Behold One Of The Truly Wonderful Steering Wheels You Should Know

Illustration for article titled Behold One Of The Truly Wonderful Steering Wheels You Should Know
Photo: Nissan Heritage

One of the other few Nissan Pao owners here in North Carolina, my friend Attila, sent me a picture of a car he’s buying the other day. It wasn’t the usual picture you’d send of a car, but it was a picture of one of the components of a car we’re all most intimate with; the steering wheel. When I saw the wheel, it made sense why he chose that part to show me. Because, on this car, a Nissan March Turbo, there is no part that captures the fundamental essence of the car better.

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Here’s the actual photo; that topshot was from Nissan’s heritage collection:

Illustration for article titled Behold One Of The Truly Wonderful Steering Wheels You Should Know
Photo: Attila Bethlenfalvy
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As you can see, this thing is absolutely ‘80stactular. The interior design motif is pure 1980s premium hi-fi techy black, the choice of products of all kinds that wanted to let you know that the engineering inside them was absolutely Serious Business, and the way you interact with this engineering is on the machine’s terms.

That’s why this design style loved to embrace lots of printed text and diagrams and all kinds of orderly, sciencey fussiness, and bake it into the very essence of the look.

The key part here, of course, is that little power and torque band diagram that’s silkscreened front and center right there in the middle of the steering wheel.

Sure, that’s what you smack when you want the horn, but it’s also a constant reminder that you, friend, are not fucking around.

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Illustration for article titled Behold One Of The Truly Wonderful Steering Wheels You Should Know
Photo: Nissan Heritage

You didn’t just buy a Nissan March because you needed cheap, honest transportation—I mean, you do, but you also need to tear ass, occasionally, and the punchy little MA10E-T 987cc four-banger was how you were going to do it because this little monster makes a ravenous 85 horsepower and 12 kg/m (that’s 86.8 pound-feet) of torque.

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Now, if you’re the sort who thinks that 85 HP is a laughable number to so boldly display, I’d like to suggest that you shut your filthy pudding-hole, right now.

Getting 85 HP from this sub-one-liter engine is an absolute triumph, especially back in the mid-’80s. This March (also called the Micra) is the same platform as my Nissan Pao (K10), and the engine in my Pao is the same basic block, without the turbo and other magic, and it makes over 30 HP less than this engine.

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That’s impressive.

That little power band graph is absolutely what this car is all about—a tiny little hot hatch with all kinds of potential for fun and punching well above its featherweight.

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Here, look at an ad from the era:

Little bastard looks fun, right? Real, crazy, unpretentious, 85 horsepower and big yellow foglamps kind of fun.

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And every bit of what this car is, I think you can feel communicated just by looking at that wonderful steering wheel.

How often can you say that?

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)

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DISCUSSION

All the best designs are from the 1980s. We should reïntroduce these graphs. Here’s a mockup of a depreciation graph for a Chevrolet: