The original Tilt Wheel was developed by Edward James Lobdell in the early 1900s. The seven position Tilt Wheel was made available in several General Motors products in 1963.
Originally a luxury option on cars, the tilt
function helps to adjust the steering wheel by moving the wheel through an arc in an up and down motion. Tilt Steering Wheels rely upon a ratchet joint located in the steering column just below the steering wheel. By disengaging the ratchet lock, the wheel can be adjusted upward or downward while the steering column remains stationary below the joint. Some designs place the pivot slightly forward along the column, allowing for a fair amount of vertical movement of the steering wheel with little actual tilt, while other designs place the pivot almost inside the steering wheel, allowing adjustment of the angle of the steering wheel with almost no change it its height. The "tilt wheels" were supplied to the other automakers (except to Ford) by GM's Saginaw Division.
Developed by General Motors
Saginaw Steering Gear Division (now Nexteer Automotive
), the telescoping wheel can be adjusted to an infinite number of positions in a 3-inch range. The 1955-1957 Ford Thunderbird
had a telescoping steering wheel.
The Tilt and
Telescope steering wheel was introduced as an exclusive option on Cadillac
automobiles in 1965.Adjustable steering columnIn contrast, an adjustable steering column allows steering wheel height to be adjusted with only a small, useful change in tilt. Most of these systems work with compression locks or electric motors instead of ratchet mechanisms; the latter may be capable of moving to a memorized position when a given driver uses the car, or of moving up and forward for entry or exit.Swing-away steering wheel
Introduced on the 1961 Ford Thunderbird
, and made available on other Ford
products throughout the 1960s, the Swing-away steering wheel allowed the steering wheel to move nine inches to the right when the transmission selector was in Park, so as to make driver exit and entry easier.