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