Not every car could be a star of the "Knight Rider" show, but almost every 1980s car model sported a flashy disco-lights digital dashboard
What was the best thing about the 1980s? Some say it's the Disco fever and the sparkle of the disco balls (although these "glitter balls" were invented way back in the 1920s). Others say that the 1980s were great time to watch gloriously over-the-top action movies with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, still others maintain that it is the wild and wooly clothing styles that define the 1980s decade... and yeah, Microsoft, of course.
In our humble opinion, one of the most coolest things that occurred in the 1980s was the rise of digital dashboards in cars, watches, hi-fi equipment (and just about everywhere), with their "early video game"-like riot of LCDs and LEDs and warm glow of CRT displays... When applied to car dashboards, all this could turn some otherwise cheap plastic car interiors into futuristic spaceship control panels.
We've seen the most creative automobile dashboards in our previous article Car Dashboards as Works of Art, and we cast a wide look on the world of impressive tech dashboards in general (see Mega Dashboards Part 1 and Part 2). Well, today we look at strange, and perhaps, ungainly designs, so get your "eye bleach" ready not to get too depressed from looking at automotive design ugliness.... and let's plunge right in into a digital display design madness!
ItalDesign's Lancia Orca wins first prize when it comes to totally 1980s, totally amazing digital dashboard. I would like to see its flashing lights in the dark while driving... fantastic! -
Lancia Orca was not the only concept vehicle from ItalDesign to feature fantastic digital dashes and interesting steering wheels. See below the "Lancia Megagamma" and "Lancia Medusa" examples:
This is the legendary KITT 2000 "Knight Rider" dashboard that we were talking about at the beginning of our article, based on the Pontiac Trans Am model. As you can see, it lights up like a Christmas tree - in addition to voice-activated controls and perhaps a hint of an AI (Artificial Intelligence):
This dashboard was bursting with such awesome stuff as "Pyraclastic Lamination", "Anamorphic Equalizer", "Voice (Anharmonic) Synthesizer", dashboard mounted printer and, yes, the money dispenser. In later installments of the series, the good old 1980s CRT displays were replaced with the "Virtual Reality Heads-up Display" and the fax machine was added, too (among other things). The whole red LED look was reminiscent of the "Bladerunner" movie, and the steering wheel somewhat resembled Darth Vader's helmet in its jet black angular design:
1980 Citroen Karin interior (left) and 1981 Citroen Xenia (Coggiola) on the right:
Too Weird Even for the 1980s?
Steering wheel of the Pontiac 6000 STE sported buttons like many other steering wheels of the era (taking the inspiration, perhaps, from the incredibly buttons-heavy Formula One steering wheels) - but Pontiac dashboard designers carried their unique approach to a whole new level. I have no problem with the steering wheel, but to my eye, the rest of the bizarrely stepped dashboard looks downright ugly:
Check out these tiny buttons in an oddly placed "pods" in Pontiac's dashboard: it would take almost as much concentration to try to figure out which button to press, as trying to text and drive - or even worse, as the placement of these buttons implies you have to look down, and they will be always in shadow of the upper overhanging dash level:
Microprocessor Computer Control! Sounds mighty impressive for the 1980s:
Here is the Alfa Romeo's 90 QO stepped up speedometer layout - try to figure this out while driving! -
Aston Martin Lagonda featured a pretty "blind" layout of dashes, which look like ugly black squares set into limitless expanses of wood (granted, wood of a extremely luxurious finish). It does look better, once lit - and check out this slanted computer-like console around the steering wheel! -
Yet another Aston Martin Lagonda model went all out on digital dash, you would not believe how big (and ugly) it is!... I kinda like the steering wheel, though:
The whole car sported pretty radical design, rendered even more bizarre with raised headlights (check out the diminutive, totally out-of-place radiator):
Another contender in the ridiculously-designed and grossly-overpriced exlusive luxury car category is the Vector. Check out this hulking, bulky dashboard with a horribly out-of-place - and impossible to read! - yellow digital display:
Check out many more digital dashboards on this site, collected by Joost Kuckartz.
The Ultimate Dash Bling!
For a true enthusiasts of flashing, dancing lights and coolest 1980s dashboards, there is a company which makes custom dashboard kits: Mark's Custom Kits. Here are some over-the-top, glorious examples of the digital 1980s excess (KITT's replicas, and more):
When all these constellations of LCDs and LEDs come to life, and all the bars and indicators start jumping, blinking, flashing... as the warm CRT glow permeates every corner of the vehicle - I have to admit, even the much ridiculed 1980s start to feel cool again. And who can resist neat digital displays of unusual shape and form, be they installed inside collectible Japanese Hi-Fi equipment, or inside your car's dashboard? So, let the Flash Dance begin.
"Dark Roasted Blend" - All Kinds of Weird and Wonderful Things, Discovered Daily!"
DRB is a top-ranked and respected source for the best in art, travel and fascinating technology, with a highly visual presentation. Our in-depth articles in many categories make DRB a highly visual online magazine, bringing you quality entertainment every time you open your "feed" reader or visit our site - About DRB