Relaxed behind the wheel of my beloved classic car we cruise along twisty backroads through a postcard scenery. The sun is shining and life is good – almost perfect. Only, it is getting somewhat stuffy in here. But I bought a fixed-head classic for a reason – I just couldn’t be bothered with all the buffeting right now… Ah, the quarterlights of course! I reach across and easily swivel the little triangular window ajar. No wind noise and no buffet whatsoever; just a light and pleasant breeze of fresh air into the cabin. Just enough for a little added ventilation and to let in all those lovely summer scents from the world passing by outside. Now life is perfect.
Sometimes even the smallest and simplest of design features can make all the difference. The opening quarterlight is in my opinion one of them. It’s almost laughable just how simple it is. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not clever nor functional. I use the quarterlights on my classics a lot. The effect that a slightly open quarterlight window has on the interior environment is hugely pleasing. On a hot and sunny day, that fresh breeze of air is a godsent. And if it’s cold outside and the old heater matrix is working at full blast, I always direct all that hot air at my feet and then leave one quarterlight just ever so slightly angled to let a little crisp, cold air reach my nostrils. It really is a fabulous design feature. In fact, even just the mechanical action of swivelling open a quarterlight always puts a smile on my face.
Up through the fifties, sixties and well into the seventies it was common for many – if not most – cars to have the small triangular quarterlight windows which could be angled open to let in fresh air. Some more luxurious cars with focus on rear seat comfort even had similar quarterlights in the rear doors too – such as the Jaguar Mk.II and the Rover P5 Coupé. This left four people with the many joys of opening quarterlights rather than just the front seat occupants.
Of course, if one were of a more sceptical mind frame, it could be argued that these quarterlights only existed due to the poor ventilation systems which most cars had back then. As these were improved upon with fresh air vents ducted through the dashboard becoming the norm, there was less need for the quarterlights. With the introduction of the fully automated climate control, they became entirely obsolete. As the seventies brought on a trend for simpler, cleaner and unadorned designs, there was also a push from this front to kill off the quarterlights as many designers felt they cluttered the lines of their creations. There were even complaints from insurance companies that the quarterlights were too easy to force open from the outside, leaving it a simple task for car thieves to get access to your prized car.
But all of this doesn’t matter the least to me. I love my quarterlights! I enjoy using them regularly on my BMW 02’s just like I used to do on my Triumph 2.5PI mk.I and my Sunbeam Imp Sport. And to be honest, I miss them when I drive my Reliant Scimitar GTE. The earlier Scimitar SE5 had them, but very much in line with the rest of the motoring industry, they disappeared when the SE6 was introduced in 1975. Hmmm… would I be insane to swap my SE6 for a SE5 merely to achieve having quarterlights in my daily car as well?
Dear ViaRETRO reader, do you share my affections for the swivelling quarterlight windows, or am I just being overly nostalgic and silly now? Or is it perhaps another entirely simple and functional design feature which you prize so dearly on your classic car? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below…