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Join The Steering Committee

Chris Haining February 7, 2018 All Things Hoon 31 Comments

Sometimes you’ll learn something that changes everything. A rumour, a theory, or a chance glimpse at something you’ve never seen before, can be enough to turn your world upside down and inside out. This was what I felt when I found that the Australian 1982 Ford Fairlane was fitted with a wildly asymmetrical steering wheel.

Get a load of it! Not one thing about it as you’d expect. The Ford blue oval is offset to the right of the rectangular boss, which is, itself, offset to the right – if only naggingly slowly. Why? Well, I can’t rightly say. Quickly Googling for ’82 Fairlane interior shots reveal a dashboard that had nothing to gain from such a peculiar design of steering wheel – it’s not as if the massive gap on the left hand side provides an uninterrupted view of anything particularly useful. Very odd, yet almost iconic, and now a much-loved feature of ZJ Fairlanes and XE Falcons alike.

So, having now added this remarkable find to my internal databanks (and cursed the fact that my ’81 Fairlane brochure features the earlier, altogether less inspirational ‘wheel), I figure it’s about time that we celebrated the great steering wheels we have known.

And yes, I had to start off with the Austin Allegro so that nobody else would gets the chance. The ‘Quartic’ steering wheel is, to this day, one of the very most infamous pieces of British automotive design ever to have made it from drawing board to showroom. So powerful is its notoriety that it’s among the first things that people bring up when the Allegro is mentioned – “oh, yeah, and its square steering wheel” – despite the fact that a wholly conventional round item took its place for BL’s dumpiest model’s second production year.

Unlike the Fairlane / Falcon wheel, the Quartic was conjured into being for entirely noble reasons – it was argued that a flattened shape allowed extra knee-room for the driver. This theory was later validated by numerous Le Mans cars and high-performance road cars with flat-bottomed steering wheels, but none have ever taken the curve out of the top as well, nor given it actual ‘sides’. Unfortunately, the Allegro already had plenty of failings, from an appearance that ruthless cost cutting had rendered stout and blobby from Harris Mann’s sleek, eye-catching original proposals, to a mechanical package that had its roots in the 1950s. It was only sensible for BL to kill the Quartic and put an end to at least some of the sniggering.

Right. Your turn. What’ya got?

[Top image courtesy of eBay, second image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons]

  • P161911

    Hey, we can put buttons on the steering wheel. Put ALL the buttons on the steering wheel!!!

    I think Pontiac only stopped this nonsense when they had to add airbags.

    • crank_case

      Ferrari are still doing it, too cool for indicator stalks..

  • P161911

    Some early 1960s MOPARs got square steering wheels too.

    • Wayward David

      Great minds.

  • Wayward David

    Some early 60s MoPar offerings had squarish steering wheels somewhat like the Austin you showed. Sometimes they were clear, too.

  • Citric

    There’s always those fixed-hub Citroen steering wheels:

    • robbydegraff

      that is soooo trippy

    • fede

      I love the C4s mostly because of this. (the rear of the 2 door also helps)

    • tonyola

      The ’58 Edsel also had a fixed hub – a good thing considering that’s where the shift buttons were located.

  • neight428

    • Alff

      u r a bus

  • Everything’s fine. It’s supposed to do that. I think.

    • Alff

      Spark advance?

      • I believe so, combined with a “fat man” tilting steering wheel.

  • Professor FaLaLaLavabot

    not a production car but dammit if this Maserati Boomerang concept still doesn’t have my favorite steering wheel

    Yes, getting into the seat is a huge challenge, what of it?

  • Sjalabais

    YouTube literally just recommended Clarkson’s jovial take on the Allegro’s steering wheel to me:

    (Please don’t tell me algorhitms have become so good they can predict which site I will enter later, extract content, and spit up a fitting addition to that…all before the human actually does anything.)

  • Papa Van Twee

    1983 Plymouth Sapporo Technica. I had one of these in 1988. Simple design, made it easy to see the digital dash, which to me was teh sex.

  • GTXcellent

    Personally rather partial to the 1940 only Chevrolet “Spinner” wheel [insert XZibit ‘thing’ in a ‘thing’ meme here]

    • Chevy offered that in ’41, too, but with the spinner at the bottom.

  • Alff
    • Fresh-Outta-Nissans

      The super rare 1984 BMW i3.

  • Alff

    My favorite steering wheel is in no way unconventional, but feels and looks so good it makes me regret the vehicle it’s attached to…

  • Troggy

    Australian Falcons in the 90’s had steering wheels that were offset upwards, if you follow me. The pivot point was lower than the centre of the wheel, which made it look like it had a bad wobble when you spun it fast from lock to lock.

    • outback_ute

      A sign that they needed to give more upward adjustment of the steering column, ignored to the very end.

  • tonyola

    The Subaru XT’s steering wheel goes so well together with the zoomy sci-fi dash. You can’t get much more ’80s.

    • tonyola

      Oh, I didn’t see the earlier picture. My bad. I offer the original Renault 5 Turbo as reparation.

  • It may be just as well that neither Mercury’s wrist-twist nor Chevy’s twin-dial made it into production.

    • Vairship

      What would happen if you spun them in opposite directions?

  • Fuhrman16

    Man, I can’t believe no one has posted the low hanging fruit of the Citroen DS offset single spoke wheel yet.

    • Maymar

      It’s not offset, but the original Lagonda was similarly weird.

    • Rover 1

      CX as well. And SM. And GS/GSA. Poor Americans for thinking Subarus are weird.


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