Dashboards haven’t changed much over the years. Besides swapping horizontal dials for circular ones and, more recently, installing large screens in the center stack, new car interiors have pretty much the same layout as their antiquated brethren. It’s no surprise that automakers don’t want to shuffle their interior designs too much, as that may alienate new buyers. Other than the driving controls themselves, arguably the most important aspect of the interior is the gauges. Generally, cars will have their speedometer, fuel, and temperature gauges behind the steering wheel, which keeps important information within clear view of the driver.
However, sometimes, automotive designers decide to stray away from this ubiquitous layout to create a new and unique design that has the gauges moved to strange locations on the dashboard. While these designs may be aesthetically pleasing in pictures and advertisements, they can prove frustrating during real-world use. Sometimes, these designs will be created to resemble a classic car, with some layouts being more successful than others. Then, there are cars that have seemingly normal gauge clusters but have something a little different hiding among the standard dials. Today, we’re seeing the change from analog gauges to impressive digital screens, but this isn’t the first time consumers became enamored by high-tech readouts on their dashboards. Whether it’s a retro design or just a unique one, here are 20 strange gauge clusters you won’t see on any normal car.
20 Mini Cooper
After 41 years of production, the classic Mini Cooper was discontinued. The model was revitalized in the early 2000s under BMW ownership. Following VW’s lead with their popular new Beetle, the redesigned Mini had many of its design cues heavily based on the original car, both inside and out. Unsurprisingly, the interior might seem familiar to owners of the classic Mini. On the original car, much of its gauges were placed in the center of the dashboard. The new car followed this layout, as it has a huge speedometer located in the middle of the dash, while the tachometer was mounted on the steering column. This design saw some criticism, as it made it difficult for drivers to see how fast they were going. After many attempts to retain the crazy speedometer failed to gain popularity, Mini dropped the unusual detail.
19 Plymouth Prowler
Much of Plymouth’s lineup was largely built from de-contented Dodges, which was especially true towards the end of the brand’s existence. However, the Prowler was the exception to this rule. This retro sports car was a completely unique car that was meant to evoke the styling of a 1930s hot rod, as it featured a narrow body, exaggerated rear fenders, and staggered wheels. Regardless of its debatably poor performance, the Prowler certainly had the presence of a classic hot rod inside and out. Besides the parts bin accessories, the model’s unique interior offered center-mounted gauge clusters, much like those of many pre-war cars. These dials were housed in plastic that matched the car’s body color. For that extra hotrod touch, the Prowler had a steering column-mounted tachometer that highly resembled old-fashioned aftermarket tachs.
18 Toyota Prius
These days, it’s normal for a car to have an infotainment system in the dashboard that controls its various features. While there were many cars that featured a screen before this trend took off, the second-generation Prius was one of the few mainstream options that had a compulsory screen. This infotainment system was used for certain special features, such as displaying the status of the motor and the battery pack and what was, at that time, powering the wheels. The Prius also lacked a standard gauge cluster, instead of having a digital readout mounted on top of the dashboard. This layout was so unique and unlike anything else at the time that the steering wheel had to be an oval; otherwise, it would obscure the speedometer. Despite this setup becoming more popular, there aren’t many cars that are designed like the Prius.
17 Oldsmobile Toronado
In many ways, it’s a good thing that we don’t build cars like we used to, given how unsafe and inefficient they used to be. On the other hand, cars of the ‘50s and the ‘60s had considerably more ornate interiors than what can be found in modern cars. The Oldsmobile Toronado was no exception to this. Spanning from 1966 to 1970, the first-generation model had a handsome interior that featured metal trims across the dashboard and on the steering wheel. While the horizontal accessory readouts weren’t anything too unique, the speedometer was unlike anything else. Its needle remained stationary, while the cylindrical dial spun around to display the speed. While it was a unique feature for the original Toronado, it was swapped for a standard horizontal readout for the car’s second generation.
16 Subaru XT
Subaru produced a number of largely forgotten models throughout the ‘80s before creating hugely popular vehicles like the Impreza and the Outback. While the company is known for a few performance models today, one of its earliest attempts at a sports car was the XT. While this model doesn’t have the most handsome styling these days, its boxy shape was a contemporary design for the ‘80s. And to make the interior seem similarly modern, Subaru added a digital dashboard, which was a growing trend in the automotive industry at the time. Instead of using a simple LCD readout, it had an intricate digital display with both a readout for the tachometer and an animated bar that stretched towards the driver and a symmetrical turbo boost gauge to match. It’s worth noting that the illustration of the car didn’t do anything.
15 Smart ForTwo
Smart cars aren’t normal in any regard, given their tiny footprint and quirky styling. These cars are incredibly small and practical for their size, although, that’s not saying a lot, given their two-seat status and small trunks. While its exterior styling is unlike any other car, it has a surprisingly restrained interior design. Cheap plastics are everywhere, accompanied by some silver trim around to give it a little contrast. Even the speedometer isn’t all that special. It’s big and has a bunch of idiot lights hidden throughout the background. However, it's a little unique that the speedometer is the only dial in its usual space. The tachometer and the clock are housed in strange pod gauges mounted on top of the dashboard. If the Smart car could be equipped with a manual, that might’ve been a useful place for the tach.
14 Fiat 500
While the Mini Cooper and the VW New Beetle have many retro cues, the Fiat 500 is a much more old-fashioned-looking vehicle. Both its shape and its details are quite similar to the original car, and it has an interior to match. With soft edges and colored panels, the 500 nails the cutesy and classic look. While the current model has replaced the traditional analog gauges with a high-definition screen, the previous layout was a simple but special design. To keep the car’s older, minimalist look, the gauge cluster was simplified so it could be contained in the space of a single dial. The outer ring is the speedometer, while the inner ring serves as a tachometer, and there’s a small screen in the center, fully maximizing the small space.
13 McLaren 720s
Despite supercars generally being the fastest and most impressive vehicles on the road, they often don’t have the most interesting interiors, much less an interesting dashboard—not that it’s a surprise, given that easy-t0-read information is useful in fast cars. The new McLaren 720s is no exception, as it uses a large digital display that can show off all kinds of information. Like many modern cars, the screen will change to show pertinent information in different driving modes. What makes the 720s’s setup so special is that its race mode doesn’t just change what’s on the display; the screen folds itself down to show a slimmer, more pronounced tachometer for track use. While it can’t be used on the road, due to this screen lacking a speedometer, it’s certainly a captivating design.
12 Scion xB
While Scion was meant to be Toyota’s ‘cool’ brand, it’s not a controversial opinion to say that the company didn’t quite succeed in that endeavor. Some of the brand’s cars were horribly uncool and indistinguishable from Toyota’s usual lineup. One of its few unique offerings was the xB, a practical box on wheels that uncovered a niche market that had gone unnoticed by other companies. While the model may not have been the most eye-catching budget car on the market, it was unlike any other car on the road. Matching the funky exterior, the xB’s interior was cheap but unique. Much like the basic exterior, the gauge cluster was simple. Its first generation only had one gauge with a speedometer and tachometer combo mounted in the center of the dashboard. The second generation took this further by having an entire gauge cluster span across the top of the dash.
11 Ford GT
Many companies will just make minor specialty trims for their big anniversaries, but Ford decided that it wasn’t going to mess around for its 100th anniversary. Created as a follow-up to the ‘60s GT40 race car, the 2005 Ford GT looked almost exactly like the original car, and it was built to beat Ferraris again, this time on the road. This 200 MPH supercar, despite being made by the same company that sells cheap Focuses, was an incredible vehicle. And if the outside looked a lot like the GT40, the interior was even closer to the famous Le Mans car. Being a driver-oriented car, the GT has the tachometer first and foremost in front of the driver, while the less important speedometer is pushed further away but still angled towards the driver. It also has a row of various gauges monitoring the car’s many fluids and temperatures.
10 Toyota Echo
Toyota created one of the first popular uses of an infotainment system, which made the Prius a futuristic vehicle with its vast technology, both in the interior and in the powertrain. The Echo was basically the opposite, being one of the simplest vehicles one could get his or her hands on in the early 2000s. It offered few options, even when fully loaded, and its round styling mirrored its economical attitude. Needless to say, the interior was hardly plush or complex. Instead of having a high-tech dash, the Echo had a center-mounted gauge cluster. While many cars have a number of ways to convey information, this car only has a speedometer and a fuel gauge. Everything else was relegated to an idiot light. For those who needed a tach to shift would have to provide their own.
9 Rolls-Royce Phantom
The majority of luxury cars today are frequently designed to have the most technologically advanced and intricate features available on the market, sometimes leading to difficult interfaces. Rolls-Royce tends to be a little different, instead offering state-of-the-art features and accessories that are covered by a simple layout that anyone can use. Its interiors very much mirror its cars stately appearances. Features like the radio are hidden until they're needed. In a similar fashion, the gauge cluster is about as straightforward as it gets. It features a few large easy-to-read dials that aren’t particularly unusual, with one exception. Perhaps to avoid making the car appear sporty in any way, there’s a power-reserve meter in place of a tach to tell the driver what percentage of the engine’s power is currently available.
8 Lexus LFA
In 2010, Lexus shocked the world when it finally released the LFA. Not only was it an incredible supercar that could compete with the best from Italy, but it was also a long-awaited model that had been in some form of development for nearly a decade. Not to mention, it was Lexus’s starting point for its new performance-oriented lineup. Given that it’s still a Lexus, it’s no surprise that the LFA featured a technology-rich interior that had just about every option imaginable. The most interesting aesthetic choice was a digital readout behind the steering wheel that emulated the usual gauges. However, rather than just having a normal screen, this display also had a physical ring that contained the tachometer. This ring moves around when the car was put into different driving modes, and the tachometer follows underneath it.
7 BMW Z8
BMW tends to keep its designs sleek and modern. One of the few exceptions to this rule was the Z8, a retro roadster meant to look like the BMW 507 from the ‘50s. The resulting car was a gorgeous model that closely resembled the original 507. This low-production model almost instantly became as much of a classic as the old roadster. Given how the car’s looks were heavily based on a classic car, it’s a bit of a surprise that the interior, while retro-looking, wasn’t based on the 507. The Z8 had a layout that was similar to other old cars, as its four dials are located in the center of the dashboard, surrounded by a body-colored housing. Making these dials easier to read, these gauges were angled towards the driver.
6 Bugatti Veyron
There are few cars that changed the rules of the performance world like the Bugatti Veyron. While there were fast cars prior to the Veyron, there wasn’t one that managed to be incredibly fast and refined at the same time. Even though it wasn’t the prettiest car in the world, it was an incredible machine that had no equal when it was released to the world and arguably still doesn’t have one other than Bugatti’s own Chiron. Unlike older speed machines, such as the McLaren F1, the Veyron has a luxurious interior that's both simple and plush. Even its gauges are simple easy-to-read dials that put the tachometer first and foremost. However, the most special of these gauges is the horsepower meter that lets you know how much power you’re putting down onto the road.
5 Corvette C4
These days, digital dashes aren’t much more than a TV screen that uses some fancy graphics to convey speed and other vital information to the driver. During the ‘80s, digital dashes were nearly as popular as they are today, and cars like the Corvette were trying to look as futuristic as possible. After the long-running and old-fashioned C3 was discontinued, the C4 was a thoroughly modern sports car with contemporary styling. To make the interior more appealing, the Corvette C4 had a digital dashboard and was one of the first cars to have one available as standard equipment according to Super Chevy. These clusters had both a digital readout of the RPMs and speed and linear digital gauges. The tachometer even looks very similar to a dynamometer chart.
4 Aston Martin DB9
There aren’t many companies that can create a car that manages to be fast, luxurious, and chic all in one carefully built package, but Aston Martin has managed to do it throughout its many decades of experience. One of the cars that brought the company back into the public eye was the DB9. This stylish sports car looks like it was practically built with James Bond in mind. Of course, it has a classically British luxury interior. Making the inside look more stylistically similar to classic cars than British sports cars, the gauge cluster has a unique design where the tach and the speedometer have a mirrored appearance of one another, resulting in the tachometer spinning in a counterclockwise direction, and both dials starting in a downward-facing position. It may be a little difficult to use, but this gauge cluster is undeniably cool-looking.
3 Toyota Supra Mk. III
Japanese cars have almost always been associated with technological advancements. The Toyota Supra has become one of the most iconic modern Japanese performance cars ever made. These cars were surprisingly quick, with the Mark IV generation being the most popular model due to its incredible motors and smooth styling. However, the Mark III model offered one of the most complex digital dashes of the ‘80s. This dash had a flat, wide tachometer with a digital speedometer beneath it, years before the S2000 would use a similar setup. Surrounding this centerpiece were several vertical gauges, including one that measured boost. Perhaps the most unique inclusion on this dashboard was a depiction of the car and its suspension that displayed the status of the car’s active suspension system.
2 Citroen CX
Citroen has a history of creating strange cars. The CX was no exception, being a bizarrely proportioned sedan that was named after the French symbol for drag coefficient. Like many other classic Citroens, the CX featured hydraulic suspension and a number of other unique features that were either futuristic and useful or unusual and difficult to use. One particularly unique option was the appropriately named ‘spaceship’ dashboard. Behind the single-spoke steering wheel are a speedometer and a tachometer that are rotating drums that spin behind fixed needles, similar to the Toronado’s speedometer. Besides the strange gauges themselves, the backgrounds of these gauges are yellow with black text on top. Unlike other cars, the CX chose to have a line of warning lights lined up above the dials, completely out in the open.
1 Ferrari GTC4Lusso
While Ferrari builds some incredible supercars, there are a few strange models that have been created throughout the company’s history. The GTC4Lusso is the brand’s latest quirky model, as it's a two-door, V12 wagon. This 200 MPH shooting brake is an incredibly unique offering, and it has a similarly special interior. Its gauge cluster consists of a large tachometer in clear view of the driver, with two screens on each side that can display various pieces of information. While that’s not particularly strange these days, the Lusso has a readout specifically for the front passenger. This slim screen can display the car’s tachometer, speed, or G-force to the passenger. If there was a car that didn’t need more ways to show off its capabilities, it would be a Ferrari.
Sources: Super Chevy, Citroenet, IBTimes, Wikipedia
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