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January 10, 2019

Why did they get rid of those little, triangular vent windows?

There was a time when every passenger car featured a triangular vent window at each of the front doors. Those days are long gone, for better or worse. But here's a reflection.

My family took long road trips, crisscrossing the US every summer. Dad was a college professor and Mom didn’t enter the workforce until I was in junior high. We had only one family car and it was always a station wagon, usually a Chevrolet.

It wasn’t until the middle 1970s that we had a wagon with air conditioning. Before then we cooled off by lowering the windows. The driver and front seat passenger had the benefit of the triangular vent windows. They could be opened and angled in such a way as to direct a stream of wind to offer some relief from the summer heat. We rarely rolled the four big windows all the way down because the wind noise was so great we couldn’t hear the AM radio. My big sister and I had more than one argument over just that.

Now of course virtually everything on the road is air conditioned, so vent windows aren’t needed. And I suppose it was cheaper for car manufacturers to eliminate them. (I think they were useful for smokers, too, but Mom and Dad didn’t smoke much.)

In the photography, you can see a vent window on my 1968 VW Karmann Ghia Type 34. That's my kid brother in the driver's seat with my dog. Dad is in the background.

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