Much like the quickening a Highlander feels when beheading a fellow immortal, I feel a strange and powerful surge of energy whenever a certain event transpires. For me, it’s not beheading anything. It’s learning about some weird car feature I never knew before. This time, the feature is one on a car that’s much less exotic (to us Americans) than those where these oddball features are usually found: it’s on a Corvette. The feature? Windshield wipers that are hidden under a cover that automatically lifts out of the way when they’re needed.
I happened to see this wonderful madness in this tweet:
It’s wonderful, isn’t it? Ridiculous and overcomplicated and maybe a little senseless, but that’s why it’s so wonderful.
The particular Corvette is an early C3 ‘Vette, like the ones made from 1968 to 1972, a period that coincides with when American carmakers all somehow decided that windshield wipers were shameful things that needed to be hidden.
Maybe this was some weird residual Puritanical urge springing up again? I really don’t fully understand why everyone decided wipers should not be seen by dignified eyes, but all of the Big Three started designing cars with hidden wipers around this time.
For example, here’s Chryslers Newport, 1967 and 1969:
See? The ‘67 wore its wipers boldly, unashamedly, while the ‘69 modestly tucks them under a hood with a raised lip to shield the wipers from view.
There are likely good aero reasons to hide wipers, but that’s not what was going on during this time. People just liked the clean look, and I get that.
But what makes this early C3 ‘Vette so special is that I don’t think any other carmaker was willing to put in the sort of effort Chevy put in here to not just hide the wipers, but to make their reveal an event.
The feature was officially known as Hide-A-Way wipers. The panel above the vents was actuated by a vacuum-operated motor, which may seem odd now, but vacuum-operated accessories like wipers and windows were common back in those days when electric motors were more expensive than lots of hoses and vacuum plumbing.
Of course, vacuum anything can mean vacuum leaks, which can lead to the door opening when you turn off the car, like with this Corvette owner:
GM was proud enough of this little detail to include a mention in ads, even:
As cool as this feature was, it was pretty complex, too, and required a lot more vacuum hoses from the already complicated setup used to operate the wipers and open and close the headlamps.
So, by the 1973 model year, Chevy just made the hood a bit longer to hide the wipers like everyone else, and this little bit of automotive drama was lost, so far never to be replicated.
I mean, that’s probably technically a good thing, based on how many forum posts I’ve seen of people complaining how miserable these are in icy weather or all of the extra problems they introduce, but I still think they’re fantastic.
Besides, who’s buying a Corvette for rational reasons, anyway?