Since cars first appeared there have been many technological and design improvements.

But one thing has remained largely unchanged. And that is the steering wheel.

It was circular back then, and it is circular today.

Plastics may have replaced steel and wood for construction and all manner of air bags and controls are now stuffed into the space behind the horn pad and spokes, but when it is all said and done, the basic design remains.

Mind you, there have been some wonderful attempts to break the paradigm.

Toyota, Mercedes and Honda have all experimented with some form of joystick, but have yet to offer it in one of their products.

The best attempted breakthrough idea we’ve seen is Ford’s “wrist twister “concept from 1965.

It was designed by Bob Rumpf and fitted to a Mercury Park Lane convertible, which, as the name implies, is an automobile as wide and as long as the street in London.

Ford hired Bob because he knew nothing about cars. His expertise was engineering missiles.

They wanted him to think outside the box.

And he went way outside.

Bob replaced the steering wheel with two 12cm, wrist-operated dials, with thumb holes.

These were connected through a central hub to the steering shaft by small mesh chains.

Drivers gripped the dials and steered.

The thumb holes provided leverage. Power assistance did the rest.

Ford’s publicity folks claimed the system freed up knee room, improved visibility and made parking easier.

They modestly predicted “wrist twisting” would revolutionise driving.

We give it an eight out of 10 for trying.

Mind you, wrist twisting still exists today.

You can find it in car dealerships.

It is what you have to apply to the sales person if you want a good trade in price for your car.

David Burrell is the editor of retroautos.com.au

Burrell

David Burrell is founder and editor of Retroautos.com.au, a free online classic cars magazine. Dave has a passion for cars and car design. He's also into speedway, which he's been writing about since 1981. His first car was a rusted-out 1961 Vauxhall Velox. His daily driver is a Pontiac Firebird. Prior to starting Retroautos, David was an executive in a Fortune 500 company, working and living in Australia, NZ, Asia, Latin America and the UK.