I Bet You'd Like To Know What Those Holes In The Sides Of Buicks Are Actually Called

If someone were to run up to you on the street, seize you by the collar and look at you, wide eyed, shaking, and shriek, “Buicks! Tell me something about Buicks!” chances are good you may say, “They usually have three fake holes in their sides!” before shoving them away and getting the hell out of there. Have you ever wondered if those holes have a name?

So, what, exactly is the deal with those holes? Are they just Speed Holes?

Oh, there’s so much more to them than you realized! They have a name! A name that’s not Speed Holes! And the number of them—three or four—suggests the displacement of the Buick’s engine!

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They’re called VentiPorts, and here’s what GM Heritage has to say about them:

It was also in 1949 that Buick introduced “VentiPorts.” Four were displayed on each of the Roadmaster’s front fenders, with three on the fenders of all other Buicks. The sales brochure noted that VentiPorts helped ventilate the engine compartment. The idea for VentiPorts grew out of a modification Buick styling chief Ned Nickles had added to his own 1948 Roadmaster. Four amber lights were installed on each side of the car’s hood which were wired to the distributor. The lights flashed on and off as each piston fired which was supposed to simulate the flames from the exhaust stack of a fighter airplane. Combined with the bombsight mascot, VentiPorts put the driver at the controls of an imaginary fighter airplane. Buick chief Harlow Curtice was so impressed with this styling feature that he ordered that non-lighting VentiPorts be installed on all 1949 Buicks, with the number of VentiPorts (three or four) corresponding to the relative displacement of the straight-eight engine installed.

How about that? they started out as fun lights that flashed in time with each piston’s power stroke, then turned into actual heat extracting holes. Soon after that, they became a fake and are still lumbering on to this day, more fake than ever.

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VentiPorts. Now you know.

Oh, if that guy grabs you again and asks you about Buicks, I guess you could also mention how they’re really big in China right now.

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)