Buick Portholes (I Mean VentiPorts)

Buick Ad – December 1948

Here is an interesting fact about Buick portholes . . . the official term for them is “VentiPorts”. They first appeared on the 1949 Buick and were actually functional at that time. They were used, according to Buick, “for identification and cooling purposes”. The origination of the VentiPort is described this way by the GM Heritage Center:

“The idea for VentiPorts grew out of a modification Buick styling chief Ned Nickles had added to his own 1948 Roadmaster. Four amber lights were installed on each side of the car’s hood which were wired to the distributor. The lights flashed on and off as each piston fired which was supposed to simulate the flames from the exhaust stack of a fighter airplane. Combined with the bombsight mascot, VentiPorts put the driver at the controls of an imaginary fighter airplane. Buick chief Harlow Curtice was so impressed with this styling feature that he ordered that non-lighting VentiPorts be installed on all 1949 Buicks, with the number of VentiPorts (three or four) corresponding to the relative displacement of the straight-eight engine installed.”

Buick Ad -November 1948

After 1949, the VentiPorts were no longer used for cooling, some say because Buick owners were complaining about kids shoving all sorts of unwanted items into the holes. In any case, they became purely decorative like the ones on this 1952 Buick:

1952 Buick Special at the Nebraska Prairie Museum
1952 Buick Special at the Nebraska Prairie Museum
1952 Buick Special at the Nebraska Prairie Museum

This is what the VentiPorts look like off of the car:

1951-2 Buick Roadmaster VentiPort
1951-2 Buick Special VentiPort

The number of VentiPorts helped to distinguish Buick model series with the more powerful Buicks, with more chrome, having more VentiPorts . For instance, only the Roadmaster had four VentiPorts through 1954. Then, in 1955, four were placed on the Roadmaster, the Century and the Super while the Special had only three.

1955 Buick Century (Buick sales brochure)
1955 Buick Special (Buick sales brochure)

Along with the cars, the VentiPorts themselves were restyled year after year. This is a 1956 VentiPort:

VentiPorts disappeared in 1958 and 1959, but they came back with a vengeance throughout the 1960s with a new rectangular shape. The 1964 Wildcat mixed things up by featuring vertically stacked VentiPorts. This is a VentiPort from a 1969 Buick Sport Wagon:

The VentiPorts continue to be brought back from time to time. Even the compact Apollo had them during the 1970s! Maybe Buick should make better use of them today in order to stand out from a field of cars that all look the same.

Buick Ad – June 1954
Buick Ad – July 1950

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