A password will be e-mailed to you.

The Perfect Circle and the fifth wheel

Right away you think leather gloves, perfectly sweeping curves, and big adventures. The steamy glance dancing on the shiny metal, the finger tips gently touching the rivets. You grab it, drooling, with both of your hands… Next to you is the wife, dreaming of your gentle touch… ‘Forget it, hon…. Nor are there two Thursdays in a week…’

This is how an article on adultery could start but for those of us with classic cars it’s daily life. In its simplicity it’s a matter of one the most important components in the car, namely the steering wheel. It is one of the key elements of the driving experience, and is centrally placed on the altar, where we perform our sacred deeds. It is shaped in the purest of all geometric shapes, the perfect circle. In the circle center is the hub of an eye that entices with its wistful gaze and reveals its desire for submission. As Apollo’s Kithara or Neptune’s trident this is the instrument by which we subdue our will. Without the steering wheel we might as well ride a bike or a tracked vehicle.

The steering wheel has to be something special, the function is clear. It must be strong, beautiful and functional. Simplicity is necessary to provide peace in the driving experience, and slimness for keeping track of the cars instruments. The surface must be perfect, as the fingertips are very sensitive to scratches and dents, even with thin leather gloves you can feel the tiniest irregularities. The thickness and the diameter of the steering wheel is a personal choice, but the thinnest are the most beautiful. We are, I think, drawn to that shape, since it can be said that, people are also very interested in the wheels and their rims, just look at the market for custom rims online and see how much volume it has. It’s clear to anyone looking, people love circles.

As shown above the steering wheel too has become overweight and vulgar within time

All car owners have a special loving relationship with their steering wheel, and several I know are of the belief that even a humble car can be lifted out of the indifference with a yummy steering wheel. Well, some even believe that it should be treated as the stereo on removal, last out and first in. Everyone remembers that we, as children sat in the driver’s seat in the parents’ car and turned on the steering wheel making engine noises with the mouth. Today I’ve noticed that non-car-interested people always show enthusiasm when they sit on the seat with their hands on the wheel. Surely, there is a special kind of poetry in a steering wheel.

Even a decent original steering wheel must often give way to a finer. Personally, I found the original steering wheel in my Porsche 911 talentless, actually destroying the driving experience for me and it had to be replaced with a Momo Prototipo. In my world, a steering wheel needs to be made ​​of wood, preferably mahogany, like kitchen knives also must have handles made ​​of wood. No Global all metal kitchenknives smartness here, thank you.

My former Porsche 911 with Momo Indy/Prototipo. Purists criticize it, but I was happy

Among others, Alfa Romeo has extensively used wooden steering wheel in their GTV models, here a Hellebore

There have always been several manufacturers of fine steering wheels, Motolita, Momo, Personal, and Hellebore. Above them all Nardi sparkles as the producer of the most beautiful. The classic three-spoked Nardi steering wheel possesses a harmony and lightness that still works perfectly. The craftsmanship is superb and in a class all by itself.

Since 1932 Nardi’s steering wheel has been synonymous with sports cars of the finest carat. Enrico Nardi started as an engineer and racing driver for Lancia and hereafter became advisor to Vincenzo Lancia himself. It was also a time of Scuderia Ferrari with responsibility for setting up the cars. Nardi drove Fiat and Lancia, including the Mille Miglia, but had no significant racing career. Enrico Nardi quickly found the key to the perfect steering wheel, and through his work with the Italian car brands, he quickly drew the attention to the consistent steering wheel. Enzo Ferrari, a man with great attention to detail, was thrilled, and the Nardi steering wheel was often mounted in the factory cars. Very famous became the combination 250 GTO and the Nardi steering wheel. Since Lancia, Maserati and all the other Italian brands followed. Also Mercedes and Porsche saw no other option than to put the icing on the cake with a Nardi steering wheel.

Fortunately, Nardi is still with us. Although the factory at one point was acquired by Personal, Nardi is still true to the name’s history and way of production.

Nardi very early made ​​asymmetric race steering wheels

A well-equipped stand with second-hand steering wheels is always popular on the European fairs

Sensuality can manifest itself in many forms …

2 Responses

  1. Andrew

    The steering wheel is the main tactile element of a car and if badly executed by the original manufacturer, thankfully, in pre-airbag days, it was not too difficult to correct.

    I’m not sure I agree with this “In my world, a steering wheel needs to be made ​​of wood”. For me, the choice of timber finish or leather depends on the overall dashboard context.

    In my 1963 MGB (which before restoration came with a rubbishy after market wheel), I fitted a Nardi 14″ wooden wheel to set against the black crackle finished dashboard. Equipped like this, the MGB has a hearty taste of Ferrari 250GT. The MGB dashboard being probably one of the best ever designed.

    My current project is a Series 1 1/2 1965 Elan (for road, race and rallying). I was not happy with either the fragile, thin and large diameter standard wheel or the cheap veneer background. Wood on wood does not work either!

    I have for a better (wood) dash and a 26R wheel which is aluminium and a black leather rim remade by an artisanal engineering firm who remake steering wheels for all sorts of race cars.

    Conclusion: what is the context !


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Skip to toolbar