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Hooniverse Asks- What’s The Most Awesome Steering Wheel?

Robert Emslie December 13, 2012 Hooniverse Asks

Between the seats and the steering wheel, you have a lot of tactile interaction with your car or truck. Your ass gets all the contact with the seat and no one’s interested in what THAT part of your body has to say, but your hands on the other. . . something, well they’re intended to give your feedback through their touch, and that’s why today we want to talk wheels.

The earliest cars didn’t even have steering wheels, offering instead a tiller to effect some vague form of directional guidance. The first production car to sport a steering wheel is generally thought to be the 1898 Panhard et Levassor 4HP.  So impressed with the marque was Charles Rolls that he began his automotive career by importing a 6HP Panhard, introducing the steering wheel to Great Britain and establishing a career path for a future Jeremy Clarkson.

Today there’s not a current mass-produced car sold that doesn’t have a steering wheel of some fashion situated in front of the driver’s seat. While wheels of the past have been simple affairs, steel sprung and perhaps rope or leather bound, they didn’t show evidence of the importance imbued in the primary tactile interfaces of today. Some of our steering wheels now have hand-molded humps, or squared-off bottoms, and most have more buttons than were possessed by an entire production run of those 19th century Panhards. Seeing the importance steering wheels possess, which one do you think is the most awesome?

Image: [karakulake]

Currently there are "110 comments" on this Article:

  1. IronBallsMcG says:

    I didn't know that Georgia O'Keeffe did automotive interior design.

  2. Vavon says:

    The steering wheel of the Subaru XT… Just look at it…
    <img src="http://www.blenheimgang.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/101002-Subaru_XT-2.jpg&quot; width=600>

  3. $kaycog says:

    "Wrist-Twist" steering.[youtube PWWYkxQCFfQ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWWYkxQCFfQ youtube]

    • Alff says:

      Well that was disappointing…. (looks at screen again) … Ahh, Ford "promo" film. I guess that makes sense, then. Carry on.

      • $kaycog says:

        What's that saying about everyone loves a little something or other but nobody loves a smart something or other? You know………like your old avatar.

  4. Kogashiwa says:

    I have to support the Sparco Monza. Had one in my old RX-7 and it is perfect. Does everything a steering wheel needs to, with great feel, and has the little yellow band dab'o'oppo-meter. And does nothing that a steering wheel has no business doing.

    <img src="http://cdn2.mkimg.carview.co.jp/minkara/parts/000/004/770/485/4770485/p1.jpg?ct=ff94f897bfd5&quot; width="600">

  5. LTDScott says:

    Buttongasm! It's definitely not the coolest, but it sticks out in my head as one of the most ridiculous from the 1980s.

    <img src="http://autocognito.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/6000ste2.jpg"&gt;

  6. Vavon says:

    The Citroën C4 and Citroën C5 also have a realy cool steering wheel…
    The middle bit never moves, the spokes move behind the centre part…
    So the airbag and the buttons are always in the same position.
    <img src="http://actualite.autopromo.com/IMG/jpg/citroen_c4_picasso_volant.jpg&quot; width=600>
    [youtube ZfpvnpjEd2s http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfpvnpjEd2s youtube]

  7. TDI_FTW says:

    Not the coolest, but a cool idea anyway. Only the steering rim rotates, the center of the steering wheel is fixed. Never get mixed up with wheel mounted volume buttons :-) From a Citroen C4 Picasso.
    <img src="http://www.citroen.ie/Resources/Content/IE/CT/01_vehicules/01_particuliers/14_grand_c4_picasso/medias_rubriques/03_poste_de_conduite/02_ergonomie/grandc4_poste_conduite_ergonomie_zoom_v2.jpg&quot; width="600">

    Source: Citroen

  8. Alff says:

    Even if you dislike the car it's attached to, you have to admit that's a nice wheel…

    <img src="http://www.fivestarwebdesign.com/ebay/alfa-romeo-12-7-6-12/A1.JPG"width=500&gt;

  9. scroggzilla says:

    I'm partial to old school, wood-rimmed Nardi or Moto-Lita wheels.

    <img src="http://images02.olx.com.ph/ui/3/76/12/61267412_1.jpg"&gt;

  10. DemonXanth says:

    <img src="http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/3/2177/781/30440390004_large.jpg&quot; width=400>
    I'm still partial to this, even though it's been a while since I've had a car it would really fit on.

  11. jtk2 says:

    Yes! I had one of these on my 72 Beetle.

  12. JayP2112 says:

    Prototipo:
    <img src="http://thechicaneblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Momo+prototipo+silver+pelican1270862683.jpg&quot; >

    I wanted one to replace the worn leather wheel in my 944 but the real ones were going for $300.
    Discovered a knockoff version on ebay only it had 5 mounting bolts and a GRANT horn button. Found the 6 to 5 adapter and a Porsche crest horn button. Looked great- except it was only about 12" diameter.
    The lack of leverage gave me a real workout on track days.

    Looked sweet though!!!

  13. Tanshanomi says:

    <img src="http://www.woodworkingonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/tomfromstlouiswoodnet1.jpg"&gt;
    This, gentlemen, is the single greatest steering wheel in automotive history. Nothing can beat the Austin-Healey banjo-spoke wheel, except maybe a burlwood one. Combining the two would be like a perfect storm of awesomeness. Well, some guy from St. Louis did just that. Not only has this one has been taken up to eleven with a handcrafted wood rim, even greater is that it was made by a woodworker as an appreciation gift for his Healey-owning friend, so there's even a very touching human interest story behind it.

    LINK: woodworkingonline.com
    Unfortunately, the original forum thread the article cites is long gone.

    • Bret says:

      That is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. My Healey's wheel is just like that, except all the pretty wood is cracked bakelite covered in a crusty old laced on vinyl wrapping.

      Being a Mark 1, my car's plain and purposeful dash isn't as handsome as in that car. A wheel like this would look out of place. Yes, that is what I will tell myself.

  14. K5ING says:

    Character Ed Straker's car from the British TV show U.F.O. has a deeper steering wheel than my '61 Olds Super 88!

    <img src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-VEJNSGVGHuQ/UGn8SsyoXhI/AAAAAAAAC5U/62sBTt_JUWg/s1600/UFO_Question_of_Priorities_054.jpg&quot; width="600">

  15. I always liked the Mustang wheel. Wood with exposed rivets.

    <img src="http://images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium-large/1-1966-ford-mustang-cobra-steering-wheel-jill-reger.jpg&quot; width="500">

    20 years later, I thought this was rather restrained yet sporty.

    <img src="http://static.ddmcdn.com/gif/1982-1983-1984-1985-1986-ford-mustang-21.jpg&quot; width="500">

  16. POLAЯ says:

    I'll beat $kaycog with the one-liner, "I'm a big fan of this one…"

    <img src="http://forums.pelicanparts.com/uploads15/DSCN10801249236084.jpg"&gt;

  17. Tanshanomi says:

    <img src="http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Jaguar-1974-XJ6-black-OEM-steering-wheel-with-horn-pad-Jaguar-GOLD-emblem-/00/s/MTIwMFgxNjAw/$%28KGrHqF,!rkE88hC9wj%29BPSzjMEU1w~~18_16.JPG">
    Not really so much "awesome" as simply "memorable," I've always thought there was something slightly special about the '70s Jag XJ wheel. But only slightly, and sort of vaguely. The garofalo is strong with this one.

  18. POLAЯ says:

    GM's slidey steering wheel looked like a blinged headrest out of a Funk Master Flex vehicle, but the "here you take the wheel then b*tch!" function was cool

    <img src="http://static.ddmcdn.com/gif/hy-wire-7.jpg"&gt;

  19. Van_Sarockin says:

    Peasants.

    <img src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_6NbRkTM7oUc/TMyW3EbTqLI/AAAAAAAABoc/bT4HLGhfh18/s400/Bentley+dash,+wheel+copy.jpg&quot; width="600">
    This is what you need to win at LeMans.

    Also acceptable – that Chrysler Jim posted a few months back.

  20. SSurfer321 says:

    So user can drive with handcuffs on

    <img src="http://memimage.cardomain.net/member_images/10/web/322000-322999/322947_32_full.jpg"&gt;
    IMG stolen from random CarDomain User

  21. JayP2112 says:

    I'm about to peg out on the nerd gauge:
    Logitech G27
    <img src="http://www.everythingusb.com/images/list/logitech_g27_gaming_wheel_news.jpg&quot; >

    Real leather, metal center and petals.
    I'd used up the old Logitech GT4 wheel on GT4 and 5. Lord knows how many mile I'd put in that thing since 2005.
    The G27 makes the GT4 feel like you're driving with an old Atari Pong paddle.

  22. Andrew says:

    Everything about the Z8 is just so right, but the wheel really grabs your attention the first time you drive one:

    <img src="http://images.gtcarlot.com/pictures/49681506.jpg"&gt;

  23. TurboBrick says:

    Nardi…Grant.. okay, all the cool ones are taken, so here's something different then.. I really liked the early top-spec Renault 25 wheel for long trips. The bar went across so that you could just rest your hands on it while keeping them at 4 and 8 position. The front side buttons are for the cruise control. The radio remote was between the wheel and the wiper stalk so you could get to it with your fingertips.

    The wheel is turned in the picture, it's not THAT weird.

    <img src="http://www.cars-directory.net/pics/renault/25/1989/renault_25_2026182_2_orig.jpg"&gt;

  24. salguod says:

    Someone mentioned Olds above so I looked it up. Here's a '59 with a 'Safety Vee' steering wheel:

    <img src="http://www.kingoftheroad.net/59olds/album/image/59Olds243.jpg"&gt;

    Can't beleive no one mentioned any of Chrysler's square wheels. Here's a '63 Chrysler 300. Can you imagine driving with this staring back at you?

    <img src="http://www.autogeekonline.net/gallery/data/715/squaresteeringwheel2.jpg&quot; width=600>

    Lastly, I had to get in a pic of a Squarebird wheel. Not my car, though, and pretty plain compared to the above.

    <img src="http://rickdebruhl.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/2012-01-15_15-03-11_382.jpg&quot; width="600/">

  25. Slow_Joe_Crow says:

    Not so much a steering wheel as a steering system, the Variopilot LHD-RHD conversion system used on the Unimog U300-500.
    <img src="http://www2.mercedes-benz.co.uk/content/media_library/unitedkingdom/mpc_unitedkingdom/Unimog/models/u300-u500/variopilot.object-Single-MEDIA.tmp/variopilot-715×230.jpg"&gt;

  26. mdharrell says:

    GM's brief experiment with spinner steering provides an elegant alternative to suicide knobs:

    <img src="http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7161/6424476051_365a4c3a0d.jpg&quot; width="350">

  27. Rust-MyEnemy says:

    <img src="http://static.ddmcdn.com/gif/1985-buick-wildcat-concept-car-11.jpg&quot; width="400/">

    Buick Wildcat concept car.

    Because fuck airbags.

  28. Devin says:

    <img src="http://img110.exs.cx/img110/6737/217464_10_full.jpg"&gt;
    I always liked this Buick wheel.

    I'm trying to remember a one or two spoke wheel where the spokes went off at an angle and connected to the right side of the wheel. I don't remember what it belonged to but it was excellent.

    • zaddikim says:

      >remember a one or two spoke wheel where the spokes went off at an angle and connected to the right side

      Too tired after work, but a few Subaru models had those, as well as one or more Renault models.

    • James says:

      I think a late 80s lesaber t-type

  29. alain says:

    the best wheel is the one that i use every day! not perfect, but because its MINE!
    old worn out momo competition wheel on my e28
    <img src="http://i50.tinypic.com/osd5c3.jpg"&gt;
    though i have always liked the wood nardi's…

  30. Tanshanomi says:

    Steering wheels need to be circular if you're going to deviate more than 1/2 turn from center.

    • david42 says:

      I just learned about rim-blow wheels a couple weeks ago! Seems like a great idea. I'd take one of those over a Pontiac piano-wheel any day.

      • OA5599 says:

        My dad had a car with the bottom one, but he sold that long before I was old enough to drive. I do have experience with one similar to the middle one, though. One-fingering the wheel going around corners resulted in a 40% probability of an accidental horn honk.

        Still, it was nice to be able to keep both hands on the wheel and blow the horn when some slowpoke doesn't notice the light turned green, and have him think it was the guy in the car behind you.

    • Vairship says:

      I'm not so sure I want to touch anything called rim blow, but that may be just me.

  31. Maymar says:

    I'm going to be that asshole.
    <img src="http://images.thecarconnection.com/lrg/2009-chevrolet-cobalt-4-door-sedan-ls-steering-wheel_100250083_l.jpg&quot; width=500 /img>

    I just like that GM used the steering wheel out of a Corvette (which can cost upwards of $100k, and is monumentally quick) to steer one of the most mundane, rentalriffic cars of recent memory (forced induction models excepted)
    <img src="http://www.lacar.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/1-Corvette-427-Convertible-interior.jpg&quot; width=500 /img>

    It's nothing special, but it's effective.

  32. Marto says:

    As always, lobbing in from Australia. The boomerang wheels of the 70s Holdens.

    <img src="http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3550/3791170299_19f5782b6f_z.jpg&quot; width="600">

    And now, as I lobbed in, I seem to be lobbing out… damn boomerangs.

  33. MrHowser says:

    This one is from a '27 Ford. My uncle found it at a garage sale for a dollar, completely refurbished it, and gave it to me for my 16th birthday. Someday, I hope to have a car awesome enough to steer with it.

    <img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-dhgwQttpgLU/UMqGauBuJ1I/AAAAAAAAC9k/jFlm63eITHU/s640/IMG_20121213_184259.jpg"width=500&gt;

  34. marmer01 says:

    This Pac-Man-esque wheel on my former '86 Civic Wagon seemed a little weird even by 80's Japanese econobox standards. Later Civics had normal-er wheels. Aftermarket leather wrap is my own doing. I got a little tired by the time it was done. ;-)

    <img src="http://i142.photobucket.com/albums/r108/marmer01/Car%20pix/Phoebe%20pix/P1300007.jpg"width="600"&gt;

  35. Sjalabais says:

    Ugly, but you'd put your face to that:

    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2399/1908343224_bdb27da2a7.jpg"&gt;

  36. jjd241 says:

    The best steering wheels is the one you have with you…

    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/dUQF2.jpg&quot; alt="" title="Hosted by imgur.com" />

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