1967 Chevrolet Corvette dashboard Mecum

2023 marks 70 years since the first Corvette rolled off the line in Flint, Michigan. To complement our extensive coverage of America’s sports car, from never-realized prototypes to Barbie partnerships to the future of Corvette Racing, we dug up this 2018 story focusing on interiors and starring the C2 (shown above). Enjoy! — Ed. 

When it comes to American performance cars of the 1960s, we tend to focus on style and quarter-mile times. Considering that cars were made to be driven, it is somewhat curious that ergonomics took so long to catch on with designers. Is it any wonder the aftermarket was so successful with accessories like tachometers?

Yet not all performance cars were designed with sweeping needle speedometers and poorly placed tachometers. All it took was one quick glance and vital statistics were easily registered without having to take your eyes off the road.

Who got it right? Here’s a subjective list:

1963–67 Chevrolet Corvette

Chevrolet’s redesigned Corvette was special for several reasons: Split-window style, four-wheel independent suspension, and great weight distribution, among other things. The 1963 Corvette also had “new conveniences [that] blend Sunday-driving ease with sports car function,” thanks to its functional instrument grouping: speedometer, tachometer, ammeter, oil pressure, and fuel and temperature gauges were grouped in a “single smart-looking cluster,” all within easy eyeshot. There were few changes through 1967, and for good reason—it followed a standard that was appropriate for a sports car and set one that should have been emulated by Detroit but rarely was.

1963–64 Studebaker Avanti

1963 Studebaker Avanti Mecum

The Avanti was a make-or-break model for Studebaker, which at the time was America’s oldest automotive manufacturer. With fiberglass construction and exotic, Euro-inspired style, this 2+2 from South Bend, Indiana, was unique in so many ways. The interior kept the unique which included “aircraft throttle-like controls” and functional instrumentation that included 160-mph speedometer, tachometer, ammeter, oil pressure, water temperature, manifold pressure, gas gauge, and clock. All this was illuminated by red backlighting that seems to have picked up in popularity in recent years.

1966–67 Dodge Charger

1966 Dodge Charger Mecum

The 1966 Charger’s “four easy-to-read hooded circles” (150-mph speedometer, 6000-rpm tachometer, alternator, water temperature, oil pressure, and fuel) stood in contrast to the regular Coronet dashboard, which was a generic horizontal needle design with an optional tach only available on the console for the Coronet 500 trim level. While the Charger’s chrome bezels could be prone to glare, the dials themselves were large, legible, and illuminated by nifty electroluminescent lighting. Chrysler had previously used electroluminescence in 1960–62 which, at night, provided a gray-green glow with the added effect of depth as if it was rendered in 3D—something that is mimicked by today’s electronic dashboards.

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