Vellum Venom: Dash-to-Axle, Defined

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
vellum venom dash to axle defined

With reader feedback always on my mind, perhaps an overview of commonly used terms in the car design trade is needed.

Let’s discuss the dash-to-axle: a notion that’s (probably) been a car design staple since Edsel Ford’s vision for an European-inspired flagship — one which added 7 inches to the hood of a mere luxury car.

Simply defined, dash-to-axle is the distance measured from the dashboard to the front axle.

More correctly stated, it’s the distance between the cowl (the thing where dashboards and many crucial body structures originate) and the front axle’s centerline. Longer dash to axle distances connotes a more prestigious vehicle, hence why Edsel Ford demanded such for his Euro-homage Continental.

But the long dash-to-axle lost relevance as pre-war turned post-war: running boards and long, separate fenders made way for efficient Ponton forms, and compact mainstream engines made far more power than the upper-echelon monstrosities of a decade prior. The pointlessness worsens: the space saving front-wheel drive genius of the original Mini made its way into flat floored, family-friendly vehicles by the 1980s. As cab-forward design pushes space efficiency further, why on earth isn’t dash-to-axle an antiquated design metric relegated to the dustbin?

Because people have wants alongside their needs, and designers must understand why every manufacturer (at some point) has a crisis of conscience that translates into the need for a halo vehicle. When that happens (and if a rear/mid-engine chassis isn’t planned) a longer dash-to-axle implies a more prestigious vehicle with rear-wheel drive and a more powerful engine. The Toyota 2000GT is my favorite example of a long dash-to-axle from a branding perspective.

No disrespect to the similarly-excellent Datsun 240Z/Fairlady, but the 2000GT is how dash-to-axle gets your country’s (not just Toyota’s) automotive mojo going. And history is littered with brands needing a serious boost via long dash-to-axle. Think 1992 Dodge Viper against a fleet of Dodge Dynastys. Or the one-off, luxo brand enhancing 2004 Maybach Excelero and the current Rolls Royce Wraith, which is (very) loosely based on the BMW 7 Series.

Same story, different decades: just wait for China to make “their” 2000GT for a global stage.

Sticking with Toyota, perhaps its other fantastic expression of a deliciously long dash-to-axle needs further investigation. Check out its flagship sedan, the Toyota Century.

Considering the East Asian markets’ generally tight space constraints, the Century’s decadence compared to the Crown Eight from which it came from is obvious. The second-generation Century was based on the Crown Majesta, and while the eyeball might deceive, the Century likely has a longer dash-to-axle than the downmarket-ish Majesta.

Just released recently, the third-generation Century is certainly, luxuriously rear-wheel drive… but is it devilishly obvious with such a short dash-to-axle?

Since the Century officially went to a conventional dash-to-axle measurement, is the prestigious notion of a longer dash-to-axle on the verge of extinction? Is Rolls-Royce next?

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

[Image: Shutterstock user crwpitman]

Join the conversation
2 of 24 comments
  • Mike Beranek Mike Beranek on Mar 20, 2018

    I've noticed this design element for a long time. Back in the 80's I noticed how many FWD GMs had a DTA that put the base of the A-pillar directly over the center of the front wheel, creating that LOOOOONG front overhang. Recently, you can see how FWD cars have adapted. Almost every FWD Mazda made today has a decidedly un-FWD-like DTA, which contributes mightily to their sporty flair. But take a look at that trunk and back seat- on a modern Mazda they barely exist. Mazda has sacrificed practicality for style, and is laughing all the way to the bank.


    I recall the Chrysler LH cars as being cab forward designs. The 1966 Toronado is Cab Rearward!

  • Kcflyer The Prado is the GX. So they already did, a long time ago
  • Kcflyer No
  • FreedMike No, but then again, I think folks who truly have no money should be given the opportunity to pay through things like community service. Otherwise, the traffic justice system becomes an excuse to make poor folks into de facto debt slaves.
  • Paul Alexander "Rumors have pointed to it switching to the larger LX’s platform, giving it expanded exterior and interior dimensions. Lexus is expected to offer a hybrid powertrain in the upcoming GX, which could also appear in the Land Cruiser, and a trick four-wheel drive system is all but a given."So it'll be an LX with the GX name? What does this paragraph mean?
  • Jeff S If Ford can do a software update on their EVs to receive AM then this should be something that all EV automakers can do. Doesn't seem that an AM band on a radio is that big of a dollar item when you consider the overall cost of a new vehicle in today's market. I have started to listen to my favorite FM station on AM since I lose FM reception the further away I get away from an urban area. Maybe not as refined a sound as FM but the AM comes in much clearer when I am driving in rural areas.