Car Window Oddities

Your car would be rather odd without windows but it’s not something most of us think about. Looking through the history of cars there are a few odd window choices which might be worth investigating.

History of Windshield

Most early cars were built by buckboard or wagon manufacturers. At horse-drawn speeds driver and passengers are not too worried about wind, but as vehicles go faster the idea of a windshield became quickly necessary. Windshields actually came about on cars before roofs.


The rest of the history of windshields centers on safety and is actually not very interesting. According to OTTO, In 1930 Henry Ford was injured in a wreck, which prompted Ford Motor Company to begin installing laminated glass (a piece of clear plastic between two sheets of glass). Eventually in the 1950s all auto makers moved to tempered glass.

The real issue these days is disposal. The glass can no longer be thrown in a landfill, at least in Europe, which necessitates the creation of a recycling process. By exploiting the different melting temperatures of glass and plastic the materials can be separated and reused independently.

Another evolution of Windshield was using a center column to support 2 flat panes of glass which were smaller and tougher than one longer sheet of glass. This was replaced once glass could be curved during manufacturing, which was actually stronger than flat glass.

Unusual Side Windows

We’ll start with vent car windows, also known as “ventiplanes,” when on the Pontiac Torpedo. They were triangular shaped and set in the corner of the door, probably making them more of a novelty.

These were also known as quarter windows and were noteworthy for rotating inwards. They can be seen in cars such as Buick Encore or Fiat Grande Prio. As well as many discontinued cars you probably never heard of, but they are still remembered somewhere. You could find these on several model of pickup as well.

There is a certain dated look about them, but they had a pretty long run, lasting all the way up to the 1980. It doesn’t seem immediately obvious why it suddenly went out of style. Maybe certain marketers decided it was time for a revamp?

Opera Windows

The opera window was a small round window near the C pillar in some cars. The C pillar is between the passenger part of the car and the hood. Originally the opera window was a complete circle but can also be oval or even any shape.

The Opera window has a long history. They date back to the days of horseless carriages, many of which included a round window on the side. Again, the 1980s seemed to be the end of this specific type of window. It might make sense to get rid of a round window as most windows nowadays seem to follow a certain horizontal cross section around the car that causes a circular window to stand out.

Once only used by the most top of the range cars, the power window has now become the industrial standard. Its origin lies in vacuum assists which was used in vehicles such as the Plymouth to lift the lids of convertibles. The first type was hydro-electric in the Packard. In 1947 in addition to the power windows General Motors also created cars where the seats were also adjustable by electric power.

When it comes to tinting windows there are a number of plus points such as keeping the car cool in hot weather, reduce the glare and block ultra-violet rays. Blocking sunlight will also extend the life of leather seats.

Unfortunately, different states in the US have their own laws on how dark the tint should go due to safety reasons. It should have 30-70% transparent, dependent on state and whether you’re talking about the windscreen or a side window.

If the car has a factory tint then it must comply with industrial standards. Police have the power to ticket windows with the wrong kind of tinting in the US, which is generally the result of an aftermarket customization.

If you have certain medical conditions, for example melanoma, you can have darker windows your state normally allows, but must carry the documentation with you at all times.

Is your glass laminated or tempered? Laminated glass is on the wane; only 1 in 3 cars used laminated glass. Laminated glass is designed to stay in one piece while tempered glass (also known as safety glass) shatters into hundreds of pieces.

It’s a shame that most people look for an unoriginal car window but it’s never been a selling point. Even items like vent windows were done for convenience’s sake.

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