Jerry Brown: Bring back those old-fashioned floor vents and triangular vent windows and save fuel!

Well, I’ve been waiting for Governor Jerry Brown to answer my email for long enough now. Perhaps it’s because I’m not part of his constituency…(I’m from Quebec)…anyway, here’s my idea and maybe some Californians will read this and email their governor. After all, it’s California that decides what regulations will apply to North American cars…Is anyone reading this old enough to remember when North American cars had floor vents? Just reach down beside your legs on the outside of the footwell and pull a lever, and enormous amounts of cold air would rush up your legs and engulf your body (when you were moving at speed of course). That, combined with the little triangular windows at the front corner of the front windows, which could be opened and directed onto your face, was all you needed much of the time for cooling. Then the Japanese introduced their cars without those vents, but with air conditioning, and by the end of the 70s NA manufacturers got wise, and found out they could sell a lot more air conditioning units with their cars if they eliminated those vents. I just bought a Volkswagen Jetta and it’s so streamlined that you can’t open any window to get some air without severe buffeting. So now I have to have the air conditioning turned on in three seasons. And I live in Canada for crying out loud! What a waste of energy. Please bring back the floor vents (and triangular windows.

“now I have to have the air conditioning turned on in three seasons.”

Why can’t you simply turn off the A/C compressor while you run the fan in order to send air through the dash vents? On a modern vehicle, that gives you as much air as you could possibly want, with the added advantages of no wind noise and the filtering provided by the HVAC’s cabin air filter.


In my car, when I crack a window, air flows through the vents and out the window, even if the fan is off. If I want to close those vents, I press the “recirculate” button on the climate controls. With both windows down, I get lots of air flow without the triangular vent windows.

I’m not sure if you haven’t thought this through or if you haven’t done the testing to realize your ideas aren’t going to save any fuel.

I agree that setting the system on just vent, with the heat in the off position, you can get outside air from the dash, the floor or both. the fan will regulate just how much fresh air you want. I do this often in the in-between seasons.

OP needs some lessons in how his system really works.

@lavaman wrote: " Then the Japanese introduced their cars without those vents, but with air conditioning"

I must disagree. Side vents were disappearing on American cars back in the late '60’s, when Japanese cars were just a curiosity and came with no AC AFAIK.

In my Matrix I get buffeting if I only open the rear window’s pretty wide, but it stops if I crack a front window just a little; it disrupts the “tuning”.

Yep, my '72 Duster didn’t have vent windows (no Dusters did, starting in '67). Didn’t have a/c, either, until I put it in.

The OP’s claims are essentially all baseless and simply represent somebody who is unfamiliar with how his HVAC system can be operated, and also has a lot to learn about fuel economy-related topics.

+1 for VDCdriver. I’ll rely on your word since I stopped reading at the words “Jerry Brown.”

A great deal of effort was made to keep passengers cool before air conditioning became a factory option. Fold out windshields, floor vents, swing out windows front and rear and a great many roof openings. The old VW bus had a vent in the overhanging roof at the front that pushed a lot of air into the passenger area at highway speed. Today all the effort is toward individual climate control for each seat.

Screws up the aero and likely wastes fuel. The Mythbusters guys did a somewhat flawed segment on AC On vs Windows down on a truck and found the AC On was a tiny bit better. The same argument is used for pickup truck drivers to run with the tailgate down. Ford tested this one and said it doesn’t help fuel economy to run tailgate down. (flame-on! for the tailgate thing, lots of arguments here)

In theory, you could source inlet air from a stagnant, high pressure area (like the front bumper) and discharge it to a low pressure area with disturbed flow (maybe the wheel wells?) and both ventilate and reduce equivalent flat plate area.

While the tailgate down may look more aerodynamic to the casual observer the wind tunnel doesn’t lie.


Say what you want about Jerry Brown, but I’ve been reading that he’s really turned things around in California in a way Arnold never could have. Arnold never understood the concept of conducting program evaluations to determine which programs were worth cutting. He stuck to his guns on across-the-board budget cuts, which can often waste more money than they save.

In my Cruze, I don’t always need to run the A/C. When the temp out is reasonable, all I need to do is direct the air through the dash vents, crack open the passenger front window a bit, and I get all the cool air I need without running the fan or the A/C. Since the open window is on the opposite side of the car, the noise factor is minimal.

@Whitey…it’s my opinion that if you mess up most of your life…sooner or later something good has to happen. That’s what happened to Jerry Brown.

Remember in things I miss in cars someone said vent windows were discontinued by congress due to theft problems. Bust a big window vs a little one makes no sense to me, is it true I do not know, but the cost savings are obvious.

Read the related post in here about things we miss / or don’t / about older vehicles.

Good comment, but I don’t think the solution is vent windows. Cars should provide plenty of fresh air venting powered by the blower fan. That way, the fresh air circulation is good even if you are not moving.

My early 90’s Corolla has no AC, no triangular vent windows, no need to even roll down the windows, no need even to be moving. The fresh air ventilation is excellent. The 4 speed ventilation blower does the work, pulls in plenty of fresh air from the outside through the air vents under the windshield. For good ventilation of course, getting air in is just 1/2 the battle. It has to go back out too. The Corolla has built in escape passages which allow the air to escape, from passages under the doors and surrounding the rear side windows. In a mild climate such as the SF Bay area, other than a day or two in the summer, I’ve found no need for AC.

Unless it’s been revised, there is or was a Federal statute on the books which stated that cars not equipped with A/C must allow some fresh air in at all times.

Fresh air ventilation doesn’t work too well in OK summer time as it’s usually equivalent to a blast furnace.
The old Corvette I used to have had no A/C. Fresh air was gotten through a cowl flap at the bottom of the windshield and which was controlled by a handle under the dash.

It was usually kept closed because a 100 degree day and the entrance of air coming over a hot, thin fiberglass hood would feel very similar to a space heater at full bore…
The only time that car was tolerable in summertime was at night with the top off or at highway speeds.

I like vent windows and wish they would come back. I think they’d be perfect on retro-inspired cars like the newer Challenger, Camaro, etc. But I can’t see them saving fuel–quite the opposite. You have one of these open and you’re increasing drag.

Mythbusters actually did a show (not with wing windows) where they tested how fuel efficient a car was with windows up, A/C on, windows down, A/C off, and windows up, A/C off. Not too surprisingly, windows up, A/C off was most fuel efficient, if least tolerable, A/C on, was next most F.E., and windows down used the most fuel.

You might argue that if you just had a floor vent you could open, that you could leave the windows up, but the incoming air has to come from somewhere, and for flow you still need a window down a little. While the fresh air intake on your HVAC system also is open to the outside, the fan eliminates the need for this to be an open ‘scoop’ wrecking the aerodynamics of the car.