One of these days one of us here should do a history on turn signals. I know that in Europe, semaphores were required starting in the 1930s or so. I have no idea about how it happened in the US, given that regulations were a state-by-state thing until the ’70s or so. But there were some trafficators available and or used going back quite a ways, and I ran across this one being offered for sale, described as being a Miller from the 1920s, “with scissor arm and pulley”. I should have put a set of these on my F100 rather than fix my turn signals.
And I also ran across a set of turn signal lights from the ’30s that are worth sharing:
Arrows in the lenses, to make it obvious what is intended. Or more likely because they didn’t actually flash, just turned on, and off again.
Looks like the device on one of the cars used in a Little Rascals episode from the 30’s. Buckwheat uses a lever to deploy it. Hand is covered with a boxing glove to punch other drivers if I recall.
Automobile had a unique rear drive too!
This may be among the first electrical signals, from a 1916 auto magazine. Note the arrows and the lever on the steering wheel, letting you choose stop, right, left, or no signal.
That device is quite interesting. Pretty advanced for the times I would say.
When I first saw the picture it reminded me of the bumper sticker “If you can read this you are too darn close”.
Heheh, Clyde right turn…
These days, where I live, it is a miracle if most drivers use their turn signals at all!
Did somebody sayyyyyyy turn signals?!!
That metal hand sure is shiny! My first thought was “Domo arigato Mr. Roboto!” 😉
In New York City, the hands only held up the middle finger.
Matthew “Stymie” Beard Jr. uses something like this in “Free Wheeling” 1932. It’s a must see!
The car had ‘floating power’ too. Bonus points: what was the mule’s name?
I think the first turn signals installed by the factory in a U.S. car was a late-30s or early-40s Buick. I know my 47 Roadmaster had them. Oddly, the signal stalk was on the right hand side of the wheel, rather than the left.
Think that they could still be found in the J.C. Whitney catalog as an aftermarket solution until the advent of self-cancelling turn signals.
I remember being very impressed many years ago when I saw sequential rear turn signals on an American car – are they still used ?
After all this time, Audi are now doing it in Europe – but it looks a bit ‘naff’ somehow on a modern car, as if it is just one upmanship.
Ford had discontinued them back in the 70’s, just after they created a reliable, quiet, solid state device to make it happen. They have returned to the Mustang in recent years.
The early Fords had a motor that spun a wheel that operated the contacts for the individual bulbs. The mechanism wasn’t exactly quiet when new and got noisier as it aged and those contacts would get dirty ect.
Nissan used a similar box full of motor-driven cams on some home-market cars; this 1972 model now living in Australia was probably one of the last, as Japan began requiring amber rear turn signals for 1973 (Australia required amber starting in ’59-’60, so that’s what the local-market version of this car would’ve had). While there wouldn’t’ve been any law stopping a maker doing a similar setup with amber lenses, it’d’ve been harder to justify the cost when the shopping list has brake/tail lights and separate turn signals and a sequencer.
Rear brake and indicator lights from a torpedo-bodied Hispano-Suiza
This has some early 1900s patent dates.
The Australian ones I remember from my childhood were a pivoted arm. It hung vertically until the driver wanted to use it then they’d raise it to horizontal. The hand would be moved to vertical to signal a stop, or remain horizontal for a RH turn. I don’t know what action covered a left turn. Thanks for rekindling some memories.
Well, the standard hand signals (in a country with right-hand traffic) are:
Arm extended straight, hand outward: Left turn
Arm raised, hand up (elbow at 90°): Right turn
Arm lowered, hand downward: Slowing/stopping/brake.
In a left-traffic country like Australia, the right and left signals would be swapped, but I am fairly sure the stop signal would be the same. Are you quite sure about that move to vertical (I’m assuming you mean upward) for a stop?
My Mom told me that in the 1920’s someone offered a rear bumper item. It was designed to let the driver respond to someone honking the horn from the car just rear of him. It was a body with a moving right arm. When the driver pressed the button on the dash to actuate the boy, his arm went up and swung until the thumbed his nose at the driver behind.
I remember around 1949 in New York City standing on a corner waiting to cross when an Austin turned near to us, making a right turn, with those (pardon my language) damned flag turn signals. Had I been inches closer to the Austin, i would have been hurt by that dumb thing.