The steering wheel has always been our guide on the road, and responsible for conveying a sense of freedom and control when we drive. Its form and function have evolved over history, going from a simple ring we had to turn while wearing gloves for better grip and to prevent blisters, to being a major ally that now parks for us and enables us to control driving speed, music selection or the telephone without ever taking our eyes off the road. We go over how steering wheels have changed over 70 years of history by looking at SEAT models:
The steering wheel was a large, rigid ring made of synthetic resin that made driving a strength training exercise. Luxury models like the SEAT 1400 feature steering wheel mounted details such as the main beam flash switch. Even the gear lever was located on the steering column.
The models purchased by the middle class, such as the SEAT 600, featured a steering Wheel that was reduced to its bare bones. It was an element used only to turn the wheels, only featured a horn to alert other drivers and pedestrians of our presence, as vehicles were still an uncommon sight.
The SEAT 850 Spider was launched in the 70s, and sporty steering wheels became a glamorous statement piece. In those years they were beginning to use metal on the spokes and the classic round holes were added. Its wood trim gave it a touch of luxury.
Models such as the SEAT 124 became a success in the late 70s. The horn was no longer in the middle, but at the side next to the two horizontal spokes, and was activated with the thumb.
The 80s and 90s:
With the arrival of power steering, the diameter of the steering wheel got smaller. On the early versions of the SEAT Ibiza, this part is made of a material similar to rubber, making it more ergonomic. The following generation in the 90s was then equipped with an airbag, and on the third one, the driver could select radio channels and control the volume from the steering wheel.
Parking and lane control assistants and all information at hand. These are some of the features available now to drivers. Models such as the SEAT Ateca, enable us to control the interior temperature, select music, choose a route, select the driving speed or range and even make a telephone call from the steering wheel.