Hooniverse Asks: What now for the rev-counter?


I drove my wife’s 306 this weekend, its instrument cluster is poorly photographed above and houses a speedo marked to a wildly ambitious 120 mph, and the biggest analogue clock you ever saw. Despite the lack of a tachometer, I found myself driving it the exact same way as either of my rev-counter equipped cars. To be honest, I never understood why – in European cars at least – a rev-counter was once seen as a luxury item. You had to choose something other than the entry-level model to earn one. On many North American cars in the ’90s and beyond, a tacho often came as part of a ‘Gage Pack’, that might be ordered for its perceived ‘sportiness’.
Unless you’re driving to the extreme, a tacho is nice, but not essential to have – unless you’re in some weird-sounding car where it’s hard to judge revs by ear. I suspect that, with automatic gearboxes left in full auto for most of the time, its use as an essential driving tool is becoming less and less relevant. And now, with user configurable dashboard displays, I suspect many drivers might prefer their instrument panel real-estate to be occupied by something else. Finally, as hybrid and full-electric cars grow ever more dominant, the rev-counter could become totally redundant, with fewer folk shedding tears than you might think.
So, if it has to go, what new instrument ought we see appearing in its place?
[Image: By Me.]

About RoadworkUK

RoadworkUK is the online persona of Gianni Hirsch, a tall, awkward gentleman with a home office full of gently decomposing paper and a garage full of worthless scrap metal. He lives in the village of Moistly, which is a safe distance from London and is surrounded by enough water and scenery to be interesting. In another life, he has designed, sold, worked on and written about cars in exchange for small quantities of money.

32 Comments

  1. New instrument? Can the modern driver handle any tech information? Maybe a Facebook-feed instead?
    Even after 50000+ kms in my Honda, I am still surprised at how far the VTEC engine can be revved. With my brain and spine still atuned to tractor like Volvo engines, I feel like an upshift is in order at 4500-5000 rpm, but the Honda will do 1000 additional rounds and not complain.

  2. Most gauges, including the speedo, will be rendered irrelevant by autonomy. The most significant informational need will be ETA.

  3. You know, the only time I’ve ever really paid attention to a tach is the aftermarket (though period correct) Stewart-Warner tach I mounted on the steering column of the GTX. I consider it fragile enough that I do pay attention and keep the revs below 5500 or so. Everything else I just drive by “feel” – probably not a real smart idea, but hey, I’m not a smart guy.

  4. All my cars in the last 20 years have had tachs…didn’t really need. I’m guessing most modern cars have rev limiters, anyway. I’ve never gotten close to the rev limit even on a freeway on ramp.

    1. They tend to be ‘soft’ ones now, nothing dramatic, just a refusal to rev any higher.

  5. Modern race cars just use colored leds. Drag racers just have a big “shift now” light.

  6. Of course we still need rev-counters. How else can we know what speed we’re going when the speedo-cable breaks?

    1. That’s always been somewhere between “fast enough” and “license revoked”, so at least when the cable breaks, I’ve got significant information.
      Many years ago, I got stopped for speeding on Interstate 89 south of Burlington, Vermont. The only functioning instrument on the dash of the very rusty, rode-hard/put-away-wet ’76 Volvo in question was the temp gauge. When the very polite state trooper asked me if I knew how fast I was going, I answered honestly that I had no idea, as I could only tell that my coolant was in the normal range – no speedo, no odometer, no tach, no fuel gauge. He laughed and told me to pace him until he exited so I’d have an idea of what a tick below 65 mph felt like (55 mph was the limit at the time, but the Vermont State Police had an unwritten but widely recognized policy of not stopping anyone for less than 10 over). Never did tell me how fast I was going when he clocked me.

      1. How else? Are you suggesting some sort of witchcraft involving counting electronic pulses?

    1. That’s an awesome gauge I never knew existed.
      Unfortunately, the ladies and gents at the front of our slow moving traffic are the kind of people that turned on their fog lights on a dizzy night in 2002 and never really managed to turn it off again. More information will just pass through their overloaded minds, I guess.*
      * I know that is harsh and unpleasant, but what I see in traffic…there are people that actually brake when they enter/leave a tunnel (probably because of bad eyesight), or when a truck comes towards them in the opposing lane, or when the road is not 100% straight etc.

    2. The French/German/Austrian Bugatti products sport a direct HP meter. Image search for “horsepower gauge Bugatti” will produce many shaky images – you don’t generate 1kHP without load…

  7. I’ve always been more prone to enjoying a taco than a tacho, unless I’m on two wheels.

  8. …and the biggest analogue clock you ever saw.
    The 1977-1985 Buick B-body platform would like to have a word with you…
    http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5209/5300262234_274fa8123d_z.jpg
    That’s it, over on the right side. It’s the size of a teacup saucer. Oh, and the two saucers in front of the driver…left one is a speedo, right one is a fuel gauge. Yes, that’s all.
    Still, those cars were comfy mile-munchers.

  9. Wattage meter. I like the power reserve thing too, could be combined.
    Tangential: what really bothers me about the new Mazda 3 that I may well still buy, is, the top model has a big tach front and centre, fantastic, feels like a proper sporting machine. The model down though has a tiny, and I mean really tiny, tach beside the centre gauge, like an afterthought. I’m getting a manual either way so why the difference? Can’t think cost changes? But there’s a big price gap which means I’ll probably go for the midrange (GS in Canada).

  10. Tachometers? In a street car they’re next to useless. My 6 cyl Subaru Liberty (Legacy) has one, but I don’t need it, even though it tells me the engine will spin to 7000 RPM. I don’t have one in my HiLux and don’t miss it. I’d rather have a Vacuum Gauge (Econo Gauge, Power Reserve Gauge, whatever), to be honest. Far more useful – even for non-economical driving. The same goes for a Temp Gauge. It doesn’t tell you any useful info anyway. Blue light for under-temp, no light for operating temp, red for over-temp, works for me. If I want more accurate info, I’ll plug a scan tool into the OBDII socket and get the active data from the PCM.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here