As the name sort of suggests, idiot lights aren’t the sort of thing that gets much respect in the automotiverse. This is understandable; most idiot lights are scattered across a given instrument cluster with the casual abandon of weeds. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and the 1984 Fiat Ritmo Cabrio Bertone shows us how it should be done.

As you can see, the cluster of idiot lights on that Ritmo’s dash isn’t just some little lights with an arcane symbol slapped on. Fiat’s designers have taken the time to make little schematic drawings of the car and drivetrain, and are using the position of the lights in those drawings to give the lights some actual context.

You see that light come on in the engine’s oil pan and you know what’s up. Brake warnings light at the wheels, bulb-out warnings show up at their location on the car, and so on.

Sure, with modern LCD displays, you can do this much, much better, but for the 1980s, this is pretty damn clever.

The little car-diagram approach has been tried before, but that can get overcomplicated quickly. Look at these other Fiat examples:


The car diagram is there, but, aside from showing tire pressure, doesn’t add any context to the twin rows of red LED warning lamps. This one tries a bit harder:

...but it just ends up being too complicated to work. The connecting lines don’t work nearly as well as just placing the idiot light in the proper location to start with.


Sure, they’re just idiot lights, but it’s nice to take a moment when a little thing is done right.