Back Seat Control Shows Beginners How to Drive (Jan, 1929)

Back Seat Control Shows Beginners How to Drive
COPYING the dual control idea from army training planes, a back seat drive with steering wheel, clutch and brake pedals has been built into an automobile by an enterprising dealer to help beginners learn the fine points of driving their new cars. The photograph shows how the back seat controls are built into the car. This system of instruction has proven unusually efficient.

  1. Don says: December 8, 20092:27 pm

    I don’t know if I get this; she’s not actually driving from back there, right? Maybe she gets to feel how the real driver does it through her pedals and wheel, maybe??

  2. rick says: December 8, 20092:48 pm

    I’m wondering whether or not this thing ever really got built or maybe was just someone’s idea. How could the student ever see much on the road from back there with the limited field of forward viewing and with the actual driver sitting right in front of her blocking whatever view there is?


  3. Don says: December 8, 20093:04 pm

    Rick, it reads “. . . has been built.” They wouldn’t print it if it weren’t so . . . would they??

  4. Firebrand38 says: December 8, 20093:11 pm

    Rick…the photo and the text kind of hints to me that it was built

  5. Tracy B says: December 8, 20093:27 pm

    I love it! A genuine backseat driver’s position.

    It is merely a dual control, but in tandem as opposed to side by side which is often used in garbage trucks, street sweepers as well as airplanes. It would make for some humorous if not interesting encounters with other motorists or authorities if the car was soloed from the back seat and no one was sitting in the front seat! I’m sure the movie industry has had such vehicles for years.

  6. Toronto says: December 8, 20094:36 pm

    You’d think the student would be in the front.

  7. rick says: December 8, 20095:45 pm

    Hi Firebrand. Yes, you’re right. The text does indicate that some dealer built one. But you’d think that if he’d go to all that trouble he’d put the two control systems side by side so the student could at least see clearly. Come to think of it, with the manual shift systems available back then it might have been much too difficult to build side by side gear shifts (both would have had to be to the right of the driver AND the student) than it would have been for a tandem system.

    And Don, of COURSE! What was I thinking??? 😉


  8. Richard says: December 8, 20096:57 pm

    It’s probably tandem instead of side-by-side because they copied the idea from airplanes. While there are lots of modern side by side trainers (Cessna 152, Pipe Tomahawk, among others), that wasn’t the case in the early days. The early biplane trainers, from the first PT-1 up through the post-WWII era, had such narrow fuselages that side-by-side seating was impossible. They were all tandem seating, and in most, the student normally sat in back.

    “Because airplanes do it that way”, seems a silly reason to copy the idea in cars, though.

  9. Neil Russell says: December 8, 20097:12 pm

    The front seat was a little crowded as it was in pre 1930 cars, it might have been difficult to do a side by side with those big steering wheels not overlapping.
    Perhaps too it was easier to duplicate the hand controls in a front-to-back fashion if they included spark, gas, and choke controls in the second set.
    Clutch linkage was probably via a rod and crank assembly like the old mechanical brakes and the front and back pedals could be connected together.
    It could work, but safety was certainly not a overriding concern.

  10. Tracy B says: December 9, 20093:24 pm

    On a side by side arrangement, a second gear shift lever is probably not needed. Many aircraft have simply one throttle set in the middle shared with both pilot and co-pilot. I could see the same thing for a car, although a steering column mounted shift might require dual places.

    I thought students were always in the front seat, but perhaps open cockpit was different.

  11. rick says: December 9, 20093:56 pm

    Hello Tracy B. I think you may be missing the point of the dual controls in this case. The car was set up for teaching beginners how to drive, so the gear shift, in the proper position, would be very necessary for the student to learn how to properly shift while driving.


  12. Tracy B says: December 10, 20095:10 pm


    There was no such thing as an automatic transmission in those days– just engaging the clutch and goosing the gas pedal without stalling the engine– definitely an art form.

  13. John M. Hanna says: December 10, 200911:54 pm

    Reminds me of the old Tex Avery cartoon “The Car Of Tomorrow”. One of the gags is a steering wheel for back seat drivers.

  14. Firebrand38 says: December 11, 200912:50 am

    John M. Hanna: No doubt…

  15. K!P says: December 26, 200911:54 am

    lol… art form? ive only drove an automatic once or twice, most cars here in europe are manuals (90%)

  16. Don says: December 26, 200912:53 pm

    K!P, here in the US it is almost a lost art. My wife and I have always had manual cars, but when we got our 2005 Camry, that option was no longer available; they made the last one with a V6 (which we wanted) and a stick a few months before we got ours. The 6-speed auto we wound up with works very nicely, but I’d still rather have gotten a stick . . . .

  17. JMyint says: December 27, 200910:59 am

    The sales of manual and automatic transmission types seem to go through phases of popularity in the US. I myself learned how to drive on a manual, a 1960 pickup truck with column shift, and taught my children to drive a manual. I find it difficult to drive a manual now because of a shoulder injury so I have consigned myself to automatics.

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