cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Bryan
Hagerty Employee

11 of the craziest factory steering wheels

Steering wheels have an important job to do. However, like the cars they control, steering wheels are more fun with some extra flair. Since the interior is sheltered from wind and weather, designers of the past let their imagination run wild with shape, color, texture, and style. While the array of aftermarket steering wheels is mind-boggling, we’ve focused this investigation on 11 of the craziest designs that made it to series production. The list covers more than 50 years of automotive history, but we’ll give it away now—one is the clear winner.

 

Read the full article on Hagerty.com:

https://www.hagerty.com/media/lists/11-of-the-craziest-factory-steering-wheels/

86 REPLIES 86
1xsnrg
New Driver

Interesting to be sure. I like the 1933 Buick and the early 60s Chrysler products with things like light switches and gear shifts built into the steering wheel. Didn’t the Edsel have that too?

CTHAutomotive
New Driver

How about the 41 Chevy Cabriolet with the built in "suicide knob" or spinner?

 

patgarity
Intermediate Driver

Necker knob, Brodie knob......

bobby
Passenger

your picture of volvo pv544 is actually a pv444 not 544 (you can see 444 on dash in your picture)and the steering wheel and speedometer totally changed in 1959.

larwik
New Driver

Yes, and the PV444 had a B-16 engine...the B-18 engine came a few years later..the PV444 wheel and dash is still very elegant...

bobby
Passenger

i had two 1958 volvo pv444's. i currently have a 1959 pv544 with 45000 original miles on it. owned since 1967, been in my basement since 1976.

Grace
Hagerty Employee

Hi Bobby, thanks for your sharp eyes! Appreciate the feedback.
544man
New Driver

Yes, definitely a 444; I have owned my 544 for 50 years, a 1965 Sport model (Canada and US) and the first thing that came off the car was the 'bus wheel' in favour of a smaller diameter wheel. Yes, more effort to steer, but pump the front tires up to 38 psi or so and all was well. An anecdote on the original 444/544 steering wheels: this was before technology, even in safety-conscious Sweden, when collapsible steering columns hadn't been looked at for production. My first 544, a '62 with a B16 motor (3-main bearing) was the Volvo I cut my teeth on. It met its end in 1969 when I blew an unmarked t-junction on Christmas Day and landed on a log cross-wise in the ditch. The impact folded the front-end sky-ward; never even broke the headlights. The steering traveled back 18". The thing that prevented it from killing me, other than a slight right-offset, was the fact that my '62 Volvo had robust 3-point shoulder harnesses. We wore them because they were cool. The steering wheel actually touched me in the chest! I was uninjured, my passenger suffered a split chin when the floor-boards buckled and his knees came up. We were very fortunate

SCHNELL
New Driver

Don't have a picture as I sold almost 50 yrs ago, but '64 Studebaker had a non-round wheel, flat spot at bottom

couvguy
Pit Crew

And here I thought that flat spot on the wheel of my '64 Studebaker GT Hawk was a custom feature to provide clearance for the original owner's generous girth. 

GregH
New Driver

Edsel with push button transmission?

Dakar09
Navigator

I hate to be "that guy", but having spent a lot of time behind the wheel of my Volvo PV444, it deserves credit for having that gorgeous steering wheel.  That was from roughly '47-58' before they phased in the PV544, with it's horizontal speedo and less "art deco" steering wheel.  The dashes of each car were drastically different, with the PV444 being the more iconic, in my opinion.

MoparJeff
Pit Crew

Fun article and photos!  But surely the Citroen ID had hydraulic brakes rather than mechanical... although manually rather than power assisted?

 

Also, an early contender for great steering wheels... the 1942 Desoto Fifth Avenue, with a cigarette dispenser in the hub of the steering wheel!

 

https://jalopnik.com/cars-once-came-with-built-in-cigarette-dispensers-1795733052

 

Grace
Hagerty Employee

Thanks for your close attention!
GregH
New Driver

You need a separate story to explain the ford Wrist Twist steering wheel - although that's not a production steering wheel.

SS195
Pit Crew

Love the auto-winding clock!

SS195
Pit Crew

Love the auto-winding clock!

tadg47
Pit Crew

How could not list the 1958 Edsel with the push button trans selector in the center of the steering wheel.

NigelFlopstalk
New Driver

The wood rimmed steering wheel of a Series 1 Jaguar E-type is one that deserves consideration.  

gfviperman
Detailer

!958 Edsel ... pushbuttons in center of the steering wheel.

901Tiger
New Driver

Yep.  Nice, but how many people shifted into reverse when trying to blow the horn? 🙂

 

MickeyD
Passenger

The Plymouth shown is actually a 61. The 60 is similar.

901Tiger
New Driver

The steering wheels from the 1970-1/2 to 1979 Trans AMs are still the best in the world (IMO) followed by the Wooden Steering Wheels offered in the 65-66 Mustangs (that I installed in my 68 Conv. because I liked it so much).

TransAm-forever
Pit Crew

Right on.

terryjudd
Intermediate Driver

What, no Edsel Teletouch steering wheel?

Rockem
Intermediate Driver

The Citroen is amazing.It looks like something out of a old scary movie.Oh no,my steering is attacking me. 

terryjudd
Intermediate Driver

The rim blow steering wheels of GM, Ford, Chrysler and AMC also are worthy contenders. I believe GM and Ford were first, starting in 1969.

avideo
Intermediate Driver

You are correct about the rim blow steering wheel. My 1969 Shelby Mustang GT350 has the rim blow steering wheel. 

Mike_E_V
Detailer

Our 69 Sedan De Ville uses the rim blow wheel. Works really well.

tlccar841
New Driver

My Aunt Lila had a '74 Gold Luxury Mark IV with the rim blow steering wheel. She would trick us 7 year olds with it all the time!
Kpar
Passenger

I was a service writer at a Linc/Merc dealer in 1970, and did not know about the "rim blow" rings on the wheel.  As I was driving through Hammond, IN, I could not figure out who was blowing the horn at me!  Little did I know...

LarryT
Pit Crew

I sold Mercury parts in those days and those wheels were more trouble than they were worth.

DavidHolzman
Detailer

The Citroen is definitely my favorite. Such simple elegance!

gster
Pit Crew

Last summer I was driving a rented Toyota Corolla on the highway.

I mistakenly hit a button on the back of the steering wheel that dropped the car down into first. I had no idea what had happened and tried to use the gear shift with no luck.

As the car slowed down and other cars were honking I managed to re hit the shift button and get it back in drive. I thought it was a radio control......

hskyking
Passenger

Check out the 1958 Chevy Impala steering wheel. Sweet design.

JohnGalt
Pit Crew

Where is the Edsel with the transmission push buttons in the center of the steering wheel?

 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teletouch

Grpphoto
Pit Crew

The shortage of glass after the war was actually caused by demand for panes to replace windows broken by bombing raids and other fighting. Manufacturers in some countries didn't catch up until the mid-fifties.

mwmyers91
Detailer

60-61 Fury was a awesome design that also allowed better leg clearance

for getting in and out. Although the Delahaye and Stryker ring the bell too.

Bjorn
Passenger

Wrong picture to the Volvo, the 544 has more "modern" instrumentcluster and steringwheel. 1957 was the last with the banjo steringwheel and the Pontiac "look a like" instrumentcluster.

02-orignal-ownr
Detailer

IIRC both GM and Chrysler used Lucite in their steering wheels just prior to WWII.  They weren't clear, but usually cream-colored.  It deteriorated rather quickly, requiring some sort of Pep Boys steering wheel cover to keep the disintegrating plastic from coming off on your hands as you drove.

okfoz
Intermediate Driver

The Pontiac steering wheel was not exclusively an ASC/McLaren offering, it was an option on the Grand Prix.    I have one on my shelf somewhere... 
Lucite, is a name brand for acrylic, What we more commonly call Plexiglas or Plexiglass.   The same stuff Aircraft windshields and windows are made from. 

Will
Intermediate Driver

My '93 Grand Prix SE has the same.

couvguy
Pit Crew

Lest we forget, Oldsmobile (and probably other GM divisions) In the late '60s and '70s, sported an ordinary looking steering wheel with a unique feature: The inner diameter of the wheel has a continuous rubber or vinyl insert that activated the horn when pressed. The driver needed to merely squeeze his fingers tighter around the wheel rim at any point on its circumference to advise a pesky pedestrian to vacate the roadway. 

brngarage
Passenger

How could you not give at least an honorable mention to the wild steering wheel in the 1959 Oldsmobiles? 

Mike_E_V
Detailer

Agreed. That wheel showed up in many, many hotrods of the era. 

Bunka
Intermediate Driver

OK, and here comes a little tongue in cheek word play.  In the vast majority of cars ever produced, the front wheels/tires are the "steering wheels".  They are essential to steering the car in a specified direction and function as weight bearing rolling wheels.  The thing inside the car that dictates the direction you want to steer in is functionally a lever. You apply force to the lever which translates into moving the real steering wheels in front to turn in the direction you need to go.  The steering lever probably morphed into a round wheel shape so we could apply leverage from 360 degrees rather than discerning where the lever was at any moment.  I'm curious as to why the steering lever is called a wheel.  Probably because of its similar shape. This little inconsequential misnomer must have an origin. 

Grace
Hagerty Employee

That hadn't even crossed my mind. English can be so quirky!
TonyT
Instructor

Umm..... maybe because it's round, like a wheel and doesn't look like a lever? Maybe it would please you to know that the device used to manually set the brakes on rail cars is called a "handwheel." 

btukwh
Pit Crew

A friend of mine bought an XT6 back in the day. I vaguely remember the steering wheel being different. I do remember that driving it was very quiet. There were no rattles or other noises. At the time most of us were driving Camaros and various other similar cars. It was normal that going over a bump produced a collection of noises. The XT6 was silent. A very well built, reasonably quick car. I don't think the XT6 came with a manual or it would've been on my list to acquire.