One of the coolest feature on any old car is a set of vent windows: those triangular panes of glass that funnel air in from the outside. Many modern cars have the same triangle-shaped glass on the front doors, except it’s fixed, and therefore useless. This is a huge missed opportunity.
People love driving around with wind flowing through their hair, and automakers are always trying to capitalize on this fact. Lots of companies offer sliding sunroofs, plenty offer convertibles (with one of the weirder examples being Nissan’s Murano CrossCabriolet), some sell removable roof panels and half doors, and still others have sliding power rag tops.
But despite this universal acknowledgement that it’s nice to take in the breeze while driving, basically all automakers have abandoned one of my favorite car features ever: the vent window.
There was a time when these windows were a necessity—when folks didn’t have ice-cold R12, R134a or R1234yf-chilled air pouring through their HVAC vents, and when they needed convection to keep from melting into puddles on their seats.
That time is long behind us, and since the early 1990s, vent windows have pretty much faded away from the U.S. car scene. But just because everyone has AC doesn’t make quarter-windows obsolete. Like convertibles, removable tops, sunroofs, and the other features I mentioned before—they still make sense for one reason: they’re a hell of a lot of fun.
That little triangular pane of glass, when popped open, not only makes anyone behind the wheel look cool, but it makes them feel cool, too. Both figuratively and literally. Just look at me in the picture above. Look at how cool I look with that popped quarter-window—marginally cool, right? Do you know how hard it is to make me look even slightly cool?
That’s the power of the vent window.
Vent windows are fairly simple; they rotate about two hinges: one on the A-pillar, and the other at the base of the window at the vehicle’s beltline.
When closed, a metal handle on the inside of the vent window latches onto the back of a miniature pillar that connects the base of the window to the top window frame.
To open the window, you press a button, which unlocks the handle, allowing it to rotate the latch from behind the mini pillar. Then the window can just be pushed open. If it has been adjusted properly, it will stay at whatever angle the occupant has deemed optimal for funneling air towards their body.
So you get it: Vent windows are cool, so it’s frustrating that they’re gone. But, as my friend and Jalopnik-reader Jamie pointed out, what’s more frustrating is that many modern cars have little windows right where a vent window would go! Look at this Yaris:
That little window should totally flip out. Why the hell not? So much fun could be had in that little Yaris, popping that window out and letting in the breeze. But instead, the driver will have to roll down the entire window, and that’s not really living, is it?
That fixed window has so much potential, and yet instead of giving it the freedom to rotate about an axis that it deserves, Toyota restricted all motion. It is a fixed window, and it useless.
Same goes for this Prius:
And look at this beautifully triangular little window on the Ford Fiesta:
Look, I get that everyone has air conditioning, and that there are probably some theft, water leakage, and maybe aerodynamic concerns with having a vent window. But this is all about fun. Plus, it’s 2018. We’ve got cars attempting to drive themselves on public roads, so we can figure out how to make that little triangle or quadrilateral-shaped piece of glass on our front doors flip out without it being too much of a compromise in other areas.
Come on, automakers, slap some hinges onto those baby windows. Take that useless pane of glass, and turn it into something fun.