Have You Ever Appreciated the Ferrari F50’s Instrument Cluster?
They say that written letters are the clothes that words wear, and this is somewhat true of their cars and instrument clusters as well. Think about it – you glance at those readings every few seconds behind the wheel, so it’s kind of hard not to be affected by them, even at the slightest level.
The thing is, this experience is more or less limited to the person sitting in the driver’s seat. The design of an instrument cluster, like the texture of the dashboard surface or the way a switch clicks into the next position, is something only owners really know. And Ferrari F50 owners know that its gauges are among the most beautiful among cars.
The F50 is polarizing and it’s no wonder why. It had the impossible task of following the F40 – a car so universally loved that it has essentially enjoyed a second life as a synthwave icon. It adopted Maranello’s ’90s design language, which alternately produced works of art and cruelty on wheels. In doing so, the F50 became a car I’ve both hated and loved stylistically at different points in my life. Sometimes it looks like a prune with a big donkey arm; Other times, it’s relatively elegant and sophisticated. It’s one of those cars that just confuses you more the longer you look at it.
Likewise, there’s something baroque and ornate about the F50’s instrument cluster; a pair of overlapping rings emblazoned with a beautiful font that you just know appeared on the menu of a seedy restaurant, or in a Final Fantasy game. It’s a little higher, a little more, but you know Ferrari couldn’t get enough of it because it’s used so much under that little hood – for temperature, oil pressure, fuel level, you name it.
When everything is lit, the whole thing looks like a Christmas tree. It’s fascinatingly distracting. enigmatic; that requires attention. Maybe that’s why when it came time to make the Enzo, Ferrari chose the same banal style that London uses for its pipe. Pomp and circumstance had disappeared in favor of simplicity. I get it from a practical standpoint, but Enzo’s visa also makes me feel dead to watch.
The steering wheel and dashboard of a Ferrari Enzo. Image: Ferrari
I was reminded of the F50’s gauges playing Gran Turismo 7, where you can see a digital recreation of all this awesomeness, modeled and animated in real time, from your virtual driver’s seat. You can even observe the strange behavior of a chronometer car in old racing cars, such as the Aston Martin DB3S and Porsche 917K, or the unbearable rev limit beep of the FD Mazda RX-7. The kind of features that only a select few owners ever get to know, immortalized with technology.