Due to regulations and market preferences, most cars sold to the general public these days have very predictable and conservative (read: boring) dashboard designs. But that hasn’t always been the case, especially during the 1980s.
We’re not sure if it’s the sci-fi movies such as Back to the Future or the advent of digital displays, but many cars from the 1980s had experimental dashboard designs that are quirky and frankly very cool. Here are just some that we managed to aggregate online.
Aston Martin Lagonda Series 2
The Lagonda was actually launched at the 1976 London Motor Show, making it the first production car to use a digital instrument panel. However, deliveries of the Lagonda did not start until late 1979 for one reason – it was really, really difficult to get the digital display to work properly.
So much so that Aston Martin actually outsourced the job to another company. Due to the complexity and lack of reliability of the LED displays in the Series 2, Aston Martin switched to a cathode-ray tube display for the instrument cluster of the Series 3 which unfortunately proved to be even less reliable.
Images: Official brochure via archiviostoricocitroen
Citroen BX Digit
Citroen is arguably the king of oddball designs, and the 1982 Citroen BX is no different – both inside and out. The BX stood out with its lack of steering column stalks as all controls are mounted on two protruding panels flanking the instrument cluster, allowing the driver to access the controls while both hands remain on the steering wheel.
However, what truly caught our attention was the 3,000 unit limited-run Digit variant, featuring a completely-digital instrument display which looks super cool at night.
Chevrolet Corvette (C4)
Launched in 1982, the C4 Corvette featured a completely new design language compared to its predecessor. Just like the exterior styling, the interior architecture has also been completely revised, featuring the same square-ish motif.
The C4 Corvette featured a digital instrument cluster with three main display panels for speed, engine speed, along with temperature and fuel information. Due to the resemblance in looks to the Atari games of the early days, the dashboard on the Corvette was also affectionately called the “Atari Dash”.
The experimental dashboard designs were not limited to the Western world either. The 1985 Subaru XT, also called Alcyone in Japan featured an interior with several aircraft-inspired design elements, such as the lighting, wipers and climate controls mounted on two extruding “pods”, along with a joystick gear knob with a thumb trigger button.
The XT also featured a digital instrument panel, which moves together with the steering wheel column during adjustments. While we’re on the topic, how cool is that asymmetrical steering wheel design?
While the other cars on this list featured some truly extravagant interior designs, the Fiat Panda Mk. 1, launched in 1980, went for a minimalist, yet functional styling true to its original purpose – an inexpensive, easily maintained, robustly simple, utilitarian vehicle.
Everything in the spartan interior is restricted to the two rectangular boxes right above the steering wheel column, including the climate and lighting controls. As for the rest of the empty space? Cover it with matching fabric, of course.