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Old 05-13-2013, 04:02 AM
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Lake Arrowhead, Georgia
Posts: 729
Does anyone else rember digital and/or talking cars from the early 80s???

I’ve always been a huge car enthusiast. My grandfather was a mechanic who eventually became a part-owner of a Ford dealership. I went there EVERY DAY after school starting in 1st grade and spent every Saturday there also. My family jokes (I think) that I could identify the make and model of any car that passed by before I could even recite the alphabet! =)

Growing up in the 80s, I remember being mesmerized by cars with electronic instruments (aka- digital dash) and some of them could even talk! For didn’t put fancy electronics into many of their cars. But by 1986 or 1987, my pop’s dealership was taking in countless Chyrsler/Dodge models with these over-the-top, already-outdated features. Various GM models also had some of similar ‘high-tech features’ and even featured touch screens in a handful of high-end models (Buick Riviera & Reatta and Olds Toronado Trofeo).

The Japanese seemed to do the best job of designing and implementing electronic instruments and often paired automatic climate control and other features with them. Nissan was one probably the largest purveyor among the Japanese brands, but a few Mitsubishi, Toyota and even Mazda models also offered some of these features, often as extra-cost options.

I remember when my mom first started teaching me how to drive a stick shift when I was 14. We used my sister’s 1985 Nissan 300ZX and I thought that the way-over-the-top digital instrument display was the coolest thing I had ever saw! The tachometer displayed both as a number and on a wave-type graph that took up half of the instrument panel. The graph bars would climb higher and move from left to right rising one really knew why, but it looked hella-cool! In true mid-80s fashion, the Z was White with Blood Red velour interior and the vaste expanse of that awful RED still shocks me when I see it in pics or once in a while at a car show.

IT also had the other requisite feature necessary to be cooler than cool in the mid-80s- smoked glass t-tops! They were very heavy, hard to remove and then you had to fight to get them into their storage bags in the trunk to keep them from getting broken. The Z was four years old by the time my sister got it and the t-top latching mechanisms and weather sealant were already showing signs of wear and potential premature failure! They leaked in a hard rain and rattled every time you ran over a tiny pebble....but we thought they were awesome back in the day....

My best friend got his first car around the same time and he was six months older than me, so he got his license that much sooner than me! It was 1990 and his first car was a 1984 Chrysler Laser XE Turbo (upscale/luxury version of the Dodge Daytona). It was shit-brown (called something ridiculous like Moroccan Bronze Metallic) and his was the first year they made the Laster/Daytona! It was also the first year they made a digital instrument panel standard on several top-level Chrysler models. The XE was the top-of-the-line Laser and it had the standard electro-nightmare instruments. It also came with another brand-new feature that Chrysler called EVA (Electronic Voice Alert). It could (and would) speak a number of common warnings if it detected a problem. The most annoying yet amazing thing was that it used the same old chip developed for the “Speak and Spell” toy six years earlier! And the voice was identical to the Speak and Spell!

My personal favorite was after he had the car for a few months and drove the hell out of it. It had over 160k miles on he quickly blew the head gasket. From that point on, every 30 seconds you would hear the muffled, robotic voice announce, “Engine Overheating! Engine Damage May Occur!” and eventually “Cooling system malfunctioning, seek immediate assistance from the nearest Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge reapir facility to avoid further damage....Engine Damage May Occur!” We still laugh about it sometimes.....

Over the last five or six years, I’ve started noticing digital instruments slowly creeping back into cars. Since 2006, the Honda Civic has featured a weird two-tier instrument panel with a big round tachometer on the bottom and digital speedo on the tier above it! I’m not a fan of that setup. I’m told that the Prius has digital gauges, but haven’t verified because I loathe the Prius with every fiber of my being....and the new, subcompact Chevy Sonic also has a mixed digital speedo, analog tach similar to the Civic in concept if not in design...

Thankfully, the only part of the car that usually talks is the NAV system! I usually keep my NAV muted and just keep an eye out for turns, etc. But I had a scary/hilarious experience last August when I went to visit my cousin in Los Angeles. Her 9-yr old daughter was having brain surgery at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles on Sunset Blvd. I went out for two weeks because I seem to be the only person who can control her two boys 9 (twin to the daughter) and 13 when she is away. She says it’s because they’re a little bit scared of me- unlike their other babysitters, their dad or any of the teachers, I WILL WHIP THEIR ASS if necessary! And they know that...

My cuz stayed at the hospital 24/7 for over a week with her daughter, but I went ever other day to visit and try to give her a break for a few minutes. I had no idea how to get from her house in Woodland Hills to the hospital on Sunset Blvd, so I was t the mercy of the navigation system in her Lexus GX470 SUV...and it had never been updated in the five years that she had owned the car!

It did a perfect job of taking me to the exit for Sunset. I forgot to gas up before I left Woodland Hills, so I pulled into a gas station on Sunset and started filling up. It was well into the dusky part of the evening and, only after a few minutes of looking around did I realize that I was NOT in a good neighborhood! I was the only white person for as far as I could see, but there were at least a dozen or more young latino and black guys (with gang tattos) looking at the white boy in the big Lexus SUV with chrome wheels who was crazy enough to stop in their ‘hood! They were looking at me the same way Carnie Wilson looks at 2oz of grilled chicken!!!

As soon as I realized my situation, I quickly hung up the pump with the tank just over half full and didn’t hang around for a receipt! I hopped in and somehow managed to turn the key, shift into Drive and floor the gas simultaneously (and shifting to Drive automatically locked all the doors)....I didn’t really mean to make a spectacle, but I didn't’ realize that the big Toyota V8 under the hood would roast all four tires if you take off in the manner that I did....but it also got me out of range for most handguns that much faster also...

So I continued down Sunset and the NAV display showed the hospital located a few more miles away. As I closed in and the display changed from miles away to feet away from destination, I was still looking down the Blvd and didn’t see it yet. But as I slowed to a stop at a Red Light, the NAV system announced, “Your destination is located immediately to your right. Route Guidance is now ending, Goodbye! and the display went black.....

I looked to my left and it was the MAIN/HUGE Church of Scientology......It was more than just a little freaky....and I decided to run the Red light rather than risk being molested while sitting in traffic if John Travolta suddenly showed up!!! The hospital was a few blocks away and my cousin and I have had many laughs about it since then!

She gets a kick out of sending me into gang territory or other crime-ridden ares without any warning.....and she loves to hear all about the near-death experiences and how I barely escaped being mugged, raped or both! But when I get really mad and start to ‘lose it’ on her, she tells me that my quick reflexes and instincts are what kept me from harm and she was just trying to show me that! She even laughed when I was making a hasty exit after running an errand for her that involved me going into Downtown LA! Even with a backup camera and revere distance sensors, I still managed to back right out of my parking spot and into a brick wall!!!

And I am still convinced that the Scientologists have the ability to take over the GPS Nav in cars and on phones if they want to....just like they tried to lure me in!!!
Old 05-13-2013, 07:02 AM
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: 0x8000F12A
Posts: 494
1980s-era Chrysler New Yorker...

"A door is a jar"

No it's not,'s a DOOR!
Old 05-13-2013, 07:24 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 8,281
They were prevalent enough that Eddie Murphy could make a joke about them in 1982:

Last edited by JKellyMap; 05-13-2013 at 07:25 AM.
Old 05-13-2013, 07:27 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 14,549
OK. For those of you who are thinking TL;DR. I encourage you to read this.

It's, umm.... an interesting read.
Old 05-13-2013, 11:08 AM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 18,476
My friend had a crappy Chrysler sedan with the talking dash. One day the thing malfunctioned-it kept squawking "door ajar..door ajar"-a screwdriver through the speaker stopped it.
Old 05-13-2013, 11:13 AM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Suburbs of Chicagoland
Posts: 22,337
Originally Posted by Shakes View Post
OK. For those of you who are thinking TL;DR. I encourage you to read this.

It's, umm.... an interesting read.
I know, right? It's like a test to see if you read an entire post or something. The funny thing is, I was reading via Tapatalk and they cut off long posts and give a "More..." link at the bottom, and that particular post got cut off right before the really interesting part at the end. I didn't click through until I saw your note.
Old 05-13-2013, 11:58 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Virginia
Posts: 12,078
I think the OP strayed just a bit, but answering the subject question, I knew of those vehicles but am glad I never had to put up with automatic un-mutable voice. As a general rule I don't like machines to talk, especially when there is little or no control over volume.

I even mute my GPS. It's funny, when I go a way it doesn't want me to go I keep expecting the voice to become more insistent; "Please make a u-turn where safe....You are clearly going the wrong way, please make a u-turn, what is wrong with you??"
Old 05-13-2013, 01:27 PM
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,083
The Austin Maestro of the 1980s famously, or perhaps I should say "infamously", had a talking dashboard, whose voice was female except in the German market, where rumour has it they lowered the voice because Germans weren't quite ready to take orders from a woman (insert German porn joke here).
Old 05-13-2013, 01:32 PM
Join Date: Mar 2000
Posts: 15,902
I recall that one of the early 80's exec perks that my uncle got was a leased car. He chose a Nissan/Datsun 200SX. The electronic voice would inform you that, "The door is open", and, "The lights are on", etc. Upscale novelty feature back then.
Old 05-13-2013, 02:10 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Auburn, CA
Posts: 2,583
Originally Posted by Beelzebubba
I was the only white person for as far as I could see, but there were at least a dozen or more young latino and black guys (with gang tattos) looking at the white boy in the big Lexus SUV with chrome wheels who was crazy enough to stop in their ‘hood! They were looking at me the same way Carnie Wilson looks at 2oz of grilled chicken!!!
I have to take issue with this section of your post. Carnie Wilson has never in her life just eaten '2oz of grilled chicken'.
Old 05-13-2013, 07:36 PM
TBG TBG is offline
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Michigan
Posts: 8,584
"Various GM models also had some of similar ‘high-tech features’ and even featured touch screens in a handful of high-end models (Buick Riviera & Reatta and Olds Toronado Trofeo)."

My grandpa used to have one of those, probably a Riviera. Us grandkids really found the touchscreen a hoot, I remember especially cracking up one cousin by using the touchscreen to make the tape deck open.

Thing got totalled in a really bad accident, though thank God, grandpa got out without a scratch.
Old 05-14-2013, 12:03 AM
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 290
Oddly, I remember my grandfather having a late 80s Ford Thunderbird that did the "the door, is ajar!" thing.

My favorite instrument panel to date was in a late 90s Lincoln Mark VIII, I believe it was. The panel was blacked out when off. With the car on, the needles glowed through the black in a brilliant red. The dials were actually underneath the hood of the panel. They were backlit, casting a reflection on the black and completing the instrument cluster. It gave the whole thing an almost holographic look.

I'd love to get one, just for that display!
Old 05-14-2013, 08:18 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Displaced
Posts: 14,686
Nostalgia for mid-1980s cars? So the madness begins...

My car shuts up and obeys the control inputs. An annoying chime and a dashboard light is good enough to tell me I left my lights on or the door ajar.

OTOH having your GPS home in on the Church of Scientology was priceless. That's why I keep my damn map.
Old 05-14-2013, 09:24 AM
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Arizona, USA
Posts: 2,824
I sold audio and video equipment then, and I remember the Sony line of talking VCRs. "No tape is inside"...
Old 05-14-2013, 09:46 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Euclid, OH
Posts: 2,144
The OP seems a bit... excitable.
Old 05-14-2013, 10:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Missouri
Posts: 4,459
I seem to remember my dad's 300ZX telling me in her cheerful feminine voice: "Left door is open!" or "Right door is open!" I actually kind of loved that. Much nicer than a random dinging, although she never malfunctioned; I can see where that could get a touch irritating.

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