We’ve all, at one point or another, fiddled with the unique features found in our cars. There are so many different parts that it can sometimes be difficult to remember them all, but they’re all their for a reason, performing an important role as we drive. Among all these features, the sunroof performs a particularly interesting role. While its function may be initiative, what the heck is it really for and how did it develop? In order to understand how we got that hole in our roof, lets go back to the beginning.
The history of the sunroof begins in 1960’s Germany at the hands of Heinz Prechter. Pretcher, who was the head of his family own business called Golde Schiebedächer (translated to mean “sunroofs), installed sliding steel sunroof panels that opened and closed. Popular in his region, he travelled to San Francisco, California where he worked in a car shop where he installed golde sunroof kits imported from Germany for customers who wanted coupe cars with convertible benefits.
Soon after this this his story gets more interesting when he is introduced to representatives of Ford Motor Company, stricking a deal to start installing sunroofs in their Detroit plant. Already introduced in the 1960 in Ford’s Thunderbird, Ford spent some $764 million to refit their factories as well as popularize this new fashion. This massive emphasis eventually led the feature to be found in every brochure, television commercial as well as several films. But unfortunately it didn’t pick up and when Prechter came onto the scene in 1966 the company’s view to reemphasize this new feature ran in tandem with his own aspirations. By the end of the 1960s the power operated Golde sunroof became an optional feature in Mercury’s as well as Thunderbird Apollo and became the most popular feature in motor Trend Magazine’s Car of the Year for 1967. Taking off during the early 1970’s, it soon became available on most Ford products, ultimately making its way across the entire car market.
Out of this history, the roof system developed into a variety of types. The first to note is the pop-up, where the operator simply manually operates the lifting penal which is usually removable. The second most popular is known as the spoiler sunroof which tilts and slides. Requiring a little headroom due to this feature, these typically don’t provide as large an opening as other sunroofs. Thirdly, the folding roof tends to be the type most closely resembles a convertible. It is often called the cabrio coach due to fabric construction that can be pulled all the way back. The fourth system is the panoramic roof system which consists of either a large or multi-panel roof with both large or multiple openings. The last to note is the removable roof panels which allows the driver to remove part or the entire roof off of the car.
Few among us would debate that the most the most obvious features of the sunroof is to allow light and fresh air to entre the vehicle. Being able to be manually as well as motor driven gives the driver maximum control of either feature. However simple this function may be, its history and progress marks an important feature found in many cars, changing the industry forever.