It’s no secret that, generally, the consensus view of our site is that manual transmissions are a force of good in the world, and so along with that goes the use of one’s left foot. That means, generally, one’s full complement of feet are employed when driving. Most modern cars only demand, at most, that feet handle throttle, brake, and clutch. A reader named Sam, though, was unsatisfied with this and longed to know more, so much more, more about what feet could be tasked with when driving a car. So let’s think about it.
What we’re trying to understand here is the upper limit of plausible foot controls on a car. I think, if we only use controls that have been actually used on mass-produced cars, the maximum we can expect is six. No, wait—I think nine.
Here’s how that breaks down:
4. Emergency brake
5. Headlight dimmer
6. Foot-operated windshield washer
and, less common but still known:
8. Low fresh air vents
9. Heating vents
Of these, outside of the Big Three (gas, brake, clutch) the foot e-brake was likely the most common, and can still occasionally be found on modern cars today.
The foot-operated headlight dimmer switch was largely phased out by the 1980s, and the foot-operated windshield washer is likely the least common, though it shows up on more cars than you’d guess:
These foot-operated windshield washers can either work by the action of the foot itself providing the pumping force to squirt that windshield clean, or can simply actuate an electric pump via a switch.
The foot-starter was used on a number of cars, perhaps most famously the Willys Jeeps, and our own David Tracy confirms his Postal Jeep DJ has foot-operated fresh air vents, and I know Volkswagen Beetles had little foot-shovable sliding covers over the floor heater vents, too:
So, with this in mind, I think that somewhere out there could exist a hypothetical car with maybe not all nine possible foot controls, but maybe with the six slightly more widespread foot controls: the three pedals, an e-brake pedal, a foot dimmer switch, and foot-operated windshield washer.
Lots of cars come close, with five out of the six for manual cars, with foot dimmers and washer pumps, but most of these—like the first-generation Ford Mustang or the Mercedes-Benz 190SL or the Opel GT—used hand-operated parking brakes, either with a lever on the central tunnel or an under-dash pull-handle.
Can anyone think of a car that used all six possible common foot controls? Or even better, all nine? Am I missing a foot control? I really feel like there has to be that car out there—perhaps a truck—with all of these.