Sunday, 4 November 2012

Instrumentalism #02: Sierra "Graphic Information Module"


My dad had a Ford Sierra: not just any old sales-rep's motorway battle wagon, but a Sierra Ghia. As you all know, Ghia was once a famous and respected Italian styling house and coachbuilder, but its name would latterly become somewhat devalued by its association with those models in Ford's lineup that were festooned with such baubles 'n trinkets as "wood" trim, crushed velour and map-reading lights that you could swivel about.

Still, in 1982, having a Ghia crest on your car meant you were practically nobility. Or something.

Class distinctions aside, the Sierra Ghia was certainly not light on gewgaws, and Ford was quite proud of their Graphic Information Module. It sat squarely in the centre of the dashboard so those luxuriating in the back seats could gaze in wonderment at its warm green display. 

This portrayed a birds-eye view of an actual Sierra, with diagramatic representations of open doors or tailgate, defective light bulbs and two stages of temperature warning denoted by a green or red snowflake that would blaze dramatically in the very middle of the display.

It was flanked by a digital / analogue alarm clock / timer of some complexity (and causing noteable battery drain) and positioned below a strip of warning lamps. These were presented as a neutral density panel so you couldn't see the lamps until they lit up. I often thought that this design flourish was something that Ford really didn't have to make, and that there's a designer out there who's really proud of himself for getting it signed off. So he should be.

In 1982, nobody else in Europe had anything like a Graphic Information Module. The Sierra's chief rival the Vauxhall Cavalier certainly didn't and this was, of course, very important.

My friends' dads had Cavaliers. My dad had a Sierra Ghia. Nobility, as I said.


Intro photo stolen from a Flickr album by VAGDave. Thanks.
Brochure photo above taken by me, in poor lighting, with a poor camera, poorly.