Everything Hertz!

I passed my driving test when I was 17. In other words, 31 years ago. I don't know how far I've driven since then, but it must be half a million miles, give or take. Twenty times around the Earth, say. To the Moon and back.

And in all those hundreds of thousands of miles, not once—not on one single occasion—have I ever needed to consult the rev-counter on the dashboard of my car. Not once. Never.

True—touch wood—I've never had need of a seatbelt or airbag either. But seatbelts and airbags strike me as sensible precautions. But what the hell is a rev-counter for? For counting revs, obviously. But why on Earth would I need to know how many revs my car's engine is doing? To make sure I'm not over-revving, presumably. But I don't need a rev-counter to tell me when I'm over-revving, as I have a perfectly adequate pair of ears, and can tell when I'm over-revving because the car's engine starts screaming for mercy, and bits start flying off it. Even if my rev-counter were to tell me that the engine was revving within acceptable parameters—whatever the hell those might be—I would certainly ignore it if my ears told me otherwise. That's what ears are for. Well, that's one thing that ears are for. When it comes to flogging an engine—which I don't tend to do—I would far rather play it by ear than rely on some stupid dial telling me that I was doing 500,000,000 revs—or whatever.

The truth of the matter is that rev-counters are a total waste of space. The only reason they put them on car dashboards is because they can. Revs are something that can easily be measured, so measured they must be. If you were checking out a brand-new car in a showroom, and it didn't have a rev-counter on the dashboard, would you even notice? (Be honest, now, have you even noticed whether there's a rev-counter on your current car's dashboard?) And, if you happened to notice that the otherwise perfect new car in the showroom didn't have a rev-counter on its dashboard, would you kick up any kind of fuss about it with the salesperson? Or even try to use its inexplicable absence as some sort of haggling point? Of course you wouldn't: they would laugh in your face.

Diedrich Uhlhorn
Having a laugh: Diedrich Uhlhorn (R) and some apples.

Whoever it was who invented the rev-counter is laughing in our faces. Or they would be, were they not, presumably, long-dead by now. (Actually, I've just looked it up: it was the German engineer Dietrich Uhlhorn, and he died in Grevenbroich in 1837, so the joke was ultimately on him.)

Putting it quite simply, we don't need rev-counters on our dashboards. That space could be filled far more usefully. With yet another drinks-holder, say, or an ashtray—remember those?—or even a barometer. Anything, almost anything would be more useful on a car's dashboard than a sodding rev-counter.

Someone ought to do something.

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.


  1. Rev-counters are a left over on dashboards from the age before synchronised gearboxes and automatics. When changing gear with a non-synchronised gear box it can be helpful to know the number of revs of the motor as there is an opitmal rev level to successfully negotiate the gear change. It is the evolution of the gearbox that has rendered the rev-counter superfluous.

  2. What you need is a Rev-counter; a counter that increments each time a church official bounces off your bonnet. Double points for an Archdeacon.

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