Jeeps should go off-road, Oldsmobile built the best 350, Cummins is better than Powerstroke, Panthers and Toyota trucks are tough, Mercedes stopped building good cars around 2001, Volvos should be shaped like bricks, VW and Audi fans are annoying, minivan transmissions are made of glass, an I6 is better than a turbo4 (unless it is a Subaru or Mitsubishi).

  • avatar

    Wow, that Echo interior and the early Prius interiors are shockingly cheap. Reminds me of helping my buddy’s mother shop for a replacement for her ’92 Camry about ten years ago. She wasn’t impressed with the quality decline in both the interior and driving dynamics of the Camry since her ’92, but I’d forgotten how funny it was when she sat in an Echo inside the dealership before leaving. The look on her face as she glanced around at the interior was like someone had hidden a rotting fish under the front seat.

    • 0 avatar

      If she would like a nice Camry with at least OK interior bits, she needs to purchase an ES!

      • 0 avatar

        I never even thought of that one. Probably well outside the intended price range anyway. We did see some upward creep in that regard when she became interested in CUVs, but not that high. She ended up going with a Forester Columbia Edition MT. She loved the visibility and the open feeling the huge sunroof provided.

  • avatar

    Ha. The 1976 Rover SD1 had a swappable dash as well.

  • avatar

    I never knew that Pro-Tec thing existed until now.

  • avatar

    Engineers who have a bit of marketing smarts can go a long way to create quality products people WANT to buy.

    Marketers who try to be engineers (shudders)…

  • avatar

    “Only the most traumatized of you will recognize the interior for what it is: the first-generation Toyota “Echo”, known as “Yaris” overseas”

    No, that’s the Platz, which we got as the Echo sedan. The Yaris (aka Vitz) was the hatchback. How can I tell? I’ve had both, and the Echo/Platz lacks a tach.

    (and that’s my nitpick for the day…)

  • avatar

    The 2nd gen dash actually isn’t symmetric, though. It looks symmetric from afar, but the IP is slightly shifted toward the passenger. You also have stuff like push button start that is on the driver side.

    For that matter, the 1st gen dash isn’t truly interchangable. There is a cubby that you see on the passenger side of the RHD version that isn’t on the LHD verison (but there is an airbag cover on the passenger side of the LHD version that isn’t on the RHD). I figure that the original part goes through different processing for LHD versus RHD after it is first pulled from the mould to make that change. /symantics

    • 0 avatar

      I came to post this. The 2nd Gen Prius dash is visually symmetric but in reality not. The top picture of the Echo also shows that the main dash panel is not symmetric either, as you point out. I suspect that none of these are symmetric for parts savings reasons. I doubt that you can disassemble any of them and reassemble them the other way. The design effort required to accomplish that is substantial.

      The dash panel you mention is almost certainly two parts from two different molds.

  • avatar

    One reason why the centre gauges persist is that, honestly, they work better. Hang in there a moment.

    In the Echo and Prius, the higher, further-away pod requires a 12-degree “look away” from the road and does not require you to refocus (which is even nicer when you have bifocals). A nice side bonus is that it doesn’t affect your night vision as much, either.

    In a normal car, the behind-the-wheel gauge requires a 25-30-degree “look away” and is in a different focal plane. It also gets blocked by the steering wheel rim if you’re overly tall or short.

    This is why Honda puts the speedo “up” in the Civic, and why Suzuki did the same with the first Aerio. It really is good ergonomics.

    Many people didn’t like it because it’s different. Reviewers and enthusiasts didn’t like it because many of them are conservative and, frankly, get paid to be whiny old curmudgeons. Whiny conservatives are why we have molded pleather stitching (because we haven’t needed stitched leather since buggy whips were a thing) in cars.

    The worst of both worlds is the Mini, which requires a big, ugly 40-degree lookaway and a focal-plane change because the IP is not just centre-mounted, but also very low.

    • 0 avatar

      Personally I don’t like it because it’s none of the passengers business how fast we’re going. It’s like the old speed warning buzzer that some GM sleds had in the 50s. My dad reports his father had a Pontiac so equipped and Gramps hated it to the point of disconnecting it. He didn’t want Grandma tisk-ing at him when he exceeded the speed limit.

      • 0 avatar

        “Personally I don’t like it because it’s none of the passengers business how fast we’re going”

        My kids want me to try to get it to 200km/h.

        Personally, I think that’s a little ambitious for a 100hp Toyota.

    • 0 avatar

      The Civic configuration is used because it is superior. The Echo/Scion orientation was because it was cheap. Any justification was for the gullible.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup. The steering wheel rim has blocked my view of the gauges since I traded the ’77 Corolla for the ’93 Saturn. And it’s true on the ’08 Civic, too, except that they put the digital speedo up high, as Psarjh says.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed, psar. IIRC, you and I also had the Scion xB1, which used the center-high display quite nicely.

      I liked that feature it for all the reasons you describe.

      Normal people don’t understand that tall drivers can’t see the middle third of their conventional speedometers.

  • avatar

    Grilles have become “vestigial tails” given the number of engines that could easily be “bottom breathers” and still get adequate cooling. But again the consumers have spoken and for most mainstream cars they want a grille, even though it no longer serves its intended purpose.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, the other problem is that the high hood line on modern cars would make them look like guinea pigs without the giant grilles…

    • 0 avatar

      Grilles are the first thing I thought of when I read this column. They always look tacked-on. I was so tantalized by the third-gen Integra and original Q45. But instead, the big chrome grille has become *the* symbol of the luxury car.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      It’s interesting to see how EVs are handling this design vestige (the grill).

      The Nissan Leaf (new design) and Kia Soul (converted ICE design) use it as a charging port. BMW and Tesla use it for their family design language.

      The personification of our cars means we’re uncomfortable unless our car has a proper set of eyes, nose, and mouth.

      • 0 avatar

        The worst offenders are some of Chevrolet’s designs with the Cruze and the Equinox having the grill be half black plastic blocking the hole (when you inspect it closely.)

    • 0 avatar

      Original Q45.

  • avatar

    Great article, Jack.
    There’s another car that fits the symmetrical dash concept as recently-sold Gen2 Avalon with the pulled-taffy dash cover looks to be designed for both LH and RH drive too.

    It’s in cheap company, but in the 4 years I owned it, it remains one of the best and most comfortable cars I ever had, still going strong at 204K and almost no oil consumption between changes.

  • avatar

    You are starting to sound like the anti-SJW, give it a rest. You know what they say about fanatics.

  • avatar

    Okay, now explain the inexplicable Saturn Ion’s symmetrical dashboard, even though it was never sold in RHD countries (that I’m aware of). So lame!

  • avatar

    So why did the BMW Z8 have central instruments? Were they just trying to signal that the jig was up?

  • avatar

    “perhaps, why your automatic-transmission car has a console shift.”

    Preach it.

  • avatar

    Astute observations. That is why vehicle design is based on evolution not revolution. We may not be able to accurately discern manufacturer intent but we do cling to the familiar. It is a primitive survival mechanism no different than a duckling imprinting upon the first animal it sees.

    • 0 avatar

      Another factor is that during a car’s very early development, before the program is greenlit, a whole lot of things are being sketched in parallel by a very few people. You need to have a reference point to get enough 3D cartoons up in space (and sketches up on the studio wall) developed well enough to fease a car, and often the previous generation of a car is just that reference point. Sometimes that results in clever engineering solutions living past their expiration date.

    • 0 avatar

      @ Lou_BC:

      “but we do cling to the familiar.”

      Yes indeed. Have you noticed the poor quality of Heinz Ketchup and Baked Beans since they closed the Canadian factory at Leamington a year ago after 120 years? Now it’s US stuff and the beans are overcooked, split and tasteless, and the ketchup -.what were they thinking?

      I want my life back the way it was!

  • avatar

    I would think that the most costly and challenging aspect of LHD/RHD would be the logistics of aligning the steering column with the rack within a limited space and with other stuff in the way, not with the interior parts. The stuff inside the car is just plastic and wire and can be molded as necessary.

    You get points for the Donald Fagen reference, by the way.

  • avatar

    Center-mounted instruments are utterly ghastly. Thanks for reading!

  • avatar

    Center-mounted gauge panels are utterly ghastly. Thanks for reading!

    • 0 avatar

      Agree, also here.

      Hot mess! Comes from Jag having no moneys.

  • avatar

    If consumers cannot see the intent and since you are a consumer as well, why are you so convinced the intent you think you observe is correct?

    The article is a bit recursive.

  • avatar

    Jack (or any editor) –

    What’s the credit for the BMW black and white image in the lead? I would love a print for my garage…

    • 0 avatar

      Found a very similar thing for $30, if that particular print isn’t available.

  • avatar

    Oh look, the ruination of Volvo wagons, summarized.

    • 0 avatar

      Imo the ruination was more so the mechanicals, they became more Audi than Camry.

      Oh yes and the interiors, Volvo never got plastic down so the more plastic they added the cheaper they felt.

      Aesthetically it seemed like they were running out of ideas when they came up with the 700. All square no style.

  • avatar

    “There are more examples of this in the world than there are atoms with which to electronically transmit their descriptions. ”

    Nice riff on Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5:

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

    It’s so cool to work with talented people.

  • avatar

    “Gods Must be Crazy”

  • avatar

    I want a comparison/review of Grey Goose vs. Tito’s vs. Ketel 1 etc. That is very important information.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll volunteer my services for this.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the fact that Jack alluded to having been in the early stages of a Tito run when he agreed to lend the No Fixed Abode label, is sufficient to deduce that Tito’s would be the weapon of choice, if tequila were your weapon.

      And since no one else has risen to the challenge of Joan Claybrook, I will interject Joan Claybrook, she of (mid-70’s?) NHTSA fame, with one of her most notable attempted excesses being her attempt to mandate safety belts for motorcycle riders. Even kneejerk safety device advocates quickly stepped back from that one.

      I just recently learned that NHTSA now leans towards performance-based safety specs, rather than design-based safety specs, or at least that is what they claim, which would at least tend towards letting the engineers be engineers, and which would prevent future engineering from being limited by the vision of bureaucrats.

      I cannot recall any of the other famous Joan Claybrook proposals, but I do remember that the motorcycle seat belts, while being one of her more preposterous proposals, was not her only preposterous safety idea.

      Perhaps someone else can add to the list (without googling, I prefer to see demonstrations of memory over demonstrations of keyboarding).

      • 0 avatar

        I believe Tito’s is vodka, not tequila. Keep on topic here. Well, unless Joan Claybrook has an opinion on different types of vodka, then by all means, continue.

        • 0 avatar

          Sorry about my misclassification of Tito’s. It has been some time since I played the wild rover.

          But Joan Claybrook was mentioned in passing in the article, and no one else had responded to the challenge to look that up, so I tossed in my memory of her most (in)famous moment, hence I maintain that that was in fact on topic.

          But were I to return to the wild days of yore, my weapon of choice would be Tequila Sauza Conmemorativo, if it still exists and is still as good as it was in my heyday.

          But for some reason, when other people toss out the idea that vodka is the preferred means of hammering oneself into oblivion, my neurons automatically shift into the overdrive of tequila, the scene of some of my most memorable “crimes”, or so they might have been characterized, had I been in fact caught in the midst of them.

          But as I said, that was long ago and far away, in a distant universe and in another life. I now prefer and require more medically acceptable forms of outlet.

          I suppose the charm of such things as Tito’s and Ketel One are to be found in their supposed purity, though I see little to distinguish them from grain alcohol.

          For me, the various strains of other chemicals interlaced into a good tequila led to both a better taste and to more interesting adventures. YMMV.

          But truly some of both my finest and my worst moments occurred near the end of one of my prodigious tequila runs. Trust me when I say that it is just as well that I have, at an advanced age, more or less, finally decided that such inducements are best remembered rather than re-experienced.

          They were conducive to an interesting singles life, but almost assuredly similar such adventures these days would lead to the imminent demise of the one true amorous relationship I have been able to enjoy, as well as no doubt having a seriously detrimental effect on my relationship with my only son.

          My old life was a good life, and a full one. My new life is a better life, and even richer. Many people do not get one good life…I have been given two: one perfect for a younger man, and a second, even better one, for an older man with a lifetime of wildness under his belt before his life was half over.

          Never thought there would be a second act, but I always wasn’t one for long-range planning when I was in party mode. The long-range just sort of jumped out of the bushes one day and became my new life. As I said, with my one true love and my one truly great son. I don’t miss the old one, neither do I regret it. That was then, and this is now.

          Not bragging. Just think I was a lucky man to have ended up with both.

          Reference: see Lindsay Anderson’s “O Lucky Man” starring Malcolm MacDowell, for a fictionalized version of a similar multi-stage life.

          And yes, I do have a friend (more than one) on whom I can rely, and yes, I am a lucky man. Ray Davies was right.

          But those twenty plus years before the mast were a wild time, to say the least. Wish you had been there.

          And sorry if this is too off topic for some of you…it’s just that when I read of some of Jack’s adventures, it puts me in a frame of mind to remember some of mine which do not cross my mind every day, but which are worth remembering, at least to me, when they do cross my mind.

          But no, I have never owned or even driven a car with a center dash, and hope to never do so. Enough is enough.

  • avatar

    A quick market test / survey doesn’t always give the participant much time with a new or novel feature. This can lead a survey to have an artificially negative review on a feature that will improve the user experience, just because it doesn’t work how people expect it to.

    So folks stay conservative.

  • avatar

    Center dash? Be thankful there IS a dash.

    Back when I were a lad, the first VW Beetle I drove had no fuel gauge, just a dipstick to poke in the tank, and the fuel evaporated as you looked at it on the scale. Hmm. Great invention. Time for a smoke. Bang! Exit stage left. Part one of Darwinism-in-action and the Plan for World Domination. Foiled with purple farm gas by this country boy.

    However, what this did provide, beyond the hilarity of watching four big college guys shake a Bug to see whether you could hear the sloshing of fuel in the tank right in front of the windshield, was Orderliness in life. Very German. You had to remember when you last filled up, do the mental math on the odometer reading, and decide, Nah, I can get another 40 miles on the reserve. Phut, phut, bang, clonk. Jeez! No-ot again!

    This feature was to prevent early KdF adopters from all arriving at Berlin at the same time to complain about no fuel gauge or car heater back in 1939. And that manual windshield wiper had to go! Government meddling in car design. “You heff four wheels and a seat! What else is required?” A. Speer. Memoirs.

    Thus, as per Jack, these features were kept for over 20 years so as to not dilute the brand’s quirks, er identity. You could buy, by the mid-sixties, a gas-powered heater that worked right above your legs, like an automotive Coleman stove. Part two of the Plan. Select an object to crash into and you too could become a human Towering Inferno like my pal Phil. An extra year to graduate and a “burning” desire to never buy VW again.

    A windshield scraper was more useful inside the car than outside in winter, and that’s not even a joke. “Can you see anything, Larry?” “Nope.” Part three of the Plan.

    The lack of any instrumentation, and just a few dimly glowing six volt bulbs disguised the Germans’ ineptness with electrickery for years and years. Everyone dissed the Brits and Lucas, but they had electric fuel pumps, dashes with gauges and everything. More chance for things to go wrong as compared to essentially nothing protected by a Mark One Model 1892 ceramic fuse with suspect contacts in the holders,

    VW’s greatest automotive advance,they were. Used up till 1984 on VW and Audis and the cause of fires due to high resistance contacts. “That was a blackened 1982 Audi Coupe there, Herman.” “Yah, und the foolish owner should not have lived by the ocean where exists salt spray!” Blue Rocks, Lunenburg County, NS October 1983. “We are in a 1982 Audi Coupe as well, Herman.” “Yah, and I suggest we drive inland AT once, Alphonse, to the new private Swabian nudist colony at the lake!” (That’s an inside joke for Nova Scotians on the South Shore)

    Any dash, center or otherwise is good for me, so long as it sticks to the brand identity which is so incredibly cherished by the maker and almost not at all by the owners, has a fuel gauge and heater control. Oh, and powered wipers. You young whippersnappers are just spoiled these days.

    • 0 avatar

      “…essentially nothing protected by a Mark One Model 1892 ceramic fuse with suspect contacts in the holders, VW’s greatest automotive advance,they were. Used up till 1984 on VW and Audis and the cause of fires due to high resistance contacts.”

      Very astute!

      There is a not-very-well kept secret:

      Volt: Alessandro Volta (Italian)
      Ampere: André-Marie Ampère (French)
      Ohm: Georg Simon Ohm (German)

      You can have all of the Volts and Amps you want, but it takes Ohms to cause electrical fires. :-)

  • avatar

    Great points, totally flawed premise. Nothing has changed.

    Those Yaris dahses that you show might look similar but one can easily see that the every single peice has a different molding. Look at the airbag hole. There is not one molding in that dash that is the same between LHD and RHD. Now i dont doubt under the covers money was saved by having shared harnesses, ductwork, dash frame etc. but ALL of that applies to the latest Prius dash as shown, look past the swoop and see the console shape, the vents, radio position, guage cluster all perfectly centered and symmetrical. Nothing has changed, it is just hidden much better.

    I do agree that the Prius DNA dictates a center gauge cluster, that doesnt change the degree to which your superficial analysis is completely wrong!

  • avatar

    Worse, every time I see the center dash I think Saturn Ion, a car that makes the Toyota Echo look good.

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