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WATCH: Here’s how car interiors have evolved over the last 120 years

Published Mar 15, 2021


DETROIT - There was a time when a glovebox really was used for storing gloves as the metal and wooden steering wheels of early cars would freeze up in winter.

It goes without saying that car interiors have evolved considerably since the early pioneers, and this decade is likely to see the biggest changes ever as screens grow more massive than ever and most functions become digitised.

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But what if you could actually see car interiors evolving right before your eyes?

This is exactly what Ford has attempted to do in the video below, which shows the driver’s view from a dozen vehicles, from the Model T of the early 1900s to the modern Mustang Mach-E electric crossover with its Tesla-style central screen.

Huge central screens like these are set to become even more commonplace in the 2020s, but not all motorists are convinced that this is the way forward, as we see in some of the comments posted in response to Ford’s video on YouTube.

“I am not sure if this 'reductive design' is something to be proud of... Lack of physical buttons is a very dangerous trend. This is not some console game, this is about life safety,” said one viewer.

“Lose the cheap-looking iPad knockoff,” said another, while one viewer made it clear that he preferred the old-school approach to motoring: “Big screens, big distractions. Nothing in mine. Just exhaust sound and driving focus”.

These concerns should, however, be mitigated as semi-autonomous driver assistance features become more commonplace and more reliable.

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Some other interesting facts about early car interiors:

  • Cars originally used house windows as windscreens, and these were not even fitted as standard.
  • When radios first became available in cars they were so expensive that they accounted for 20 percent of the car’s value.
  • Air conditioning was only invented after windscreens became curved and thus could no longer be opened.
  • Post WWII cockpits were influenced by the space race, and thus featured more dials, switches and gauges and tech became more prominent than ever.
  • The invention of video games and hand-held gaming controls influenced steering wheel design, with multiple buttons being placed within easy reach of the driver’s thumbs.

IOL Motoring