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    Thread: For Fun: What was the first car to have steering wheel audio controls?

    1. Member kindofblue59's Avatar
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      02-25-2012 11:59 AM #1
      Per title--I love having buttons on my steering wheel to control the volume and radio presets. I was racking my brain and I'm not sure when it first started; I figured some TCL expert would know.



      First time I can remember is 80s Oldsmobiles, with their wonky Pong-level graphic displays--but my lack of years limits my experience.

      And for the sake of the game I mean mounted on the steering wheel, not within easy reach of the dash, and it has to control at least volume; cruise control does not count.

    2. Geriatric Member BRealistic's Avatar
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      02-25-2012 12:16 PM #2
      I don't remember that Olds interior.

      But that may have been one of the first modern ones.

      I think steering wheel mounted controls were a design reaction to steering wheel airbags.
      Before the steering wheel airbag, the steering wheel could be a spindly thing with a tiny horn- allowing better views of the stalks and buttons and gauges behind it.
      The idea of adding extra bulk to the steering wheel was counter-intuitive to the thinking back then.
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    3. 02-25-2012 12:22 PM #3
      My bet would be S-class or 7-series, that's where pretty much all the fancy tech starts out...

    4. Member adrew's Avatar
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      02-25-2012 12:27 PM #4
      Wiki says it was the 1986 Pontiac 6000 STE:
      Quote Originally Posted by Wiki
      For 1986, a revised front facsia with composite headlamps, anti-lock brakes, a revised tachometer, steering wheel mounted audio controls (the first of their kind) and a new 4-speed automatic transmission became available
      Improving the signal-to-noise ratio

    5. Member adrew's Avatar
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      02-25-2012 12:32 PM #5
      Quote Originally Posted by BRealistic View Post
      I don't remember that Olds interior.
      Looks like that particular one is from a Toronado Trofeo project with an interior swap, a supercharged 3800 and a 5-speed conversion:

      http://www.theautoshop.net/TrofeoInterior.htm
      Improving the signal-to-noise ratio

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      02-25-2012 12:47 PM #6
      Quote Originally Posted by Benkennedy11 View Post
      My bet would be S-class or 7-series, that's where pretty much all the fancy tech starts out...
      Definitely came first in an American car.

      The German car makers were late to the game with steering wheel buttons, CD-players (usually way too expensive, and trunk mounted - if available), and many other convenience features/gadgets. They did however have free line-in's on some cars in the early 90's... kind of cool seeing a 1990 Jetta has line in, but it was an option on most compact cars several years ago - even now, some make you pay extra.

    7. 02-25-2012 12:58 PM #7
      Quote Originally Posted by adrew View Post
      Wiki says it was the 1986 Pontiac 6000 STE:



      The dark days of GM interiors

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      02-25-2012 01:00 PM #8
      Quote Originally Posted by Nicefeet View Post
      The dark days of GM interiors
      They have all been dark.
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    9. Member kindofblue59's Avatar
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      02-25-2012 01:01 PM #9
      That's hilarious re line-ins--I had no idea they were fitted to Jettas that early.

      I figured the award would go to Americans from the gray-Chiclet era of interior design. I wasn't sure if it would be some insane Guigiaro wedge from the seventies (but I do agree with keeping it to production cars).

      It's true about the luxury Germans and their stinginess mit der elektroniks. You dang near have to wait until this century to get wheel buttons from Mercedes.

      The first car we had that came close was my father's '89 Legend (his was an automatic):


      There were redundant controls within fingertip-distance; they are just visible on the right of the instrument binnacle. I used to mess up the equalizer all the time playing with the little buttons

    10. Geriatric Member BRealistic's Avatar
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      02-25-2012 01:09 PM #10
      Quote Originally Posted by kindofblue59 View Post
      That's hilarious re line-ins--I had no idea they were fitted to Jettas that early.

      I figured the award would go to Americans from the gray-Chiclet era of interior design. I wasn't sure if it would be some insane Guigiaro wedge from the seventies (but I do agree with keeping it to production cars).

      It's true about the luxury Germans and their stinginess mit der elektroniks. You dang near have to wait until this century to get wheel buttons from Mercedes.

      The first car we had that came close was my father's '89 Legend (his was an automatic):


      There were redundant controls within fingertip-distance; they are just visible on the right of the instrument binnacle. I used to mess up the equalizer all the time playing with the little buttons

      You sure those aren't horn buttons?
      Early steering wheel mounted airbags required added horn buttons since they hadn't figured out how how to safely make the airbag also the horn button yet.
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      02-25-2012 01:14 PM #11
      Quote Originally Posted by BRealistic View Post
      You sure those aren't horn buttons?
      Early steering wheel mounted airbags required added horn buttons since they hadn't figured out how how to safely make the airbag also the horn button yet.
      I think he's referring to the little buttons next to the instruments.
      Though they technically aren't on the wheel itself.

    12. Member kindofblue59's Avatar
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      02-25-2012 01:24 PM #12
      Exactly. They're under the hazard and defrost button on the right of the binnacle.

      That's why I said it came close; we didn't get an actual wheel-mounted control until the Odyssey years later, which had the ubiquitous Honda controls:


      The S2000 had a similar arrangement to the Legend (except volume was on the left):

    13. Banned Hurt's Avatar
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      02-25-2012 01:25 PM #13
      The Pontiac Firebird GTA's had them in the 80's..

    14. Member adrew's Avatar
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      02-25-2012 01:34 PM #14
      Quote Originally Posted by kindofblue59 View Post

      That's why I said it came close; we didn't get an actual wheel-mounted control until the Odyssey years later, which had the ubiquitous Honda controls:
      Not sure if you mean Honda overall or your particular ownership, but I believe this was the first Honda...

      '89 Accord SE-i:
      Improving the signal-to-noise ratio

    15. Member ClownCar's Avatar
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      02-25-2012 01:40 PM #15
      Sorry America.

      1984 Nissan 300ZX 50th Anniversary Edition



      Also I'm pretty sure there would be other Japanese vehicles (especially domestic market) that had them prior to 1984.
      Last edited by ClownCar; 02-25-2012 at 01:43 PM.

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      02-25-2012 01:55 PM #16
      My 80's starion/Conquest had steering wheel controls
      Quote Originally Posted by koidragon1980 View Post
      If Jesus is your pilot, then irony is your vehicle.

    17. 02-25-2012 02:22 PM #17
      Quote Originally Posted by adrew View Post
      Wiki says it was the 1986 Pontiac 6000 STE:


      I'm fully aware that this is a bad interior, but why do I like it? am I too much a child of the 80's?

    18. Geriatric Member BRealistic's Avatar
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      02-25-2012 02:30 PM #18
      Quote Originally Posted by ClownCar View Post
      Sorry America.

      1984 Nissan 300ZX 50th Anniversary Edition



      Also I'm pretty sure there would be other Japanese vehicles (especially domestic market) that had them prior to 1984.
      Sorry America?
      I don't know what we have to be sorry about.
      The basic analog radios and stalk cruise buttons were cheap and reliable and also the standard of the time.
      In contrast- the Japanese market loved buttons and gadgets in the 80s and early 90's, and I am not surprised in the least that they had some JDM products with steering wheel controls in the early 80s.
      I wonder how many of any brand that had steering wheel mounted buttons worked without issue for over a decade. Probably very few.
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      02-25-2012 02:41 PM #19
      If the Japanese didn't do it first, i would bet the French did.
      Quote Originally Posted by koidragon1980 View Post
      If Jesus is your pilot, then irony is your vehicle.

    20. Member NWarty's Avatar
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      02-25-2012 02:41 PM #20
      87 Acura legend coupe had em. I remember how much fun that car was, especially since you could ACTUALLY change the radio from the steering wheel
      Last edited by NWarty; 02-25-2012 at 02:44 PM.
      One owner Jetta since May 1st, 1999, 181K miles

    21. Member ClownCar's Avatar
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      02-25-2012 02:44 PM #21
      Quote Originally Posted by BRealistic View Post
      Sorry America?
      I don't know what we have to be sorry about.
      The basic analog radios and stalk cruise buttons were cheap and reliable and also the standard of the time.
      In contrast- the Japanese market loved buttons and gadgets in the 80s and early 90's, and I am not surprised in the least that they had some JDM products with steering wheel controls in the early 80s.
      I wonder how many of any brand that had steering wheel mounted buttons worked without issue for over a decade. Probably very few.
      I was eluding to the statement earlier in the thread that a U.S. car was the first. It wasn't. Nothing more sinister implied.

    22. Member Egz's Avatar
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      02-25-2012 02:46 PM #22
      Quote Originally Posted by adrew View Post

      '89 Accord SE-i:
      Homer: I want a horn here, here, and here... You can never find a horn fast enough when you're angry.

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      02-25-2012 02:59 PM #23
      Quote Originally Posted by ClownCar View Post
      1984 Nissan 300ZX 50th Anniversary Edition
      .
      Wow, I didn't know Nissan/Datsun was that old.

    24. Member ClownCar's Avatar
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      02-25-2012 03:06 PM #24
      Quote Originally Posted by MrRoboto View Post
      Wow, I didn't know Nissan/Datsun was that old.
      1934 Datsun...no steering wheel controls.


    25. Geriatric Member BRealistic's Avatar
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      02-25-2012 03:20 PM #25
      Quote Originally Posted by ClownCar View Post
      I was eluding to the statement earlier in the thread that a U.S. car was the first. It wasn't. Nothing more sinister implied.
      Sure.
      I did think it would be ironic if a US domestic HAD actually been the first with steering wheel controls since the US domestics caught crap back then for poor interior quality and bad ergonomics- but not out of the question since the US domestics were pushing more futuristic styling then, but only after the mid 80s.

      Interesting that the first use of steering wheel controls on a US domestic product might actually have been in the lowly 1985 Ford Tempo.



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    26. 02-25-2012 03:20 PM #26
      Quote Originally Posted by adrew View Post
      Wiki says it was the 1986 Pontiac 6000 STE:


      Kill it with fire. That is an abomination.
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      02-25-2012 03:42 PM #27
      Here is a 1966 Ford Thunderbird with Steering Wheel Controls:







      I win!
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      02-25-2012 03:46 PM #28
      Quote Originally Posted by BRealistic View Post
      Sure.
      I did think it would be ironic if a US domestic HAD actually been the first with steering wheel controls since the US domestics caught crap back then for poor interior quality and bad ergonomics- but not out of the question since the US domestics were pushing more futuristic styling then, but only after the mid 80s.

      Interesting that the first use of steering wheel controls on a US domestic product might actually have been in the lowly 1985 Ford Tempo.



      The '66 Thunderbird bested the '85 Tempo by 19 years for steering wheel controls...

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      02-25-2012 03:51 PM #29
      Quote Originally Posted by A320FlyGuy View Post
      The '66 Thunderbird bested the '85 Tempo by 19 years for steering wheel controls...
      Well, the Tempo was probably the first mainstream US car with them.

      I am sure that 66 T-bird's steering wheel button system was dead nuts reliable.
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      02-25-2012 04:57 PM #30
      Quote Originally Posted by A320FlyGuy View Post
      Here is a 1966 Ford Thunderbird with Steering Wheel Controls:
      Technicality: Those were cruise control buttons, while the topic is audio.

      But interesting piece of history, thanks for sharing.

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      02-25-2012 05:47 PM #31
      Quote Originally Posted by Egz View Post
      Technicality: Those were cruise control buttons, while the topic is audio.

      But interesting piece of history, thanks for sharing.
      Dammit.....I misread the thread topic....I thought it was steering wheel control buttons in general...my bad.
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      02-25-2012 06:08 PM #32
      Quote Originally Posted by A320FlyGuy View Post
      Dammit.....I misread the thread topic....I thought it was steering wheel control buttons in general...my bad.
      Its all good. Gave me a chance to read up on that piece of history.

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      02-25-2012 07:28 PM #33
      Quote Originally Posted by A320FlyGuy View Post
      Here is a 1966 Ford Thunderbird with Steering Wheel Controls:







      I win!
      You lose. I see nothing there about audio steering wheel controls. I see speed control functions, but nothing relating to audio.

      Edit: never mind ^ beat me to it
      Last edited by GolfTango; 02-25-2012 at 07:35 PM.
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