In our humble opinion, these are some of the coolest dashboards ever to grace a car. Be warned: this gallery contains plenty of Citroen and Italian car love.
In August 1981, Autocar described the fascia in the Lancia Trevi as “something which could have appeared in the ‘ideas’ section of a mid-1960s Continental motor show.” This wasn’t a compliment, as the same article described it as “confusing” for the driver and “plain boring” for the passenger. Today, Bellini’s creation looks plain cool, although we might not say that if we were forced to use it.
To paraphrase Carly Simon, when it comes to dashboards, nobody does it better than Citroen. Or at least, nobody did, because Citroen’s dashboards aren’t what they used to be. Look at the genius and majesty of this Citroen GSA, complete with PRN (‘Rain, Route, Night’ in French) satellites and ‘cyclops’ eye speedometer. Note the single-spoke steering wheel, an idea dating back to the DS of 1955.
From its fuel filler cap to the curvy headlight covers, the Fiat Coupe was one of the most striking cars of the 1990s. But the dare-to-be-different styling wasn’t reserved for the outside, because the cabin was dominated by the body-coloured strip running the entire length of the dashboard. Perfection.
The Subaru XT was blessed with styling that still manages to look futuristic, more than three decades after launch. But the cabin was equally otherworldly, complete with bizzare steering wheel design, fist-like telescopic controls and a digital display that was straight out of an arcade game.
While the dashboard isn’t quite as beautiful as the exterior, there’s a lot to be said for the simplicity and elegance of the layout. Contemporary reviewers were critical of the “gimmicky dials” and the fact that the gauges were difficult to read. Rather this than a touchscreen, eh?
You can almost hear the creaking plastics from here, while the electrics would be enough to send a sparky reaching for the Nurofen, but just look at the majesty of the Renault 25 Baccara. It’s a cockpit designed for wafting through the French countryside, half-smoked Gauloise perched on the edge of the huge ashtray.
Marvel at the view presented to the individual fortunate enough to be driving a TVR Cerbera. Rather brilliantly, TVR grouped all of the instruments above and below the steering wheel, and included some primary controls on the inside of the rim. This layout could teach a few supercars a lesson in how to be driver-focused.
There’s a common theme threading through this gallery: most of the star cars are from the past. But there’s always an exception to the rule. Witness the class and sophistication of the BMW i3 interior, which features natural fibre-based raw materials in the instrument panel and door trim surfaces.
The dashboard in the Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT): enough said.
In the 1980s, the world’s car manufacturers went into digital overdrive, with analog dials and instruments suddenly feeling very last decade. This example from the Toyota Cressida isn’t the most outlandish, but it’s certainly reflective of the era. That rev counter is begging to be taken to the redline.
Aston Martin Lagonda
It featured electronics so complex, even the Aston Martin mechanics and engineers were unable to understand it. This dashboard wouldn’t look out of place in Gordon Gekko’s office, and you’d need his deep pockets to pay for the almost inevitable rewiring project.
Unveiled in 1998, the Audi TT looked almost identical to the TT Design Study of three years earlier and was blessed with its own unique dashboard and instruments. Its beauty lies in its simplicity, from use of aluminium accents to the exquisitely detailed buttons below the circular vents.
Look at this: a three-seater with a centrally-positioned steering wheel, a full 12 years ahead of the McLaren F1. In the Citroen Karin of 1980, all of the controls can be found at the driver’s fingertips, while the dashboard is flanked by two digital displays.
Alfa Romeo 159
Sure, the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class might have been the obvious choices for the high-flying exec with a Wild Bean Cafe loyalty card, but only the Alfa Romeo 159 could offer a cabin as charismatic as this. It also looked devastatingly beautiful on the outside.
If the sight of the McLaren badge wasn’t enough, the dashboard of the MP4-12C is a feast for the eyes. Everything is focused on the driver, from the central rev counter to the heater controls on the left. Proof that supercar manufacturers do get it right.
It was only a matter of time before the Maserati Boomerang concept loomed into view. The one-off concept was the work of Giorgetto Giugiaro – who else – and was first shown at the 1971 Turin Motor Show. It sold at auction in 2015 for nearly £3 million.
Range Rover Classic
There’s something reassuringly simple about the dashboard in the Range Rover Classic, although this later model lacks the purity of the original.
Fiat Uno Turbo
The Fiat Uno Turbo features no fewer than seven dials, providing information on speed, turbocharger boost, revs, fuel, coolant, oil pressure and temperature. It’s such a shame that so few Uno Turbos are left, because this is one of the best displays of all the 80s hot hatches.
It’s Citroen again, this time in the shape of the SM, complete with oval-shaped dials, hooded panel and another single-spoke steering wheel.