First published July 24, 2014 in  Old Cars Weekly

1917 FORDIMMER & FORALARM AD – By: M.J. Frumkin

Steering wheels have come a long way since 1903-1904, when manufacturers began to install them on vehicles, replacing the shovel-handle tiller rod.

Modern steering wheels have become mini-control centers, housing an airbag, plus, multiple buttons and switches to operate the horn, cruise control, infotainment, navigation, Android apps and Bluetooth mobile device connection.

In 1917, the Detroit Novelty Mfg. Co. offered two attachments to the steering post of Ford automobiles, and billed them as the Fordimmer and the Foralarm.

Mounted directly behind the steering wheel, these levers remind me of today’s paddle shifters that offer finger-tip transmission shifts with both hands on the wheel.

In a similar way, our ancestors could steer the old buggy while simultaneously operating the $1.50 Fordimmer and $1.00 Fordalarm switches.

The Fordimmer regulated the voltage pressure to the headlights, which helped prevent power surges that could burn out the lights. It also removed excessive light rays to oncoming car without having to lower the engine speed.

At the time, Ford cars came equipped with 9-volt 2 ampere bulbs that were wired in series, which meant if one burns out both were out.

Next, the Foralarm button was mounted just beneath the steering wheel, on the end of the gasoline control lever. In emergencies, one of the driver’s fingers would be on that lever, and a second finger in position to press the alarm button. This allowed drivers to advance or retard the gas and sound the horn alarm at the same time while holding on to the steering wheel.

What about the future? If Google have their way, there will be driverless vehicles without a steering wheel altogether – Heaven forbid!

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