Cars tend to have a lot of bits attached to them that are absolutely unnecessary when they are converted into race cars. Usually that applies to things like air conditioning, radios, and carpets, but I absolutely love it when people take things to the extreme of removing the windshield frame and roof panel in the pursuit of weight loss.
I’ve seen quite a few of this style of racer in Lemons over the years, but it’s a tradition that dates back to the earliest days of racing. Sportscar manufacturers like MG and Porsche built their street-legal sports cars with easily removable windshields for the sportspeople who wanted to take them to the race track on the weekends. Many of the sport’s legends came up through the ranks by taking their Twin Cam MGAs and 356 Speedsters to cut their teeth against the best of the best, and of course they took their windshields off.
Even to this day many track-only racers, like the Lotus 3-Eleven 430 shown below, are built without a windshield in the first place. It plays into the minimalist aspect of a race car, reduces build and development costs, and just plain looks cool as hell.
There are, of course, downsides to cutting the windshield off of your racer. It’s not usually a great idea from an aerodynamics perspective, as you’ve now got a big wide open space where air can potentially get trapped and become turbulent. You might be reducing the car’s overall frontal area by getting rid of a huge windshield, but it’s impossible to gauge the drag created by the passenger compartment being open. My personal favorite look is when racers fair in their passenger seat area to reduce that airflow issue.
Aside from the aero aspect, the upsides are myriad. The driving experience is far more exhilarating when you’re exposed to the elements, similar in that way to riding a motorcycle. The sounds, smells, and sensation of speed are amplified. It’s that wind-in-your-helmet feeling that makes it all the better.
There are a bunch of cars that don’t look quite the same without their windshield and roof panel in place, but generally if the car has a solid body line that extends from the front fender through the top of the door and connects to the rear quarter, it’ll look great without a windshield. I think I need to chop the windshield off of my Boxster.