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Have a Favorite Dashboard?


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I like dashboards - I always have. In much younger days, my brother and I enjoyed resurrecting long dormant vintage cars, dragging them home, getting them running, cleaned up, licensed and drivable. I would enjoy them for a while and then find them new homes. It was a pleasurable little hobby and a source of a few spending dollars. I confess that I had something of a silly little ritual that was a part of my "renewal" process. I almost always took out the dashboard bulbs and cleaned them or replaced them, if needed. I guess I especially liked the glow and cool colors of dashboards at night when the gang and me would do most of our cruising. l can't say that I liked all dashboards, though. Many early ones were minimal, utilitarian and lacking style. The gauges were often small and lit by surface mounted lights located directly overhead. These little metal-clad bulbs can be particularly cute in their own right, but they left plenty of room for improvement. Gauges and dashboards changed little until the development of back lighting. Back lighting gauges allowed them to be larger and far more easily read. I have no idea, however, who to credit with it's development. I have to think that larger gauges and the increasing reliance on stylists in the industry in the thirties led to new thoughts on the importance of dashboards in general. I believe that the dashboard came to be recognized as fertile ground for artistic expression and consequently each manufacturer's own area of distinction. Somewhere along the way, it seems, somebody in the industry realized that a potential buyer of a new car is going to spend hundreds of hours looking at that same dashboard and they probably should put a little thought into what it looks like. Here's some of my long list of favorites. I have many others. I hope you'll share yours.

'48 - '49 Hudson (Maybe my all time favorite. Geez, wasn't the invention of Di-Noc a wonderful thing?):

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'36 Studebaker (a fantastic Deco look):

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'38 DeSoto:

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'37 Olds:

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Lincoln Zephyr:

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'36 Plymouth (I like the "uniscope" idea. This dash was a nice brown color from the factory, but this is the best I could find at the moment.):

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'36 Dodge:

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'38 Oldsmobile (surely this broke all kinds of new ground):

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Another '38 Olds:

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While I owned "step-down" Hudsons as daily drivers, my brother preferred "bath tub" Nashes. I've always enjoyed '49 & '50 Nash dashes. All of the gauges were mounted in a uni-scope pod mounted over the steering wheel. In '50 Nash put the radio behind a tambor door (a familiar word to those who know furniture). The little access door pushed up out of the way to make adjustments to the radio and then could be lowered to hide the radio. Why that was improtant, I can't imagine. In recent years these pods have shown up on Harley choppers both as gauge cluster housings and (facing forward) as stylish headlight housings.

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Tambor door:

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No matter how automated and sophisticated Buick's tooling capabilities may have been, I'm surprised that they could offer this much machine-turning on their dash for '41. Maybe it was somehow simulated, but it really has an elegant almost alligator skin quality to it :

1941-buick-roadmaster-conv-dash.jpg

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Don't have photos of them, but my favorites are the full-sized 1961 Dodge dash (totally space-age!), the enormous circular sculpting of the 1960 Imperial dashboard (has to be the biggest circular gauges ever put on any car!), the airplane cockpit controls of the 1954 Mercury, and the beautiful sculpting of the 1966 Dodge Polara and Monaco dashes. '61 Oldsmobile full-sized cars have to be among the most complex yet unified textured dashes ever made. Sorry, I couldn't limit it to one. Great question, by the way!

Pete Phillips

Leonard, Texas

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i love the 1953-1954 pontiac dash and instrument panel, pontiac really enlarged the size of the speedometer from the size of the 1949-1952 speedometer, and put the four gauges below the large half moon speedometer. pontiac also moved the front radio speaker and power supply alittle to the right, making room for the heater/defrostor controls above the new radio location. pontiac created a chrome plated face plate to brighten up the dash from the speedometer to the front speaker, the front speaker is larger than the 49 to 52 front speaker. this is my 1953 chieftain custom catalina's dash and instrument panel, i have just about every options and accessories you could get in 1953 or 1954, super rare factory air conditioning, foglights control, autronic eye, traffic light viewer, magnatray, compass, ashtray, front & rear speaker balance control, and a period correct temp gauge sitting in the magnatray. and on the deluxe steering wheel, pontiac's power steering horn button. i still have to install the power antenna switch that will be just right of the ashtray, and the rear air conditioning controls, which is made to mount under the bottom of the dash, and will be below the ignition switch. charles coker, 1953 pontiac tech advisor.

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Bleach, I appreciate your recalling that earlier thread. It was great. It contains some like the Cord, Zephyr and the '36 Cadillac that are favorites of mine, as well as some I hadn't given a lot of thought too. The thread pre-dated me, but I should have thought to have done a search on the subject. Still, I'm sure no harm done. I'm glad that others have their favorites to share. I want you folks to know, though, that I'm not such a wacky guy that I have accumulated a vast collection of dashboard pictures. I've just been grabbing these images that I have posted off of Google Images. In the case of, say, the '41 Buick, I just remembered how I liked all pre-war Buick dashes (a lot of the post-war ones, as well) and searched Google Images for "1941 Buick". In some of the cases, I also just searched for something like "Lincoln Zephyr dashboard" which made the results all the more specific. Pete Philips, I like all of your choices and agree with your opinions about them, as well. I didn't even mention '50s and '60s Mopar dashes because I wouldn't know where to start. In a recent thread about the styling of the '62 Plymouths, the Jetson's name came up. I think it describes the whole genre pretty thoroughly. Here's your '61 Dodge:

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1960 Imperial:

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1954 Mercury. I vaguely remember a toy dashboard of some sorts that this reminds me of:

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A '66 Doge Polara. My best friend had one of these so I remember it well.

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I always loved the dash on my 1960 Buick. It looked good, but more importantly the guage cluster was reflected to the driver in a mirror that allowed you to adjust the angle to suit your eyeline. It was one seemingly goofy 1950s idea that actually was very useful. I wish they'd bring that back!

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That said, any post-war dash made of real wood takes the class prize. Even the relatively plain dash in my TR6s takes on a real panache just because of real wood.

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414TATA, My neighbor had a '56 Olds when I was young. Seeing the dash again reminds how much I admired it. Unlike many assymetrical dashboards (the Mopar ones I posted for an example.) This one is very symmetrical. Perhaps I'm a simple soul, but the balanced and organized look of this type of layout appeals to me most:

1956-oldsmobile-starfire-98-steering-wheel-and-dashboard-jill-reger.jpg

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The thread from 2008 mentions a speedometer that changed color as the speed increased. I vaguely remember one like that. One of my friends Father had a late fifties DeSoto. Maybe that 's what I'm associating it with. Does it sound familiar to any of you?

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my 1960 oldsmobile 88 four door sedan had the color changing drum behind the speedometer's see thru slot, if i remember correctly, it was green from 0 to about 40, then orange from 40 to 70, and then red from 70 to 120. my olds dash didn't have a clock in the round housing just right of 120, i found a olds starfire vacuum gauge and fitted it into where there was no clock, it look like it was factory made, i wish i had a picture of it. this was back in 1977, living in fresno, ca. charles coker, 1953 pontiac tech advisor.

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You know, just looking back over this thread, I realized earlier that I made mention of Di-Noc earlier and didn't offer any explanation of it. I didn't mean to be cryptic, I just forgot to offer an explanation for those of you who weren't familiar the term. Di-Noc is the trade name for the 3M "contact paper" like material onto which a wood grain or other finish is applied. In the case of a dashboard this strong, versatile material is applied to the metal prior to the stamping and forming process. That it survives all of that stamping and forming is a mystery to me, but not, probably, to my brother in law who works for 3M and knows everything in the world and reminds me of that frequently.

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Forgive me for monopolizing my own thread, but I just thought to Google "vintage toy dashboard" and came up with one you may get a chuckle out of. For my part, I think that it reflects the late '50s- early '60s pretty darn well. Note that it even has windshield stickers:

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414TATA, My neighbor had a '56 Olds when I was young. Seeing the dash again reminds how much I admired it. Unlike many assymetrical dashboards (the Mopar ones I posted for an example.) This one is very symmetrical. Perhaps I'm a simple soul, but the balanced and organized look of this type of layout appeals to me most:

1956-oldsmobile-starfire-98-steering-wheel-and-dashboard-jill-reger.jpg

While the 56 Olds is a pleasant looking dash, it leaves out all the important information like.....temp gauge, oil pressure, amp gauge and replaces it with idiot lights. How about the 55 Olds for a serious driver?

http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5044/5238533851_e77fa8f039_z.jpg

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Learned something new here, which is always nice. Didn't realize that the '38 Olds grouped the gauges in front of the driver in contrast to the others' Machine Age symmetry (call it Art Deco if you wish). I always thought that layout began with the '49 DeSoto, Mercury and Lincoln.

Of course, I'm partial to the senior '57 Buick...

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And the senior '49 Buick...

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And any '60 Buick...

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Thanks for showing one of the toy '50's dashes, always wanted one.

Some gorgeous instrument panels on this growing thread.

(Let's not forget the Mopar Electroluminescents of the early-'60's)!

TG

Edited by TG57Roadmaster (see edit history)
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That '49 Roadmaster sure is a sentimental favorite of mine. You know, it occurs to me that a lot of this is about just that -- warm memories and old favorites, rather than objective beauty. At the risk of getting too abstract, here, I think that it's quite possible that a view of dash that a person hasn't seen in a while may trigger a memory that's more warm or intimate than a picture of the outside of the same car. My first car was a lowly, bug-eyed '38 Plymouth 4dr, yet a glimpse of one's simple, and maybe plain, dashboard sure warms my heart.

38plydash.jpg

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Ain't Google great? I Googled the N-number at the top of the instrument panel. I thought it was N300TH, and Google told me that was a Beechcraft Baron. "Bull$hit!" said I, knowing that a Baron was a modern twin with a big panoramic windshield, and realizing that the picture you had posted was something much older, with a narrow little windshield and four throttles. So I squinted at the N-number again, decided it might possibly be N390TH, and re-Googled. Voilà! Two tries! Too bad we can't track down ancient license plates so easily.

Gil Fitzhugh, Morristown, NJ

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Those of you who are fond of Hupmobiles know of what wonderful Art Deco dashboards and interior appointments they had. Unfortunately, I can't find much in the way of images at Google, or the others. Here's a few glimpses:

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This last one is a '38 - few made. These dashes used a lot of a type of plastic called tenite. Other ones that I have seen suffered from a great deal of shrinkage and distortion. Note the little deco touches on the steering wheel:

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