Tillers were tried and joysticks were promised, but ultimately the steering wheel became the standard for automobile control. Getting comfortable behind the wheel was not always as mundane as it is in today's world of laser-guided automatic adjusting steering wheels. One size did not fit all or make getting in or out any easier or stylish. An innovative step on the way from fixed to telescoping and fully adjustable steering wheels was the Ford Swing-Away.
As sports cars got lower and sleeker the steering wheel was no longer something to ape over. The British developed telescoping steering wheels in sporting machines before the war, race cars got around the problem with removable steering wheels, and the Mercedes-Benz 300SL featured a flip down arrangement. Chevrolet might have been first to American sports with its Corvette, but Ford was ahead in personal luxury with its telescoping steering wheel in the 1955 Thunderbird.
Telescoping improved driving comfort and control but may or may not have made entry or exit any more graceful. The Swing-Away steering wheel enabled elegant entry and egress by simply moving out of the way. Driving a 1961 Thunderbird so equipped meant that the entire column and steering wheel slid over towards the center of the cabin once the Cruise-O-Matic transmission was in park. The 1961 Ford Thunderbird brochure touted the Swing-Away as part of what made their personal luxury car “totally” new.