The oddest car interiors ever made

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Slide 1 of 23: For many decades, carmakers have experimented with unexpected ways to leverage technology in order to make cars safer and more comfortable.Some of the innovations they have come up with remained at the concept stage, for better or worse, but others beat the odds and ultimately trickled down to production cars. Join us for a look at some of the most outlandish concept car interiors we’ve ever seen:

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  • Slide 2 of 23: Viewed from the outside, the Maserati Boomerang unveiled in 1971 isn’t strikingly unusual; wedge-shaped cars were trending during the early 1970s. What sets it apart from its peers is found inside. Positioned nearly vertically, the steering wheel rotates around an instrument cluster with seven gauges, various switches and an array of warning lights. The concept is fully functional, meaning people drove it and realized this wasn’t the most ergonomic way to present information.Slide 3 of 23: Bertone designer Marcello Gandini drew the Lancia Sibilo concept in 1978 as he explored ways to replace the Stratos. He began by taking a Stratos platform and extending it by about 4in to fit a futuristic, sculpture-like body over it. The rally-friendly cockpit gave way to a clean, uncluttered design highlighted by a one-piece multi-function steering wheel.The rim was shaped to fit perfectly in the driver’s palm and the gauges were embedded into the dashboard rather than grouped in a standalone instrument cluster.

  • Slide 5 of 23: Nissan created the ComCom concept in 1985 for delivery drivers. Its boxy, function-over-form body hid an interior that doubled as a mobile office. The driver had easy access to a dashboard-mounted phone, a floppy disk drive, a primitive GPS displayed on a screen and a receipt printer.Other Japanese automakers toyed around with the idea of making an office on wheels, including Mazda, but none dared turning the concept into a production model. Costs would have been high, demand would have been low and the threat of bad publicity spiraling out of control after a multi-tasker inevitably stuffed the car into a parked car while removing a floppy disk loomed large.

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  • Slide 6 of 23: Oldsmobile is not remembered as the most technologically-advanced brand in America yet the 1986 Incas concept placed it on the front lines of innovation. Created by ItalDesign, the mid-engined four-door wedded comfort and tech by offering sofa-like seats and a fighter jet-inspired command center.Italdesign replaced the steering wheel with a pair of vertical handles surrounded by various buttons. It explained that, in the 1980s, research found motorists who grew up playing video games preferred this configuration. Information about the car and its surroundings was displayed on a wide screen positioned on the dashboard.Oldsmobile wasn’t interested in turning ItalDesign’s Incas into a production model. In 2020, the video game generation still steers a car with a wheel but wide screens are slowly beginning to appear as automakers run out of real wagon to display information on. Honda’s electric E and the production version of the BMW iNext will both use this layout.

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  • Slide 7 of 23: Even an experienced pilot would have felt intimidated after slipping behind the wheel of the 1986 Volkswagen Orbit concept. Its dashboard was dominated by a wide panel that housed a selection of gauges, switches and screens, all of them digital. This layout replaced every button, knob and dial normally found on the dashboard except three that Volkswagen left in the middle of the steering wheel.The Volkswagen Orbit didn’t reach production and the firm quickly forgot about the concept’s tech-intensive dashboard. However, in 2019, Volkswagen is again moving towards ever-wider screens.Slide 8 of 23: The Chevrolet Blazer XT-1 concept made in 1987 showcased many things, including an innovative four-wheel steering system, but simplicity in design wasn’t one of them. The U-shaped steering wheel was mounted around a fixed pod dotted with buttons and the driver sat in front of a television-sized screen which replaced the instrument cluster.Two additional pods grouped more buttons on either side of the steering wheel, Citroën-style. All told, nearly 100 buttons were scattered across the concept’s cabin.Slide 9 of 23: In the late 1980s, Pontiac wanted to position itself as the market leader in automotive technology. It demonstrated how it viewed the cabin of the 21st century by presenting the Pursuit concept in 1987. The driver sat in front of a rectangular steering module peppered with buttons and switches. Instead of turning the wheels via a column, the module sent electronic signals to battery-powered gears that individually turned the front wheels.  The Pursuit never received the green light for production; it was far too advanced for that. However, Pontiac sold some cars – including the 1988 Bonneville – with a cluster of chunky buttons right in the middle of the steering wheel. And, oddly, the Pursuit’s exterior design influenced the ill-fated General Motors EV1 made between 1996 and 1999.Pontiac didn’t live long enough to release a car with steer-by-wire technology. In 2014, the Infiniti Q50 became the first mass-produced car to offer the feature.Discover an elevated SUV experience with MaseratiGet 10% Off MSRP

Slide 7 of 23: Even an experienced pilot would have felt intimidated after slipping behind the wheel of the 1986 Volkswagen Orbit concept. Its dashboard was dominated by a wide panel that housed a selection of gauges, switches and screens, all of them digital. This layout replaced every button, knob and dial normally found on the dashboard except three that Volkswagen left in the middle of the steering wheel.The Volkswagen Orbit didn’t reach production and the firm quickly forgot about the concept’s tech-intensive dashboard. However, in 2019, Volkswagen is again moving towards ever-wider screens.

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7/23 SLIDES © Volkswagen

Volkswagen Orbit concept (1986)

Even an experienced pilot would have felt intimidated after slipping behind the wheel of the 1986 Volkswagen Orbit concept. Its dashboard was dominated by a wide panel that housed a selection of gauges, switches and screens, all of them digital. This layout replaced every button, knob and dial normally found on the dashboard except three that Volkswagen left in the middle of the steering wheel.

The Volkswagen Orbit didn’t reach production and the firm quickly forgot about the concept’s tech-intensive dashboard. However, in 2019, Volkswagen is again moving towards ever-wider screens.

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