From bulkhead to dashboard

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The first cars looked very much like carriages. But with an engine instead of a horse as a source of power. And for the 'dashboard' there was the bulkhead. That had to give the occupants some protection and it also proved useful to screw things on such as oil pumps and grease pumps. From 1905 that bulkhead was discovered as a serious instrument carrier.

Then the speedometer and the (wind-up) clock came into view

It didn't have to get any crazier! When cars started to look like cars, we wrote about 1910. The bulkhead became part of a clearly less Spartan interior. The decoration on that bulkhead consisted of high-quality samples from instrument making with engraved brand emblems in the glasses of the counters, embraced by beautiful brass edges. There were buttons. The first warning lights were signaled.

The news went off

Soon those funny novelties became an essential part of the cars. And there was a lively trade in accessories. An approach that was picked up much later by the buggy builders of Ruska: a very small glass vase with room for just two tulips that could be attached to the dashboard with a suction cup.

The crisis and the bulkhead

The crisis in the thirties - among other things - put an end to the wooden bulkheads. They were made of brass, chrome-plated copper or aluminum. Sports car dashboards were increasingly made of aluminum. And when cars were really going to be massively produced, the manufacturers discovered the blessings of the die-cut and pressed instrument carriers. Simple paint or surprisingly good-looking 'wood grain' paintwork formed the make-up of the bare plate. Instruments were distributed less and less playfully on their subsurface because manufacturers continued to develop and structure production. The American manufacturers in particular set the tone. They flaunted their instruments like a peacock with its feathers. Speedometers, tachometers, mileometers, petrol meters, charge flow meters, oil pressure meters. You name it.

Before the war there was plenty of room to arrange and improvise

You just did what you thought was right and got away with it. After the Second World War everything changed. Self-supporting bodywork - that word again! - became the norm and the now established dashboard became an integrated part of the whole car. Dashboards became more sober and more oriented towards the driver. And so rationality replaced traditional craftsmanship. From that moment on, (semi-) circular clocks and linear speedometers set the tone.

More information is better

Indicator lights informed the position of switches and glove compartments evolved to great heights. Behind a removable lid or plate was a pre-programmed hole for the radio, which is available at an additional cost. Those car radios had been known in the States since the 1930s. And in 34.000, XNUMX car radios were already sold in the USA. Three years later that number had increased tenfold.

And that while the interference caused by the ignition made listening to the radio really only pleasant when the car was stationary. In Europe, car radio only became the rule rather than the exception in the 1950s. In the radio field, the breakthrough only came in 1949 when transistors were used. So the increase in popularity can be explained.

Next step?

Then came more and more electronics, and a dashboard became softer. Bulb and soft. With recessed buttons. Without protruding switches at knee height. And now? Now our smartphone is an essential part of the dashboard, of the car. And the actual information panel has turned into a black mirrored plate of sensitive glass. Without engraved mark. Without brass edges ...

Also beautiful.


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