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  1. #1
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    Mar 2009
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    Default When did this happen? American made cars switched from the floor bright light button

    Anyone remember, or know, when the first American made cars switched from the floor bright light button that you had to step on, to the switch on the steering column now generally interconnected with the turn signal lever? I remember the switch on my dad's '63 Buick LeSabre used to be a real pain to stomp on.

  2. #2
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    Mar 2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by grumpyoldlady View Post
    Anyone remember, or know, when the first American made cars switched from the floor bright light button that you had to step on, to the switch on the steering column now generally interconnected with the turn signal lever? I remember the switch on my dad's '63 Buick LeSabre used to be a real pain to stomp on.
    Don't know about the first. But the last Ford to offer it was the 91 E-Series. Maybe even some later F-Series too.

  3. #3
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    Apr 2009
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    Funny, I've wondered the same thing. I suspect the stalk mounted switch started on foreign cars and spread to the US. My 62 Austin Healey has a floor button, but my 70 Lotus has the stalk. I beleive Austin Healeys (and their MG Midget cousins) went to stalk switches in 1969. From a family Chrysler perspective, up to at least the 79 Volare/Aspens still had a floor switch. I know my 74 Darthad a floor switch. Starting in 1978, the Omni/Horizons had stalk switches. After about 1980, at least in the small and midsize Chryslers (Kcar based), all i remember were stalk switches. Floor switches may have hung around longer on the full size Chrysler cars and trucks.

  4. #4
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    According to this source:
    In 1925 the depressible headlight became obsolete when the Guide Lamp Co. introduced the 2-filament headlight bulb. Switching between low and high beam was accomplished through a switch on the steering column. In 1927 the dimmer switch was moved to the floor, where it stayed for about 50 years until it was moved again -- to the steering column!
    Apparently the early auto designers realized that drivers could safely multi-task and operate a foot dimmer switch, thus giving drivers one less reason for taking their hands off the steering wheel.

    The floorboard area was wide open and these floor-mounted dimmer switches could be made larger and more durable.

    The first US-designed autos started following the trend away from the foot-operated dimmer switch in the 1970s, as they decided to emulate the luxury European imports who were starting to put the dimmer switch on the stalk. However, the transition from the the cheap floor switch to the more expensive multi-function stalk switch usually had to wait until a major re-design of that vehicle so that a coordinated change could be made. Ultimately, the dimmer switch function would go to the stalk when a model went from rear wheel drive to front wheel drive (which happened a lot in the late 1970s and early 1980s) because the foot-well area became smaller and more cramped with FWD causing the real estate for mounting an easily-accessible floor-mounted dimmer switch to become non-existent.

  5. #5
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    Dec 2009
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    Default

    Thread name is pointless....

    Funny story though about that foot switch though. One summer I worked as a portable hot dog concession stand worker at Ford Fields in Shelby and we would tow the carts into place with an older Ford pickup. One night while taking the cart back to the storage area there was a really good song on the radio and I was drumming with my feet and hands. Well the bright switch was my kick drum! BTW, I had no idea at the time that the little metal switch that was my kickdrum was the bright light switch! There was a lady in front of me in a little car and she ending up pulling over in front of me on the side of the road. I really had no idea I had been flashing my brights at her for the past mile!

  6. #6
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    Mar 2009
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    LOL, if you did that in California today, you would be at risk to get a ticket for road rage!

    Those idiots never heard of 'flash-to-pass', which is an Autobahn import.


    The early GM stalks were a joke, though. Too weak for the various torques...and when they first did the momentary wiper, they made it a reverse turn on the stalk...an ergonomic nightmare!

    There was a reason I kept buying VW back then...the whole VW/Audi/Porsche group had decided on the best cockpit control arrangement, and it worked. Well, the 911 did have that mis-placed ignition key from their racing days...


    But the floor-mounted dimmer switch was one of the earliest casualties of our salt road treatments in the wintertime...you'd track salty water in your boots, soak the carpet...and the switch was a goner in a few years. Many'd be frozen solid, if they didn't corrode away completely.

    Cheers!

  7. #7
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    Mar 2009
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    Piffle. How many of you are old enough to remember having both a "Choke" and a "Throttle" on your dashboard????

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray1936 View Post
    Piffle. How many of you are old enough to remember having both a "Choke" and a "Throttle" on your dashboard????
    Or how many have ever started a car by either

    • depressing a floor-mounted starter switch?
    • adjusting the spark-advance lever on the steering column?

  9. #9
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    How tough was it to manually crank over an engine before electric starters, Ray?!


    LOL...

  10. #10
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    Aug 2009
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    My 1955 Nash Rambler starts by turning the key to "on", and then pulling up on the gear shift lever (column mounted automatic), after shifting from reverse, which is also park, into neutral. Very quirky.

    I seem to recall the floor high beam button on my first three cars: '70 Duster, '74 Hornet and '76 Pinto. Great cars!

  11. #11
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    Sep 2009
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    MikeG summed it up nicely tho I never realized there were column mounted switched in the 1920's
    I also agree about the 91 F&E series probably having the last floor mounted "dip" switches. They also had wiper controls on the dash. The F Series was probably also the last to utilize "wing" windows, a real nice feature for smokers.

    IMO in America GM really was the driving force behind affixing all kinds of controls to the directional stalk. I guess other imports were hot on it as well.
    And yea the salt sure killed those floor mounted switches in a hurry, some real low end cars and medium/heavy duty trucks had a little rubber bulb on the floor that you would pump in order to spray wiper washer fluid.

  12. #12
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    Apr 2009
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    Default

    Anyone remember that there was a starter button on the floor for some trucks and vehicles? Maybe some people wanted to select high beam and they selected the starter while cruising!

    Something I like on my Honda is that even with my lights off, I can flash my lights using the stalk. I use that either instead of or in conjunction with my horn when someone is about to pull out in front of me. It's easier to use the stalk which is inches away from my hand rather than enacting my foot which is relaxed while cruising.

  13. #13
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    Mar 2009
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    My Dad had many Ramchargers back in the day and they had the high beams on the floor. Always remember that being weird. They also had the vent windows which he hated because they would leak or have wind noise.
    Dodge made those up until 1993 in the US and 1994 in Mexico.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gannon View Post
    How tough was it to manually crank over an engine before electric starters, Ray?!
    LOL...
    Well, with cars, that was just a bit before my time, John. But my 1958 DPD Harley-Davidson had a kick start that gave me heart attacks every cold morning.

  15. #15
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    In my previous post, I should have been a little more specific - it was redesigns involving FWD transaxles with transverse engine orientation (east-west instead of the traditional north-south cylinder alignment) that affected the packaging. With a transverse mounted engine, the firewall could be moved closer to the front bumper, giving the occupants more legroom but causing the front wheel wells to encroach into the footwell and eliminating the real estate previously occupied by the dimmer switch.

    Ray, I can't believe you never had the opportunity to hand-crank an old car!
    My dad had an old Ford Model T clown car that was hand-cranked and by the time I turned 10 years old, he had taught me how to work the spark and gas levers on the steering column while he did the cranking. If you were trying to start the car by yourself, you had to take a guess as to the right settings for the spark, gas and choke, then turn the engine over by hand and hope it started to fire. If not, you had to re-adjust the settings and try again. With a helper, you could continue hand-cranking while your partner manually adjusted the levers to make the engine come to life. By the time I was 12, I was strong enough to hand-crank the engine. You had to be careful as you cranked because if the engine backfired, it would send a kick back through the hand crank that could break your arm.

  16. #16

    Default

    Detroit needs a statue of Ray kick starting his DPD Harley -- not RoboCop -- a real Detroit cop.

    Who will pledge a donation?

  17. #17
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    Apr 2009
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    My '87 Ford E-150 Econoline van had that bright switch on the floor, and vent windows too! A real throwback. Put well over 300,000 miles on that vehicle before the floors finally rusted out in 2005. Miss it terribly. I also miss my '67 Ford pickup with the pull-out choke and that 3 on the tree.

  18. #18
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    Mike, the Harley was exactly the same as you describe. You had to retard the spark and set the throttle just right and kick it through. If it didn't catch after two or three tries, you had to turn the ignition off, close the throttle, put the spark back, and kick it through twice to clean it out. Then try again. Fortunately, unlike a car, if it backfired, it didn't kick your leg back up.

    Lowell, just a statue of the leg will do. Sort of like the Joe Louis fist.

  19. #19
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    Sep 2009
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    189

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikeg View Post
    Or how many have ever started a car by either

    • depressing a floor-mounted starter switch?
    • adjusting the spark-advance lever on the steering column?
    When I was working on a peach/apple orchard in South Jersey in '70, I was told to drive by the foreman to drive a beat-up wreck of an early-50's Chevy pickup over to somewhere on the farm to pick something up. That was my only time using a floor-mounted starter switch and my first time driving a stick, but I got it done. I was 16 at the time (driving age in Jersey was 17, but I guess it was legal since I didn't drive on public roads).

    Oh, and I remember my Dad having to play with a manual choke with his '58 and '61 6-cylinder Fords. His first automatic choke car was a '64 Mercury 390 V8).

    Now back on topic, I'm pretty sure my '75 Mercury Monarch (worst car ever) had the dimmer switch on the floor, but my '79 Mustang had it combined with the turn-signal lever, but I'm willing to be corrected on either. BTW, one of Ford's worst design errors was combining the turn signal, dimmer, and wipers on one switch, even on cars with floor shifts, to accommodate cars and trucks with column shifts. I had several Fox-platform cars with that switch. You had to take your hand off the wheel to operate the wipers and you had to go through all of the intermittent settings to get to the constant-speed settings.

  20. #20
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    Mar 2009
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    Default

    I remember the floor dimmer switch, wish they'd come back and I remember the dashboard choke. The dashboard throttle I don't remember.

    I put driving lights in the grill of my retired police cruiser. Didn't want a toggle switch so I got a dimmer switch for a Ford F-150 (1970s) at Autozone and mounted it to the floor. Hole in the floor mat and that's the new on and off switch for the driving lights.

  21. #21
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    May 2011
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    51

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    I would rather say that the floor switch was moved to the column because of cost cutting. Just like other good basic features of a car, vent windows, color-keyed interiors, rear wheel drive etc etc. The true downhill in the automotive industry started in the late 70:s...even before that with totally unrealistic government emissions requirements that killed the drivability and mileage of otherwise nice vehicles. I would suspect that the astronomical costs of these requirements made the big three cut corners in many other places to survive.

  22. #22
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    I think it was our 1954 Chrysler New Yorker that had the dimmer switch on the floor. What a whale of a car. That car had air conditioning—way back then.

    Like TVs with vertical hold knobs and pencils made of real lead, I imagine these things congregating in some Great Lost Sargasso Sea of Forgotten Things.
    Last edited by Jimaz; November-29-11 at 06:09 PM.

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