My mother's 1976 Toyota Corona was a nice-looking, comfortable car with some clever features. Unfortunately, many of them broke.
The lever that controlled the wipers snapped off; I replaced it with a slide switch. The switch that stuck out from the control column to turn on the lights broke, as well; eventually, I replaced it with a small alligator clip lead that could be attached and removed as required.
But the worst clever feature was the air conditioning fan controls. Toyota did something terribly clever, never seen before -- and probably not since, either. It had the usual levers to open and close air passages and turn heat or A/C on. They attached switches to one of those levers. You pulled it out and pushed it in to turn the fan on and off and to turn the fan from high to low. You did not have fumble around for a fan control. Push the lever over to cool or hot, and then pull it out or push it in until you have the amount of air you need.
The problem is, when you take a switch (which, of course, has wires attached to it) and pull those wires -- not only in and out but side to side -- and do that a lot, the wires start to break. Reattaching them only means they are going to break again.
As it turned out, Toyota had saved so much space in the air conditioning controls it could be lavish in other areas. Where the typical instrument panel light dimmer is a small knob combined with another function or hidden away in some obscure spot, Toyota provided a large slide potentiometer for the panel light dimmer that had a travel of nearly four inches. It was located to the right of the steering wheel, on the lower section of the instrument panel, near the driver's right knee. You could probably adjust the panel light level with greater precision than in any other car ever made -- which, of course, was a nearly useless feature.
At a surplus electronics store, I found a four-position lever switch that was exactly the right length to fit in the dimmer control slot. I pulled out the dimmer pot and hotwired the lights to full bright. I wired the fan controls to the lever switch. The result was less elegant but far more reliable.
This entry was submitted by Wayne Eleazer and edited by Rob Spiegel.
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