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Car Talk: Lamenting fate of the vent window

Dear Car Talk: I had a ’73 MGB, and it had the vent windows. I now have a 2007 VW Eos, and like all new autos, it does not have vent windows. I miss the vent windows. Why were they designed out of the newer vehicles? – John

A: For two reasons, John. One is that they’re no longer really necessary.

For those too young to remember vent windows, vinyl seats that left branding marks on your thighs and car interiors that felt like ovens, cars used to have small, triangular windows in front of the driver and passenger windows. Those vent windows could be unlocked and then angled outward, so they would catch the wind and blow it directly onto your face … or other important areas of the body that require cooling.

And back before air conditioning, those vent windows could mean that the difference between showing up at work ready to suck up to the boss, and showing up for work looking as if you had just played two hours of one-on-one with LeBron James.

But almost every car now comes with air conditioning. So if it’s so hot that simply lowering a window won’t cut it, you always have the option of rolling up the windows and turning the temperature down to 70 degrees.

And that leads to the second reason why you don’t see vent windows anymore: Cars are actually more fuel-efficient with all of their windows closed and the air conditioner on – even when you factor in the energy used to power the air conditioner.

A lot of work and science go into making cars aerodynamic these days so as to maximize mileage. And in order to make the wind flow around the car, the windows have to be closed to create a smooth exterior surface. If you open the windows, you increase the car’s wind resistance and reduce its fuel mileage, especially at higher speeds.

And that’s just with the regular windows open. If you were to push out one of the windows, so it was perpendicular to the car – which is what vent windows did – it would be like mounting a pizza box on your door. It would kill the aerodynamic profile of the vehicle.

So that’s why you don’t see them anymore, John. But if you’re really nostalgic, next time you go to the local pizza joint, save the box and stick it out your window on the way home.

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