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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/

88 REPLIES 88
DaveA
Detailer

I owned an XT for a few years. I put tons of miles on it. It was a well built little car, but eventually it rusted badly. It did have a weird interior, steering wheel included. The XT6 did come with a manual transmission but I don’t think it was a popular option. The SVX, Subaru’s next 6 cylinder car (and XT replacement) did not have a manual transmission option. 

1963F100
Passenger

You left out the Edsel with the push button transmission selector in the hub!

Mike_E_V
Detailer

Every hotrodder from the 50's & 60's will be upset that no steering wheel from Oldsmobile in the late 50's and early 60's made this list.

HV24
Pit Crew

The Austin Allegro has to be a contender. Build in 1973 this was the worst car British Leyland had ever made and the square steering wheel was one of the main talking point . They must have realised this square design was a mistake as the "phase 2" models from 1976 onwards had conventional round steering wheels.

MrKnowItAll
Detailer

Early 60’s Oldsmobile deep Vee steering wheel is, in my opinion, a most attractive steering wheel.

deckerbilt
Intermediate Driver

My brother's Fiat Super Brava (lates 70's) also had a mono-spoke steering wheel.

 

mfp4073
Detailer

The DeSoto Adventurers' steering wheel center and wings are shaped like a Jet!  Inspired by aero. design lines.  That is somewhat overshadowed by the fancy clock though.  If you didn't see it look again.

PabloDee
Passenger

I missed that because I was checking out the cool audio turntable beyond the wheel.

Punk
Detailer

60 mph in a Messerschmitt?? I have a friend who is restoring one and although I have never sat in it (as I am afraid I could never get out) its a terrifying prospect to drive one much less make 60!

Grace
Hagerty Employee

I can't help but agree with you! Maybe there's a high-speed (sort of...) bubble car test looming on the horizon ...
jekirkbride
Intermediate Driver

The new Corvette C8 steering wheel looks like the 1960 Plymouth Fury wheel.

https://www.thedrive.com/news/28951/this-is-the-2020-chevrolet-corvette-c8s-square-steering-wheel

tlccar841
New Driver

I think my '93 deVille has the most hideous steering wheel. I love the car and the looks of everything but that stupid box with an airbag in it!

Sajeev
Community Manager

I loved the Kleenex box steering wheel on Caddies.  Not because it looks great...although it was pretty good compared to many other airbag wheels of that area! (looking at Chrysler K-cars) 

RayK
Passenger

Lets not forget Mercury and their Wrist Twist Steering system that made the rounds in 1965 on some of their show cars.  I remember seeing this back in '65 and praying it never makes it to production, thankfully it didn't!  Take a look at it here:

 

https://historygarage.com/introducing-wrist-twist-near-death-steering-wheel-1965/

Will
Intermediate Driver

My dad had a '51 Studebaker Business Coupe that had a clock in the center of the wheel. It was clear and pointed like the nose on the grille.  

When the title said Eleven, I figured it would probably be all of them, but reading all the comments and thinking about others, wow, there are literally dozens of crazy, beautiful and or interesting steering wheels.  Cool article!!

DontFooseMyCar
New Driver

The photo is actually a 1961 Fury though the 1960 is similar.

As a 5 year old in ‘61, I vividly recall my dad at the dealership asking me (welling with pride) if I wanted to see our new car. Already a car lover, I eagerly followed him to the prep area and saw our 1961 Plymouth Savoy wagon in robin-egg blue staring at me. Even at such a young age I knew “That is the ugliest car I’ve ever seen.” wasn’t an appropriate response!

That instrument cluster and steering wheel made up for the exterior shortcomings. All the kids in the neighborhood loved the sequential thermometer style speedometer!

 

OldBird
Intermediate Driver

The Citroen DS/ID wheel wasn't done that way just to be quirky.  It was actually a safety feature.  https://citroenvie.com/why-was-the-ds-steering-wheel-designed-that-way/

The more you know...

OldCarMan
Instructor

When we were packaging the Chrysler LH series of cars and the later Neon, we researched alternative tilt wheels to the clutzy GM Saginaw wheel. it was not very good or cheap, so we looked at what different packaging and cost benefits could be had. The Subaru with the attached cluster that pivoted at the floor, was the winner. The cluster was always in the right place for all heights of drivers. Somewhere after throwing our recommendations over the wall to engineering, our electronics division in Huntsville AL, made a high pivot one, that became the default wheel. I still have the Subaru column and am holding out for a rod project...

OldCarMan
Instructor

Balerie Allen of Chrysler Design Interior Color and Mastering studio, proposed and developed, a tortoise shell plastic, upper wheel section. Unfortunately, the vendor did NOT maintain secrecy and gave it to  a competitor at the same time, despite all of her work! 

RickyB
New Driver

Had a '60 Olds with a pretty crazy looking steering wheel, thought it might have made the list

jsfury
Intermediate Driver

Some very interesting steering wheels. My top three are; First Place. The 1960 Plymouth. Second Place. The 1956-60 DeSoto Adventurer, with the clock in the middle of the horn. And bringing up the rear in Third place. The 1949 Delahaye 135 M Cabriolet.  With honorable mention to the Volvo (Volvinski) PV 444 banjo style wheel, and the Messerschmitt KR 200. Although it should be turned over so the ends are up like horns on a bull.

Matimbo
New Driver

The Subaru XT6 models actually do have the tilting and telescopic dash cluster. I am currently in the process of reviving an '89, and it has it.

Sajeev
Community Manager

We will need photos of this at some point!  I love hearing about forgotten/oddball/obscure vehicles being restored instead of winding up in the junkyard. 

TK
Passenger

I really liked my 89 Pontiac SSE steering wheel...same as shown in the GP above.

jadema
New Driver

 

When I was about 14, the family car was a '60 Fury.  Although too young to drive yet, our house had a paved driveway easily 75 to 100 yards long.  I thought it a good idea to back the Fury out to the road and see how quickly I could reach the garage, leaving as much tire tread on the driveway as possible.  I had a blast, my Dad had other thoughts.  I'm tempted when I see one occasionally come up at auction.   

sazsquat
Passenger

1972 Maserati Boomerang; everyone always looks at its wedge body, but it had that steering wheel with all the Gauges, switches and HVAC levers recessed into the middle of it!

 

jackinthesac
Pit Crew

Because you have chosen the DeSoto steering wheel with clock, I suggest you consider adding the Edsel steering wheel with pushbutton transmission control.

biggem
Pit Crew

On the 1956-60 Desoto Adventurer ; What is that right of the steering wheel, on the hump, below radio ? Looks like a glove box with a record player in it !

Thanks

HugoReis
Passenger

You're wrong regarding the TVR. The 3 lower gauges are not attached to the steering wheel, but just fixed below the steering column. How would the cables work if they were on the steering wheel?

Roadsterboy
Pit Crew

Roadsterboy_0-1591636721581.png

I used to own 1980 Renault 5 Turbo 1 (R5)  S/N 0012 That originally was owned by Francois Castaing when he was head of Renault Sport.  280 HP Monster!!! It had a very cool steering wheel and a wild interior.

corvairmaven
Passenger

Surprised at the absence of the 1958 Edsel steering wheel with its TeleTouch hub featuring the push buttons for the automatic transmission.

corvairmaven
Passenger

Probably only worthy of an honorable mention, but 'any 1967 Ford product steering wheel', with its Donut center cushion.  Not sure how many lives it could have saved, if it really wanted to... always seemed to me to be a chest impaler.

corvairmaven_0-1591654841905.jpeg

 

gooseboy78
Pit Crew

forgot the GMH holden calais V8 in the 80s was discontinued after bending around the steering column in crashes.
gooseboy78
Pit Crew

early austin allegros had a square wheel because the the designer liked them with the square wheel.
millbuna
Pit Crew

Nash steering wheels of 1940 & 41 were unusual. The 40 had a large teardrop center section. The 41 switched to a large round center section but they changed the horn ring to a large disc of clear plastic

TallGuy
Passenger

Not that unique for an article like this, but always wanted one of those wooden type steering wheels of muscle car Mustang era. Very hard to adapt anything cool to these later model cars with the big air bag pods built in. But they are much much safer if the unfortunate ever does happen. Hopefully we will still have steering wheels in the autonomous vehicle vision of today's youth!

TallGuy
Passenger

Not actually unique, but I always wanted a wooden steering wheel with the notched finger grips from the Mustang muscle car era. Its very hard to adapt an older steering wheel to a later model car with the bid air bag pod in them. But much much safer in the unfortunate ever does happen. Hope there are steering wheels in the autonomous car vision of today's youth!

Reinhold_Weege
Instructor

I'm a little late to the party...

When Chrysler was developing what became the 1981 Imperial, a knock-off of the Aston Martin Lagonda steering wheel was on the wish-list. It was a perfect compliment for the digital dash, EFI and all the other "tech" goodies. However, the budget wasn't there to develop/test it within the required time frame, so it was stuck with a conventional looking wheel. By 1984, it was ready. But unfortunately, it was no longer "Time for Imperial" so the design was used on the company's most traditional looking, lowest-tech, RWD car... And the about-to-segment-bust magic wagons.

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DUB6
Gearhead

   I just ran across this (probably because @Reinhold_Weege just posted) and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Too bad that some of the commenters that had other "nominees" couldn't provide photos - I've made my fingers tired switching back and forth over to Google images trying to sort out what they are referring to! 😃

   Anyway, I enjoyed the article and the subject matter.  Lots of interesting info to peruse while downing my 2nd cup of morning coffee...