Portholes – Form vs. Function

Portholes have been a Buick institution (by the now 100 year old General Motors) in the past & they have made a comeback.  The signature original portholes were flaunted in the late 40’s – they were first called Ventiports.  Here’s some pictures of a 1949 Buick Roadmaster recently taken recently by my Dad, at a car show in Central New York.  Nice work, Dad – thanks!

1949 Buick Roadmaster

These served a styling function, but they were also actually able to intake cool air underhood and/or expel hot air as well.  Also, in the early models, 4 portholes on each side designated an 8 cylinder engine, 3 portholes a 6 cylinder.

Buick portholes detail

On the other hand, the current crop of Buick portholes is purely cosmetic in nature.  They reappeared on the 2006 Buick Lucerne, pictured below.

2006 Buick Lucerne

They do hold a somewhat aesthetic fascination, but just serve as staid eye candy – no ventilation, at all!

2006 Buick portholes

Adding insult to injury, so many aftermarket companies have stooped to selling “stick on” portholes, for non-Buick car owners.  I have seen a number of the aftermarket porthole applications and all are laughable, even seeing two of them poorly placed on a subcompact 4-cylinder econocar’s fender.  Silly!

In many of the autocrosses I’ve observed, the more than casual competitor wants his engine to breathe better.  Besides replacing air cleaner filters with better breathing elements, I have seen non-standard holes cut in hoods, but none in the side fenders.  In this application function definitely trumps form.

Here at Racing Ready I want function to be the operative word, as well (although I DO want it to look good – proper form).


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