SL Mercedes Steering Wheel

Last Call: The metal ring does what now?

The steering wheel on my W114 Benz was a beautiful tiller. The metal ring in the center was for the horn, which is what I think all metal rings on old steering wheels are for.

Turns out I’m wrong…

Last Call indicates the end of Hooniverse’s broadcast day. It’s meant to be an open forum for anyone and anything. Thread jacking is not only accepted, it’s encouraged.

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9 responses to “Last Call: The metal ring does what now?”

  1. Babittshox Avatar

    Honda transposed the customary locations of the horn and turn signal buttons on the Africa Twin (the one is usually above the other but it’s the other way around), and so for the past two years I’ve been furiously cancelling my turn signals at scofflaws and distracted drivers while announcinig with a friendly Peep! that I intend to either turn left or maybe right.

    1. Troggy Avatar

      I’ve had much the same problem with my Crossrunner. Except now I’m so used to it that I go around tooting away every time I ride something else.

  2. danleym Avatar

    I’ve never found myself particularly desiring a 190SL, but now I do. Just for that feature alone.

  3. Lokki Avatar

    What a beautiful car!

    Oh, and the joys of alternative activation designs. “Let’s do it different!”


    I would love to have been a fly on the wall at the meeting where a German engineer gave his presentation on why this design was superior, to a bunch of other German engineers. The thought amuses me…it would be like a Month Python sketch, I imagine. “Zeese is the superior dezign! We must do it!”

    “Is it more complicated to build and use?”


    “Zen we must do it!”

    It’s not only the Germans though:

    I think Ford was the worst or at least the most aggressive about trying to change convention. There were a couple of “Let’s piss people off” designs (in the late 70’s I think) they made that certainly pissed me off.

    First they put the *only* horn button in the turn signal lever – where most cars now have push-in-the-stalk “headlight flash”, Ford had push-in-the-stalk to honk the horn.
    I remember at least one occasion where I NEEDED that damn horn and in the moment could only remember it was “somewhere different”. I slapped that damn steering wheel and dash like a Bongo drum player on speed. The guy in the other car missed me but only because he saw me waving my hands around like a madman and was too scared of the crazy man to hit my car.

    The other Ford solution had the opposite problem. The horn was built into the back side of the steering wheel ring and went all the way around – you just squeezed the wheel anywhere to honk the horn….but it was too sensitive and so you went around honking the horn like a fool every time you turned the wheel.

    I understand why they tried them – steering wheel airbags had just come on the scene and they couldn’t use the traditional center horn button…it would have launched into your chest like the shell from a mortar…

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      I usually look at standardization as a marvel of human cooperation, and am very much in favour of it. Give me a DIN and I’ll be happy.

      That said, a few “alternative solutions” are quite good. My ’71 Volvo 145 had its handbrake on the left between seat and door. That is dead space anyway, and there was space for something else between the front seats in that car. I actually liked that a lot. In modern cars, OEMs try to create a feeling of snug huggedicrampness, or so, so there wouldn’t be any room there anyway, and available space would be filled with some sort of massive console right away. But the airy feeling of ’70s classics…love it.

    2. outback_ute Avatar

      The “rim-blow steering wheel was around in 1969 which I think would be before any airbags. Very hard to avoid sounding the horn when parking a fast-ratio manual steered car…

      One I found hard to understand was at some point in the 1950s Singer changed the layout of their column gear change. I can’t remember if 3-4 went from closer to the dash to closer to the wheel or vice versa, but I suppose they must have started with the opposite layout to everyone else.

    3. MoparMan Avatar

      I was the owner of a hatchback Escort for a while, I NEVER did figure out how to blow the horn, and like you, the one time I needed it, I beat the wheel center, finally deciding that the horn just didn’t
      work!! 🙂

    4. OA5599 Avatar

      Rim blow wheels were not unique to Ford and were not related to airbags. My dad had a 69 Cadillac with one as standard equipment, and I had a 70 Dodge and 70 Plymouth where they were options. Neither of those cars had airbags. AMC also offered them.

      Learning to drive a car with a rim blow has a similar learning curve to driving a stickshift without stalling the engine: the first week you get a lot of accidental honking, the second week you get less accidental honking, the third week you get accidental honking once or twice. After that it never happens. Two years after I traded the 70 Dodge, I got another 70 Dodge without the rim blow, and I regretted not being able to find an affordable rim-blow wheel to swap onto it

      The horn switch isn’t on the back side of the wheel; it’s on the inside diameter. Accidental honks are most likely to happen when steering with one finger going around a corner.

  4. SoCalboomer Avatar

    my chin dropped – and my dad owned one of those. Never knew about that – seems quite inefficient though. Rather than flip with a finger it’s grab with at least a couple of fingers and a thumb and rotate. Just doesn’t seem like a well engineered solution.