I’ve never liked the Vauxhall VXR's gear knob. Too short, anatomically plain weird, and finished with hefty stitching so coarse it can scrape your skin off. I’ve just never understood who thought this was a good idea. CAR’s Chris Chilton once memorably described it to me as ‘that upturned Eskimo boot that could cut your hand’ – and it seems a common object of bemusement.
Then the other week I was in Rüsselsheim at the Opel design centre, listening to a bloke who developed interior items on the forthcoming Vauxhall Insignia. These included a range of prototype gear knobs we were encouraged to hold and admire for their slinky and ergonomic design – which produced some rather awkward grunts of approval from the assembled hacks.
How, I asked him afterwards, and in the context of everything he’d just told me, did he explain that infamously odd VXR gear knob? He looked embarrassed. I felt guilty for asking. But then he smiled sheepishly and said: 'My predecessor developed it; there was the feeling at the time that the interior needed to be very macho for the VXR, but I do know what you mean. I hate it!
'When I see that guy around the design centre, he calls me a wimp [and worse, I got the feeling] for not liking it, but it is too big and uncomfortable. I would not do it like that now.'
So now we know. The VXR's gear knob doesn't just split your palm, it splits opinion. Even in GM's European design centre...
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