It’s not complete lunacy to think that the steering wheel will soon be a thing of the past. The unrelenting forward march of technology and the inevitability of fully-autonomous vehicles looming on the horizon spell only one fate for the most dominating feature in the modern car. Which is a shame, because along with the seat, the pedals and maybe the gear lever, the steering wheel is tied for first as the most import input a driver has — some designers have rightfully treated it as such.
In the average car, the steering wheel merely exists. Sometimes they have ancillary functions like volume control, cruise control, etc., on top of the primary duties of directing the car, but that’s about it — they’re uninspired, drab. Like every other detail on a great car, though, the steering wheel is not to be missed. It is, after all, the most visually prominent object in front of the driver (for now) and it’s worth celebrating. Here are 15 of the best steering wheels ever to grace an automobile.
1961 Jaguar E-Type
Even Enzo Ferrari admitted the Jaguar E-Type was the most beautiful car ever made. It should be no surprise the steering wheel matches the car’s reputation. It’s even gone on to inspire details on mechanical watches.
1937 Bugatti Type 57
The Type 57 is another car where no expense was spared, no matter how minute the detail. Simple, elegant, polished — the Type 57 steering wheel could stand on its own and be just as pretty.
2009 Pagani Zonda R
Maybe the first and only time the tachometer has been placed in the middle of the steering wheel. And why not? The rest of the Zonda R is insane — why shouldn’t the steering wheel follow suit?
1955 Cintroen DS
Definitely needlessly overthought, but somehow that’s what makes the Citroen DS’s wheel so interesting.
2000 Spyker C8
Aviation as a theme runs rampant throughout the Spyker C8 and no where is more beautifully obvious than the polished metal propeler at center stage.
2002 Ferrari Enzo
Not particularly spectacular in its own right, but the Enzo was one of the first times Ferrari incorporated F1-style shift lights. It made pretending to be Michael Schumacher that much easier.
2012 Pagani Huayra
Where the Zonda R is more minimalist yet still radical, the Huayra’s wheel does an equally fantastic job of matching the ostentaciousness of its own instrument cluster.
1992 Honda NSX-R
At its heart, the NSX-R was a race car. So only a Momo wheel lifted straight from motorsports would do. Purposeful. Minimalist. Gets the job done.
1966 Lamborghini Miura
In the ’60s and ’70s, lightwight, three-spoke, rally style steering wheel like this one were fairly common in sports cars. But, with the Miura, you’d be hard presed to find a more beautiful car that was bolted on the back of it.
1969 Dodge Charger
Another simple three-spoke example, but straight forward, industrial and unrefined. As Unapologetic as the Charger.
1962 Shelby Cobra CSX2000
The original Shelby Cobra steering wheel may have came from the British manufacturer AC Cars, but think of the legend that weilded that thing, using it to flog that car within an inch of its life.
2017 Porsche GT2 RS
One of the most no-nonsense tracke-bred road cars Porsche has ever built couldn’t be fitted with anything more than a carbon fiber three-spoke with no extras — no distractions.
1987 Ferrari F40
Where the Enzo’s wheel is celbrated for being a modern land mark, the Momo in the F40, against the black felt dash marks the last of the classic Ferraris.
1966 Fiat 124 Sport Spider
The Nardi steering wheels were great and all, but the two-spoke Momo wheel that Fiat exudes more style with much less material.
1976 Aston Martin Lagonda
It’s an odd-ball for sure, but the Lagaonda’s fat, single-spoke wheel goes hand-in-hand with the rest of the car’s design. It embodies the bold style of the ’70s, while making way for the incoming modernity of the super ’80s digital dash.